View Full Version : National Geographic TOPO! Interactive Map on CD

25-Feb-2008, 17:01
Hello, just wondering if any of you use this program in planning landscape adventures and how effective it really is. It seems you have to buy individually for each state. Let me know what you think.

25-Feb-2008, 19:45

I used the Bay Area version for a number of years and really liked it. I marked where my images were made and spots where I wanted to go back to. I would use it to plan where I wanted to shoot. It is most effective if you use it with a GPS. The TOPO versions are actual 1:100,000 and 1:24,000 scans of USGS maps. They are really nice. Most of the versions that are for the whole US are not as detailed. Most importantly, the maps do not print as clearly. I am a big fan of them. Unfortunately at $100 a pop they are pricey!

I also work at REI and occasionally help out in the GPS area. The only complaint I have heard is about the price!

Hope it helps.

Scott Brewer

25-Feb-2008, 20:03

David A. Goldfarb
25-Feb-2008, 20:23
I've used TopoZone (www.topozone.com), and it's worked pretty well, without committing me to buying more maps than I really need.

25-Feb-2008, 20:29
If you just want physical maps, most larger sporting goods stores have a National Geographic Map Machine. Each map is $9.95. You can print at 1:24,000 (actually closer to 1:30,000) or 1:100,000. It prints on waterproof paper and you can get maps for anywhere in the US.

Kevin Crisp
25-Feb-2008, 20:48
I have these for California and use them often. Printed on an ink jet the maps can look incredible. It is very easy to match features with GPS coordinates going both ways, much easier then trying to read them off real USGS maps. They aren't cheap, that is true. But the cost of the quadrangles adds up and you need room to store them. The back and forth between discs can be a bit akward if you boot up the wrong one initially, which is easy to do. "Mohave," for example, covers a lot of ground but it may tell you to swap out discs if you want a very high level of detail.

Stephen Willard
27-Feb-2008, 00:26
I use TOPO extensively. I use it for planning trips, monitoring compositions on am working on, and ones that I have already taken.

For planning trips into the backcountry with my llamas, I use TOPO to construct routes, and then I can determine how many miles it is to my destination. I use the compass feature to snap lines along the path where the sun rises and sets using the azimuths I get from the website http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/. This allows me to determine optimal times to go into a drainage for morning/evening alpenglow to stream in. Some drainages are good in June while others are better in August.

I use the 3D helicopter feature to fly along my routes I construct and actually see the peak formations in 3D. I like well formed peaks as a backdrop to my photographs. The 3D option also allows me to investigate how the sun moves the basin so that when I get in there I have a very good idea of where I need to be throughout the day.

I have a GPS that I can download and upload way points to TOPO. I create way points where I intend to setup camp, and where I plan to park the car in TOPO and then download them to my GPS. When I am in a drainage, I create compositions ahead of time and record all information in a database on my Palm Pilot which includes all tripod setting, camera settings, and location information. I then GPS each composition and take a cheap digital point-n-shoot of the image. In most cases I only end up photographing about 20% of the comps I create because I never get the light I need to shoot them. When I return home all the GPS way points are uploaded to my TOPO map software which allows to see them right on the TOPO maps. The database records and digital images are then uploaded to desktop database which is a superset of the database on my Palm and also contains all information for printing, developing, masking, and narratives I write for each composition. Each record contains a complete history of all information about the photograph from conception in the field on my Palm to final printing of the master print.

I then monitor the comps and will revisit them over a period of years. Currently, I am tracking around 260 images. On my last trip last summer, I went into a basin in Colorado I had visited five years earlier. I had constructed around 20 unphotographed images in that drainage. I down load all in the information I had of them onto my Palm and GPS including those cheap digital images I had. I had arrived at my old campsite late around 5:00 PM and dropped everything there and never bothered to setup camp. I went right to the spot where there were three comps close by using my GPS and did a quick practise run using the info on my Palm. I shot three that evening and photographed 15 in the next 4 days. The light was perfect every day and it was one of my most productive shoots ever. I owe it all to my Palm database, my GPS, and my TOPO software.

Currently, I have Colorado TOPO, but I plan on ordering Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico shortly. If I did not have TOPO I would be shooting blind and my yields would be way down. If you can afford it, I highly recommend purchasing the TOPO software. You will find that it has a lots of uses beside just planning trips.

Hope this helps...

Carsten Wolff
3-Mar-2008, 22:59
I've used software called Oziexplorer a lot: Upshot: lets you import pretty much any map/sat image/Google Earth pic/map and even make your own maps (just scan old map or chart hardcopies and save thame as e.g. Tiffs; as long as you can georeference a few reference points on the scan/ original map). Then embed info (e.g. coordinates, waypoints, pics, spreadsheets/blogs/notes, whatever!,) at your leisure. It's easy to use, too. Different to "real" GIS software I guess, yet immensely useful. I even know of government bodies that have started using this.

4-Mar-2008, 11:52
I just use the benchmark atlas series. Way better than delorme and still affordable.

6-Mar-2008, 12:10
I have the Delorme version for the whole US and am thinking about the NG Topo for Colorado. With Delorme, the maps are missing many key features like lakes and roads and trails. But it is useful for determining field of view needed before heading out so I can take just the lenses I'll need. I just draw a line on the map and it will give me the heading and distance. I've also used it for sunrise/sunset azimuths to determine if a feature of interest will get light at sunrise or sunset.

The National Geographic maps are much better in their accuracy and detail but also much more expensive.

Alan Davenport
6-Mar-2008, 19:51
Before you sink a bunch of money into mapping software, you might try going to http://jdmcox.com and downloading his shareware program USA Photo Maps. The program goes online and DLs the USGS maps (same ones they use on TOPO!, hmmm) as well as satellite imagery. It's GPS aware. It's accurate, too: I tested that by clicking a point on one of the satellite images, uploading that point to my GPS and then following the GPS to the point on the ground. It was within 20 feet...