Laser scanning Corgarff Castle, Aberdeenshire

Laser scanning Corgarff Castle, Aberdeenshire

Corgarff Castle is the former noble residence of the Forbes clan, and during the Jacobite Rebellion, it was used as an army base by Redcoats. It sits in a dramatically isolated location in rural Aberdeenshire (see cover image for views from its doorway!). It has a distinctive star-shaped perimeter wall, and as part of Historic Environment Scotland’s Rae project, the entirety of the Castle’s interior and exterior was laser scanned over two days.


I helped out on the second day of scanning, working with HES’ team of Mike Jack and Sofia Antonopoulou, to fill in areas where more detail was needed using the Leica HDS 6100 laser scanner.


I also used a Nodal Ninja (right) to take overlapping photographs that can be digitally stitched into a 360⁰ image. The one I used was specially calibrated to be complementary with the Leica 6100 laser scanner, so the high definition imagery can be overlain onto the scans generated in the same position.

I greatly enjoyed taking views of the surrounding countryside, and watching the Castle’s current residents (nesting families of swallows), swoop around while we continued with our survey.


Me and Sofia using the Leica C10 laser scanner to record the perimeter walls



Laser scanning Spynie Palace, Moray

Laser scanning Spynie Palace, Moray

On Wednesday, the dramatic weather in the north of Scotland forced us to delay the start of our fieldwork, as a very loud thunderstorm drifted overhead very soon after we’d set up the tripods! Luckily we heard the rumbles of thunder before it arrived.

The downpours led to me going down into the Palace’s basement to laser scan its interior using a Leica HDS 6100. It was only after I’d finished taking all the scans that the team cared to mention they thought the basement is haunted (though I didn’t see any spooky goings on while there… it was actually refreshingly cool compared to the humidity outside following the lightning)!

One of the spooky basement cells being scanned with the Leica 6100 (the bag wrapped on the tripod is a rain cover)

Luckily the weather improved over the day, so I went on to scan the courtyard area of the Palace, before helping James to complete his traverse around the exterior walls of the site. As the afternoon went on, the weather turned out to be glorious, and we ended the day with a scan taken from the very top of David’s Tower,the largest tower house to survive in Scotland (see image below). It’s on a publically accessible walkway, which gives amazing views  down into the courtyard and surrounding area (cover image). From up there, you can also see the remains of Spynie Loch from the wall tops – once a great lake that went all the way up to the edge of the Palace estate, which has silted up over time.

Leica HDS 6100 scanning around David’s Tower, Spynie Palace

It’s a very impressive site and well worth a visit! More information on the palace can be found here:

Laser scanning Fortrose Cathedral

Laser scanning Fortrose Cathedral

Fortrose Cathedral was originally the seat of the bishops of Ross. The current ruins date back to the 13th century, and only the south aisle and chapel and the older, two-storey north choir aisle currently survive standing to the present day. I travelled to the site from Edinburgh with James Hepher and Sofia Antonopoulou, of HES’ Digital Documentation Team, on Tuesday 19th July.

Interior of the south aisle – elaborate memorials decorate the interior walls

A clock tower, still in use, was a later addition dating to after the Reformation. It was a fun trip to the top (wearing PPE of course!), and James scanned the tower’s spiral staircase with a Faro Focus while me and Sofia took several high resolution scans of the interior of the south aisle using a Leica P40 to make sure all the fine details would be picked up with the scanner. We later helped to take record the cathedral’s windows, as fill in scans to complement the 360⁰ scans taken from a Leica C10 by Mike and Craig, of HES’ Conservation Group.

It was a very hot and sunny day, so it was fortunate we worked in the shade for most of the day, to stay cool!

The P40 in action. We set it to scan in high resolution to ensure all of the details of the carved stonework, like this effigy, were well recorded

For more information on the site, follow this link:

Historic Environment Scotland placement exchange – part 2

Historic Environment Scotland placement exchange – part 2

Last week I travelled up to Scotland to work alongside Historic Environment Scotland’s Digital Documentation Team, in the second part of a placement swap with Sofia Antonopoulou, who visited Historic England last month.

Many thanks to James Hepher and his team, who introduced me to colleagues from the different teams who work at HES in their Edinburgh offices at South Gyle and Longmore House, to find out more about their work; ranging from digital documentation, Building  Information Modelling, 3D printing, painting conservation and gilding with gold leaf, on Monday.

I was invited to join the Digital Documentation team on a week of full site surveys across some of HES’ northern properties in the Highland region. On the way up to Inverness (our base for the week of fieldwork), we stopped off at the impressive Stanley Mills. It was a booming textile mill during the Industrial Revolution, and closed in 1989. It is now managed by Historic Scotland (cover photo).

I’ll post about each site survey individually, as they’re so fascinating and I took an awful lot of photos that I’d like to share!

Me, Sofia and Fergus the Hairy Coo – on the road up to Inverness

HES followed my placement exchange with a number of tweets on Twitter, so do follow them @HistEnvScot to see these.

CIfA professional skills workshop, STEAM Museum, Swindon

CIfA professional skills workshop, STEAM Museum, Swindon

This Monday I attended a great workshop to work on my presentation skills, better understand the notion of professionalism in the context of historic environment practice and acquired some useful advice on planning and managing projects – an essential skill for my current and future work.

It was organised by CIfA, and was held in STEAM, the Museum of the Great Western Railway, in Swindon – which incorporates buildings that were part of Brunel’s original works complex dating to the mid-1800s.

I caught up with other CIfA placement holders in different skills and areas, and also met several PhD students in Archaeology and History from the Southwest and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership, who all have such fascinating research projects. It was excellent to hear everyone present a bit about what they do.

Many thanks to CIfA for funding my visit. It’s been a while since I’ve stayed in Swindon, but this was my first visit to the railway museum!

Header image: WikiCommons. For more information on the history of STEAM:

HES exchange visit to York office, Historic England

HES exchange visit to York office, Historic England

The week before last, Historic England welcomed a visit from our Historic Environment Scotland (HES) colleague, Sofia Antonopoulou. We had a packed schedule for her to visit some of the sites that the Geospatial Imaging team has previously surveyed around North Yorkshire, including Clifford’s Tower, Rievaulx Abbey and Mount Grace Priory.

We also photographed artefacts in the care of English Heritage’s North Territory store at Helmsley, for SfM photogrammetry. The object in question is a curious little 19th century wooden box, that had been decorated with wax seals taken from medieval stamps that had originated from Fountains Abbey. I’m in the process of generating the 3D models at the moment, so it’ll be really interesting to see how Photoscan copes in processing all of the slight details in each seal design, which range from the personal seal of an abbot’s signet ring to depictions of the Virgin and Child.

We also returned to Bellman Park in Clitheroe, six months after the team’s first survey of the area, to collect the next epoch of laser scans at this Heritage at Risk site. The grass had really shot up since December, but we managed to scan the entire structure in a day.

We rounded off the week with a trip further south, to the Natural History Museum (NHM) and their science department, to see how their researchers are using scanning electron microscopes to gather imagery of microscopic features for SfM photogrammetry and other visual techniques for research, such as producing CT scans. Overall it’s been a very hectic but enjoyable week!

Do check out Sofia’s blog too:

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