Bradford’s Visualisation Discussion Group goes to the National Science and Media Museum!

Bradford’s Visualisation Discussion Group goes to the National Science and Media Museum!

The University of Bradford’s Archaeological Sciences Visualisation Discussion Group, which I’m co-ordinating with fellow PhD researcher Helen McCreary, visited the National Science and Media Museum today for a special guided tour of the new Immersions Exhibition from Dr Annie Jamieson, Curator of Sound Technologies. We were kindly given complimentary access to the Thresholds VR experience designed by Mat Collishaw, a VR reconstruction of the first photography exhibition by William Henry Fox Talbot. The combination of immersive vision, sound, heat and movement (and the technology behind it all) was incredible! Plus as you can see from the top picture makes us look like we’re doing some fabulous robot dancing!


I especially liked the integration of the Leap Motion Controller with the VR headset, so you could virtually see your hands and “pick up” photos from the cabinets and zoom them in and out! It did help to have physical cabinets, railings and windows in place as references of where I was in the real world.

More info about the exhibition is here

Thresholds closes on 7th May so is worth going to while you still can! Immersions is running until 24th June 2018 and is well worth a visit to find out more about the history of immersive experiences that have developed over time. I always enjoy having a play with stereoscopic photos!


PhD surveys begin!

PhD surveys begin!

It’s the end of my very busy but absolutely fantastic first day (and first ever visit) in Shetland for my PhD fieldwork. Together with Andy from University of Bradford (who took the photo above of me pulling our equipment trolley!) and Lyn, James, Marta and Mike from Historic Environment Scotland, we crossed to Mousa with much kind help from the staff of the Mousa Ferry. Instantly we were greeted by Arctic terns and a curious seal! I’m crossing my fingers that we might spot an orca, dolphin or whale over the next few days on site, but the birds that nest within the walls of Mousa broch are delightful!

Island of Mousa from the Shetland mainland.

Nothing prepared me for the ridiculously dramatic landscape. As Mousa broch loomed ever closer, it’s sheer size and age really struck me. It’s an architectural marvel and the 3D data we’re collecting will be fascinating to investigate. We’ve already done quite a lot of scanning, which will continue over the next few days. Maybe with time to hire a Shetland pony to carry our scanning kit over the track to the broch! Fingers crossed the lovely weather continues too.

Mousa broch’s entraceway and west face being scanned by the Leica P40. Photo by James Hepher

Historic England Remote Sensing meeting, Masham

Historic England Remote Sensing meeting, Masham

From Mon 22nd – Weds 24th Feb, Historic England’s Remote Sensing team congregated on the brewing market town of Masham for its annual team meeting. Two field trips were organised, firstly to Breary Banks, a landscape full of history, originally being the site of a navvy camp (the earthworks are still visible in the top image). It became the training camp of the Leeds pals in WWI, and practice trenches are still visible. During the later stages of the war, it became a POW camp for German officers, then finally reverted back to a navvy camp to complete the construction of local reservoirs. Part of the site is currently being excavated (University of York 2016).


This was followed by the Druid’s Temple folly – a fantastical representation of a prehistoric stone circle, commissioned by the owner of Swinton Hall in the early 19th century when a fascination with Druidism was all the rage.


I took the sunny (albeit very cold) weather to my advantage to experimentally capture 4k video footage of the second site using a Sony Alpha 7R II, combined with a Manfrotto fig-rig handheld stabiliser, or “steering wheel” as several members of the team remarked!

University of York. 2016. Breary Banks Field Project. Available: Last accessed 26th Feb 2016

Medieval and post-medieval graffiti carvings at Carlisle Castle

Medieval and post-medieval graffiti carvings at Carlisle Castle

From 15th-17th February 2016, I surveyed and recorded historic graffiti and carvings across the site of Carlisle Castle using the Leica P40 Scanstation, photography and video recording (Canon 5D Mk ii) for SfM photogrammetry. Most of the carvings found are located inside the keep, and I do recommend a visit – keep your eyes peeled and you realise there is graffiti all over the castle, as the red sandstone is a very soft material (though you must certainly refrain from adding your own..!).

Most of the carvings are of medieval and post-medieval date, many of which have never been systematically recorded before. Quite a few of the medieval carvings allude to allegiances with powerful families and rulers. Coat of arms and heraldic symbols are very common, especially in the so-called prison room on the keep’s second floor. The “prisoners’ carvings”, as they are commonly called, depict crests connected to Richard III, who for a time was Warden of the March, including his personal symbol, the white boar, the white Yorkshire rose, as well as symbols connected to the influential Dacres (scallops) anad Percys (fetterlocks), who were his allies.

Laser scan of the oak door

The original medieval oak door to the “prison” room also has carvings, but has never been fully analysed, so I took this opportunity to laser scan and photograph it for the production of 3D models.



Some graffiti dates to the 19th century and were created by soldiers. One piece on the keep’s second floor clearly states the graffiti artist belonged to the 55th Westmorland Regiment, which amalgamated with the 34th Cumberland Regiment to become the Border Regiment in 1881.

Lastly, a fascinating example of historical recyling can be seen inside D’Ireby’s Tower, where a Roman altar stone had been reused in the medieval period as a door lintel! I took photographs of the altar to be processed into a photogrammetric model.

Once this data is all processed, I hope to analyse the detail and quality of the 3D models generated, to see which method and settings are most suitable for future recording of similar historical carvings. It was great to see how intrigued visitors were in the work. I hope this will provide a digital means for people to view these carvings that can be difficult to access physically.

Hurst Castle laser scanning: part 2

Hurst Castle laser scanning: part 2

All finished at Hurst Castle by noon Wednesday, with the last bits of fiddly photography on the interiors of the gun battery and watch post (circular buildings are not ideal for rectified photos!). It’s been a great few days with very nice weather, but unfortunately the bright sunlight made for some challenging photography as my shadow constantly got in the way of shots!

It’s been a good opportunity to be refreshed in using GPS systems and working with a Leica total station, with great help from my HE colleagues. The next step now we’re back in the office is to process the data to produce the accurate plans requested – another new process to learn for my placement!

Of course, I had to take some photos of the friendly animals we met on the trip, including Lancelot, the hotel’s ginger tom cat, and two black labs from Hurst Castle who accompanied us on the ferry ride back to dry land.


Hurst Castle WWII watchpost laser scanning

Hurst Castle WWII watchpost laser scanning

It’s the first time I’ve had to take a ferry to site! First built under Henry VIII, Hurst Castle has been greatly modified and developed over the centuries, and was a significant defensive centre during WWII. Our task is to produce architectural drawings of WWII defence features on the site.

So far, two gloriously sunny (but very cold) days of survey work using a Faro laser scanner and Leica total station have allowed us to fully record the interiors and exteriors of two gun batteries and the watch tower in between. This is to better understand their structures to aid in conservation and maintenance.

Standing on the top of the fort’s roof, you get amazing views of the Isle of Wight and surrounding area – but it’s a good job I was securely harnessed by the great team from Vertical Technologies!

Just a little more photography for me to do tomorrow, our last day at this amazing site (for now!).

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Hadrian’s Wall, Segedunum (Buddle Street) laser scanning

Hadrian’s Wall, Segedunum (Buddle Street) laser scanning

From 7th-8th January, the Geospatial Imaging team at Historic England travelled to Wallsend to help record a section of Hadrian’s Wall newly excavated by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, just off the site of the Roman fort of Segedunum. The aim of the work was to laser scan the exposed stonework (using a Faro Focus and Leica P40 laser scanners) to accurately produce digital models of the wall. We also took photos for use in Structure-from-Motion (SfM) photogrammetry, another method of generating 3D models. The data will all be processed and analysed in the coming weeks.

This is a fascinating section of the wall, far thinner here towards the eastern end of it, compared to the rest, and has evidence of rebuilding dating to the Roman period where parts of it have slumped due to the slippery nature of the soil (as we all found out too soon across two very wet days on site!).

Leica P40 scanner (right on yellow tripod) in action on a very wet winter’s day