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Discussion: Making an Orienteering Map in Seven Basic Steps

in: Orienteering; General

Sep 9, 2020 1:24 PM # 
A new slide show trying to demystify the process of orienteering mapping.
Does it work for the non-mapper orienteer?
Sep 15, 2020 2:29 PM # 
Gordon. I think it works for those who do not map to give them some idea of what is involved. What is needed is a video showing the details of how to do some of the things in the slides. (Getting Lidar data and moving it to OOM, adding a satellite photo as a template, etc). This might help get more people involved in trying to map.
Sep 15, 2020 6:17 PM # 
Sherlock, I hope you are not suggesting I make a video. I look at those YouTube videos on doing this or that in orienteering and so many are just tough to listen to. Any from me would certainly be worse.
What makes them not so good? Not the content but the inevitable monotone voice that narrates. It takes skill to narrate. People go to school to learn radio and TV arts. I didn't and I think most orienteers didn't either.
So I produce power point things. Here's one on Producing simple orienteering maps It was done several years ago and may have skipped contour import as the area is so flat.
Besides OCAD which I use makes importing LiDAR files so easy compared to OOM.
Sep 15, 2020 9:56 PM # 
This topic (video vs text) has come up recently with some friends of mine, and I shared that if I'm trying to find the answer to something and the result I click on is a video-based answer, I immediately swear at my computer and go back and find the next result. I'm not alone in this.

The biggest problem with video is that you have no idea what is coming and it's difficult to scan or go forward and back for exactly what you need, at least compared to text. Also, videos are generally an excruciatingly slow way to get information (even if you watch at 2x).

I think one solution to this is to have slides/text with very short videos embedded. That way, if someone wants to see something demonstrated, they can still scan/find/scroll to find what they want, and then just see a short clip of that material. There doesn't even have to be talking! Just a screengrab of the clicks required.

I think the same would hold for mapping topics, a subject where everyone has different knowledge gaps. And, of course, some people DO like the video format and learn better by watching something demonstrated. It's still likely more convenient for them to be able to repeatedly click on the clips they need, rather than a single long video.
Sep 16, 2020 4:28 AM # 
I think we should have a wiki that is always growing and up kept instead of one time single person owned artifacts.
Sep 16, 2020 5:22 AM # 
There is quite a lot out there to help with learning to map. If someone want to they can find it. The problem is that these resources cover the curriculum that is jurisdiction independent. The hard part is learning how to access base map resources within your own jurisdiction.
Sep 16, 2020 6:45 AM # 
All true Neil.
But the only base material that is region specific is the contour detail. In North America it is usually the states or provinces that fund and control access to that material. Sometimes it rests with the local government, too and in Florida with a body called the Water Management Board of which there are several for the different regions in the state. The USGS seems to function as a national clearing house for LiDAR material generated elsewhere.
However the other base information - the basic outline of the map, the detail from air photos are all freely available on the Internet. An orienteering mapper can even find 10 m contours -I know not usually good enough - from anywhere in the world and can generate contour detail using google earth 3-D images at any contour interval for anywhere in the world.
But why would they bother? Well in my case it is just to see what is there. I had a great-aunt and a great-great aunt - both spinsters - who back in their day travelled the world and collected postcards and stamps from the places they had been. My hobby seems to be making orienteering maps - or pseudo orienteering maps - from places I have not been. Vatican City? - got it, Ulan Bator? - got it. White House? - got it, Kremlin?- got it. Antigua ? had it. Areas in Montana? California? Alabama,? Minnesota? Michigan? New York? New Jersey? Virginia? Massachusetts? Got them. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec? Got them, too.
Sep 17, 2020 2:35 PM # 
We’re creating a space in the OUSA education resources to do something for mapping like we did with Basic Orienteering. (“Basic Mapping?”)

I am a hopeless mapper and can’t create that content. I could help with the curriculum development side, though.

Anyone up to take that on?
Sep 18, 2020 8:52 AM # 
Well, I see comments dried up here as soon as someone asked for some actual work to be done.
There are two things I think every orienteer who wants to be a really good orienteer should learn to do. That is set courses and make orienteering maps. They don't have to become pros but it will really help them better their competitive skills if the know what goes into the make up of the playing field.
So yes there should be room in the national website for basic mapping, basic course setting, too.
Course setting standards and methods are pretty straightforward.
Mapping is a different story so should be handled differently. For example three of the best mappers I know are known around here as BChubb, sberg and Canadian. They all produce excellent maps. So do many others but what I know of their mapping techniques is that they are very different from each other in the tools they use and how they use them but they all come up with the same result.
Also the way one approaches a school or park map for local teaching will be vastly different from the time and resources put into a map for a national event. It should be thus.
So I suggest those interested in producing the mapping education resource scour the country for the the best mappers of each type of map and invite them/ implore them to contribute to a show and tell about what they are doing and how they are doing it.
Old timers such as Dominie, Weyman, Hicks, Gagarin have so much to teach the new generations of mappers (sorry to leave out so many names but you get the idea)
A lot has already been produced. Maybe it is already around and just needs to be brought into one clearing house and vetted.
Me? Yes I'll help in the limited areas where I have developed some experience and a bit of success. However I sure would like to know where to turn to find out how to troubleshoot when my Garmin GLO won't communicate with OCAD on my Dell tablet. Then how to keep my nice pencil marks from eventually smudging on the Mylar I take in the field. Would disposable gloves help?
Sep 18, 2020 9:25 AM # 
And back at me.

Mapping education is on my to do list, but not top priority and not completely in my portfolio as VP Youth. If people have resources they really like, drop me an email with a link and I'll start a collection. At some point, we'll get it put together into a coherent curriculum. But I've got too much on my plate with everything else to be the driver behind this happening. Basic Orienteering and ODM involved about 300 hours of work each, and those were areas in which I had expertise and teaching experience. I don't get paid to do this, so if you really want this to happen, please lend a hand. Every recommended video, link, or file can be really helpful.
Sep 18, 2020 10:16 AM # 
At some point in history O-USA had a mapping committee. Has it been disbanded/ discarded? Perhaps when the maps were finally standardized and computer mapping software became the norm some thought the job was done.
Not so. A lot of teaching/ information sharing has to be done and not by the VP Youth and probably not by some aging snowbird, either.
Sep 18, 2020 11:15 AM # 
Yes, it was disbanded. I specifically remember when the chairman of that committee said that there was no further need for it.
Sep 18, 2020 11:45 PM # 
Yes. There's probably no need for advice/exhortation/compliance to mappers about the changes to ISOM. Or the changes to the changes. Or the changes to the sprint spec. Or the changes to the changes to the sprint spec.
Sep 19, 2020 12:43 AM # 
I think that creating a mapping course could be helpful, but you need to look carefully at what exactly you are trying accomplish. In many respects, a constantly updating WIKI type solution, like Peteris suggests, with community buy in would likely be more beneficial rather than a static course that gets out of date quickly as tools change. Part of the reason for this is that mapping is really diverging into three different streams, which while related, require different tools, skillsets, and time commitments. Roughly, these three categories are:

  1. Traditional Forest Orienteering Mapping This is the type of map a competitor would use at a major competition. It has a good basemap (likely LiDAR based, but maybe not), is properly fieldchecked by a mapper who has visited every single speck of the terrain, decided what is relevant and what is not, and drawn the map appropriately. For clubs, these maps are expensive and take a long time to make, but can also be a 20+ year legacy project (in certain ecosystems, and if it is kept up to date with some small corrections like trails). For mappers, this type of mapping takes a very long time to get good at, and an even longer time to master. It requires a lot of terrain interpretation, generalization, and decision making. The first dozen or so forest maps made by a mapper will slowly get better in quality, but it takes at least that many to hone the craft. The final product is a work of art though. Simply put, it is really hard to teach somebody this type of mapping, because most of it is endless hours of practice and experience that is very hard to replicate in an online course.
  2. Urban Sprint Mapping: This type of mapping is much easier for a beginner to do. While there is definitely a lot of practice needed to make an excellent map, these areas tend to be smaller, and the early mapping products more usable than forest mapping. At an entry level, there is simply less decision making to do. Is there a tree, or is there not a tree? If there is, put it on the map, if there isn't, don't! None Very Little of this deciding what is big enough to be on the map and what isn't. The barriers to entry of this sort of map making are much lower, as you can get by without processing any LiDAR (you really just need to download OOMapper, and take some potentially illegal screenshots from google maps and you can get a decent map), georeferencing is not as critical, and the fieldwork is much faster and easier. Some N.A. clubs like GVOC (Vancouver) have had excellent success at using club mappers who make 1 or 2 maps ever, to help broaden the number of locations they can use for weeknight trainings.
  3. Computer or Partially Computer Generated Mapping: This type of mapping is the newest to the scene. Starting with Karttapullautin, this has exploded into a fast, cheap way of making decent quality orienteering maps for personal training, or club level events. In less than a day, you can go from nothing, to something you can train on for weeks, all without leaving your couch. Several different N.A. individuals like GSwede, Chris from Northline Navigation, Runner99, Peteris, and lots of others pump out maps left right and centre at minimal time and financial cost. These maps are not to the same standard as traditional forest maps, and generally do not function well for urban sprint mapping, but for a specific use case are excellent. It can definitely be intimidating to start this type of mapping though, and some sort of helpful walkthrough would likely be beneficial to a lot of people. The closest I have seen to a good source of this is Greg Wilson's series of tutorials, but as static information from 2017, is a little out of date now. As Gord says though, the hardest part of all this is often getting the LiDAR data itself, every jurisdiction has their own little quirks, and a national or international how-to guide just won't be able to keep up with how quickly this stuff changes at a more local level.

TLDR: Orienteering mapping has a lot of variation within it, and if you invest time and money into making mapping ressources, know why you are doing it, who you are doing it for, and what you expect its lifespan will be.
Sep 19, 2020 9:13 AM # 
dbakker, really nicely put. Thank you.

I wonder if there are some ways to structure an intro to mapping around key principles, and then have the wiki portion as the "how to?"

Regarding the wiki, cmpbllj and I have had a similar conversation about how hard it would be to maintain an effective video because 1) there are multiple approaches to achieve similar results and 2) the technology and practice is evolving so rapidly. It seems to me that a good approach might be to introduce the principle you're trying to achieve (for example, place point features accurately - just making that up, don't know if that's a good basic principle), examples of approaches to do so, and then an exercise so the student can try doing it on their own, and then probably a place to post it for feedback from teaching staff and other students.
Sep 19, 2020 2:19 PM # 
The Orienteering Association of Western Australia did a great job of outlining the steps in its "Step-by-Step Guide to Making Parkland, School and Street Orienteering Maps."

1. Select a suitable area
2. Obtain permission to use the area
3. Prepare a base map
4. Select the map scale
5. Do the field work
6. Draft the map
7. Print the map
8. Archive the map

Step 3 has become very technical with the preparation of Lidar data and the use of GIS tools and Kartapullautin to generate an orienteering style basemap. There are many software tools and more becoming available. i.e. the new PDAL package mentioned earlier. The basic outline is relatively stable, but the software for basemap generation is changing rapidly.
Sep 22, 2020 5:01 PM # 
Hijacking this thread a little bit. What is the most current recommendation for the best equipment to use for doing fieldwork/drafting simultaneously in the field with a tablet? (I am looking for tablet type, stylus type, software. Bonus points if it works with an iPad.) Thanks!
Sep 22, 2020 10:54 PM # 
> Urban Sprint Mapping: This type of mapping is much easier for a beginner to do. ... Very Little of this deciding what is big enough to be on the map and what isn't.

I think this may be underplaying the skill required in sprint mapping. For relatively simple terrain this may be true. Some maps though require thoughtful distortion. You are mapping the gaps, not the buildings and must distort the buildings according to legibility needs. Once you start doing that, other point features need to be shifted to maintain the appearance of relative accuracy. Then there is the matter of clean drafting. I find drafting (or drafting clean up) takes 25%-50% of the field work time on a bush map. On a sprint map its 200% or more. Finally, once you start dealing with terrain with multiple ground levels, the specification leads to long discussion on forums about which is the best way to represent the real world. There is often no correct answer. The mapper needs to envisage how a course setter might use the area and how a competitor might read the available interpretations. My assessment is that there is rarely a big sprint event without some minor (or major) controversy about the interpretation of multi-levels.
Sep 23, 2020 1:40 AM # 
Boris: Not sure on "best"

What I use: MS Surface Pro 6 and its stylus and OCAD. All in ruggedized carry case with a loop for my holding hand.

Pro's: Enough computing power to process LiDAR (OCAD or KP). Battery lasts for a full day of field checking. Screen is bright enough to use in the field (in a tree or my shadow).

Cons: Windows10 really doesn't like GPS. I've tried wired, I've tried bluetooth, other drivers. So at this point, I rarely use active GPS in the field...the few times I need it during the day aren't worth the troubleshooting for a finicky cross-hair that drifts around or lags anyway. My end of day GPS track from my watch seems sufficient to catch any distortions. Afterall, the good LiDAR products (1m contours, hillshades at right angles, slope gradients, vegetation maps, etc) make "where am I or where is that thing" easy most of the time. When confused, I'll pull a coordinate off my watch (a nice perk of a Coros).

I have 128GB of onboard storage, which is enough, but as I switch between projects, I'm always throwing things into/out cloud storage to free up space and keep frequently used stuff superfast to load.

Stylus/field drafting takes some time to get used to. I have a shorthand for area features (greens) that I do in the field, then quickly clean-up at home with a mouse/trackball and keyboard to get nice clean drafting. Big plug-in monitor is also nice.

3 lines Pros, 8 lines Cons. A salesman I am not...
Sep 23, 2020 3:37 AM # 
Boris - I use OOM on Samsung Galaxy Active tab 8" screen with handstrap. This model has Wacom digitizer with very precise stylus control. I have a Garmin GLO external GPS via Bluetooth that I keep under my hat in a zip lock- avoids blocking signal by body. I usually track 13-16 satellites and mock provider usually says 1.8-2.4m accuracy. And I find the crosshairs pretty spot on relative to obvious basemap features like walls and trails that I've drawn from aerials or hillshades. I try to draft as much detail as I can see from references while at home. Then validate and add/remove things while in the field. I typically do not use aerials, Hillshade, KP while in the field, though the layers are on the tablet if needed. But mostly in the field its the map layer (with some symbols locked), gps layer (running track for perimeters etc) and the transparent sketching layer.

I just plug in via USB to transfer files back and forth to my bigger dual monitor setup for drafting and cleanup. I generally draw/edit most point & line features in the field, but keep some things like contours locked except when explicitly tweaking them to avoid accidental edits. Area features I draw on a transparent georeferenced 'sketch' layer along with shorthand field notes. I usually field check in AM and draft the days notes same day while fresh. Hope this helps. Happy to let you test drive it if you find yourself in CT.
Sep 23, 2020 5:07 AM # 
@TheInvisibleLog - Yes, I completely agree. There is definitely an art to making legible sprint maps, especially in more complicated terrain. I think that a sprint map is still far less daunting to start your mapping on than a forest map. I also think the end product of a beginner mapper sprint map (especially for a simpler schoolyard/park area) is more usable than a first mapping attempt on a forest map.

@Boris - I run a similar mapping setup and procedure to cmorse. I like having separate devices for my LiDAR processing/basemap prep/preliminary drafting/final drafting work (all on a decently powerful Windows PC) and fieldwork (done on a cheap tablet so if I drop it/break it replacement costs are reasonable, but doesn't require a huge heavy rugged case to carry around in the bush for 7+ hours). I do not think there is currently any mapping software for iPad/iPhone, and buying an Android tablet for mapping will likely be more economical than buying a Windows tablet like a Surface. The key point in your tablet/stylus selection is having an active stylus (like a Samsung S-Pen, Apple Pen, etc.), which makes mapping on a touch screen much easier (although some people like Canadian successfully draw maps using a Bluetooth mouse on their thigh connected to an android or windows tablet). After LiDAR processing and basemap prep (go read through the comments a week ago on Pink_Sock's log for that stuff), software is exclusively OpenOrienteeringMapper.
Sep 23, 2020 10:29 AM # 
A few years ago when Marcello was staying with me he got a computer for field checking (I don't remember what kind), and I handed him a cordless mouse to try. After one day of using it, he went to the store and bought one. He used his thigh as a mouse pad.
Sep 23, 2020 3:38 PM # 
Thanks Jon, Clint, and David! Some more (likely naive) questions:

Is it helpful for the tablet to have a data plan, or is it unnecessary (i.e., WiFi suffices)?

I've never worked with OOM before. Can I import OCAD files into it and export them back into OCAD if needed?

Can OOM maps be used as background maps for course setting in, say, Purple Pen?
Sep 23, 2020 5:08 PM # 
1. I do not have a tablet data plan, and frankly I do not know what I would use it for. OOMapper on Android is not made to set up the map file/basemaps, but is built (almost) exclusively for fieldwork. You want to set up your map file on your computer, then transfer basemaps and map file to the tablet for fieldwork. WiFi is almost always off on my tablet too, to save battery power on long fieldwork days. I transfer map and basemap files by USB cable (or if I forgot to bring that, Bluetooth in a pinch).

2. OOMapper can directly open, edit, and save your OCAD (.ocd) file without changing file format. .It works very well for the most part, but a few symbols do not transfer well between the programs (trails below minimum length are handled differently, the randomly generated rock/boulder fields are a little different, and dash/corner points are different too). Opening your map file, you will likely be hard pressed to notice what looks different, but there will inevitably be some (very limited to specific items) map degradation every time you switch between map file types. OOMapper's primary native file format is .omap, which is probably how you want to save your map files if you stay within the OpenSource/Freeware world (i.e.e are not using OCAD and Condes).

3. .omap files can be used as the background map for course setting in Purple Pen, but not in Condes.

For what it is worth, Sage Orienteering Club does all our course setting in Purple Pen, and keep all of our newer map files as .omap files (some old maps that have not been updated in 5+ years and are not georeferenced are still .ocd files). Most of the clubs that I make maps for in Canada are holding on to using Condes for course setting and OCAD for mapping despite the extra costs, and so desire a finished map as a .ocd file. In these cases, I only export my finished map to a .ocd file at the end of the mapping process, before that it is always a .omap file.
Sep 23, 2020 9:09 PM # 
Thanks David! These are super helpful answers.
Sep 23, 2020 10:04 PM # 
I have used both a Surface and a Samsung Tab in the field. I much prefer the Samsung.
1. I also have had trouble getting Windows to talk to an external GPS. I know of some who have had success, but I think they have careers like software engineer. Yes, on some basemaps a GPS is unnecessary, but not everything turns up nicely on lidar (green for example, and single track) and not every basemap has lidar.
2. I prefer drawing with the android OOM app. It is designed for field work. In the recent survey run by OCAD I asked for a similar OCAD app for android.
3. No difference in screen brightness.
4. The Samsung is lighter, and a less risky financial proposition in the field (still pricey but not as high as the Surface)
5. Samsung Battery lasts me 5-6 hours. A lunchtime recharge with a powerpack via USB-C solves any problems, though I rarely work a full 8 hours. My concentration wanes, and all my maps are reasonably local.
6. I prefer to do final drafting in OCAD. I keep my files in ocad format on the tablet. The minor degradations caused in transfer can be fixed with symbol conversions at the end of the process.
Sep 23, 2020 10:51 PM # 
Boris - I purchased my tablet specifically for mapping and it is a wifi only version. David already answered the other questions.
Sep 23, 2020 11:21 PM # 
Surface Pro with Ocad 12 and Bad Elf Gps.

Had to install Franson GpsGate to make it work with the Gps. Oh and the 64-bit Ocad did not work with Gps, so have to use 32-bit one.
Sep 24, 2020 2:30 AM # 
My Garmin Glo and my Windows tablet have been communicating with only occasional hiccups for years now. Maybe it matters that it's Windows 7 rather than something newer - I wouldn't know. I guess I'll have to caveat emptor if I ever find myself forced to replace my tablet with something else.
Sep 24, 2020 7:16 AM # 
The Samsung Tab and the Surface Pro: how waterproof are they? Specifically, would they allow me to carry on surveying in showers?
Sep 24, 2020 7:35 AM # 
The Samsung Tab seems to interpret rain drops on the screen as weird scribbling by the stylus. Once the showers come its up with the umbrella to keep the screen dry, or back in the vehicle. Not prepared to take my surface out in the rain.
Sep 24, 2020 5:31 PM # 
One more question: has anyone had any success using OOM on a smartphone (Android)? I installed it yesterday hoping I could use it for some very simple mapping in the neighborhood, but it doesn't seem to work very well for me.
Sep 24, 2020 6:05 PM # 
Boris, No I don't but do you have a stylus or mouse or are you using your finger?
Sep 24, 2020 6:06 PM # 
Prior to the Galaxy Tab (8" screen) I was running it on a Galaxy Note 3 - a phone with what at the time was considered a large screen. Worked ok and I used it quite a bit, the extra screen real estate on the 8" screen makes a lot of difference. Before I got the Galaxy Tab, I tried OOM on a Galaxy Tab Pro (10" screen) we had at work. Was fine, but I felt it was a bit too large for long days in the field. The 8" screen hits the sweet spot for me.

Which Android phone are you using? Do you have a fine stylus? Most Android phones do not support a fine stylus (also called S-Pen on the Samsung) and an active digitizer. I think (but can not attest to) using a capacitive screen or a 'fat' stylus would be frustrating...
Sep 24, 2020 6:07 PM # 
FYI - The old Galaxy Note 3 also had the wacom digitizer and S-Pen which is why I chose that model years ago.
Sep 24, 2020 6:36 PM # 
Nope, I just tried using my big fat finger. But the issue wasn't that - I couldn't even figure out how to start a new map to play around with, only existing "example" maps. Though now that I am bothering to read the documentation, I see that the Android version doesn't support new maps - I need to import an existing map from my PC. I will try that and report back. (I have a Google Pixel 3XL, which has a large screen for a phone.)

What is a digitizer?
Sep 24, 2020 7:38 PM # 
The digitizer is the technology in the screen that allows use of a fine stylus or drawing device. Its not a separate thing. But not all phones/tablets use a digitizer & stylus, but rather use the capacitance in your finger to determine location on screen, but its generally not as precise.

And yes, the android version is just for working with existing map files, not creating, georeferencing or other tasks, thats done on the desktop. Also learn what all the various icons do since there isn't really a "menu" per se.

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