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An empirical assessment of the impact of the light direction on the relief inversion effect in shaded relief maps: NNW is better than NW


Biland, Julien; Coltekin, Arzu (2017). An empirical assessment of the impact of the light direction on the relief inversion effect in shaded relief maps: NNW is better than NW. Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 44(4):358-372.

Abstract

Relief inversion (or terrain reversal) effect is a well-known phenomenon in cartography that occurs when shadow is the main depth cue for three-dimensional shape perception. Light direction has been suggested as the main cause of this effect. However, the prevalence of relief inversion effect with regard to the changing light direction is currently not established, and there is little empirical evidence on this subject. This article systematically assesses the influence of light direction on the accuracy of landform perception in shaded relief maps (SRM). In a controlled experiment, 27 participants were asked to identify concave and convex landforms in 128 SRMs using a 5-point Likert scale where answers varied from clearly a valley to clearly a ridge. Eight different scenes were illuminated from 16 light directions to obtain the 128 SRMs. Our findings clearly demonstrate that incident light at 337.5° north-northwest (NNW) yields the highest accuracy and confidence ratings in landform identification among the investigated light direc- tions; and leads to higher accuracy scores than at the 315° (NW) which is conventionally used in SRMs. Thus, we propose an update to this convention and recommend the light source to be placed at 337.5° when creating SRMs.

Abstract

Relief inversion (or terrain reversal) effect is a well-known phenomenon in cartography that occurs when shadow is the main depth cue for three-dimensional shape perception. Light direction has been suggested as the main cause of this effect. However, the prevalence of relief inversion effect with regard to the changing light direction is currently not established, and there is little empirical evidence on this subject. This article systematically assesses the influence of light direction on the accuracy of landform perception in shaded relief maps (SRM). In a controlled experiment, 27 participants were asked to identify concave and convex landforms in 128 SRMs using a 5-point Likert scale where answers varied from clearly a valley to clearly a ridge. Eight different scenes were illuminated from 16 light directions to obtain the 128 SRMs. Our findings clearly demonstrate that incident light at 337.5° north-northwest (NNW) yields the highest accuracy and confidence ratings in landform identification among the investigated light direc- tions; and leads to higher accuracy scores than at the 315° (NW) which is conventionally used in SRMs. Thus, we propose an update to this convention and recommend the light source to be placed at 337.5° when creating SRMs.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:02 Feb 2017 10:54
Last Modified:28 Mar 2017 01:04
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1523-0406
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/15230406.2016.1185647

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