GIS 295 Term Project Blog #3


When taking GIS 203 (Cartography), my final project was creating an orienteering map with GIS Desktop using the International Orienteering Federation (IOF) cartographic standards. The map’s purpose is to teach orienteering to first year Scouts in order to pass specific requirements.  As a result, the map is part of a two-page product containing information about calculating a bearing, estimating height, and space to enter control point information.

For GIS 295, I want to explore how to create the same map with the same features with a general purpose map creation tool such as ArcGIS Online and a specific orienteering map creation tool called Open Orienteering Map ( I plan to use the three blogs required to describe how the orienteering maps are created with each system – ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Online, and Open Orienteering Map.

OpenOrienteeringMap V2.4 Description

OpenOrienteeringMap (OOM) is a custom version of Open Street Map created by Oliver O’Brien that uses many IOF cartographic specifications (IOFmapping). The purpose of OpenOrienteeringMap is to easily create orienteering maps using the OpenStreetMap spatial data set of the world and the map rendering toolkit Mapnik. The displayed view is dynamically created in one of four base map configurations as the user pans or zooms in or out in supported fixed-scale intervals. Scales 1:7000 and 1:14000 (zoom levels 16, 15) are most commonly used for orienteering maps. The displayed scale can be used to generate PDF files with associated features.

To view any region in North America, the “Global” button located at the top of the main frame must be selected to display everything but the UK and Ireland. The following shows the opening screen with the Global button selected (note that like, the first map displayed is always Europe:


Base Maps

Four base maps are available: Street-O, Street-O Xrail, Pseud-O, and Urban Skeleton. The Street-O map setting originates from the Street-O maps used for informal orienteering races in London and other areas around the UK. Only roads, tracks, paths, rivers/lakes and railways are shown; the maps are high-contrast (black on white) and have little color. The few colors that are on the map – for major roads, park land, and water features use the “official” ISOM standard colors for these features. The Pseud-O base map emulates the look and feel of standard orienteering maps, but in many regions, does not have the detail necessary in OSM. The rendering is done on-the-fly, but with caching. The two styles are available from zoom levels 12 to 18. Levels 15 & 16 roughly correspond to scales that would be used for conventional orienteering. The following screenshot shows a Street-O view of the Fraser Preserve in Great Falls:


The only difference in Great Falls is the open woodland designation for the non-park land regions, where they are shown as white in Street-O. The following screenshot shows a Pseud-O view of the Fraser Preserve in Great Falls:


The following screenshot shows an Urban Skeleton view of the Fraser Preserve in Great Falls:


Map Creation Procedure

Perform the following steps to create an orienteering map, control point clues, and generate the PDF files to be incorporated into a finished product:

  1. Select “Global” for North America and focus on the Fraser Preserve in Great Falls, Virginia, at 1:5000 scale.
  2. Select base map for “Pseud-O”
  3. Select Landscape or Portrait, click in the desired map center. If necessary, drag the blue marker to re-center the map. A frame will appear over the base map in portrait or landscape orientation.
  4. On the right, click the pencil edit icon to display the map title. I entered Camp Fraser Orienteering, then press OK.


5.  Select the next edit icon to modify the race instruction title:


6.  Click on the Start/End point on the map to display the following dialog:


7.  Click on the next Control point on the map to display the following dialog:


Enter the numbers and descriptions for each control point. Set the location of the number label by rotating the label angle control. Repeat for all the control points resulting in the following map:


8.  Click on “Save & Get PDF Map” button and the following message appears:


Click OK and save the automatically downloaded oom.PDF file located in the Download directory.

The completed map appears on screen within a map frame containing the control points:


9.  To retrieve the above map, enter the code 5668f7ca777e5 into the “Load saved map #:” and select the “Load” button.

10.  To delete the above map from the display, select the “Delete Map” button.

Output Options

For orienteering applications, the created map product will have to printed and used off-line. OOM makes PDF map file generation easy using the “Save and Get PDF Map” and “Show Clue Sheet” buttons.

  1. To view the generated PDF file when “Save and Get PDF Map” button selected, search for OOM.PDF in the download directory and display:


2.  Click the “Show clue sheet” button to display the seven generated control points:


3.  Click “Print clue sheet” to display the print prompt and output the file as a PDF.

4.  Incorporate the two PDF files into a complete orienteering document.


As evident from the above procedure, it is easy to create a usable orienteering map. The base map is at a small enough scale to map a small area. Many cartographic features, including trails, roads, control points, start/end point use IOF cartographic standard.   There are some things missing from the map however; 5 meter topographic lines, exact IOF-specified land features, and free text labeling. Since the Open Street Map doesn’t have topography, it would be too processor intensive to dynamically render topo lines.  Because of this dynamic rendering of the custom maps, a high-speed Internet connection is necessary.

Creating custom maps using the free OSM spatial data set and a private data set containing unique cartographic features makes OOM possible and a powerful paradigm. As a result, thematic, web-based mapping that addresses the needs of specialized communities is now possible.

Reference Summary:






GIS 295 Term Project Blog #2


In my first term project blog post, I described how I used ArcGIS Desktop to create an orienteering map in the Fraser Preserve, located in Great Falls, Virginia, to be used as part of a two-page instructional product for first-year Scouts.  This map was my term project for GIS 203, Cartography. I used the International Orienteering Foundation (IOF) cartographic standard for land features, control points, trails, and roads.  This term project blog #2 describes my efforts to recreate the same map using ArcGIS Online (AGO).

Choosing the Base Map

Several base maps are available in AGO, and I needed one that included topographic lines, water features, roads, and trails at a very small scale, but not labels. USA Topo Maps, at its smallest scale layer (1:25,000), shows the USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps as a seamless layer, which is not detailed enough for the needs of an orienteering application.  Problems with the USGS maps include the coloring does not conform to the IOF cartographic standard, and the labels cannot be removed. The following screenshot shows Fraser Preserve as a 7.5 minute USGS topographic map:


Another base map considered is the USGS National Map, which includes topographic contours, water features, and roads with minimal labeling of man-made structures.  According to the AGO description, this map service is a combination of contours, shaded relief, woodland and urban tint, along with vector layers, such as geographic names, governmental unit boundaries, hydrography, structures, and transportation. Data sources are the National Atlas for small scales, and The National Map for medium to large scales. Unfortunately, the terrain is portrayed with shadowing to give it a 3-D effect, which is not wanted in an orienteering map.  In addition, the minimum scale is too large. The following screenshot shows Fraser Preserve using the USGS National Map base map:


The base map ultimately selected is called Topographic. Supplied by ESRI, the map service includes administrative boundaries, cities, water features, physiographic features, parks, landmarks, highways, and roads overlaid on land cover and shaded relief imagery. The advantage of this base map is the 1:4000 scale, which provides good detail for an orienteering application.  Unfortunately, this base layer has 3-D shading and has a color distinction between private and public land, which isn’t compatible with the IOF cartography standard.


Creating and Integrating ArcGIS Desktop-Generated Shapefiles

To add the orienteering features necessary that match what was created on the ArcGIS Desktop, I determined the best course of action is export the features as shapefiles and upload the generated zip files to AGO.  CampFraserControlPoints, CampFraserMarsh, CampFraserOpenLand, CampFraserStartEnd, CampFraserTrail, and InterpromentaryRoad are the point, line, and area features uploaded to AGO.  These features are added by choosing the “Add Layer From File” from the AGO Add drop-down menu and navigating to the uploaded zip file.  As a result, the following map contents are part of the orienteering map:


Modifying Control Points, Adding Labels

Once the above listed features are added, they are displayed on the Topographic base map when they are checked. Unfortunately, for the point features, simple dots were displayed and they are not compatible with the IOF cartographic standard.  To modify the control points, I clicked on the shape icon to display the drawing options, then click the Symbols link to show the following web dialog:


I discovered the salmon colored co-centric circle symbol in the cartographic set is the closest in color and shape to the IOF standard, which calls for a purple co-centric circle figure with a dot in the center.  The orienteering course start and end point triangular symbol was selected from the cartographic set. Again, this salmon colored triangle symbol with a diagonal line does not match the IOF symbol, which should be a purple triangle.  The symbols size and opacity can be changed, but the color is fixed.  The “Map Notes” AGO layer is the method I used to add control point number text.  The size, color, and placement are modifiable and colored purple to conform to the IOF standard.

Creating a Map Output Product

This map will not be used embedded in a web page or online, but will be exported to a PDF with other content and printed to paper.  Unfortunately, the only two methods I found to capture the map is printing or capturing the screen.  The print function is very limited by spawning a browser instance with an arbitrary sized portion of the map (see below):


The size of the map does not seem to be modifiable.  As a result, the most viable option available is to perform a screen capture, and then write the data to a JPEG or PDF file.  The following figure shows the edited screen capture of the map itself with all the map elements displayed that could easily be incorporated with the text previously created:



The following issues were encountered while making the above map:

  • I could not make the map look exactly as the ArcGIS Desktop version as there were not as many modifiable features.
  • The open area regions were overlaid on the base map and opacity was set to allow the background features to be visible, which causes the colors to be merged. The private property Camp Fraser section is displayed as white, which is not compatible with the IOF standard.
  • The only viable AGO output option is doing a screen capture. Another possible option is open the AGO data using ArcGIS Desktop.
  • Reliance on ArcGIS Desktop is still necessary to generate many map features, making AGO not completely an independent web-based application.
  • Performing these operations required a lot of AGO training and practice, probably not what a casual orienteering organizer is willing to undergo.


Why Location, Location, Location Actually Matters

Kirk Goldsberry, a geographer from Penn State, was interested in finding ways to visually depict data about movement through space and time. He also was a big basketball fan who played all his life.  In 2011, Goldsberry had the idea of mapping the dynamic ebb and flow of the game based on recently developed baseball statistical analytics. Using data scraped from ESPN basketball statistics web pages containing shot statistics, he eventually compiled spatial coordinates for more than 700,000 successful shots taken from 2006 to 2011.  The final results were mapped as color-coded, square-foot pixels across the court (



This work led to a presentation made at 2012 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, an annual gathering of statisticians and coaches at MIT.  NBA coaches saw the value of the spatial patterns generated.  A company called Stats teamed with Goldsberry to build a 3 camera-based system to track players and provided much more detailed information. In September 2013, Stats sold SportVU to the NBA for $100,000 per arena.  With the spatial patterns generated by this system, spatial data analytics at the basketball court (micro) scale is now possible.

Now the NBA has the statistics available at with their own version of shot maps, plus many detailed tables of every aspect of the game by player and team:


While there isn’t a public API provided by the NBA to access the statistics, there are web-scraping APIs available to retrieve the data programmatically, a much better alternative to the manual method Kirk Goldsberry used with  Micro-mapping articles and code samples are now available using the NBA statistics: The following map shows a Python language mapping utility written by Savvas Tjortjoglou (


This application takes mapping to a micro scale measured in feet, within a room, and not miles across counties, states, or countries.  As a result, new mapping applications are feasible to show spatial patterns as long as the data is available!



Greg Bacon Presentation

On Wednesday, November 11th, Greg gave an excellent presentation about the Fairfax County GIS office where he works as an analyst, that supports both county GIS users and the public.  He mentioned the specialized, web-based maps his office produces available online at the Fairfax Geo-Portal Page:(


I enjoyed reviewing the maps, especially the Comprehensive Map Plan, Walkway Maintenance (Greg specifically mentioned this map) and the Historic Imagery Viewer.  One area of Fairfax County I’m interested in is Tyson’s Corner, having worked there for almost 20 years.  The area is undergoing a significant transformation with the metro arrival and more residential housing being built. Tyson’s Corner is changing from a car-oriented, office and shopping center to a high-density, mixed-use area that hopefully will be increasingly pedestrian friendly.

The following screen shot from the Comprehensive Map Plan shows Tyson’s Corner zoning plan:


The following screen shots from the Geo-Portal Historic Imagery Viewer show the Tyson’s Corner intersection of Routes 123 and 7 in 1937, 153, and 1997:


Tysons1953HIV Tysons1997HIV

Tyson’s Corner redevelopment plans are ambitious, and a detailed description was written in the Washingtonian Magazine, April 2015 cover story issue, Capital of The Future. The following image shows a future high density, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly scene:


It still is a challenge to walk around Tyson’s Corner. I used to use the only cross walk on Route 7 at West Park Drive when leaving my Forester at the Stohlman Subaru dealership for repair.  Walking safely is still limited to specific sections where sidewalks were present, but there were, and still are, many obstacles present.  The Geo-Portal Walkway Maintenance map shows the organizations responsible for sidewalks in Fairfax County and the following screenshot shows the pedestrian walkways in Tyson’s Corner:


On November 8, The Washington Post published an article about a group of UVA School of Architecture students assessing Tyson’s walkability:  They encountered many obstacles and plan to monitor pedestrian accessibility as redevelopment progresses.  The following map shows the temperature measured along the route they took in 2014:


Using Smart Phones for Data Collection

Because of their ubiquity, GPS-equipped smart phones are more often being used to collect all types of data as part of business-oriented workflows. When the location accuracy from smart phones is “good enough”, using the native location service, no special hardware is required to conduct asset and service tracking, inventory control, installations, repairs, and geotagging. These are a few of the possible uses that location-aware smart phones can be applied. The following graphic shows native data ingest methods, which can add data value to any business process:


If better location accuracy is required from high-precision sensors such as survey/commercial class GPS receivers, laser scopes/meters, and RFID tags, if equipped with Bluetooth communications link, they can transfer data to any Android or Apple smart phone.

One necessary consideration of relying on a smart phone-based data collection system is choosing the apps that support the workflow. Factors to consider include the initial cost of the app (many are free) and the web-based storage infrastructure required.  For many commercial data collection systems, the app is free, but the server access has a cost, often based on the amount of storage required.  To enable mobile handheld access to GIS Servers, middleware is required to provide the link.  Known as a gateway service, the middleware translates user requests from mobile devices to GIS servers and formats the output back to the devices.  The following screenshot shows how data is often displayed for a specific location that originates from a GIS Server and formatted by the gateway service middleware:


With these hardware and software components working together, mobile GIS enables mobility, real-time connectivity, and broadened usage. Traditional GIS assumes a fixed location for the workstation performing GIS functions and the user’s current location doesn’t factor into geographic data. Mobile GIS allows data to be captured, stored, and managed in remote locations. Information can be uploaded and downloaded between mobile devices and central servers via wireless link. This cellular or Wi-Fi communications allows for real-time connectivity, which makes interactive services possible with dynamic updates.  Mobile GIS provide functionalities to a wider public with no GIS professional knowledge.  Viewing maps, finding nearest facilities, way-finding, delivering location-related messages, and mobile games are just some of the applications possible.

GIS Day – It’s Kind of a Big Deal!

This year’s GIS Day is Wednesday, November 18, 2015.  In addition to the activities taking place at GMU on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (, there are 21 additional events scheduled in the DC-Northern Virginia-Suburban Maryland region according to  On the main page, an interactive map allows you to pan around the world to see all the events that have been registered.  It’s interesting to read the event descriptions taking place!  Within the US, the most GIS Day events are located in the mid-Atlantic area and southern California (home of ESRI) is third.


There is an event registered at the ESRI headquarters in Redlands, California, but it may be a mistake, as it is listed as “adkdj” (see below). I sent a note to the email link listed in the dialog alerting them to the issue.


There is only one GIS Day event registered in China, hosted by the Hong Kong Geographic Information System Association.. The Mongolian Geospatial Association is also hosting an event and has done so for the last six years!  Both Alaska and Hawaii each have three events registered.

NOVA has hosted GIS Day activities starting when the Geospatial Studies Department was organized by Dr. Krimmer with speakers from NGA, ESRI, Spot Image, and many other companies. Pictures hang in the Reston Center of local politicians who visited during previous GIS Days.  Attended by both college and high school students, it has been a great opportunity to interact with GIS subject matter experts and eat some “interesting” cake!  I believe the following picture is from the 2012 GIS Day.


Over the years, I brought my two sons when they were young to NOVA GIS Day events. My older son now does mapping for an environmental engineering company and my younger son is a senior geography major at University of Mary Washington.  I believe GIS Day events at NOVA played a small role by allowing them to “hang out” with GIS people and learn about the field. I encourage everyone to bring a guest to this year’s GIS Day, especially a young person, who is considering career choices and might consider the geospatial sciences!

Week 6: Blog Post #4

Nick’s initial map version was of Reston centered on the NVCC-Reston Center with the silver line and tree cover layer enabled with the World Topographical map as a base map. Called “Area around NVCC Reston campus”, I added features that might be of interest to students, such as local fast food restaurants and cafes in Reston retrieved from the ArcGIS Online server.  To emphasize the local roads, the tree cover and non-county trails features were removed.  I also added the campus location as a reference point and renamed the map “Area around NVCC Reston campus Version 2”.

The local Chipotle, Panera Bread, McDonald’s, and Starbucks locations were added to the map. To filter all the non-Reston locations, each restaurant location filter was set to “city is Reston”. If the restaurant layers (Panera Bread, McDonald’s) did not come with a predefined logo, unique color points were defined:


The final map, with the original scale, lists restaurants NVCC-Reston Center students may be interested in visiting. The local streets are more easily visible without the tree cover and trail layers.  The NVCC Reston location was created with ArcGIS Desktop as a single point shape file and uploaded to ArcGIS Online. The following screenshot shows the complete map with the data layers listed on the left: