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How to Create Your Own Photo Composite Layouts



In this Clinic, we will show you how to makeyour own photo composite based layouts to use in TrainPlayer.  For you to be able to do this task, you will need, as a minimum, an Internet access to get the necessary photos, a photo editing software to create the merged composite picture and a plan of attack.  We will be using the TerraServer as our document base because all of its photos are in the public domain.  You can access this database here:   www.terraserver-usa.com/

When you first go to the TerraServer website,  it will be most beneficial for you if you have an exact street and city address of the area that you would like to see.  The TerraServer presents you with several views including topographical, aerial and urban - all with some date lines associated with them.  For TrainPlayer, your best choice is the "urban areas" which are in color for the most part.  Remember, the major urban centres in the USA are fairly well covered in this data base but some major railroad towns are NOT!

This is what the one of opening screens may look like in TerraServer.


Making the Best Use of TerraServer

To begin, look at the red boxes in the top left of the photo above. The box in the top left corner with the 3 squares allows you to set the size of the viewing area;  select the largest size. The left hand box with the +/- allows you to set the focal point for depth and zoom. Initially you may want to set it at the fifth notch above the + sign since this will give you enough depth of scene to spot large rail yards and points of interest.  We have made two large red boxes to illustrate a couple of points on this photo that would be worth looking into.  Before you start to drill down further, click on the "Download" box above the "Urban Areas" tab.  This will allow you to more easily save your detailed pictures when you're ready.


At the bottom of the page, TerraServer gives you some instructions on how to actually save these photos.  We prefer the method as expalined in the red box above. I always create a new folder  on my Windows desktop with the name of the city I'm working on as an easy reminder.  Another  tip before you start saving your photos - plan the scene depth you want to work with and plot out your photo coverage plan.  First set your scene depth:

over 3

Before moving on to the 1 pixel = 1 meter depth, mentally plan out your photo coverage. Here's an example:

 over 4

At this level 1 pixel = 8 meters, it looks like we will need to use a flexible gride of 5 screen widths by 4 screen widths - a total of 25 photos to adequately cover this water filtration plant and some nearby industries .  Typically an easy naming convention would be: top left photo is saved as 1.JPG,  next one to the right as 2 and so on until you get to the edge where you want to stop.  The beauty of the TerraServer site is that it automatically moves you one screen to the right when you press the EAST button.  Not only that, but it also provides about a 25% overlap in the photo which your photo editing software will need to "match" all these photos.

Once you reach the end of your row, you can click on SOUTH at the bottom of the picture frame, to go down one row.  We suggest saving this photo as a variation of the previous.  In other words, if your row ended with photo 5, the first picture SOUTH, would be saved as photo 15.  The reason for this is so that you can easily remember that it is the first photo below #5 or 1 - 5.  This may prove useful if you photo editing software cannot easily merge the total photos and you need to do it manually.  Now remember, this time we are going WEST, 1 screen at a time so the next photo is #`14 and so on.  Once you have completely captured the photos you require, close your internet connection and open up your photo editor software.


Photo Merging Tips

Our photo editing software of choice is Adobe Photo Shop but you can use literally any one you choose so long as it can produce either a "photo composite" or "photo panorama or merge".  The directions below all apply to the use of Adobe Photo Shop.

Step one is to "open" all of the photos associated with Berwyn IL.  Navigate to your desktop folder containing your screen captures. You may end up with a screen view like this one:

 Adobe 1

 The next step is to select the Photo merge  feature from your File  menu

  Adobe 2

The Adobe program then lists all of the images it will use to create the photo merge itself


Since the TerraServer provides for a good amount of overlap in your photos, a good photo editor will not have much trouble finding the "common elements" and assembling the larger image, after it has done some serious crunching of data.

TIP: the more RAM memory you have on your computer, the faster this part proceeds



 There are some things to note at this stage BEFORE pressing OK.

Ensure that your viewing Setting is set to maximum on the slide bar so that you can determine if all the pictures have been placed correctly.  Also make sure that the "Snap to Image" feature has been checked since this allows for faster and cleaner linking betweeen the pictures.

When you are happy with the results as displayed, press OK.  Once the end result is displayed in the main window, you can use the Adobe zoom feature to check it out in more detail.  A zoom setting of 200% equates to roughly the same setting inside TrainPlayer.

Saving your Work

The final steps involve naming and saving your composite image. Our preference is to name it after the city with some reference to the industry displayed but the choice is yours.

Adobe allows you to save to several levels of JPEG.  The choice is yours.  The larger the file, the more pixels are retained.  However, TrainPlayer works best with files that are around 3 Mbits in size both for picture quality and program functionality. Here are some typical setting you may want to choose.

 You’re done.  Next step is move your photo  to your TrainPlayer\Layouts folder.  Now open your photo as a "new file" inside TrainPlayer via the "File\Open" menu and to use TrackLayer to place all the necessary trackage.  Also don't forget to go back to your desktop folder and delete all the images that have been merged, since they are no longer requried.

If you're particularly pleased with any photo composite that you've created,  please send us a copy of your photo and the related RRW file to support @trainplayer.com and we will post your work on the Web Layout chooser for all members to admire and use

Final Thoughts

Once you have mastered these merging techniques with the TerraServer, you will want to try the other popular map sites - Google, Microsoft Live Search, Bing, etc.  To make photo composites using any of these data bases, you will need to purchase a good "Screen Capture" software.  You will also quickly realize that using these sites is much tougher since there is no automatic overlap between pictures and controlling the image size while scrolling around can be a challenge.  But, the end result can be more up-to-date images and even greater details.  Enjoy the challenge!



Making the Best Use of TerraServer

Photo Merging tips

Saving Your Work

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