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WIMSI Imagery Finder


This application will help you to find air photo or orthophoto imagery for specific locations like named geographic features or latitude and longitude coordinates. Search parameters such as the search radius, range of years of photography, or BCGS mapsheet can be specified. If you know a particular air photo's film roll and frame number desigantion, the individual frame or even the entire film roll can be located. Search results can be exported for viewing within Google Earth and other applications that support .kml files, or as .csv text files for use with text editors, databases or spreadsheets.

Quick Start Instructions

  1. Select the type of imagery you want to find - 'Search Airphotos' or 'Search Orthophoto'. To find airphotos from before 1963, select 'Search Air Photo Index Maps'.
  2. Select how you want to search - by 'Geographical Name', 'Latitude and Longitude', 'Mapsheet', 'Roll and Frame' (airphoto searches only) or 'Scale' (index map searches only).
  3. Set a Search Radius between 1 and 10 kilometres. Note that the resulting search will locate all images where the image centre falls within the search radius. This may miss images where a portion of the image falls within the search radius but the centre is outside. If your search retuns no images or fewer than you would like, simply increase the search radius and run the search again.
  4. Set Filter parameters. Set the filter parameters to exclude unwanted results from your search. For instance, if you are only interested in air photos for a particular location more recent than 1995, set the 'Years from' value to 1996. Or, if you are interested in purchasing orthophotos, set the 'Only show images that can purchased' radio button to 'Yes'.
  5. Set the sort order to have the results returned by position (mapsheet, alphabetically) or by year (most recent first).
  6. Choose how you want your results returned - 'Search' (returns an html table in a browser window), 'View in Google Earth (dynamically creates a .kml file of your search results), or 'Export to Excel (CSV)' (downloads a table of your results as a .csv file).

Where available, you will be able to view reduced-resolution versions of images in a browser window by clicking on the corresponding hyperlink.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why did my search not return any images?
A. If you are searching for orthophotos it is possible that no imagery coverage exists for your particular search area. If you are searching for airphotos, it is far more likely that no airphoto image centres fell within your search area. Try increasing the search radius - if you still do not get any results with a search radius of 10 kilometres, then no image corresponding to your search criteria exist. Try broadening the search filter parameters.

Q. When viewing results in Google Earth, why do the low-resolution versions of some air photos seem to be upside down while others are right side up?
A. Typically, flightlines are flown East-to-West and then West-to-East (or vice versa) in what is called a serpentine pattern. This results in half the photos appearing to have North at the top, and half with North at the bottom. Sometimes the aircraft fly in different patterns and the terrain features in the photos will appear to be rotated with respect to matching features in the Google Earth imagery. If you wish to compare features in the low-resolution images with those in Google Earth, simply rotate the Google Earth map to match the orientation of the photo.

Q. Why are there no low-resolution thumbnails for some air photos?
A. GeoBC has over 2.5 million air photos of British Columbia, dating back to 1936. To date only about 600,000 air photos have been scanned to digital format. Air photos that have not yet been scanned will not have a thumbnail image available. Thumbnail images for orthophotos are only available for images owned by the Province of British Columbia - licensing restrictions on other orthophotos in the orthophoto collection may prohibit the display of thumbnail versions.

Q. Can I download and view or print the low-resolution image without purchasing the full-resolution version?
A. Yes. The low-resolution air photo images are free for personal use, although they remain the copyrighted property of the Province of British Columbia. For commercial use, or for inclusion in published material you will need to get permission.

Q. I've checked out 'Search Air photos' and 'Search Air Photo Index Maps' - are there still more air photos?
A. Yes. There are an additional quarter million air photos taken between 1950 and 1989 designatead as 'site-specific' operations that are only recorded on the original paper maps. A future update will include tools for locating air photos from these operations. If you think there may be a site specific operation for your area of interest you can contact GeoBC - someone will help you to determine if such an operation exists.

Q. Why are my search results displayed all the time now in Google Earth, even when I'm not using the Imagery Finder tool?
A. When you open .kml layers, Google Earth adds them by default to the 'Temp" folder. When closing, Google Earth will always ask if you want to save any currently loaded .kml layers in your 'Temp' folder to your 'My Places' folder. If you choose 'Yes', then those layers will automatically be displayed every time you open Google Earth. Choose 'No' to have Google Earth remove your newly added layers on closing. You can also delete any previously added layers from your 'My Places' folders, preventing them from being automatically displayed in future sessions.

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Please review the following introductory materials before proceeding to the BMOS site: