Many years ago on a flight from New York to Los Angeles, I flew over the Grand Canyon. From that angle, I saw the tributary canyons and how they widened and meandered as they met the main canyon. As a computer programmer, I felt that there were principles that I could model, and that I could generate interesting images.

My computer at the time was pretty primitive compared to today’s offerings, but I made a program that allowed me to generate a simple 3D map with different colors based on elevation. The picture below is a from a more recent descendant of that program.

Randomly generated coastline, supposed to look like Acadia.

Today’s program is more complex, but it uses the same basic principles. The first step is to generate a grid of numbers, representing elevations. The numbers next to each other shouldn’t vary very much, otherwise the landscape is unrealistic.

A “height map”, uncolored and colored.

Turning this grid into a picture is then a geometry problem. My projection adds some small touches, such as coloring the left and right sides of a hill slightly differently to give the illusion of shadow. The light “in the distance” is different from the light nearby.

Some lighting effects

Expanding on these principles, I should be able to create a landscape where the background disappears into the fog. Future effort.

Here’s a little bit more of “Acadia”.

I’m still working on this, be patient.