Part One
  Map Reading

  Reading Topographical Maps Introduction 1. HOME

  Topographical Maps - Definition, Purpose and Categories 2. Maps

  Information in the margins of an army map 3. Marginal Information    and Symbols

  Latitude, Longitude and Other Methods to Locate Points on Topographic Maps 4. Grids

  Translating Distance on a Topographic Map to Distance on the Ground 5. Scale and Distance

  Grid North, Azimuth, Declination And Other Concepts Used To Find Direction With Topographic Maps 6. Direction

  Overlays - Used Primarily In Army Map Reading 7. Overlays

  Aerial Photographs - Supplements And Substitutes For Topographic Maps 8. Aerial Photographs

 Part Two
  Land Navigation

  Using Compass, GPS, Sun, Shadows, and Stars in Land Navigation 9. Navigation Equipment    and Methods

  Reading The Shape Of The Land In Topographic Maps 10. Elevation and Relief

  Orienting and Navigating With Topographic Maps 11. Terrain Association

  Mounted Land Navigating With Motorized Vehicles 12. Mounted Land    Navigation

  Land Navigation In Different Types of Terrain 13. Navigation in    Different Types of    Terrain

  Sketching Topographic Maps A. Field Sketching

  Folding Topographic Maps B. Map Folding     Techniques

  Units of Measure and Conversion Factors Used in Reading Topographic Maps C. Units of Measure and      Conversion Factors

  Units of Measure and Conversion Factors Used in Reading Topographic Maps D. Joint Operations      Graphics

  US Army Training Material for Map Reading and Land Navigation E. Exportable Training      Material

  Orienteering F. Orienteering

  US Army M2 Compass G. M2 Compass

  Additional Aids such as Night Vision Goggles and Global Positioning System or GPS H. Additional Aids      (GPS, Night Vision)

  Global Positioning System -  GPS J. Global Positioning      System - GPs


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Orienting the photograph is important because it is of very little value as a map supplement or substitute if its location and direction are not known by the user.

a.   If a map of the same area as the photograph is available, the photograph is oriented to the map by comparing features common to both and then transferring a direction line from the map to the photograph.

b.   If no map is available, the shadows on a photograph may be used to get an approximate true-north line. This method is not recommended in the torrid zone (Figure 8-15).

Figure 8-15. Using shadows on a photograph to find north.

Figure 8-15. Using shadows on a photograph to find north.

(1)   North Temperate Zone. The sun moves from the east in the morning through south at noon to west in the afternoon. Conversely, shadow fall varies from west through north to east. Before noon, therefore, north is to the right of the direction of shadow fall; at noon, north is the direction of shadow fall; and after noon, north is to the left of shadow fall. On an average, the amount of variation in shadow fall per hour is 15 degrees. From marginal information, determine the number of hours from noon that the photo was taken and multiply that number by 15°. With a protractor, measure an angle of that amount in the proper direction (right to left) from a clear, distinct shadow, and north is obtained. For photographs taken within three hours of noon, a reasonable accurate north direction can be obtained. Beyond these limits, the 15° must be corrected, depending on time of year and latitude.

(2)   South Temperate Zone. The sun moves from east through north at noon to west. Shadows then vary from west through south to east. Before noon, south is to the left of shadow fall; at noon, south is shadow fall; and after noon, south is to the right of shadow fall. Proceed as in (1) above to determine the direction of south.

c.   On a photograph that can be oriented to the surrounding ground features by inspection, a magnetic-north line can be established using a compass.

(1)   Orient the photograph by inspection.

(2)   Open the compass and place it on the photograph.

(3)   Without moving the photograph, rotate the compass until the north arrow is under the stationary black line.

(4)   Draw a line along the straight edge of the compass. This is a magnetic-north line.


Since aerial photographs are seldom exactly the same scale as a map of the same area, it is not feasible to print military grids on them. A special grid is used for the designation of points on photographs (Figure 8-16). This grid, known as the point designation grid, has no relation to the scale of the photo, to any direction, or to the grid used on any other photograph or map. It has only one purpose, to designate points on photographs.

Figure 8-16. Point designation grid.

Figure 8-16. Point designation grid.

a.   The point designation grid is rarely printed on photographs; therefore, it becomes the responsibility of each user to construct the grid on the photograph. All users must construct the grid in exactly the same way. Before the grid can be constructed or used, the photograph must be held so that the marginal information, regardless of where it is located, is in the normal reading position (Figure 8-17, step 1).

(1)   Draw lines across the photograph joining opposite reference marks at the center of each photograph (fiducial marks). If there are no fiducial marks, the center of each side of the photograph is assumed to be the location of the marks (Figure 8-17, step 2).

(2)   Space grid lines, starting with the center line, 4 centimeters (1.575 inches) apart (a distance equal to 1,000 meters at a scale of 1:25,000). The 1:25,000 map coordinate scale can be used for this dimension and to accurately designate points on the photograph, but this does not mean that distance can be scaled from the photograph. Extend the grid past the margins of the photograph so that a horizontal and vertical grid line fall outside the picture area (Figure 8-17, step 3).

(3)   Number each center line "50" and give numerical values to the remaining horizontal and vertical lines so that they increase to the right and up (Figure 8-17, step 4).

Figure 8-17. Constructing a point designation grid.

Figure 8-17. Constructing a point designation grid.

b.   The point designation grid is used, once the photograph is oriented, in the same manner as the grid on a map (Figure 8-18), read right and up. The coordinate scale used with the UTM grid on maps at the scale of 1:25,000 may be used to subdivide the grid square in the same manner as on a map. However, because the same point designation grid is used on all photographs, the coordinates of a point on the photograph must be prefixed by the identifying marginal information of the photograph.

Figure 8-18. Reading point designation grid coordinates.

Figure 8-18. Reading point designation grid coordinates.

c.   A grid coordinate using the point designation grid (Figure 8-19) consists of three parts:

(1)   The letters "PDG" to indicate an aerial photograph rather than a map grid coordinate.

(2)   The mission and photo negative number to identify which photograph is being used.

(3)   The six numerical digits to locate the actual point on the photograph.

Figure 8-19. Locating the grid coordinate on a point designation grid.

Figure 8-19. Locating the grid coordinate on a point designation grid.

Return to Aerial Photographs



Map Reading and Land Navigation Buy the book this website is based on: Map Reading and Land Navigation

This website is based on the US Army Field Manual: "Map Reading and Land Navigation" Buy a copy from to take with you out in the field.


Book Review - Be Expert with Map and Compass

One of the best ways to learn and become proficient in any subject is to find a way to make a game or sport of it. That's exactly what orienteering does! Orienteering began to develop almost 100 years ago in the Scandinavian countries as a fun and effective method for military training in land navigation. Bjorn Kjellstrom was closely involved with the early development of orienteering, and he is the person who introduced the sport to North America. He, along with his brother Alvar, and a friend named Gunnar Tillander, invented the modern orienteering compass. They manufactured and marketed it as the Silva Protractor compass. This compass, along with Bjorn's book Be Expert with Map and Compass, made it much easier for anyone to learn how to use a map and compass.

This book has become the most widely read classic on the subject of map reading, compass use, and orienteering. Over 500,000 copies have been sold in the english language editions alone. There have been very successful editions published in French, Italian, and other languages as well. It is a short (just over 200 pages), easy to read, enjoyable book that can help you to have fun while you learn the subject quickly and effectively.

The book is organized into four main parts, plus a short, useful introduction. Part 1 covers having fun with maps alone. Then, Part 2 covers having fun with a compass alone. Part 3 puts it together and shows you how to have fun with a map and compass together. This section also introduces the game or sport of orienteering. Part 4 covers competitive orienteering for those who would like to compete with others in the sport.

A reproduction of a segment of an actual topographic map is included as a fold-out in the back of the book. It is used together with the "how-to" instructions the book provides. For example, one of the exercises in Part 3 is an imaginary orienteering "hike" that uses the sample map.

If you would like to have one of the best books available on map reading and using a compass, Be Expert with Map and Compass is hard to beat. You can buy a copy from today.

Read a book review of Agincourt

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