Case Study: Kings Canyon California

First, a little background. With the new computer has come a lot of resources I wasn’t able to utilize before, the most important of which is sheer processing power, allowing me to iterate faster and try new things. I was also able to finally get QGIS to work on this new computer, so my new pastime is taking real world height data, and trying to recreate similar effects in World Machine. My first attempt at this quickly spiraled out of control, so I thought I’d start this thread early, and post updates as I learn more and refine my technique.

The first area I’m looking to recreate is a portion of the Kings Canyon National Park in California. With my recent obsession with the mechanics of geology, specifically plate tectonics, I’ve been looking more and more closely at mountain ranges and valleys near plate boundaries. California is a great resource for this, as it’s a fairly active boundary, and there is an abundance of high quality/resolution height data available from US government agencies.

Here is an image showing the area I’m working on, produced from the aforementioned height data:

This area had a lot of variation in height, so I thought it would be a good place to start. It also has some very obvious river valleys, which gave me an excuse to learn how to better use the river device, rather than just relying on Flow Reconstruction + Create Water. This first attempt I’ve made I’m viewing as more a “Proof of concept” as the details aren’t quite right. I should note I’m not looking to exactly match the source image, more just recreate the style of terrain.

As you can see, there is not nearly enough detail, but I believe it’s a good start. Or at least, shows that my process has potential to work. I’ll be reworking this from the ground up, and posting results as I figure more out and progress ever closer to the style of Kings Canyon.


Very substantially similar! Just a bit of additional rough surface detail, as well as some ‘meat’ in the middle elevations compared to the reference.

Out of curiosity, if you run your version into the Mimic device and put the source in as a reference, what do you get? It adjusts surface roughness as well as the height distribution to match the source…

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I’ve never actually messed around with the Mimic device before! Using the source as the input, it is immediately much closer to what I was aiming for (Though the banding present shows up quite distinctly). It’s also given me a couple ideas that I want to explore outside of this case study.

I just looked on Google Earth for this area, as I wasn’t familiar with it, and it does seem your terrain is a bit too steep/peaky? And mostly, it appears to be too thin at the top, but this is just me quickly glancing over the area in Google Earth.

Looking forward to the end result!

I believe a lot of the problem with the peaks in my version has to do with scale. It’s hard to be certain, as I’m not completely familiar with QGIS yet, but I think the area my source heightmap is looking at is significantly smaller than the 8km world extents in the project. Cross that with my being much more comfortable making much larger scale scenes, and you get small scale detail blown up to large scale sizes, which doesn’t always look the greatest. In the newest iteration of the project, I’m trying to work at a much smaller scale than I’m used to, so hopefully that pans out!

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