University Library


Find & View Aerial Photos

The Library holds both Print & Digitized Aerial Photos
covering local counties from 1920 to 2003. 


Go to our database of aerial photo flights.  

Narrow the flights by these criteria:

Oultine map of Central California Counties

Full size print Aerial photos may be viewed by appointment at McHenry Library.

Need aerial photos outside our five county area?

Find Digitized Aerial Photos



How to read an Aerial Photo

Aerial photographs are vertical images (straight down) with stereo pairs for nearly all flights. Each flight record describes:

  • Geographic extent of the flight
  • Altitude of aircraft, scale of the resulting images
  • Format and other important data 
  • See What is an Aerial Photograph?

Types of photos:

  • Black & White - Good contrast and detail. 
  • Color - Sometimes easier to identify familiar objects using the color. Earliest color photos are from 1973.
  • Color-Infrared - Shows landscape features that otherwise aren't very clear. See Understanding Color Infrared (CIR) Aerial Photography 

What is scale?

  • Scale is the ratio between the size of the object in the photo compared to the actual size of the object, indicated by: 1:4200, 1:7200, etc. The smaller the number after the colon, the closer to the ground the picture was taken. 
  • For examples, see UC Santa Barbara's explanation of Aerial Photography Scale 

What can you see?

  • Larger features (e.g. shores, mountains, the larger rivers, etc.)  If the scale is under 1:15,000, possibly roads, parks, individual buildings, etc.
  • Sequences of aerials of the same area 
  • See Introduction to Aerial Photo Interpretation 

What can't you see?

  • Small features if scale is over 1:15,000
  • Buildings and structures that might be obstructed by trees