University Library

Maps & Aerial Photos

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.

Aerial Appointments

Need aerial photos outside our five county area?

Using A Stereoscope

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