Gloucestershire and West Lothian Aerial Archaeology

New pages from 2019

John Wells

Kite Aerial Photographer


Retired Research Radiation Biophysicist

Armadale (Scotland) & Stroud (England)



Primary Interest

Archaeological Aerial Thermography and Near Infrared Photography

I have been interested in photography since the 1950s. In the 1960s and early 70s (working with fully manual cameras) I enjoyed capturing night scenes, one of which won a national competition. The prize was an auto-exposure SLR, a technology that was not overly helpful for long exposures due to reciprocity failure. Wet streets following rainfall were often a key ingredient of the nightscapes, a consideration that would reappear for thermal imaging over 40 years later.

My training and profession have involved a range of image gathering techniques ( X-ray crystallography, photomicroscopy, corona discharge photography and autoradiography etc). Geophysical methods of investigation often involve logging soil resistance or magnetic data points, one at a time, which are used to form an array of 'pixels', which is then refined through appropriate processing to form an image. Both within and outwith the visible spectrum, imaging is mass data point collection and should be performed under optimal conditions (for the technique of choice) and the resulting images processed to extract the maximum amount of inherent information. Standard photographic visualisation is only a starting point.

John and the late Rosie Wells are the yellow dots (Cairnpapple 2011)

The Register of Kite Aerial Photographers and Kite Remote Sensing Specialists

Cairnpapple 2009

West Lothian Archaeological Trust 2012-2019 Archive

Rathrar, Rathbarna Quadrivalleted Enclosure Complex, Co. Roscommon, by SNAPS recipient Christy Lawless.

Scottish National Aerial Photography Scheme (SNAPS - UK & Ireland) 2013-2016 Archive

Helicopter aerial photo over Bussage village

Family outing in a helicopter over our village, Bussage, Gloucestershire, in the 1980s.

Archeoscan Excavation of a Roman building at Nesley Farm, Gloucestershire, in 2011.

John is on the right and Rosie is out of shot flying the kite.

(click on image for larger version)

How We Started Doing Kite Aerial Photography

2006 - 2012

A section from one of six West Lothian Council display boards on our work.


West Lothian Aerial Archaeology

West Lothian Aerial Archaeology Archive 2007-2018

with Cade Wells

Left to Right - Rosie, Cade and John Wells, Jim Knowles and Heidi (Wells) Walker on Cairnpapple.


Peace Knowe hillfort viewed from the northern side.


Gloucestershire Aerial Archaeology

with Heidi Walker

A field east of Coaley: Google data, Houseprices Lidar Map and the same emphasised with GIMP.*


* For example, load the image into GIMP. Go to the drop-down menu headed FILTERS. Go down to EDGE DETECT and select DIFFERENCE OF GAUSSIANS.  Deselect INVERT and wind up RADIUS 2 until you can see the feature in the preview box and click OK. Then go to the COLOURS drop-down menu, select AUTO and click on EQUALISE. Then go back to the COLOURS menu and go down to LEVELS and select AUTO.
When out and about, you can use DETAILS or ACCENTUATE (several times) in Snapseed on your phone to produce a similar result.

Parch marks at Gyde House, Painswick, emphasised with GIMP by manipulating the colour channels.


Another Way to Take Aerial Photos

North Cerny

Heidi 'Wing' Walker


Heidi in flight

A Simple Approach to Aerial Thermography and Photography

The simplest way to start kite aerial photography is with an ActionCamera, selfie stick (2) and ~1m2, or larger, kite. A larger ~3m/9ft delta with fuzzy tail is a good general purpose kite, eg 1 & 2.

GoPro type set-up and variant for a phone, with or without a Flir One thermal imager which must be secured, eg with PVC tape. The larger stick has lockable sections.


Heidi, John and Cade.