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Shaffner 1


Heisler 2


Krosley 3

J. Kottenstette 4

J. Wright 5


Analytical modeling for static and dynamic foundation stability evaluations is most realistic when the three-dimensional (3D) geologic structure is included in the model so potential sliding surfaces can be accurately analyzed. Realistic models must be developed which can be utilized in the limit equilibrium and finite element programs, including non-linear coupled analysis. U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) has greatly enhanced geologic mapping capabilities by employing close range digital photogrammetry to map geologic structure and to obtain abutment topography. These new capabilities are being develop through Reclamation’s Science and Technology Program. Photogrammetric mapping is also extremely valuable for new construction to assure the details of the geologic structure are quickly and accurately obtained for current and future use. Ground-based (terrestrial) photogrammetry is very useful to accurately measure joint roughness for estimating sliding resistance on foundation discontinuities. This paper discusses how photogrammetry combined with exploratory drilling; borehole geophysical logging; surface mapping and analysis of construction photographs were used to develop a comprehensive 3D model of the geologic structure in several existing large concrete dams, including East Canyon Dam, Arrowrock Dam, and Folsom Dam. Also included are two river studies using photogrammetry models developed from photographs taken from a small portable helium balloon. Six projects and the work of more than eight people are discussed to highlight how Reclamation is using the new and exciting capabilities offered by ground based digital photogrammetry.

1 Engineering Geologist, Bureau of Reclamation Technical Service Center, Denver CO, pshaffner@do.usbr.gov

2 Geologist, Bureau of Reclamation Technical Service Center, Denver CO, rheisler@do.usbr.gov

3 Civil Engineer, Bureau of Reclamation Technical Service Center, Denver CO, lkrosley@do.usbr.gov

4 Geotechnical Engineer, Bureau of Reclamation Technical Service Center, Denver CO, jkottenstette@do.usbr.gov

5 Geophysicist and Group Manager, Bureau of Reclamation Technical Service Center, Denver CO, jwright@do.usbr.gov


The technique of measuring 3D objects from photographs (photogrammetry) has a remarkable history and has been in development for centuries, dating back to observations made by Leonardo da Vinci (Doyle 1964, Gruner 1977). Knowing the internal geometry of the camera, every light ray that reaches the surface of the film (or surface of the digital imaging chip) can be reconstructed into what is referred to as a ray bundle. The advent of analytical plotters in the late 1950s allowed computers to manage the relationships between image and real world coordinates. The rapid development of digital cameras, software programs, and faster computers now greatly facilitates very cost effective photogrammetric mapping without the need for photogrammetry specialists. Using readily available consumer cameras and photogrammetry software, photogrammetry 3D mapping can be easily incorporated into the arsenal of analytical tools available to geologists and engineers mapping dam foundations. The ability to accurately map the orientation and precise location of discontinuities on steep dam abutments and obtain reliable topography and digital terrain model surfaces without utilizing rope access greatly improves the safety of geologic data collection and reduces mapping time by orders of magnitude. Several software programs offer interactive stereonets that facilitate instant plotting of discontinuity data as mapping proceeds on the model surface. Perhaps most importantly, the development of highly accurate 3D geologic models of dam foundations and abutments permits thousands of measurements to be made within the computer model, thereby vastly improving the statistical analysis of joint orientations. Users are then able to return to the model at a later time and measure other geologic structure, if the need arises. Once a photogrammetry model of a dam site is developed, it could be used in the future to measure features that may not have been originally mapped.

Combining photogrammetry mapping of surface geology with borehole geophysical surveys and borehole imaging can provide a very powerful suite of analytical tools that allows development of more robust foundation models. All of these data collection elements can be brought together into very useful 3D models that form the basis for detailed stability studies.

These developments in remote measuring technologies in no way should diminish the essential need to have experienced geologists evaluate dam foundations as part of a multi-discipline team. Rather, photogrammetry mapping should be considered another tool in the geologist’s toolbox, much like the Brunton Compass, global positioning surveys (GPS) and other survey equipment. It is important to emphasize the concern that these new tools could actually decrease foundation understanding in the hands of practitioners who may feel cameras and photogrammetric mapping can replace the need for careful onsite inspection of geologic structure by skilled and experienced geologists.

Foundation stability of large concrete dams founded on rock depends on the abutment mass, the geologic structure, the shear strength of this structure, and loads on the foundation blocks from the dam, reservoir, and seismic ground motions. The primary potential failure mode is sliding of large removable foundation blocks. Foundation

blocks that create a stability issue must be removable, have continuous boundaries, and must be located below the dam and be loaded with sufficient destabilizing force to overcome the frictional resistance provided by the shear strength of the sliding planes. The work discussed in this paper is all geared towards these types of investigations.


Photogrammetry provides methods to determine 3D locations of objects from two- dimensional (2D) images. Photographs of a scene are taken from a series of camera stations; at least two stations are required. The images must overlap so that the same objects (“common points”) are captured from at least two locations. Working with common points between images and camera calibration data, the software is able to determine the relationship between all of the images and the data in the scene (bundle adjustment). The resulting 3D model can be a relative only or an absolute model. The relative only model is provided in an arbitrary scale with an arbitrary location and coordinate system. The absolute model needs several common points with known locations (surveyed “control points”) captured in the scene. Photogrammetric software is available from multiple vendors; and while the basic principles are the same, the implementation of these principles can be quite different, particularly when comparing terrestrial methods (photographs taken from camera stations on the ground) versus aerial methods (photographs taken from an airplane). This paper is exclusively focused on ground-based methods because they provide unique advantages at dam sites with steep topography and enhance detailed mapping of the geologic structure. Software programs from ADAM Technology and Sirovision were used for these projects. Other geotechnical and geological photogrammetry software is available as discussed by Haneberg (Haneberg 2006).

Three procedures are required to acquire photogrammetric data with a digital camera:

1. Acquire images. Careful planning for the correct resolution settings, minimal convergence angles, and overlap between successive images will result in ideal 3D models. More accuracy can be obtained by moving closer or by using a longer lens. Planning modules included in some software packages make this process very fast.

2. Calibrate the digital camera or develop the interior orientation. The interior orientation refers to the parameters inside the camera that are not affected by the camera’s position in the world. This is performed using the software’s interior orientation bundle adjustment method to compensate for the effects of lens distortions. The camera’s position and rotation are known as the exterior or outer orientation. Some software contains calibration modules, improving accuracy and flexibility.

3. Establish location and orientation of cameras. The known coordinate locations of control points within each model and/or the surveyed camera station positions are utilized in the least squares bundle adjustment to calculate the exterior orientation of the model. This will enable 3D observations to be recorded from any location within the stereo model.


East Canyon Dam is a thin arch dam located in northern Utah and completed in 1966 by the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). The dam is constructed immediately downstream from an older arch dam that was left in place. The arch is one of the thinnest dams in Reclamation’s inventory and is founded on hard, massive Echo Canyon conglomerate cut by several continuous joints, shears and some minor bedding planes. The dam design includes a thrust block at the top of the right abutment. Reclamation is currently evaluating the stability of the East Canyon Dam foundation as part the Dam Safety Program. The seismic stability and the ability to

withstand overtopping are the focus of the ongoing foundation analyses. Critical foundation blocks exist in the right abutment that were not recognized or understood by the original designers. Fault sources of concern include the Wasatch Fault at approximately 22 km and the Main Canyon Fault at a distance of about 6.5 km. A comprehensive probabilistic seismic hazard analysis was performed, but is not included

in this discussion. Geologic maps of the foundation were developed during construction,

but designers in the early 1960s were not focused on the potential for foundation rock

block failures. If they were, it is likely that the continuous low angle (less than 20 degree dip) features on the right abutment (designated Shear AB and Joint C) would have been mapped and evaluated. Foundation block failure modes for concrete dams became the focus of attention in the mid to late 1960s following the work done evaluating the failure

of Malpasset Dam which failed in 1959. The recognition of this potential failure mode at

East Canyon Dam 40 years after construction emphasizes the importance of ongoing dam safety programs which require regular re-evaluation of potential failure modes. The failure modes of tomorrow may be ones we are not thinking of today.

A comprehensive 3D foundation model of the East Canyon Dam right abutment geologic

structure was developed using:

Photogrammetric mapping of both abutments

Core samples from exploratory drilling

Surface geologic mapping using rope access (right abutment only)

Surface surveying of main features, where possible on right abutment

Optical borehole image logs (recording discontinuity location/orientation)

Evaluation of old construction photographs and records

Grouting records

Design records

The foundation model defined removable blocks requiring further analysis on the right abutment and provided verification of stable foundation geometry on the left abutment.

Following the initial assessment, exploratory holes were drilled from the right abutment

to sample and test important discontinuities. Photogrammetry models developed from

photographs taken from across the valley allowed complete mapping of the nearly vertical abutments which are mostly inaccessible. Traditional rope-access geologic mapping and surveying was initially used on the right abutment, supplemented later by photogrammetry modeling. The resulting geologic computer model of the critical right

abutment contains high resolution photographs draped onto the gridded terrain model producing a photographically textured 3D model image. This surface model and the photogrammetric software allow for complete and accurate mapping of the geologic structure. The ability to rotate these models and view them from any orientation is an enormous benefit when studying the geologic structure. This project successfully used software from ADAM Technology (ADAM Technology 1988-1997) for the right abutment and Sirovision (Sirovision 2009) developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the left abutment.

Surface contour maps critical to the analysis were quickly produced from the photogrammetric model. The critical shears and joints logged in the right abutment drill holes were incorporated into the photogrammetry model so structural projections could be made to help understand the subsurface geology. Optical borehole image logs provided joint orientation data critical to understanding the foundation geologic structure. Using all this information, contours of the potential foundation base planes were created for the stability evaluation.

East Canyon Dam Site Geology

The Echo Canyon Conglomerate at East Canyon Dam is one of the hardest foundations in Reclamation’s inventory, based on measured shear wave velocities as high as 3,562 meters per second. Bedding dips downstream and into the right abutment 40 to

60 degrees. Main geologic block forming features include base planes Shear AB and

Joint C, along with bedding, a near-vertical side plane (RJ3), and a release plane (B1). The photograph shown in figure 1 identifies the location of the main geologic features on

the right abutment. The thickness of the individual conglomerate beds varies from 6 to

12 meters. Occasional thin interbeds of “softer shale” were mapped during construction

but recent investigations found these to be sandstone and siltstone. The conglomerate has

been subject to intense shearing in the geologic past; however, most of the shearing is totally healed and extremely strong. The shearing often formed breaks though the hard clasts, which were subsequently re-cemented, but Shear AB and Joint C are not re- cemented.

The slopes of both abutments are very steep and there is very limited access. The stream channel is about 15 meters wide. Photogrammetry mapping proved to be essential to determine the joint orientations and topography in many areas that could not be physically reached.

Though Joint C was mapped during construction (see figure 2), its significance as a potential foundation failure plane was not recognized. Also, the foundation mapping did not cover the critical area where the Shear AB base plane may pass through the foundation, because the excavation was considered too steep, icy and unsafe to map. The downstream abutment was never mapped until recently, and Shear AB was never noted during construction. The lack of geologic mapping of the abutments downstream from concrete dams is a noted common deficit in many of the Reclamation dam safety records because foundation block failure modes were not recognized until the 1970s. Case

studies like East Canyon Dam remind us of the importance of including downstream mapping in order to evaluate the possibility for adversely oriented geologic discontinuities daylighting in these areas.

Figure 1. Photograph of right abutment showing survey points along Shear AB and Joint C.
Figure 1. Photograph of right abutment showing survey points along Shear AB and
Joint C. Note bedrock dipping downstream (as seen on left side of photograph) and
Shear AB dipping towards the channel. Side planes for right abutment blocks are also
present, but not readily visible from this orientation.

As is often the case, no individual piece of geologic data reveals the entire structural geology picture by itself and a wide variety of geologic data must be reviewed and analyzed together to reduce uncertainty and truly understand the foundation conditions.

The construction photographs (figure 2) are very important, but only a few geologic features were mapped or labeled on the images. Construction photographs annotated by geologists onsite during construction are extremely valuable for communicating during construction and for future analysis. The value of these photographs cannot be overemphasized. The downstream right abutment was mapped in 1999 (figure 1) and included survey control on key features, most notably Shear AB and Joint C. Further field observations and measurements were performed in 2006 and 2007 to verify the

orientation of important side planes and base planes visible on the surface upstream of and downstream from the dam.

Right Abutment Discontinuities at East Canyon Dam

Surface mapping in 1999 identified low angle base planes of concern on the right abutment (Shear AB and Joint C). Steep side planes oriented upstream to downstream and bedding planes were also mapped. The right abutment geologic structure consists of five primary discontinuities as shown on the stereonet in figure 3. These are the main features of concern which form removable blocks in the right abutment foundation. Sliding downstream along the intersection of RJ3 and Shear AB or the intersection of RJ3 with Joint C is the main focus of ongoing analysis. For the current investigations, fitting the data into a representative model and determining orientations for important discontinuities required looking at the data in several different ways. The subsurface data analysis included:

Plotting data on multiple geologic sections as it was developed to understand the overall fit and trend of discontinuities

Figure 2. Construction photograph of right abutment excavation showing horizontal joint (Joint C) and bedding
Figure 2. Construction photograph of right
abutment excavation showing horizontal
joint (Joint C) and bedding (Sh-1R shale)
crossing foundation. Original annotations
are shown in black and recent annotations
are shown in white. Old dam shown on the
right was used for access and left in place
upstream of the new double curvature thin
arch dam. Shear AB outcrops downstream
from the dam and is not shown in this
photograph. Shear AB was not recognized
or mapped during construction

Hand contouring various data sets on plan maps to evaluate the fit of the data when combining drill hole data and surface survey points (figure 4)

Evaluating a large number of three-point problems in many combinations to understand plane orientations in various locations of the model

Evaluating the orientations provided by the Optical Borehole Image logs (figure 5)

Performing a least squares best fit of the high confidence data points to see if a plane fit of the data compared favorable with the geologist’s contour interpretation

Developing a 3D photogrammetry model to view the various plane projections and compare the projections to actual mapped exposures of the plane. The photogrammetric model allowed for a remarkable visualization of the actual features in photographs with the estimated and projected planes from the model. This greatly improves the confidence level of geologic projections.

Figure 3. Lower hemisphere stereonet plot of major discontinuities in the right abutment of East
Figure 3. Lower hemisphere stereonet plot
of major discontinuities in the right
abutment of East Canyon Dam. Shear AB
and Joint C are the primary base planes
associated with two different foundation
blocks, and dip towards the river channel,
out of the abutment. Bedding is dipping
downstream and into the right abutment
and forms a potential release plane. The
joint set RJ3 is near-vertical and forms a
potential side plane. Joint B1 forms an
upstream release.

Shear AB: Shear AB is a thin (approximately 7 mm) relatively planar shear which outcrops near the base of the right abutment, dipping an average of about 20 degrees towards the river channel. The rock above Shear AB is referred to as Block AB; and this block forms a major portion of the right abutment foundation. The trace of Shear AB and the outline of Block AB are shown on the plan map in figure 4. Shear AB is visible downstream from the dam

for over 107 meters (figure 1). Drilling confirmed the continuity of this thin shear plane by using Optical Borehole Image (OBI) Logs (figure 5) to identify the shear plane dipping towards the river channel. The logging was performed by contract with analysis by Reclamation geophysics specialists.

Without the optical logs, it would have been extremely difficult to distinguish the shear planes from the bedding planes. A critical lesson learned was to always have the contractor provide enough of the raw data (hole diameter used, magnetic declination correction) so that data processing can be checked for errors. At East Canyon, several significant data processing errors were detected and corrected early in the process. These errors must be discovered early in the process to avoid problems when setting up the foundation finite element models.

The average orientation (dip and dip direction) of Shear AB is 20, 180. Figure 6 shows a geologic section of the main geologic structure. The average orientation was estimated using multiple three-point problems and a least-squares best fit of all the available data. No thick shear zone or soft zone was found in any of the drill holes—only distinct, narrow joints with some staining, often containing grout. The grout travel for hundreds of feet downstream is clear evidence of joint continuity. The core photograph in figure 5 shows the typical conditions of Shear AB in drill holes.

Figure 4. Plan map showing the shape of foundation Block AB on the right abutment
Figure 4. Plan map showing the shape of foundation Block AB on the right abutment
formed by Shear AB, side plane RJ3, and release plane B1. Downstream is to the right
and the dam is shown on the left. Note location of recent drilling near bottom of image
(DH06-5ABC and -6ABC). There is no existing access further south than these holes
due to the steep topography. Only one hole (DH06-5B) actually sampled the plane
within the limits of the block of concern. Section A-A is shown in figure 6.

Photogrammetry at East Canyon Dam: Images for the photogrammetry model were obtained in one day using a Nikon D80 camera. For the left abutment model, a single pair of photographs were taken from the right abutment. For the right abutment model, a “fan” series of photographs were obtained from a few locations high on the left abutment. High-resolution 3D digital terrain models were produced, which are essentially “draped” with the photographs creating 3D “textured models” used to measure and evaluate critical geologic features in the abutments.

The comprehensive 3D-structural geology model provides:

Joint orientations and location


Joint trace lengths

Geologic/topographic 3D-poly-line intersections

Projections of the geologic structure to the 3D photograph image

Figure 5. Optical Borehole Image (OBI) log of drill hole DH06-5B (left) shown with the
Figure 5. Optical Borehole Image (OBI) log of drill hole DH06-5B (left) shown with
the actual core photograph (right) of Shear AB. The OBI log provided the dip and dip
direction for identifying important joints and shears.
Without the oriented optical
image log, it was impossible to distinguish bedding planes dipping downstream from
joints or shears dipping towards the channel.
performed on several core samples.
Laboratory direct shear testing was

The photogrammetry model (with the draped photograph providing a 3D photograph image) was very useful to view the projected Shear AB plane intersection with the ground surface and to compare this projection to actual exposures seen onsite. This iterative process allowed the geologist and geotechnical engineer to estimate plane orientations with several methods and quickly view the intersection of the plane and the ground surface on a 3D image. Accurate points on the visible Shear AB surface exposure in the photogrammetric model were used with borehole data points to calculate planar fits to various data sets. The advantage of this technique is comparable to returning to the site with a survey crew a dozen or more times to obtain additional data points, so the cost savings of the photogrammetric model are obvious. Just as important, the photogrammetry model identified several survey points that were not on the ground surface and were eliminated from the data base.

These projections provide a visual check to the 3D-foundation geometry (see figures 7 and 8). The photogrammetric analysis confirmed the orientation of Shear AB estimated by several other methods and provided additional confidence in this estimate.

Using Photogrammetry to Evaluate Geologic Projections

The photogrammetric model used actual survey points for control along with calculated surface points (several hundred thousand) produced by the software from the high

resolution images. The projected surface trace was then compared to the actual surface trace visible in the photographs. This allowed for rapid iteration of a wide variety of projections until a good match with the real surface trace could be obtained. This confidence in subsurface geometry is essential prior to building the detailed finite element model used for the nonlinear analysis. The ADAM Technology software provides residuals for common points found in the image pairs. These residuals provide an estimate of the accuracy of the model. Residuals on targeted check points are typically resolved to one-third of a pixel.

Figure 6. Geologic Section A-A looking downstream at the foundation block shapes on the right
Figure 6. Geologic Section A-A looking
downstream at the foundation block shapes
on the right abutment. Bedrock is dipping
directly into the view of this section,
downstream and to the right. Note that
foundation Block C rests on top of Block
AB and would move along with it, or could
move independently.
Figure 7. Screen capture of 3D photogrammetry model showing relationship of two projected Shear AB
Figure 7. Screen capture of 3D photogrammetry model showing relationship of
two projected Shear AB planes. The 3D-poly-line traces shown are created by
the intersection of the projected planes with the ground surface. The
photogrammetry model greatly facilitated the projection of surface features back
to drill holes and drill hole data back to the surface image. This type of image-
based 3D model provides an incredibly useful tool for quickly evaluating plane
orientations in relationship to actual surface exposures, saving valuable time.
Figure 8. Screen capture of 3D view of textured photogrammetric model with translucent joint halos
Figure 8. Screen capture of 3D view of textured photogrammetric model with
translucent joint halos for Shear AB, the Sh-1R shale bed, and the RG3 side plane.
View is down onto the right abutment. Upstream is to the right. Photogrammetry
allows for many 3D model projections to be shown on actual photographic images
which provide an excellent method for rapid evaluation and iteration


Arrowrock Dam is a concrete arch dam on the Boise River upstream of Boise, Idaho. The dam is founded on granite of the Idaho Batholith (figure 9). As part of the foundation stability evaluation photogrammetry was used to quickly add to the existing discontinuity data set which had been obtained only from the limited accessible areas of the steep rock knob of the right abutment. Photogrammetry provided a way to quickly obtain extensive discontinuity data on the steep inaccessible rock face without the use of a climb team. Photogrammetry was also used to obtained measurements of a “low angle feature” identified on the steep, inaccessible left abutment (figure 10).

Figure 9. Arrowrock Dam, Right Abutment downstream rock knob. Note steep terrain which did not
Figure 9. Arrowrock Dam, Right
Abutment downstream rock knob. Note
steep terrain which did not permit access
for traditional geologic mapping. Using
rope access for mapping would have added
significant cost to the project.

Previous studies at the dam site identified three primary joint sets in the granite – all steeply dipping. Although a fourth, moderately dipping joint had been observed, it was judged to be discontinuous and thus not capable of creating removable blocks on the right abutment. Existing data on the right abutment included 67 joint measurements taken with a Brunton Compass. The 2006 photogrammetric data quickly generated 129 joint measurements on the right abutment using ADAM Technology software. The photogrammetric data was believed to be a better representation of the joints on the right abutment and was used exclusively for this evaluation. The photogrammetric data verified that the moderately dipping joint set was present, but not continuous, and thus could not form the base plane of a removable block (figure 11).

The photogrammetric data from the left abutment determined an attitude on the “low angle feature” identified from previous reports. The “low angle feature” was revealed to dip into the left abutment at about 45 degrees.

Figure 10. Left abutment of Arrowrock Dam. Granite (Kgr) is overlain by basalt (Qb). Prominent
Figure 10. Left abutment of Arrowrock
Dam. Granite (Kgr) is overlain by basalt
(Qb). Prominent fracture “low angle
feature” is located in the granite.
Figure 11. Upstream Right Abutment displays apparent joints dipping out of the slope.
Figure 11. Upstream Right Abutment
displays apparent joints dipping out of the

Photographs of the downstream abutments were obtained from the opposite abutment about 500 to 600 feet away using a 50 mm lens and a Nikon D80 camera.

Photographs of the downstream end of the right abutment rock knob were obtained from the county road, located about 1000 feet downstream using a 180 mm lens to get the required resolution to see discontinuity features and targets. One of the great benefits of photogrammetry mapping over laser mapping is the ability to quickly improve resolution by changing camera lenses, if needed. Another great advantage of the photogrammetry geotechnical software is the ability to create stereonet projections in real time as discontinuities are mapped in the model (figure 13).

Based on examination of the right abutment stereo images and some old photographs of the right abutment (figure 11), there appeared to be another moderately dipping discontinuity set (or an outlier set of one of the steeply dipping sets) on the right abutment that dipped out of the abutment and which could be a potential slide plane.

Figure 12. Upstream Right Abutment screen capture of joint halo projected from the downstream rock
Figure 12. Upstream Right Abutment
screen capture of joint halo projected from
the downstream rock knob and potential
joints moderately dipping out of the slope.
No joints similarly oriented to the projected
joint shown in purple were found.

Photogrammetry images upstream of the dam on the right abutment were obtained using a 50 mm lens from a boat to verify the presence of moderately dipping potential slide planes. The ability to obtain images from a boat (un-surveyed camera position) is a useful advantage of photogrammetry. This is not possible

with the laser-based systems, such as LIDAR. Using the photogrammetry model, significant geologic features identified downstream from the dam were projected upstream to see where they would intersect the ground surface if continuous (figure 12). The model verified that these features were not present upstream as projected, demonstrating a lack of continuity.

Some photographs were taken perpendicular to the face of the discontinuities, and this made it difficult to quickly select and measure the joint orientations. This demonstrates that the photographer needs to be aware of the geologic structure and understand which features are critical. Joints approaching parallel to the camera line of sight are also difficult to measure. Based on the manual observations from the photogrammetric models, these discontinuities, although present, were shown to be limited in extent and not continuous. The photogrammetric mapping determined that it was unlikely these joints would present a sliding stability problem.

Figure 13. Screen capture of the 3D ADAM Technology photogrammetry model of the Arrowrock Dam
Figure 13. Screen capture of the 3D ADAM Technology photogrammetry model of the Arrowrock Dam right
abutment showing moderately dipping joint “halos” produced by mapping specific small joint traces. The software
can determine the orientation of joint traces or joint planes and quickly display them on the interactive stereonet,
shown on the left. Note the color codes on the steronet match the corresponding colored joints shown in the
3D model. This type of mapping is very fast once the model is established.

Arrowrock Dam photogrammetric mapping provided an opportunity to gain additional experience with the software and field photography techniques. The geologic mapping saved time and money and provided the data necessary to resolve the issues, but also resulted in some problems and lessons learned. Some of the difficulties encountered were:

1. Because some photographs were obtained in the winter, the target surveying appears to have picked up the reflection from the snow instead of the survey target. This created a rotational error that required adjustment. Due to the time constraints to pick and then adjust a significant number of data points on the left abutment, all of the data used for the left abutment for this evaluation (except for the “low angle” feature) consists of the Brunton Compass measurements. This emphasizes the need for redundancy in measurement techniques, and the value of the geologist mapping the geologic structure with traditional methods whenever possible while onsite. Multiple techniques and a variety of measurement tools increases data confidence.

2. It was very difficult to determine the distance between camera locations when taking photographs from a boat. This was due to the lack of permanent landmarks on the water. The camera distances are important for obtaining appropriate image overlap.

3. Because of the need to use a long lens (180mm) with a small field of view for some of the mapping, many photographs had to be merged, which resulted in very large files and very slow computer processing. The photographs could also be analyzed piecemeal, but this was difficult to keep track of.


Folsom Dam is a concrete gravity structure with earth embankment wing dams.

dam and several dikes around the reservoir are undergoing major Safety of Dams modifications which include construction of an auxiliary spillway on the left abutment of the dam. An onsite photogrammetry demonstration for the Reclamation Mid Pacific Region in Sacramento, California. was completed by the author (Rebecca Heisler). This included set up considerations, photography techniques, and image processing to obtain measurements using ADAM Technology software.


Photographs were obtained in three areas of the phase I excavation of the auxiliary spillway: left cutslope, right cutslope, and upstream cutslope (figure 14). The phase I auxiliary spillway excavation is approximately 1,700 feet long, 300 feet wide at the top of the cutslopes, and about 50 feet deep. A Nikon D80 camera with a 50 mm lens was used for the left and right cutslopes, and a 105 mm lens was used for the upstream cutslope.

Figure 14. View looking east towards the upstream limits of Phase 1 Auxiliary Spillway excavation.
Figure 14. View looking east towards the upstream limits of Phase 1 Auxiliary
Spillway excavation. The three locations used for the photogrammetry demonstration
are shown on this photograph. The future Control Structure location cuts through the
hillside in the background.

Collaboration between the geology and surveys staff resulted in good planning, producing a smooth set-up, rapid survey data acquisition, and shared knowledge among each group. Because the Regional Office has LIDAR capability, there was interest in evaluating the possibility of using the ADAM Technology geologic analysis software to analyze the LIDAR point cloud data. A LIDAR Digital Terrain Model (DTM) was reduced in size and imported into the ADAM Technology model. The images draped completely over the LIDAR DTM, including spikes and irregularities (figure 15). However, the ADAM Technology software does not accept orientation files from other software, so it is not efficient to try to combine the two data acquisition methods. Because the photogrammetry software creates an accurate DTM, there is no need to use LIDAR data points for any part of the mapping process.

Approximately 15 camera stations with three overlapping photographs at each station were taken, generating about 45 photographs. Figure 17 shows a model view of the cameras and control points. Relative orientation processing of all the photographs was performed in about 2 hours. Surveyed target points were used to orient the models. Approximately 40 targets were used to control the Folsom Auxiliary Spillway model: six on the upstream slope and five on the right cutslope strategically placed to cover the area of interest; the remaining targets placed at top and bottom of the left cutslope approximately every 50 feet. Not all of these targets were needed to control the models

only four are needed per modelbut not all of the targets placed were surveyed. In spite of good communication with the surveyor, some targets did not get surveyed.

The targets consisted of a thin black plastic background cut into a 6-inch diameter 6-sided polygon with a 2-inch diameter reflective dot in the middle. Testing of targets has shown that high- contrasting materials work best for targets (black background with white reflective dot for slope work) and that the size of the background should be three times the diameter of the dot.

The DTM, contours, and joint orientation data were quickly obtained. The software automatically generates a stereonet displaying all joints selected for mapping (dip/dip direction, similar to figure 11). The joint data matched well with previous Brunton Compass measurements and over 120 measurements were obtained in less than 1 hour. Obtaining photographs from more than one viewpoint would add even more accuracy to the DTM since discontinuities striking parallel to the camera lens view orientation are not easily measured.

The traces of mapped joints and contours from the photogrammetry model can be quickly exported to dxf format for use in AutoCAD. This allows for very rapid development of surface geology maps essential for construction mapping and foundation approval. Joint data can also be exported to Excel for use in other geologic software.

Figure 15. Draped mages on the LIDAR DTM from a portion of the left cutslope
Figure 15. Draped mages on the LIDAR
DTM from a portion of the left cutslope of
the Phase I Auxiliary Spillway excavation,
Folsom Dam. The LIDAR DTM was
obtained months before the photographs
were obtained and later read into the
photogrammetry model. Note how the
image completely drapes over the DTM
including spikes. There is no benefit of
incorporating LIDAR data into a
photogrammetric model since the software
automatically generates a highly accurate
Figure 16. Photogrammetry model showing joint halos from Station 12+50 to 13+00 on the left
Figure 16. Photogrammetry model
showing joint halos from Station 12+50 to
13+00 on the left cutslope of the Folsom
Auxiliary spillway Phase I excavation
cutslope. This area is about 50 by 50 feet.
An interactive stereonet was produced
simultaneously, similar to that shown in
figure 11. This mapping process is very

One problem that occurred was obtaining ground points in some shadowed areas. This limited the local accuracy of the DTM and contours (figures 18, 19, and 20). This can be easily remedied by basic photography considerations, such as assuring the area of interest is not in shadows, obtaining photographs early or late in the day or on a cloudy day, or adjusting the exposure of the images prior to processing.

Data obtained from the upstream cutslope will be used during the design and construction of the future auxiliary spillway control structure. Borehole image data from future drill holes at the control structure will be projected to the photogrammetric model of the upstream cutslope to try to evaluate the continuity of a known shear zone.

The Folsom photogrammetry project successfully demonstrated the increased efficiency and cost savings that can be realized by incorporating photogrammetric mapping into the geologist’s tool bag. The improved safety of mapping from 3D images is also an important consideration when comparing photogrammetry to the traditional methods involving trained climbers to traverse the steep and sometimes loose excavation slopes.

Figure 17. View of photogrammetry model showing location of cameras and surveyed control targets.
Figure 17. View of photogrammetry
model showing location of cameras and
surveyed control targets.
Figure 18. Close-up of shadow area with DTM in red and contours in yellow. Note
Figure 18.
Close-up of shadow area with
DTM in red and contours in yellow. Note
that very few points were automatically
generated in the shadowed area as well as
areas that could not be seen well in the
field of view of the camera.


Hungry Horse Dam is a concrete gravity dam located in northwestern Montana near Glacier National Park. The dam is 564 feet high and at the time of its construction in the early 1950s, it was one of the largest dams in the world. The dam foundation bedrock consists of bedded dolomite from the Helena formation that dips parallel to the left abutment. Three major normal faults cross the left abutment oriented normal to the dam axis and dipping steeply into the left abutment.

Little was understood about the potential for sliding of foundation rock blocks during this period of time. Reclamation has recently completed a very detailed investigation and analysis of potential failure modes at Hungry Horse Dam with a focus on seismic stability (Powell 2008), (Scott and Mills-Bria 2008). The numerous bedding plane partings on the left abutment are continuous and open and form potential base planes for foundation blocks (figure 21). As part of the investigations, the shear strength of drill hole bedding plane samples was evaluated in the laboratory. It was important to estimate the surface roughness of the bedding planes over a large area to understand sliding resistance. Photogrammetry was used to develop a detailed digital terrain model of exposed bedding planes so that roughness could be measured in the direction of interest. This process has revolutionized the capability to quickly and accurately measure surface roughness in outcrops. How the data was processed and used was discussed in more detail by Reclamation geotechnical engineer Chris Powell (Powell 2008).

Figure 19. Folsom Dam Phase I Auxiliary Spillway excavation. Screen capture of a portion of
Figure 19. Folsom Dam Phase I Auxiliary
Spillway excavation. Screen capture of a
portion of the right cutslope. Lower left is
area of shadow shown in figure 18. The
images (and DTM) also captured the
scraper in the background.
Figure 20. Contours of the right cutslope area in previous figures. The contours reflect the
Figure 20. Contours of the right cutslope
area in previous figures. The contours
reflect the ground surface, with some
inaccuracy (less than 2 feet) in shadow
Figure 21. View of Hungry Horse Dam left abutment bedding planes. Note continuity of bedding
Figure 21. View of Hungry Horse Dam left abutment bedding planes. Note continuity
of bedding planes parallel to foundation excavation.

Additionally, there are no obvious marker beds in the foundation bedrock and it was impossible to determine which bedding planes were being sampled in the drill holes. Fortunately, borehole geophysical logs measuring the natural gamma signature of the foundation were remarkably accurate for determining the detailed lithology of each drill hole. The combination of natural gamma logs and borehole image logs along with detailed logging by the onsite geologist provided the necessary information to construct an accurate foundation model for seismic analysis.

Photogrammetry to Measure Joint Roughness

To measure joint roughness, two “stereo” photographs (figure 22) were taken of an exposed bedding plane using an inexpensive Canon Powershot SD 700IS. From these two photographs, a photogrammetry 3D model was produced (figure 23). No survey control was used to orient the photogrammetry model in true 3D space. Instead, a 6-foot ruler was placed on the outcrop directly along the measured strike direction. Knowing the orientation of the level ruler in the photographs, the 3D image was oriented to match true conditions. The digital terrain model (DTM) produced by the SiroVision software (SiroVision 2009) was exported and used in AutoCAD (figure 23) to cut cross sections normal to the bedding plane. Due to limitations of the AutoCAD software at the time (it

would only cut vertical cross sections) the plane was first rotated to horizontal about the strike axis. A large number of parallel cross sections were developed to quantify surface roughness in the direction of interest, which was controlled by the orientation of the

contraction joints in the dam. The profile lines were spaced 2 feet apart, and their lengths varied between approximately ten and eighteen feet. These profiles were used for a Rengers' analysis of roughness (Rengers 1970) as described in detail by Powell and

Shaffner (Powell 2008).

for varying step widths along the sectional trace.

A Fortran program was written to calculate roughness angles

Figure 22. Two “stereo” photographs used to develop 3D model of foundation bedding plane. Numerous
Figure 22. Two “stereo” photographs used to develop 3D model of foundation bedding
plane. Numerous cross sections developed from the 3D model provided surface
roughness profiles in the direction of sliding.
Figure 23. Digital 3D model of bedding plane used to develop surface roughness. Detailed digital
Figure 23. Digital 3D model of bedding plane used to develop surface roughness.
Detailed digital terrain model was exported from the photogrammetry software into
AutoCAD to cut numerous sections normal to the plane.

Digital photogrammetry offers advantages over other available methods to measure joint surface roughness in the field or lab. Previous methods often included tedious measurement of deviation from string lines and profiling using various mechanical devices. Field time to obtain photographs is a few hours at the site and processing is a few days, depending on the scope of the project. Photogrammetry software is being continually improved, which makes this process even simpler today.

The capability to cut sections at any angle is now incorporated into the ADAM Technology software, which eliminates the need to export the DTM and rotate it in a separate CADD program. Roughness can be easily measured in any direction along the plane of interest. The capability to accurately capture surface shapes using photogrammetry will likely open the door for more sophisticated analyses. In the future, it may be possible to estimate shear strength more directly (without sectioning) by creating a matching DTM above the measured outcrop DTM and pushing the upper block in a computer simulation that indicates when the shear strength of the modeled surface (including roughness) is exceeded and movement initiates.

Figure 24. AutoCAD drawing showing bedding plane in plan view on left with multiple sections
Figure 24. AutoCAD drawing showing bedding plane in plan view on left with multiple
sections on the right. The sections were used to calculate the roughness of the bedding
plane partings at various wave lengths for estimating the shear strength.

In general, the accuracy of the photogrammetry models is controlled by the selection of the lens and the distance from the object. If additional accuracy is required, a larger lens can be used and more photographs can be obtained and bundled into one model. For this experiment, an inexpensive camera with a non-interchangeable lens was used. Photographs were all taken at maximum zoom so the camera could be calibrated at that setting. The camera we now use for photogrammetry modeling is a Nikon D80 with several interchangeable lenses, making this process much more precise and flexible. Establishing precise survey control on the mapped surface could help verify modeling accuracy and increase confidence in the results.

Lithologic Correlation is Impossible at Hungry Horse Dam without Borehole Geophysics

The dolomite units in the Hungry Horse Dam foundation have no obvious marker beds and the core samples all look remarkably similar, making correlation impossible. During construction, geologists were unable to estimate offset across faults or correlate bedding plane partings across the foundation. This problem was solved in the recent exploration program by recording the natural gamma radiation in the existing drain holes and the new drill holes using borehole geophysical tools. The foundation drainage galleries provided access to the drains and geophysical logging was conducted at regular intervals across the entire left abutment. Figure 25 shows the remarkable correlation of the natural gamma logs from drain holes.

Figure 25. Typical excellent correlation of natural gamma signatures in dolomite beds as seen in
Figure 25. Typical excellent correlation of
natural gamma signatures in dolomite beds
as seen in drain holes over 100 feet apart.

Lithologic changes in deposition of the dolomite are indicated on the natural gamma log (figure 25) with higher gamma count rates interpreted to correspond to more argillaceous dolomite or dolomitic siltstone and lower count rates indicating

a more calcareous dolomite. Stratigraphic “marker keys” are interpreted from the natural gamma log by overlaying the gamma logs from adjacent holes and correlating characteristic signatures on the gamma logs. Figure 25 provides a graphical summary of the development of the stratigraphic marker keys. The marker keys were assigned to “characteristic” gamma signatures and may or may not correspond to visible lithologic boundaries. The consistency of bedding along the left abutment is significant and the gamma log marker keys can, in general, be tracked along the entire left abutment. This

correlation from top to bottom of the left abutment is aided by the bedding dip and the geometry of the abutment. Over 50 gamma “marker keys,” developed using the gamma logs from 57 drain holes and 9 boreholes, were used in the interpretation of structures in the left abutment.

Since open or weathered bedding planes were of concern in the abutment stability assessment, the continuity of these planes along the abutment was crucial. Of significance to the stability of the left abutment are the occurrence, openness, and continuity of bedding plane partings. Figure 26 provides a graphic summary of how individual partings were determined and subsequently correlated with the gamma log marker keys for each drain hole. Figure 26(A) is a close up image from the digital borehole image log of a representative bedding plane parting. The image is an “unwrapped” view of the drain hole wall scaled from 0 to 360 degrees azimuth and is plotted at an expanded depth scale displaying a 2-foot interval of the drain. Gray sinusoidal bands on the image provide indications of the in-place bedding of the rock. The dark sinusoid with adjacent staining paralleling the bedding is an interpreted bedding

plane parting. The two tracks adjacent to the image log are interpreted orientations (apparent and true projections corrected for inclination and bearing of the drain hole) of the planar features. Associated tadpole plots of each planar feature are plotted from 0 to 90 degrees. The body of the tadpole (filled circle) corresponds to the dip angle ranging from 0 degrees on the far left to 90 degrees on the far right (see scale at top of plot). The orientation of the tail of each tadpole indicates the dip direction from 0 to 360 degrees, with north straight up. The two depth scales in figure 26(A) are true vertical depth

(TVD) and distance along the inclined drain (Depth).

listing of the depth, dip direction, dip angle and an openness rank of the interpreted

features (note all directions in this table are with respect to magnetic north).

26(C) is a depth compressed plot of drain 6-7 (all depths are distance along the inclined hole). Included on this plot are the natural gamma, caliper, and electric geophysical logs,

the borehole image log (note the compressed scale), interpreted partings (blackened areas on the track CPP), and proposed packer locations for measuring water pressure in major bedding plane partings. Also included on the plot are the interpreted gamma log marker keys. Each parting was given an identification number dependant upon in which gamma log marker key unit it was located. The bedding plane parting tracked across figure 26 was therefore labeled CPP#9 in drain well 6-7. Figure 27 shows how that once the lithology was understood using the gamma logs, the bedding planes seen in the borehole image logs could be correlated across the site. Figure 28 shows how the borehole image logs also captured the foundation contact, which was useful for evaluating potential sliding along this surface. These two tools also allowed for the determination of bedding offset across several normal faults in the foundation as shown in figure 29.

Figure 26(B) provides a tabular


Figure 26. View showing how the borehole image log was used along with the gamma
Figure 26. View showing how the borehole image log was used along with the gamma log to determine which
bedding planes were open, and how the correlated across the site with other bedding planes. Center column data
shows the orientation of bedding determined by the borehole image log on the left. Data on the right shows the
geologic units determined from the gamma signature.
Figure 27. Borehole Image Logs from drain holes showing correlation of critical bedding plane partings
Figure 27. Borehole Image Logs from drain holes showing correlation of critical bedding plane partings across the
foundation. These logs were used with the gamma logs shown in figure 25 to develop the section shown in figure 27.
Joint orientations were taken from these image logs to verify foundation geometry.
Figure 28. View of borehole image log showing contact between concrete dam and dolomite foundation
Figure 28. View of borehole image log showing contact between concrete dam and
dolomite foundation near the right side of the image. Many similar images helped
confirm a good foundation contact between concrete and dolomite.
Figure 29. Geologic Section along dam drainage gallery. View looking downstream shows bedding planes correlated
Figure 29. Geologic Section along dam drainage gallery. View looking downstream shows bedding planes correlated
using borehole image logs and gamma logs from the existing drain holes. Note the abundant shears and normal faults,
some of which were labeled as reverse faults during construction due to problems correlating the dolomite units


Reclamation has recently expanded photogrammetry mapping techniques to include the use of an 8-foot diameter tethered helium balloon with a remote controlled Nikon D300 camera. The camera pan, tilt, and triggering is radio controlled by the device shown in figure 30. The helium balloon and the servo-controlled camera mounting frame are shown in figure 31. This equipment was developed by Aerial Products in DeLand Florida (Hess 2009). This low- altitude (generally less than 200 feet) aerial photogrammetry development has been funded by Reclamation’s Science and Technology Research Office. The balloon system allows for the mapping of relatively flat ground surfaces and will greatly enhance measuring capabilities for a variety of engineering and scientific disciplines, including geologic mapping of dam foundations. Very accurate topography can be quickly generated along with orthophotographic maps. It should be possible to detect small volume changes by comparing “before and after” digital terrain models.

Figure 30. Wireless Ground control transmitter to control camera pan, tilt, and trigger mechanism. Screen
Figure 30. Wireless Ground control
transmitter to control camera pan, tilt, and
trigger mechanism. Screen allows operator
to view directly through the Nikon lens for
more accurate photographs (Hess 2009).

There is an enormous need in Reclamation to expedite the collection of 3D data for mapping ground surfaces and rapidly documenting changed conditions. This measurement need exists in geology, biology, construction, sedimentation, river hydrology, geotechnical engineering and many other disciplines. This aerial mapping technique has been applied recently to the mapping of river channels using ADAM Technology software. Balloon photogrammetry technology solved both time and survey constraints. The first such mapping of this kind was performed at Chiloquin Dam site, where an ongoing study of sediment erosion and debris management along the Sprague River required low altitude aerial photographs and corresponding topography along about ¾ mile of river channel upstream of the old dam that was recently removed. A new research project studying the stability and habitat value of engineered log jams (ELJ) also utilized the remote controlled camera by photographing constructed ELJs on the Middle Fork John Day River (Russell 2008). Figure 32 shows a photograph from the balloon- mounted camera at the Middle Fork John Day River. Figure 33 shows a view of one of the 3D photogrammetry models from the Sprague River that consists of photographs draped onto a very accurate digital terrain model. Contours can be easily produced from

these models, as needed. Figure 34 shows a merged set of or photographs compiled from ten 3DM models each consisting of two over lapping images taken from about 120 feet above the ground on the Middle Fork John Day River. The ten 3DM models came from one bundle adjustment of eleven photographs. Four to six control points provide the reference coordinate system. Reclamation plans to also use this balloon technology for construction geologic mapping of dam foundations, for quantity measurements of borrow excavations and stockpiles, and for photographing embankment and concrete dams and abutments. It is likely to have many other uses in the dam industry.

Figure 31. Helium Balloon to carry digital camera is tethered during ELJ surveying. Balloon can
Figure 31. Helium Balloon to carry digital camera is tethered during ELJ surveying.
Balloon can carry approximately 12 pounds. Testing of a wing prototype is also
planned. The D300 Nikon Camera is shown mounted to frame with pan and tilt servo
motors to control orientation. Live images are viewed on the ground to help aim and
trigger the camera remotely. Pan rotates 360 degrees and tilt rotates from horizontal to
straight down.


Our capability to understand, monitor and analyze dam behavior is often influenced by our ability to perform accurate measurements. Digital photogrammetry offers an exciting new method for measuring that is limited only by our imagination. This paper outlines only a few of the recent photogrammetry applications performed by Reclamation. Not included are the measurements of borrow excavation and stockpile quantities recently obtained that demonstrate an entire new possibility in the construction industry. Not included are measurements of concrete deterioration, spillway wall displacements, or shotcrete thickness measurements using difference models from before and after application. The 3D imaging and measurement capabilities of photogrammetry will improve and become even simpler as software development progresses, and digital camera resolution improves. It is already possible to construct an accurate 3D computer model of a complex structure using only photographs. It is easy to foresee a day in the near future where photogrammetry modeling will be a standard tool offering great improvements in measurement capabilities in many industries, including dam design, analysis, and construction. We will wonder how we ever did our work without it.

Figure 32. View of an engineered log jam (ELJ) in the Middle Fork John Day
Figure 32. View of an engineered log jam
(ELJ) in the Middle Fork John Day River
as seen from a helium balloon about
120 feet above the ground. Note white
survey targets on the left bank near the ELJ
(flow is from left to right). GPS
information of the targets permit 3D terrain
model and topography to be accurately
oriented in State Plane coordinate system.
Figure 33. 3D photogrammetry model along the Sprague River created by ADAM Technology software rotated
Figure 33. 3D photogrammetry model
along the Sprague River created by ADAM
Technology software rotated to oblique
angle to view stream bank and debris.
Contour map of this area can be easily
generated automatically. Accuracy is a
few inches for this project.
Figure 34. A merged image of orthophotographs generated from ADAM Technology software that cover a
Figure 34. A merged image of
orthophotographs generated from ADAM
Technology software that cover a portion
of the Middle Fork John Day River. Ten
orthophotographs were used to create the
merged image (flow is from right to left.


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