Grand Canyon 3D

A little fun project which renders a 3D model of the Grand Canyon.

Description | Screenshots | Links


The main idea behind this little experiment was to generate a three-dimensional view of a landscape out of two two-dimensional images reflecting the landscape’s coloring and its profile.

Given an aerial photograph of the Grand Canyon and a grayscale image reflecting the height profile, a simple 3D landscape has been generated using C++ and OpenGL. As the original data was quite detailed, the 3D view consumed a huge amount of memory and CPU resources which gave a good playground for further experiments on optimized and improved rendering.

Finally I had some fun with OpenGL effects like fog and light as well as particle emitters making it possible to let it rain on the Grand Canyon. ;-)


Here’s a first impression of what Grand Canyon 3D looks like. It’s only a few static screenshots but it’ll do. Just click an image to see it in full size.

Original Data:

Basic 3D Rendering:

Rain (Particle Emitter):


Feature Tracking



  1. Dear Jürgen,

    I am a finnish artist, and I am currently working on a film piece on old stereoviews. Most of them depicting the Grand Canyon. In the film I am creating a parallel between the language used to describe the stereoviews and the language used to describe 3D modelling. I would really like to use in the film one of your 3D images of the Grand Canyon, to create a visual link between the stereoviews and 3D modelling of the same place. Would you give me permission to use one of your images? The image would of course be credited to you in the credits of the piece. Particularly the first one of your vector images could be interesting. Obviously I would need it in higher resolution if you agree to its use in the film.

    Looking forward to your reply,
    all best,

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