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Ahoy! Here There Be Mapnik Beauties

Today be Talk Like a Pirate Day! A holiday unofficial, to be sure, but some fun to gladden the hearts of salty dogs and landlubbers alike. And here’s another thing...

Today be Talk Like a Pirate Day! A holiday unofficial, to be sure, but some fun to gladden the hearts of salty dogs and landlubbers alike. And here’s another thing that’s fun (and also useful): FME + Mapnik! The MapnikRasterizer gives you fine rule-based styling control to create masterpieces with your vector data, and render the results to raster – ideal for the web and print.

One of our judges and resident Mapnik expert The Dread Pirate Dmitri gets his arrrrc on at the Esri UC.

We launched a contest, sailing the seven seas in search of Mapnik masters to bring you inspiration – and the port is now closed, the judges have spoken, and are now off in search of either grog or more data. Perhaps both.

Why announce our Mapnik contest winner today? Because we had (bad pun alert) avast number of entries! Arrrrr….

Now, the contest itself was not themed – but since September 19th was approaching… well, we simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to say things like “What’s a pirate’s favorite geometry? ARRRcs!”, swashbuckle around the office, and present you with our top pick and a non-contest favorite – which will both be featured on upcoming FME Beta splash screens.

Our Winner! Congratulations to Owen Powell

Many a buccaneer has hailed from the United Kingdom – and so too does our worthy winner, Owen Powell of Arup in the West Midlands with an entry of a decidedly modern aesthetic.

Owen’s submission – click to enlarge and see the close-up detail.

OwenFMWUsing open data from Ordnance Survey, Owen prepared this area in Scotland by mosaicking and hill shading digital terrain model data, stripping out zero heights to create a crisp coastline. Then he pulled in vector data for the area, and created two representations of traffic routes – one that followed the road network, visualizing traffic, and another two-point shortest route to and from the central destination.

When it came to styling the data in the MapnikRasterizer, transparency, offsets, and arc smoothing were the trick to visually balancing the two route representations, and creating the sort of starburst effect. The red routes, showing the actual roadways, are quite transparent, and so as increased traffic adds more copies of the route, the red color intensifies to indicate higher volume. The blue arcs are created with multiple copies of the two-point routes, with a darker and lighter blue, offsets, and maximum line smoothing. The route destinations are highlighted by buffering building polygons in white, and look quite like points of lights in the darkness.


We Can’t Resist a Pirate Theme

Though not a qualified entry in our contest, Mapnik Fever took hold of one Danny Barber, who sent us this rendition of the Caribbean. He took his inspiration from a pirate-themed map print he’d bought in Key West years before, and we liked it so much we’re going to feature it on a splash screen too.

FME Ahoy
Daniel’s Caribbean map – click for full-size image.

DanielFMWHis source data is mostly from, plus a few images. The vector datasets are global, and he’s used the specify ground extents option in the MapnikRasterizer to clip out the Caribbean area to include. One bit we thought was particularly clever was using a repeating pattern image with a parchment texture (in two different shades) to fill the polygons and create the antique look to the map. Hillshade data, layered over this with some transparency, gives the relief effect.

A fun treasure map style font is used for the labels, and a single point (created with the Creator transformer) is placed as an anchor point for the compass rose, which is added by styling the point with a graphic in the MapnikRasterizer. Another nice touch is the map border, which is the result of creating multiple copies of the bounding box, with a variety of offsets, patterns, colors, and opacity.

Since pirates were some of the earliest mapmakers, we think it’s a rather appropriate application – and aye, she’s a beauty!


Congratulations to Owen on his win! And thanks to Danny, too, for his great work. We hope this gives you some ideas about what you could be doing with the MapnikRasterizer – in your work and as you can see, just for fun too. So look lively, me hearties, and get started with Mapnik here –

Introduction to MapnikRasterizer on FMEpedia

The Secret to Mapnik Mastery, a previously recorded webinar

5 Ways to Do More with Mapnik on our blog

And remember, though there be rules in Mapnik, a pirate knows that the code is really more of a set of guidelines…

Yo ho ho!

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