Increasing the precision of canopy closure estimates from hemispherical photography: Blue channel analysis and under-exposure

Anthony Brusa, Daniel E. Bunker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Accurate measurement of canopy structure is fundamental to the fields of ecological modeling and restoration. A large number of methods exist for estimating the structure of forest canopies, with widely varying costs and effectiveness. Hemispherical photography has been in use for several decades, and the rise of lower-cost consumer grade digital SLR cameras has expanded the availability of this technique. We examine two improvements to the hemispherical photography technique for estimating canopy closure: computer-based blue channel analysis and under-exposing images. Photographs taken in the field (without a filter) showed much lower variation in the blue channel than in red or green channel of the same images. We found a higher variance in canopy closure measurements due to over-exposure of images, while images with automatic light metering and under-exposed images remained consistent. We conclude that under- or normal exposure combined with blue channel analysis together minimize variability and maximize the precision of canopy closure estimates. Results from hemispherical photography were comparable to the widely used LAI-2200, supporting hemispherical photography as a viable, low-cost alternative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-107
Number of pages6
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
StatePublished - Sep 15 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


  • Canopy characteristics
  • Canopy closure
  • Color channel
  • Exposure
  • Hemispherical photography
  • Plant canopies


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