What Can Only Be Seen by Illustrating?

An illustration of a translucent deer foot making one walking step forwards.

One deer track … A place to start learning … And until deer start growing glass hooves … Only illustrations can show you what you’ll never see otherwise.
Concept Illustrated: Deer – One Walking Step

As a track is made the foot always obscures the movement of the earth that is in contact with the skin or hoof, yet the movements of the earth surrounding this can be seen and even photographed to a fair extent.

What can be seen only in simulations is the movement of the earth at the boundary of skin and soil … Unless simulated how else can it ever be seen?

And of course this begs the question, “Why does it matter if this part of the formation of a track is ever seen?”.

Well, maybe it’s a matter of opinion, and to some ways of thinking it is not useful.  The perspective taken here is … Everything that happens when a track is made matters … And so having a clear image of how a track is formed … Where and how to look for all the information … What each crack, crumble, depression, ridge, and wave means … Are worthwhile goals.

Now that includes a lot of complex knowledge and some mighty small details, which in themselves take time to comprehend.  Add that to the time required for inner processes of the brain itself.  While learning to track one is re-wiring the brain … Building its ability to hold a bunch of subtle and complex details and process them into an accurate and meaningful interpretation.  So learning this really is a long-term process, even with the help of a good instructor and clear illustrations.  Without a good instructor?  Doable but not so easy.

See the thing is, a track records a bunch of information, and a lot of that is found on the inner surface of the track, usually seen only as a finished product.

And let’s get right down to the most essential question, “If this stuff could be simulated easily and perfectly, how would it help a student learn to track better or faster?  Is it gonna help them at all?”

First and foremost is “search image”.  Ever go some place new, and try to find something you’ve never seen before, something you have no search image for?   Ever notice how long it can take to discover the first one?   It’s hard enough with animals … And tracks have so much fine detail …  A search image of what to read in a track can shave a lot of time off the learning curve.

Is the mind is wired to learn best from stories?  This author thinks so.  Why else have elders used them to teach for, oh, ever?  And if that’s true then is a finished track or even an entire trail a complete story? Except for the weathering, a track is just a completed statement that is only part of a larger story.  This form of illustration is the piece of the whole story that one never sees, expressed as a video clip in slow motion.  It will stick in the mind.

Could it be that watching the internals of the track form is a useful part of the story?  Ever read a really good book and skip an early chapter where the author gives you some essential information?  One example of watching track internals form is this illustration of the wave …

Concept Illustrated: A Simple? Wave

Accuracy of interpretation … If you never saw a glacier, how accurate would your interpretation of the formation of a glacial moraine be?  So how much sooner would a student’s interpretation of a track be accurate if they have good search images, and know how tracks are formed?

Multiple learning styles … Everyone has a learning style, some people will learn to read tracks better with the help of this sort of illustration.

Depth of understanding … When tracking, and before the author ever began creating these illustrations, he gave a little thought to the interaction between skin, soil, force, friction, etc., but not much.   Even less to how skin and muscles flex as the foot is used.  This form of illustration is capable of expressing these concepts visually.  Seeing the concepts in action will help deepen the understanding of these processes in a way nothing else can.


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