Why 3D?

Can we see what we don’t know we’re missing?

A Tracking Concept: Canine claw tip in fine sand

Definition of a Tracking Concept …

(as used here)  Any aspect of reading the tracks and trail of any being or object through time, and across any surface that will hold a track (touch your finger to clean glass, or a dark iPad screen).  This includes; methods, definitions, track structures, body and substrate movement, how to find and read both tracks and trails, and illustrations of the tracks of specific animal species, the influences of all the layers involved, and signs.

Is this work worth the effort?

Well, is a skill that provides no benefit kept in use? ... Tracking is still in use.  Here’s an outstanding example of how the skills are still in use: the British Colombia Tracking  Association: http://www.bctracking.org

Tracks are created by a process, part of which, unless illustrated, will remain forever unseen, hidden by the foot or occurring too fast for the mind and eyes to observe.  Would there be useful benefits from seeing this process in motion without the foot obscuring it?

How does the student learn the unseen?

How do you demonstrate and teach what the eye misses?

Yes … illustrations are an essential learning tool, especially to beginning trackers …

Methods of illustration used in the literature of tracking mostly consist of; live demonstrations, hand-made examples, track boxes and patches, words, photos, videos, line drawings, and rarely, three-dimensional moving images.

Illustrations: Mountain Lion track

Each method works well within its limitations.  The illustration to the right is an example of two different ways of presenting the same track.  Does either method demonstrate the process of the track’s creation, or its weathering?

The process of drawing can be a huge help to a student tracker in that it tends to cause the mind to notice details, and as a learning tool they can be created to emphasize selected details.  One limitation is they cannot easily demonstrate entire processes over time.

Videos of track formation in the real world do capture processes, but have other limitations.  The most obvious being that, as the track is formed, the foot itself obscures much of the interaction between the foot surface and earth.

These days, three-dimensional moving illustrations of the entire process can be created on a home computer (all video clips presented on this site were done at home on a Dell laptop), including accurate simulation of the physics involved.

Tracker learning curve can be long.  We all trade time from our limited life budgets for knowledge and experience. Each of the overlapping stages in learning to track requires a little more of that precious resource.  Good thing society gives us all the time we need for this!

Learning to identify who made that track? … Doesn’t take long, mostly.

Learning to read the story in one track or trail? … Is subtler, one is assembling many more layers, it takes time to learn those layers.  Much progress can be made quickly and one can spend a lifetime.

Prediction, the highest learning tool in any discipline, when one uses what they’ve already learned to forecast future behavior, can be used right from the start and developed forever after.


Both teacher and student trade time for knowledge and experience, and sometimes that’s an expensive deal.  Might greater progress be gained in less time if illustrations demonstrated complete processes of track formation?

How do you feel about the process of learning to track?

Most existing illustrations are superbly done and there’s loads.  Are they fully developed and doing the best possible job of helping the tracking student identify and reach their own goals?

How did you balance making your way thru the world with studying tracking, and how is that going for your students in these chaotic times?

What happens to the learning curve when student trackers have a chance to assimilate the skills by seeing the tracking process through the eye of a master tracker?

How many ways are there for that to happen?

The intent here …

Comes from looking back at the limitations encountered in the author’s process of learning to track and wondering if there might be ways to trim some time off that learning curve.  Things in life sometimes take on a life of their own and the author hopes that others will see the value in this work,  and continue to explore ways to illustrate the concepts as clearly and fully as possible.

Final versions …

Final” version?  Yeah, that’s likely!  Which is to say this work is open-ended, who knows how far it can be nudged?  Maybe even to a sustained group effort to develop these illustrations, a group that includes experienced trackers?

Perspectives on some relevant questions …

Though current illustrations of tracking concepts are excellent … Do they take full advantage of the technology and software presently available?   

Well, how many illustrations of the entire process of a track have you seen, in any visual medium, and how complete did they seem?

The author believes there is a gap in the literature of tracking; that gap is a lack of complete illustrations that utilize currently available software and computer technology.  Perhaps that has to do with the challenge of illustrating processes?  Up until this era of powerful home computers and free software the time and effort required would have been so great that it just wasn’t feasible to fully illustrate these processes, especially if one considers aging (dinosaur tracks … still aging).            Now it is.

Is it even possible to simulate and illustrate these processes accurately and do it clearly?  

Yes … with care and if consideration is given to the physical laws involved.

Watched any new movies lately?  How much of that is computer simulation?   “Everything but the actors.”  Are you sure it stops there?

Is there anything that can’t be simulated these days?

How helpful would it be to provide students with illustrations created to help them build mental search images for use while tracking?

        Search Image? … a shortcut the brain naturally employs.

To see yourself create and use a search image, observe your own thought process the next time someone describes how to find some location, and as you make your way there … the author just had that experience as someone was describing how to find a specific turn on a dirt road.

Has anyone ever pointed out something you’ve never before seen … When you were looking right at it and you saw everything else but?  Then, the next time, you found it easier to notice that thing?

What would happen to the learning process if three-dimensional moving illustrations helped the mind create search images of tracks and their formation processes?

When was the last time you succeeded at communicating exactly what you see in your mind?

Well, can’t answer that one for anyone else of course.  The author has sometimes found it to be a challenge and wonders if accurate communication may be one of humanities’  most essential and yet weaker skills?

How many ways are there to communicate, that express things most clearly?  Three-dimensional animated format can carry all the information, except maybe smell, well, and then there’s what you sense when feel tracking …

Do we even need to see these processes?  

Maybe?  Or not?  The author spent some years wishing for something like these illustrations.

Would slowing these processes down, so they be seen as they happen, be a help to beginning trackers?

What do you think?  If yes, would a start-to-finish video clip of an invisible foot creating a track be useful in demonstrating them?

Are there other worth-the-effort benefits to the use of animated illustrations of track formation processes?

Would you think it worth considerable effort to:

… provide accurate video clips of entire processes of track and trail formation, with as much detail as desired, displayed in slow motion, the foot invisible (or not), the entire illustration observable from any angle, and with any degree of magnification?

… clearly illustrate that part of the track formation process you struggled with  (Gaits maybe?) … so it could be seen, slowed down, paused, reversed, altered?

… help instructors use their time more efficiently?

… demonstrate the track internals forming, as the environment, body, and feet create them, at any level of detail?

… provide one more way to suggest ideas or plant seeds for later thought … For example, are there things about tracking that, if revealed completely and exactly right from the beginning of training, would get students thinking in terms of what’s really going on between the layers; environment,  beings and their emotions, muscles, bones, skin, and the earth?

Is there an even better way than these illustrations?

Of course, if not now eventually … Isn’t that what we do?

Interested?  Tempted?

Please, please explore!  How many current or future trackers might be glad you did?

If you are a tracker you already have knowledge and experience to share.

If you’re not an illustrator, and you want to share your insights … Would working with an illustrator be a useful way to accomplish that?

I encourage you to explore doing this work.  The more people involved the better!  Blender 3D is a good starting place because it’s more than adequate for this work, and it’s free, and has regular refinements and updates!  This work is worthy: it will help many others, including future generations, and, like tracking with a flashlight at night, it’s sure and certain to get you noticing things you missed, and carries a new and useful perspective.

How To: The Concepts Of Tracking

The Concepts Of Tracking

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