The National Park Service has not published a panorama since Berann’s retirement in 1994. Berann’s absence is only one factor. Vincent Gleason, who initiated the NPS panorama program, retired shortly after Berann, and since then limited resources have all but eliminated new panorama projects from consideration. This is a pity considering the wealth of exceptional NPS landscapes that could benefit from panoramic depiction. Canyonlands, Glacier Bay, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, and Waterton/Glacier are just a few of the excellent candidates. Vincent Gleason had hoped that Wrangell/St. Elias National Park would become the next NPS/Berann collaboration (Schutzler, 1999). Geographically spectacular, as big as Switzerland, and straddling the roadless mountains along the Alaska/Canada border—the park is quite difficult for the public to visit.

Berann’s departure from panorama production is sorely missed. However, he made careful preparations to ensure that his legacy endures. For more than 40 years Heinz Vielkind served as Berann’s apprentice, gradually honing his panoramic skills until his work can barely be differentiated from the work of the master himself. When it comes to panorama production, Heinz Vielkind is a talented disciple of Heinrich Berann. Furthermore, Berann’s legacy is likely to continue beyond Vielkind, who for the last seven years has been training his own apprentice. Vielkind has licensed the Berann name and trademark signature, which he modified. (Figure 15) His business, Panoramastudio Vielkind, operates from a spacious studio in the university district of Innsbruck and appears to be flourishing. New varieties of projects undertaken include a panorama of Russia spanning 11 time zones that simultaneously shows the Sun rising in the east and setting in the west and a bird’s-eye view of a palace complex and zoo in Vienna.

In keeping with the master/apprentice tradition, Vielkind produces his panoramas in exactly the same manner as Berann—entirely by hand. How much longer this tradition will continue remains to be seen, especially now that 3D software and digital terrain models allow landscapes to be modeled with relative ease. Heinz Vielkind is in an excellent position to make the switch to digital panorama production. Next door to his panorama studio he operates a digital video editing business equipped with the latest technology. For now his panorama and video businesses are completely separate, but it would seem to be only a matter of time before Heinz melds his operations to create an innovative new class of panoramas.

Digital applications

In the meantime, the NPS has begun producing 3D landscape visualizations in-house using graphical software applications. These 3D products include geologic diagrams, large-scale views of historical sites depicting buildings and vegetation, globes, and perspective maps derived from Digital Elevation Models (DEMs). Digital landscape visualizations, although not nearly as beautiful as Berann’s panoramas, meet or surpass most publication standards, and can be produced quickly and inexpensively when compared to traditional production. In addition, digital products can be easily reused for multimedia applications, thereby amortizing production costs over several projects.

Besides his prolific legacy of panoramic art, Berann’s other gift to the cartographic community is a better understanding of 3D landscape visualization, seen through the eyes of an accomplished traditional artist. Some of Berann’s 3D visualization techniques are used by the NPS for digital production. For example, Berann’s idea about modifying the projection plane of a panorama—tilting the foreground closer to the viewer and curving the background to disappear over the horizon—can be accomplished with digital tools, yielding scenes that are more legible and natural looking than default “flat world” output from 3D applications. (Figure 16) Even Berann’s meticulous attention to land-surface detail is digitally emulated by combining DEMs, draped imagery, bump-mapped textures, and ray-traced rendering.

Today’s 3D software applications have diminished the requirement that an aspiring cartographer/panoramist possess manual artistic skills. Nevertheless, the success of a 3D landscape visualization still rests on design choices made by the cartographer, which, unlike inborn artistic ability, can be learned. As cartography continues to be transformed by the digital revolution, we are fortunate to have Heinrich Berann’s panoramas as an inspiring lesson.


I am very grateful to the many people who provided advice and assistance. I owe special thanks to Herwig Schutzler, who was Berann’s friend, for sharing his personal insights, contacts, and large collection of Berann memorabilia with me. Schutzler was the source for the images showing the progressive work on Denali. The photograph of Berann wearing his special vest and the illustration of his balance emblem were used with the permission of Elisabeth Troyer, Berann’s daughter. Shoko Fujita Ehrlich translated a portion of Garfield’s text from Japanese to English, text which, ironically, was originally written in English.

Obtaining Berann’s NPS panoramas

For information about ordering National Park Service publications, please visit our website at:, or contact:

Nancy McLoughlin
Division of Publications
National Park Service
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425-0050 U.S.A.
Phone: 304-535-6018
Fax: 304-535-6144

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