Light a Terrain Map of a Region

This example shows how to add lighting to terrain maps using the lightm function. To achieve finer control over light positions (for example, in small areas lit by several lights), you have to specify light positions using projected coordinates because light objects are children of axes and share their coordinate space.

Create a terrain map.

latlim = [ 41.20  41.95];
lonlim = [-70.95 -70.10];
cd dted\w071 % Note: Your absolute path may vary.
samplefactor = 1;
[capeterrain, caperef] = dted('n41.dt0', samplefactor, ...
   latlim, lonlim);
capeterrain(capeterrain == 0) = -1;
capecoast = shaperead('usastatehi', ...
   'UseGeoCoords', true, ...
   'BoundingBox', [lonlim' latlim']);

Construct a map of the region within the specified latitude and longitude limits.

ax = usamap(latlim,lonlim);

Set the vertical exaggeration. Use daspectm to specify that elevations are in meters and should be multiplied by 20.


Make sure that the line data is visible. To ensure that it is not obscured by terrain, use zdatam to set it to the highest elevation of the cape1 terrain data.


Specify a location for a light source with the lightm function. (If you omit arguments, a GUI for setting positional properties for the new light opens.)


The lighting computations caused the map to become quite dark with specular highlights. Now restore its luminance by specifying three surface reflectivity properties in the range of 0 to 1.

ambient = 0.7; diffuse = 1; specular = 0.6;
material([ambient diffuse specular])

The surface looks blotchy because there is no interpolation of the lighting component (flat facets are being modeled). Correct this by specifying Gouraud shading

lighting Gouraud

To compare the lit map with the unlit version, toggle the lighting off.

lighting none