- Posted By: Bryan Chan
- Posted On: 1:42 p.m. | November 16, 2010
Exploring a gigapixel image is like a treasure hunt. I use the word “explore” because one doesn’t just look at these images, but rather examines and searches. The enormous detail from combining hundreds, if not thousands, of individual photographs stitched together allows the viewer to zoom in and find unexpected scenes.
The first gigapixel image I recall seeing was one of Prague by panorama photographer Jeffrey Martin. I was amazed by the detail and sharpness of his creation. Not only could I zoom in to an amazing degree, I could also look around 360 degrees and tilt the image up and down.
Martin did not disappoint with his latest endeavor that went live Tuesday, an 80-gigapixel image of London created by combining 7,886 high-resolution digital photos. Eighty gigapixels translate into 80 billion pixels. The average consumer-level point-and-shoot camera produces a 10 megapixel, or 10-million pixel, image. According to Martin, the London image is now the world record holder for the largest image, and if it was printed out it would be 115′x56′. He seems bent on upping the ante each time with the Prague shot being a mere 18.4 megapixels.
The London panorama was shot over three days from the 36-story Centre Point building in central London. The viewer can see scenes of people strolling down the street, riding the London Eye and sipping coffee at a sidewalk cafe. The viewer can even see surprising detail looking through office and residential windows. Martin said he was careful to blur any recognizable faces of children. However, “we did find one ‘naughty’ thing in the image which we also blurred out,” Martin said.
Martin shot nearly 10,000 photos with an 18-megapixel Canon Rebel T2i digital SLR with a 400-mm lens on a robot camera mount. He ended up not using all of the photos. Shooting from the special mount allowed him to turn the camera at exact intervals. This made combining the photos later easier. But not easy enough. Along the way he needed to figure out new techniques. “Doing things for the first time always take much longer,” he said.
The weather didn’t help either. He had to use a very high ISO, wide aperture and high shutter speed to combat gusty wind shaking the camera on the 36th floor.
To stitch together such a large number of photographs requires some massive computer processing power. Fujitsu Technology Solutions provided the Fujitsu CELSIUS workstation that has a dual 6-core CPUs, 192GB of RAM, and a 4GB graphics card that did it in 18 hours. Total processing took about six weeks. The high dynamic range look was his “secret sauce.”
What’s up next for Martin? New York, Tokyo, Istanbul and Mumbai are all options, he said. “Whoever asks me first! I’d love to shoot a city that has a lot of people, and a lot of action. I’m looking forward to making the next one — it will be even better,” Martin said.
To demonstrate the amount of detail see above the full 360×180-degree image followed by detail shots extracted from it by Martin. But to get the full experience, check out the high-resolution interactive panorama for yourself on his site 360cities.net. Other notable gigapixel images by other photographers include Paris, Dresden, Dubai and Budapest.