Large Format photography to the Nth degree

Pitssburgh Panoramic

Having recently read an article in Novembers Popular Science (I know I’m a bit behind in my magazines – so what) I was pretty much left in complete awe of Graham Flints 9 x 18 inch camera. So basically, he’s using a custom machined lens(dubbed the Asymmagon) built on a customized camera which utilizes parts from Fairchild K38 Aerial Camera and what has to be the burliest tripod I have ever seen.

The Gigapxl Project is thus:

Defining the upper limits of large-format photography, digital scanning and image processing, custom-built Gigapxl™ cameras capture images with unprecedented resolution.

It would take a video wall of 10,000 television screens or 600 prints from a professional digital SLR camera to capture as much information as that contained in a single Gigapxl™ exposure.

The Project’s near-term goal is to compile a coast-to-coast Portrait of America; photographing her cities, parks and monuments in exquisite detail.

A longer term goal is to create for future generations a world-wide archive of vanishing cultural and archaeological sites.

The whole thing is utterly amazing. After creating an immense negative, Graham then scans the image on a drum scanner creating a massive 4 gigapixels. To give you an idea of the size of that image a 9 x 18 inch negative scanned at 1,000 dpi would give you a 464mb file and only 162 million pixels (megapixels). So what he is scanning at is close if not right at 4,000 dpi and around a 7.2gb file! Incidentally, their images are scanned at 16bit resolution, not 8 so they end up being a CPU baking 24gb. Last time I checked, my little AMD couldn’t crunch that – not even if I over clocked so high that it would burn up in a day.

I had to include the above image for Pittsburgh from their site – it’s an awesome image. Click the image for details from this series, and check out the Gigapxl Project There is really amazing information and imagery available on their site. This really makes me want to get back into my 4×5 camera again. The photos are amazing – the resolution is absolutely stunning.

The imagery created reaches beyond basic documentation and (in most cases) can hold their own with some of the modern photographic giants. What is confusing about the endeavor is why. It seems to be simply because we can. They do not offer the technology or plans to make the camera. They do not sell the cameras. They do not sell photographs or make available the high resolution files. This begs the question to me… so why are you doing it? I get the whole documenting the landscape and "vanishing cultural and archaeological sites" gig – bu the technology and effort behind this endeavor is significant. The technology is not new – the combination of old and new in this way is though. Cannibalizing numerous types of camera equipment and photographic process to create a unique image of immense resolution and staggering detail resolution is at the core of the project.

Maybe that’s reason enough. Either way, keep it up… it’s pretty amazing and will only help to move photography and technology further.

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