Photographer Jeffrey Martin has been creating massive gigapixel photos for the better part of a decade. His latest is a huge 45 gigapixel photo of Barcelona that provides incredible detail on one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
Martin has been taking 360 degree photos since around 2002. He created his first large panoramic photo mosaic in 2006 with a Canon 300D and a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, which can still be seen today, a fact which he says proves that the camera photo resolution does not matter.
“You can make a photo in any resolution if you take enough photos and stitch them together!” he says PetaPixel.
Martin says he’s proud to be “the most obsessed gigapixel photographer in the universe.”
A detailed view of Barcelona
His latest project focuses on Barcelona and although it’s only 45 gigapixels, downright small compared to his 230 gigapixel Guinness World Record photo of London, it still contains an astronomical amount of detail.
“It took me a few years to make an 18 gigapixel photo of Prague from the TV tower, which at the time was right there with the biggest photos ever made,” he recalls.
“So I’ve been shooting gigapixels of increasing size for a while now. The biggest image I’ve been able to make is a 900,000 x 450,000 image of Prague,” he continues.
“By now, you may or may not know that Adobe Photoshop has a file size limit of 300,000 x 300,000 pixels. This makes creating any image larger than that very difficult – and honestly, it’s rarely worth it. the penalty.
Martin says this gigapixel photo was taken from the top of Torre Glories, formerly called Torre Agbar, which he describes as a pickle-shaped building.
“This building is a really odd construction, the exterior windows not being your normal sealed solid glass slabs; each window is a bunch of shutters that can open or close. Inside those windows is a sort of meter-wide space that has a catwalk on some floors, and inside are the windows of the rooms themselves,” he says.
“So the surface texture of this skyscraper is really unusual compared to almost any other skyscraper in the world, which is basically solid, unbroken slabs of glass from floor to roof. In addition, there are many of colored lights behind these window shutters, so that the building is often lit with interesting colors.
“As far as gigapixel photography is concerned, it’s an absolutely brilliant place to take photos, with a perfect location in the middle of Barcelona to see a lot of interesting things. The Sagrada Familia is not far and you can see a lot there details,” he added.
“This image was taken in one day from approximately 6,000 source images, using a high-end camera with a very long lens, mounted on a special robotic camera mount that I programmed to take thousands of overlapping images.These images were then painstakingly stitched together and joined together into a full 360 degree image of exceptional resolution.
The full resolution gigapixel photo can be viewed and explored on Martin’s website.
How to create gigapixel photos
Martin says he mostly uses Canon cameras and lenses, but adds that he’s definitely against always buying the latest gear.
“For most people, a five-year-old camera will be more than okay if you put the right glass in front of it. I also agree that you are married to your lenses, but you only date with your camera bodies! That said, gigapixel photography demands a lot of a camera, and it’s important to use a camera that has decent dynamic range, as you’ll still have both sunny elements and shadows in the same large image.
For those who want the most resolution possible, he recommends using a long lens and taking a lot of shots.
“Unless you’re very patient and have practiced, it’s probably best to stick to a maximum focal length of 100mm or 135mm. I usually don’t exceed a focal length of 200mm, although I’ve sometimes used 300mm, 400mm, 600mm and 800mm,” he says.
“But those higher focal lengths really increase everything – complexity, risk of error, weather issues, storage issues and processing time – exponentially. If you’re shooting at 400mm instead of 200mm, you take four times as many photos. Post-processing can turn into months rather than weeks. Be careful!”
Martin says the basic premise of gigapixel photography is simple, though.
“Take overlapping shots of the entire location: 30% overlap is acceptable. Dump the footage into PTGui and click ‘align’. If you shot everything correctly, that might be all you have to do,” he said.
“Take RAW photos and lock the white balance for best results. Use an appropriate shutter speed, aperture, and ISO setting. Shoot at the right time when the weather isn’t changing too fast,” he adds, and says managing all of these things isn’t difficult, but takes practice.
“And the sky? Well, you can shoot the sky with a wider angle lens, or you can shoot in a fixed pattern and snap the photos to a grid – both can work, but I don’t recommend shooting the whole sky with a lens 800 mm, that would be an exercise in madness!
Martin says there are a number of good solutions for displaying a gigapixel photo, both paid (KRPano and Pano2VR) and free (Panellum and Marzipano).
“These viewers are able to slice the large image into hundreds of ’tiles’ which are then displayed in a web viewer much like Google Maps: when you zoom in, the viewer loads a new set of tiles, and it only loads the part of the image you are looking at, so the web viewing experience is actually very lightweight.
Martin says he is currently working on more gigapixel photos of Venice, Hong Kong and Chicago which he hopes to release soon. More from Martin can be found on his website.