Of Pans and GigaPans

It’s easy to think of a camera as an artificial eye. This lets you imagine that a photograph is something your eye might see if only your equipment was better. But when you take dozens of photos and stitch them together into one giant picture, the result is a strange hybrid. It looks like a snapshot, but it’s more of an experiential perch. It’s a vista point where you can linger, zooming, panning, and constantly finding novelty in the details.

GigaPan Systems is a company that helps you make these so-called gigapan images. They sell motorized tripods and special software that makes it straightforward to create such an image. They’ve been getting a lot of good press lately; you may have seen the GigaPan image of President Obama’s inauguration. Anyone can upload images to the GigaPan site. My friend Roy bought one of their tripods in time for a trip to South Africa. Here’s his shot of Boulders Beach near Capetown. Can you find the penguins?

Once you start thinking in terms of gigapixel super zoom images, it’s not hard to apply the same idea to things other than landscapes. Here’s s picture of two leaves and a flower. Would ya look at the size of that stamen!

It doesn’t stop there. You can keep making GigaPan pictures smaller until you get NanoGigaPan images like this ant.

It’s all good fun zooming in on an ant’s facial hair, but wouldn’t a NanoGigaPan image just be a Pan image?