Very large format images, why do I do it?
Many of my colleagues and friends have asked why I pursue shooting uber-large multi-frame, multi-row panos and mosaics when the resolutions are far beyond the need for regular fine-art prints.
Simple. I like challenges, and I like high-resolution, very large prints.
Let me explain
I have many passions and pursuits, two of which are photography and computing.
When I switched to digital photography in 2005, I started to wonder what new horizons I could explore with advanced computing techniques and photography… stitched imagery was one of them, albeit in its infancy. Over the next 6 years, stitched photography has become more mainstream and not nearly as special or unusual as it was back then, however it still provides a way to generate high resolution imagery for large prints.
Enter my interest in large fine art prints.
While many consumers consider an 8×10 or 11×14 a large print, I have always considered these the bare minimums for enlargements, preferring 16×20 as my mainstream print and going larger, much larger, for my portfolio work and display prints @ home.
While 20+ megapixel cameras have always been able to turn out 16×20’s with ease, they start to break down in resolution beyond this size, enter large format imaging. Sure, so you need gigapixel images? no, but most of my general large format images are shot in the in 140-250MP range and they are just digital storage space after all… so if I want to reduce them for Facebook sizes then fine, otherwise I have the opportunity to turn out a large format print at uber resolutions.
Having a career in technology for the past 30 years has also kept my interest high in pushing the boundaries of computer power.
Hardware in 2011
In (Oct 2011), my main workstation was a bit better equipped than most (for its era).
- 6 core, Core i7
- 24GB of memory
- dual Nvidia 480 GPU’s
- 40TB of high speed disk arrays (mixture of SAS, SATA and SSD) with read speeds regularly exceeding 820 MB/s and write speeds averaging 660 MB/s
Hardware in 2023
My modern-day workstation is considerably more powerful:
- 64 core Threadripper
- 256GB RAM
- various nvme SSD disk configurations, base speed of 3500MB/s, max speed of 12GB/s
- High-end Nvidia GPUs
With the computing power I had in 2011, I could finally stitch many of the 1 to 2-gigapixel images in as little time as 10-15 minutes (quite fast back then).
Now, I regularly turn out 2-5GP images in less than a minute.
Hardware in 2005
In comparison, when I started stitching my first large format image (Mount Yamnuska) in 2005 (~250 MP) it took over 80 hours for my workstation back then (Pentium 4 with SATA disks).
Why do it? Why not?
I now regularly shoot with my Alpha A7R4 with 61MP base images, I still make 2GP or large images it just takes less frames to do it.
It’s part of the journey, not the endpoint, and as many of my friends and colleagues would tell you, I never do anything half-arsed!