Home > Photography > Machu Picchu gets the gigapixel treatment…

Machu Picchu gets the gigapixel treatment, historic site shown in stunning detail

One of the world’s most famous historic sites, the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru, has been given the gigapixel treatment in a stunning photo showing the location in unprecedented detail.

The 15.9-gigapixel image – the work of photographer and Peru-based tour director Jeff Cremer – is believed to be the highest-resolution photograph ever taken of the legendary archeological site, and allows viewers to zoom in to examine any part in fabulous detail.

And while your humble compact camera may not be quite up to the job of taking such a picture, the technology needed isn’t as out of reach as you might imagine.

Gear

Here’s what Cremer used to help him create his 297,500 x 87,500-pixel masterpiece:

- a Canon 7D DSLR ($1500)

- a 400mm lens ($600)

- a Gitzo Basalt Explorer tripod ($440)

- a GigaPan Epic Pro mount ($895)

Almost 2,000 photographs were needed to build the high-resolution image, which Cremer then stitched together using GigaPan software, designed especially for a project like this.

While Cremer managed to capture all the images in under two hours, it wasn’t all plain sailing, with his software seizing up during the shoot causing some worries along the way. ”I had to restart the camera and the software, then I had to find exactly where in the image the software froze, then back up and reshoot the missed images,” he said, adding, “If I didn’t capture all of the missing images the entire project would have failed.”

Motivation

Cremer says on the image’s website that he hopes the picture will bring attention to the problems facing the historic site, which is suffering due to the huge number of tourists visiting each year.

“In 2008, the World Monuments Fund placed Machu Picchu on its Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world because of environmental degradation due to tourism,” Cremer explained. “Beautiful, historical and threatened, I believe that this remarkable site deserved a remarkable photo.”

He continued, “I think that this image can help preserve this amazing place and bring more awareness to the site, its history and its endangered state.”

Ironically, Cremer’s favorite part of his image doesn’t include any part of Machu Picchu itself. Instead he highlights a person standing on top of one of the mountains in the background. “Before I explored the image, I never even knew that it was possible to climb up there,” he said.

View the 15.9-gigapixel shot here, then check out the video below to see Cremer working on the shoot.