Photographer captures 360-degree shot of NYC from atop Empire State Building


Think you have to climb up 102 stories and put some coins inside those binoculars on the top of the Empire State Building to get a bird’s-eye view of New York? Think again. Photographer Aleksandr Reznik of Lithuania recently completed a 45 gigapixel — that’s 45,000 megapixels — 360-degree panorama from the top of what’s considered the world’s most photographed building. And he shot it all by hand.

The photograph’s abnormally high resolution allows viewers to zoom in on the details of iconic buildings and bridges or even Central Park. If Reznik printed the image at 150 dpi, the image would be longer than a football field at 166 feet wide.

“The cities with great history and a lot of well-known places are the best for making gigapixel images,” Reznik said. “There are only several places on Earth where you can be high in the center of the city and observe it without the interference of window glass. Sure, each city has some high buildings — but it normally has some problems, like the city isn’t interesting, the building isn’t in the center, or the view is covered by glass.”

The gigapixel count seems impressive enough — but there are no tripods allowed on the Empire State Building’s observation deck. Reznik, who has been shooting for more than 25 years and ventured into panorama work in 2009, shot about 4,000 images by hand during three separate trips to the observation deck. While the photographer says it’s always better to use a tripod, it wasn’t a big issue since he’s shot and stitched together several high-resolution panoramas before without one — including views from the Eiffel Tower and St. Peter’s Basilica.

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Aleksandr Reznik
Aleksandr Reznik

Reznik used a Canon 5DSR and a 200mm f/2.8 len. Using a telephoto lens allowed him to include more photographs to cover the same perspective, which gives the photo that high resolution. In 2014, he shot a panorama from the same spot with a 50mm lens, which resulted in a one gigapixel image. A partnership with roundme, a media platform dedicated to 360 views, allowed him to return again in the summer of 2015 for the 45 gigapixel image. He finished the stitching process and shared the shot in August.

The final panorama ended up taking about 1,200 photographs — it took Reznik several months and a $4,000 computer to put it all together. “When you are working with 100 to 200 GB files, all of the procedures are very slow. Opening a file? Fifteen minutes. Saving the file? Half an hour.”

Sharing an image with such a large file size also presents a problem — Reznik used roundme and its recently added Pro Account , which allows users to post large gigapixel files.

“The Empire State Building is just a gem for gigapixels,” Reznik said. The image is the biggest he’s shot, and while 45 gigapixels isn’t the biggest photograph in the world, he believes it might just be the biggest shot by hand.

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