EXTREME PANORAMIC PROJECT
DOCUMENTING THE YOSEMITE VALLEY
AT UNPRECEDENTED RESOLUTION
SHOOTING 10,000 IMAGES
IN 45 MINUTES
Yosemite Valley has always held fascination for Eric Hanson of Blueplanet VR, who previously had used Yosemite as a test-bed subject for developing early gigapixel imaging and terrain capture techniques for large landscapes.
That early work led to the 2008 Yosemite Extreme Imaging Project, where Eric and his colleagues orchestrated 70 photographers to document the sixteen miles of valley walls in gigapixel resolution for NPS geologist Greg Stock, Ph.D., shooting 10,000 high resolution images from a number of different vantage points all around the valley during 45 minutes.
This unique documentation was then used to create a detailed, true to life 3D model of the entire valley.
The unprecedented resolution and freely accessible online publishing of that work provides useful reference for the climbing community, academic research, and Yosemite search and rescue (YOSAR) teams.
THE YOSEMITE EXTREME PANORAMIC IMAGING PROJECT
Yosemite Valley experiences numerous rockfalls each year, with over 600 rockfall events documented since 1850.
Due to the pulverization of the rockfall mass, evaluating and quantifying rockfall characteristics has proved challenging without any high-resolution baseline imagery of the Valley walls, which could act as a useful datum for before/after comparisons.
In 2008, The Yosemite Extreme Panoramic Imaging Project, a partnership between geologist Greg Stock, Ph.D. of the National Park Service and Eric Hanson’s X Rez Studio, set out to do so by creating unprecedented documentation of Yosemite Valley’s granite walls by shooting 10,000 images concurrently over sixteen miles of the valley walls.
Base technology used included gigapixel panoramic photography, LIDAR-based digital terrain modeling, and three-dimensional computer rendering.
The primary gigapixel capture was accomplished by 20 separate photographic teams shooting from key overlapping locations throughout the valley, amounting to 36,000 vertical feet of trail ascended.
The shots were taken simultaneously in order to ensure uniform lighting, with each team taking over 500 overlapping shots from each vantage point using an accessible Gigapan device with Canon G9 cameras.
Each team’s shots were later assembled with PTGui into 20 separate gigapixel panoramas, viewable here. In addition, all 20 gigapixel panoramas were projected onto a 1-meter resolution digital terrain model in Maya 3D animation software, unifying 16 miles of Yosemite’s walls into 2 single vertical orthographic views.
The resulting images reveal the complex geologic interrelation of Yosemite Valley’s monuments in very high resolution and yield a unique, non-perspective elevational view of the valley walls, a first in landscape photography.
In addition, a hang gliding flight was contracted to act as a photographic survey, the glider equipped with 3 time-lapse cameras which provided a point cloud data representation of the valley walls through the use of Microsoft Photosynth.
The results can be seen in the Siggraph 2009 course on “Computation & Cultural Heritage” Several major rockfalls have already occurred since the project’s completion, and repeat photography of these areas has clearly delineated the rockfall source areas and failure dynamics, ultimately calling for the closing of 300 structures in Camp Curry.
Thus, the imagery has already proven to be a valuable tool for monitoring and understanding rockfall in Yosemite Valley, and ultimately providing further safety for the public.
It also shows the possibilities of the quality of information a photographic image, enabled with powerful new imaging technology, can provide for the earth sciences.