Stunning: Yosemite Extreme Gigapixel Panoramic Imaging Project

First, Microsoft deserves a kudo for its Pro Photo Summit. John Harrington wrote up the highlights and linked to many of the coolest things.

But the coolest thing I saw on Wednesday?

Was something I saw at lunch: the Yosemite Extreme Gigapixel Panoramic Imaging Project. They mapped out Yosemite with 20 high-resolution panoramic cameras. To give you an idea how cool these images are, here’s an earlier version they did. The 20 new images should be up on the xRez site this week, they told me.

I liked it so much that I did three videos. If you only have time for one, watch this 17-minute video, which is the second one below.

The first video was one I filmed during lunch with Greg Downing and Eric Hanson, co founders of xRez Studios, which did the xRez Yosemite Gigapixel Project. They are the two geeks who built the systems to stitch together these huge images (gigapixels). Digital Producer has an indepth article on the technology they are using.

The second video and third video I filmed after the summit’s first day ended and things were a little quieter. This time Bill Crow of Microsoft’s Live Labs joined us. You can read his blog here, which is on HD Photography. These two videos not only give you a good tour around the Yosemite project, which contains some of the highest-resolution images of Yosemite ever seen (so much detail is in them that you can zoom into climbers on the top of Half Dome), but also Bill explains the technology that lets you view and zoom these images over the Internet. It’s called “Seadragon” and it’s quite remarkable. I wish these videos were a little sharper, but you’ll get the idea of just how cool this technology is.

Yes, that’s Thomas Hawk sitting next to Bill Crow.

Oh, and all of this stuff is demoed on Microsoft’s new Surface table-top computer, which is quite remarkable too. This is the first time I’ve really gotten a good hands-on look at the Surface and I see a TON of stuff that I liked a lot. I could play with one of those for hours.

Think Microsoft isn’t innovative? You can’t say that anymore, sorry.

Oh, and one more example of what Microsoft is doing in photography that just is magical: Microsoft’s Deep Photo. Dan Fay got first video of this new project and it’s wow. You’ll hear me in the front row saying “wow” when researcher Michael Cohen uses this technology to remove haze from an image of New York City.

Is Microsoft trying to capture photography market?

This week Thomas Hawk (my favorite “Flickr-famous” photographer) and me will join a bunch of others on Microsoft’s campus up in Redmond, Washington, to attend a pro photography summit that Microsoft is hosting.

Why is Microsoft hosting a bunch of professional photographers?

Is it to kick off Microsoft’s Pro Photo Tools, Photosynth ( which got me, in 2006, to say it was the demo of the year), or DeepZoom? Maybe. After all, these things are really cool and photographers should flock to them in droves.

Is it because the digital photography market has finally gotten big enough to get Microsoft interested? Maybe.

But I think Microsoft has something else up its sleeve.

It knows that if Silverlight is going to have a chance against Flash it will have to get designers to give up Photoshop, or at least use other tools alongside.


Because designers now are in control of the toolset that many companies will chose. What’s the most important tool to these designers? Photoshop.

So, along comes a Microsoft salesperson trying to get Silverlight and the Microsoft toolset in the door. Things go well with the developers, because .NET code is a lot nicer than Flash stuff. The management likes the pitch too, because they probably will get a break on something else they are already buying (Office/Sharepoint/Exchange are all very popular inside most corporations). But then the team gets to the designers and they say “give up Photoshop? Over our dead bodies.” And the deal ends and the team chooses Adobe’s Flash. Adobe’s salespeople then get a call and they come over and show off, which is a hit against Microsoft Office and you can see how this goes.

So, I’ll be watching this week to see what’s really behind Microsoft’s moves into photography. Is it to do something really remarkable (which Photosynth and Deep Zoom are)? Or is it to switch designers from Adobe stuff?

What do you think?

Compare cell phone to pro camera

You can’t compare a $3,000 digital SLR to a $500 cell phone from Nokia, can you? Well, look at these two photos. Which one was made with the Canon 5D with a 50mm F1.4 lens and which one was made with a Nokia N82 cell phone?

You can visit my Flickr account to see which camera made which images and you’ll see some other comparison photos and other images that I’ve made with the Nokia N82. Make sure you click on the “All Sizes” option to see the full resolution images to really compare.

Yes, if you look closely the images made with the pro SLR are nicer, but that isn’t the point. The point is that photos made with cell phones are getting to be darn good. The worst photo you’ll ever take is the one you don’t take because you didn’t have your camera with you. I don’t know about you, but only photo geeks like Thomas Hawk take their pro cameras everywhere (he shoots with a Canon 5D). I know I carry my cell phone everywhere, but only have my 5D a small percentage of the time, so I’m far more likely to get a shot of something interesting with my cell phone. Speaking of Thomas, he wrote two great posts yesterday. First is on the 10 things he learned from Ansel Adams. The second is about 12 ways to never miss a photo opportunity.

How does the N82 compare to the older N95? The camera is better and I like the phone overall better with one glaring problem: it doesn’t work with AT&T’s 3G network, so doing video on Qik on the N82 isn’t nearly as nice.

Canon 5D beach shots

Beach shot at sunset with new Nokia N82

Hanging out in Ansel Adams' tub

Now you’ve seen everything.

Today we were at Ansel Adams’ house and this is me getting a seat in the sink where he made so many of the world’s most favorite images.

I did some videos over on Qik, too, with our “professional” videos of Ansel Adams’ son and home and business coming soon to

Frederick Johnson, who works at Adobe on the Lightroom team, blogged about our visit (we interviewed him too — it was real interesting to hear about the past and future of darkrooms all in one place).

Kodak Moment: Following Ansel Adams footsteps

Michael Adams telling Park Ranger where he's been

It’s weird to read the New York Times to find this article on Ansel Adams on the front page. What did we just do? We spent two days in Yosemite with Michael Adams, Ansel’s son, who spent the better part of two days showing us around.

I shot a TON of Qik/cell phone video with Michael. We also did a bunch of “pro” video with our expensive HD camcorders, those will be up soon as part of a new show for DSLR photographers that’ll be on Titled “PhotoCycle.” We haven’t set a start date for that, yet, more on that later. A special thanks to Marc Silber (he’s the professional photographer who’ll host PhotoCycle) because he’s the one who did the work to arrange this trip.

Ansel Adams Gallery now has a blog, too. One reason I was there was to film Ansel Adams Gallery, which is one of America’s most beloved family businesses and has been operating in Yosemite Park for 102 years.

Thomas Hawk, my favorite photographer that I watch on Flickr, put up a single photo from the two days and it already has gotten 50 votes on Flickr as “favorite.” Getting a “favorite” on Flickr is really hard, and to get 50 for one photo of something as photographed as Half Dome is demonstrates Thomas’ skill and popularity as a photographer, it was a real treat to get to follow him as he made images in Yosemite.

One really big thrill for all of us? They opened the Glacier Point Road just for us. There wasn’t another soul in place for 13 miles of road. Totally amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience of Glacier Point. We also made our own history: we did the first cell phone live video from Glacier Point thanks to Qik. It’s amazing that we had a live audience around the world while filming these videos.

The New York Times had a separate article
about Flickr. Here’s Thomas Hawk’s feedback about that (he was one of the photographers quoted in it).

So, why a Kodak moment? Well, Michael Adams told me that Ansel Adams did a lot of work for Kodak. He shot a few of the Colorama ads for Grand Central Station in New York. Did you know Kodak has a blog now? I like the Kodak blog a lot, it gives me some great ideas for photos.

Little known Scoble trivia: I used to help run a camera store, LZ Premiums (now long gone) in the 1980s and was responsible for buying all the Kodak film and darkroom supplies. I saw someone walking out of the Ansel Adams Gallery with a yellow box of Kodak printing paper and it took me back to the hours I spent in a darkroom and all the friends, photos, memories I made back then.

This was — by far — the most special two days I’ve had outside of getting married or watching my two sons being born. I told someone I would have traded my Davos trip (which was freaking awesome) for hanging out with Michael Adams for 24 hours. It was that good and I can’t wait to show you the videos and more of our photos. Thomas Hawk told me he’ll have his photos up soon, along with a writeup of the two days.

Now, go back and read the New York Times article, and listen to it come alive thanks to Qik videos done on my cell phone.

Michael Adams, Ansel Adams’ son, in front of the family business, the Ansel Adams’ Gallery.
The famous Tunnel View, where Ansel shot his famous Storm Clearing photo. In the video we meet a tourist who took a class from Ansel and he tells us about that experience. I talk with Thomas Hawk about this view, and we find some other things to shoot as well.
Video from a meadow shooting Yosemite Falls.
Half Dome from the Bridge. In a second video Michael Adams tells what a photo from this bridge meant to his mother.
You’ve seen the famous photo, Moon and Half Dome, here you see where to shoot it, and we talk about some of our experiences making new images there, but also hear Michael’s stories about the photo and what it meant to him (it was used on his wedding announcement).
Up at Glacier Point we had the whole place to ourselves, so I made a TON of video.
Glacier Point 1.
Glacier Point 2.
Glacier Point 3.
Glacier Point 4.
Glacier Point 5.
Glacier Point 6.

In the videos you’ll learn that Michael is an interesting innovator in his own right. He was a fighter pilot, then went to medical school and now teaches medicine while also keeping memories of his father’s work alive and well.

I don’t know how I’ll top this in my career. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did (and there’s a LOT more to come from this two-day experience).

I also put up a bunch of photos on my Flickr stream and I’m sure that Thomas Hawk will have a lot more of his own.