May 1, 2013

New York State Geology Captured by the Gigapixels

How do you document and preserve all of the unique, scientifically relevant, and often vastly expansive geologicial features of New York State? Clearly too large for collection and storage in a flat file, and too extensive for even the most robust of cameras to adequately capture all of the minute details required for indepth study and comparison, many geological sites have been left either undocumented or simply described in written text and two-dimensional land surveys.


Enter the gigapan—a super high resolution panorama comprised of hundreds, if not thousands, of digital photographs that have been combined to form a single gigapixel image. Using a robotic camera mount, photographers take a large series of individual pictures at high zoom across the span of the geological feature. These individual pictures are then loaded into the Gigapan software which “stitches” the photos together to make one detailed image with extremely high resolution, depth, and clarity.

The geologists at the New York State Geological Survey use gigapans to document bedrock outcrops such as quarry walls and roadcuts that are either too big to be photographed in a single shot or are located in places too dangerous to view up close. Once the images have been stitched together, scientists can zoom in on very small details of the exposure or zoom out and look at the larger features of an outcrop.

Because of the sheer number of images involved in the creation of a single Gigapan, file sizes can be extremely large. Rather than posting them on the Survey’s website, the NYSGS is able to use the Gigapan website to host their images. 

To view all of the NYSGS gigapans, visit: 



The New York State Geological Survey (NYSGS) is a bureau of
the New York State Museum in the New York State Education Department.