The idea for the image below has been brewing in my mind for over two years. I wanted to create a viewing experience where people could have a visual conversation with a familiar place, and through that conversation come to see that place in new and different ways. This journal entry describes my mission to create a large scale visual experience, and contains an invitation to come and see it for yourself!
During the winter of 2020-2021, while working on a series of aerial captures of the Driftless Area, I noticed many interesting features that were normally hidden under the lush forest canopies. The bare tree branches allowed me to see the "bones of the land," revealing rock outcroppings, ridges, and coulees in a way that was very different from my land-based panoramic photography. In January 2023 I published images from multiple winter outings in a photographic love letter to the wintertime bluffs that stand along the eastern edge of the La Crosse area. You can view it here: Benevolent Winter Sentinels.
But equally as fascinating were the features of the Mississippi River plain below the bluffs, the "arteries of the land" — rivers, roads, and railroads. I wanted to create a wintertime image that clearly showed these arteries, and in early December 2021, I created a gigapixel image of La Crosse from an aerial viewpoint just south of the Main Channel bridge on the Mississippi River.
That panoramic image was created from eight individual high-resolution drone captures. I was delighted by the amount of detail I could see in that winter image. The rivers, roads, and railroads were plainly visible, and where those three arteries intersected one another, I could make out eight bridges. In subsequent outings I continued to expand the number of captures to include the river plain from the Minnesota to the Wisconsin bluffs, and as the resolution of the captures improved, I could make out even more bridges.
By early March 2023, I had a set of captures I was happy with and I was able to create the image with the scope and resolution that I had been working towards. The clarity was such that I could see seventeen bridges! Now I had a new challenge — how to share that image?
An Invitation to View the Seventeen Bridges Image
I enjoy creating prints in my studio using a true giclee process on fine art papers. However, the scale of this image — 30 x 160 inches — was too large for my equipment. So I reached out to a reputable lab partner who created a diptych of two 30 x 80 inch prints.
The resulting reproduction of the Seventeen Bridges image is massive, and I cordially invite you to view our beautiful river plain in a winter color palette at Gallery 1802, 1802 State Street in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
While you are there, take a few minutes to see if you can find the seventeen bridges in the image. If you get stuck I will have an answer key readily available. :-) Some other things you might enjoy searching for: signage on various buildings, various tall structures, the 1627 foot tall transmission tower Galesville, Wisconsin...and perhaps your home or place of business!
Behind the Scenes: Creating the Image
Creating an image with this much resolution is something I have done many times before, but what excited me about this gigapixel panoramic image was the subject — the wintertime view of the arteries of the river plain and the places where they intersect, the bridges. The process for creating this specific panoramic image began with multiple drone captures taken from a point 400 feet above the Mississippi River and just over 1/2 mile south of the Main Channel bridge in La Crosse, Wisconsin, using a telephoto lens. Out of 715 raw images, 70 (see below) were selected for this panorama, which was processed for panoramic rendering intent in PTGui, my preferred tool when working at this scale. I performed limited sharpening with Topaz tools and made tonal adjustments in Lightroom, with very minor image cleanup in Photoshop.
Overall, this project has been a journey of discovery and exploration for me, as I have worked to capture and share the beauty of the Driftless Area and the Mississippi River plain. I hope that my images inspire others to see and record the world around them in new and exciting ways.
Capturing Your World
Do you have a project in mind that requires unique images of your business, project, home or property? I would love to talk with you about your needs. I have over 20 years of experience creating both small scale and gigapixel panoramic images in visible and infrared light. I am an FAA licensed commercial drone pilot specializing in gigapixel panoramic images. Find out more by reaching out by through my contact page!