"Richmond Skyline Sunrise" - Sunrise turns clouds pink over the downtown Richmond, Virginia riverfront skyline
Picture of Stephen Girimont

Stephen Girimont

Owner, The Intimate Landscape, Fine Art Prints

The Largest, Most Difficult Image I’ve Ever Produced

"...anytime I find myself needing to be in Richmond, I start paying attention to the weather forecast..."

The image you see below this paragraph is 1.7% of the full size image. This is the largest image I’ve ever captured, coming in at a whopping 1.04 Gigapixels (1,042,039,000+ total pixels, to be exact). In other words, far larger than I’m ever going to need to print and just chock full of detail that no one is ever going to be able to see in any print that I’m ever going to make. Why do I do this to myself? Do I have a sadistic urge to push my computer to its limits, or am I simply drawn to resolution the way some people are drawn to shoes?

"Richmond Skyline Sunrise" - Sunrise turns clouds pink over the downtown Richmond, Virginia riverfront skyline

I needed to be in Richmond recently and anytime I find myself needing to be in Richmond, I start paying attention to the weather forecast and start hitting various tools I have to help predict the quality of the sunrise or sunset on the day I need to be there. (Some applications and websites I use for sunrise/sunset quality prediction: Clear Outside, Sunsetwx.com, Photographer’s Ephemeris with the Skyfire plugin). For this day, there were conflicting forecasts regarding the quality of the sunrise, but Skyfire seemed to indicate that the sky to the north of downtown Richmond had a good chance to have some color.

I’ve been wanting to make an updated photograph of the downtown Richmond skyline for a while now, as the logos on several of the buildings have changed and some new construction has been going on. I had to wait, however, as there were several tower cranes hanging over the skyline for the last year or so, but I noticed in December that they seemed to be down, so I’d been waiting for the right conditions.

Taking a chance that Skyfire was right where Sunsetwx.com was wrong, I woke up at 3:00 AM in order to be in position on the Richmond floodwall at sunrise to capture this image.

What made this image so difficult to produce was the manner in which I produced it: This is an assembly of 44 images (4 rows of 11 images each) shot with the Fuji GFX (meaning each image itself is 51 megapixels in size). The lens I used was the 250mm Fuji GF, which had a field of view so narrow that it took 11 vertical images from left-to-right to capture the full width of the scene. And, because of the field-of-view of the lens, when I was shooting the sky, I was capturing only sky and almost none of the cityscape itself. This proved to be problematic.

To describe the difficulty I had in producing this image, I have posted a video to my YouTube channel showing not only how I captured the images, but the effort I went to in creating the final, assembled, image. Please watch the video here:

You may be having the same thought I will admit to having: why? Why do I go to such lengths to record scenes that could easily be captured in just a single image like most photographers? While I will admit to feeling that this technique does separate me from most other photographers, if I’m being completely honest with myself, I have to say that I simply enjoy knowing I’ve captured all the detail in a scene that there is to possibly capture.

Case in point: In the image above, on the right side of the image, you may be able to make out a multi-story parking garage on the riverfront. Here is an example of the detail captured of that parking garage:

You can actually see the wires guarding the edge of the parking garage

See the wires? Those keep folks from simply driving their cars into the river by accident. And this is slightly LESS than a 1:1 view of that part of the image. If the sunrise were more fully illuminating the interior of the parking garage, I might have even been able to capture the license plate numbers of the cars that were visible.

Granted, this is a level of detail that is never going to be visible in any print I’m ever going to make of this image; but I know it’s there, and that gives me a level of satisfaction above simply capturing a nice sunrise. I feel I worked hard for this image and if you’ve watched the video, I hope you agree.

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