If the word "Haiti" calls to mind sensationalistic images of earthquake damage and extreme poverty, the current issue of GigaPan Magazine may be eye-opening. The online magazine published by Carnegie Mellon University features striking photographs of rural Haiti this month. Shot at gigapixel resolutions, the sweeping panoramic shots show scenes of ordinary Haitian life in a region largely spared the devastation of last year's 7.0 quake.
The immersive depth in which those photographs appear is made possible by technology developed at CMU's Robotics Institute. The GigaPan shooting rig takes a series of high-resolution digital pictures which are then stitched together to form the huge composites that appear in the magazine.
Readers are encouraged to zoom in and discover minute details otherwise lost in the composition of ordinary-resolution stills. "This medium brings a different picture than what you're used to seeing from Haiti," says Dror Yaron, a photographer and developer at the Robotics Institute's CREATE Lab, who traveled to the Artibonite Valley of central Haiti for the shoot. "After the earthquakes, there were a lot of disaster pictures. [These pictures] take you back more to everyday life."
Yaron says the extreme granularity of the GigaPan pictures makes for an entirely different experience, both as a photographer and as a viewer of photography. "You're forced to stay in the scene and examine it in detail. It also gives you the opportunity to examine it later in detail and sometimes find out things that you didn't see when you were shooting."
The longstanding ties that Pittsburgh and CMU share with the Caribbean island nation are reflected in shots of Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, which remains the region's only functioning hospital. Founded in 1956 by the Pittsburgh-born Dr. Larimer "Larry" Mellon and maintained with assistance from the Pittsburgh-based Friends of Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti, its staff helped tend to victims of the earthquake in January 2010.
Today, things are quieter at the rural hospital. Visitors to the GigaPan website can see local children, who make up more than half of Hôpital Schweitzer's patients, being treated there. The Haiti feature is up on the GigaPan Magazine site at gigapanmagazine.org through the month of September.