My first foray into gigapanning: Slaughter Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico

Geologists are always taking multi-picture panoramas of outcrops and other geologically interesting phenomena, but then have to go back to the office and use photoediting software to stitch them together into a seamless image.  The problem lies that the stitching is often imperfect due to photo overlap and the resultant images are hard to view on the computer because they are so large.

Gigapan ( found a way to make this process better – you stick your camera into a small tripod mounted robot and tell it to take a large panorama (aka a gigapan), and then use Gigapan software to stitch it together and upload it onto the internet.  The online viewer is pretty slick, and as you zoom in the resolution improves.  In short, it is definitely the way to view large photographs interactively.  You can even tag parts of a photo with a description of what is there.

Zoltan over at Hindered Settling introduced me to this whole Gigapan process (check out his Gigapan page too) , and we have taken many gigapans together.  However, I wanted to try it on my own, so I took the robot out to the Guadalupe Mountains to test it out.  My camera skills arent spectacular, so my first gigapan has a few vignetting issues, but it is still really cool.  Since I was using a telephoto lens, this image is made up of 351 photos, resulting in almost a 3 gigapixel image!

This subject of the photo is a place called Slaughter Canyon, a prograding and aggrading Permian carbonate shelf margin.  You can clearly see the progressively younger reef fronts moving from lower left to upper right.  You can also see the very steep forereef slopes exposed just to the right of the cliffy, massive reef fronts – the one at far right is the best and longest slope, and gives an indication of the relief on this margin ( about 300 m).  Here is a diagram showing the general morphology of that carbonate reef – if you could have walked around here in the Permian, this area may have looked somewhat similar to the modern coast near Oman, with dry desert on land and a carbonate reef in the shallow ocean.

The image below should link to the actual gigapan, but here is a link too.  Be sure to push the full screen button and scroll around to see the full resolution.  Enjoy!

slaughter canyon


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