Behind the Scenes: Shooting a Panorama from the Top of the Freedom Tower

Last year, TIME teamed up with Portland-based software company GigaPan to create something special: a 360-degree panorama from the top of the Freedom Tower (aka. The One World Trade Center). The image was supposed to represent “the rebirth and healing of Lower Manhattan,” and above we have an inside look at how it came together.

As you might imagine, it takes a great deal of preparation and work to pull something of this scale off. TIME had to negotiate with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to gain access to the spire, design a rig that would work well in the conditions found at that height, and then actually go about building and testing the rig before they had their one chance to get the panorama right.

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Along the way there were all sorts of challenges to overcome, and in the video above, TIME’s Senior Editor of Photo & Interactive Jonathan D. Woods explains how the project came together despite all of those challenges. In all, the final image (which you can see here) consists of 567 pictures taken with a 5D Mark II and a 100mm lens over the course of five hours on September 28th, 2013.

But here’s the really cool part. TIME realizes that this behind the scenes video probably won’t answer all your questions, and so they’re going to answer them themselves. Today (Friday, March 7th), starting at 3pm EST, TIME’s Jonathan Woods and Gigapan’s Mike Franz will answer any questions you have about the panorama project through the LightBox Twitter account @timepictures.

To participate, just log on to your Twitter at that time and ask away using the hashtag #AskLightbox. It should make for a very interesting conversation on the technical aspects of creating such a massive panorama.

The Making of the One World Trade Center Panorama [TIME]

  • Jeromy Tan

    a remotely controlled hexacopter with a dslr mounted rig could have done the job as well

  • mthouston

    No it could not….with the crosswinds at that elevation the copter would not have been able to hold position to create a gigapan, also the loft time on these copter is short…

  • whoopn

    Likely wouldn’t be stable enough nor have a long enough battery/fuel tank to stay aloft for the entire shoot.

  • mthouston

    yikes…….great minds….whoopn

  • whoopn

    What do you mean? Do you agree or disagree with myself or Jeromy?

  • mthouston

    I agree with you…I wrote the same thing as you at the same time…

  • Cynical Bloke

    The go out on the Portland bridge but don’t test the jib they made? How do you shoot a test and not have an entire image, if you are shooting something important you make sure at the location you have the images!

  • Broseph of Arimathea

    Did you find that the ridiculously high concentration of Freedom up there led to diffraction?

  • Carl D. Walsh

    Interesting story. However, “Portland-based” is ambiguous. For those of us in the northeast, and the many nationwide who love the Great State of Maine, it means our wonderful city on the Atlantic, which btw, was here long before (228 years) the Oregon city which shares our name.