E-Project: Greg Miller's Panoramas of the Hudson

The photographer traveled the length of the Hudson River, shot 4,000 images and stitched thousands of them together to make two breathtaking panoramic prints.

Jan 6, 2010
By Jacqueline Tobin

E-Project -Hudson
Photo Credit: © Greg Miller
The final panoramic of downtown Manhattan after Miller stitched together image in PhotoShop.
This past April, photographer Greg Miller set out by boat on a journey down the length of the Hudson River. Moving at a speed of about 6 miles per hour, he photographed the entire length of its shoreline, inch by inch, starting in Albany and ending at the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.

Blending the still images he shot, Miller created two 80-foot panoramas that were exhibited this fall at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York at New Paltz and published in a catalogue co-sponsored by the Open Space Institute. While Miller used a digital camera and Photoshop, he was actually replicating a document made almost 100 years ago: G. Willard Shear's classic 1910 book Panorama of the Hudson, which contained about 300 east and west bank photos.

Miller says the idea to produce a modern version of Shear's work came from Reed Sparling, a writer, who collaborated with Miller on the 2008 book, The Hudson River: A Great American Treasure. Sparling had long wanted to see the book updated, he says, "And because of my niche of stitching panoramas [in Photoshop], he thought I'd be a pretty natural fit."

To make the 150-mile journey downriver, Miller first hitched a ride with the Adirondack, an 80-foot schooner that set sail from Albany for Manhattan. Later, Miller rode on Launch 5, a former New York City Police Department harbor patrol boat, and the Serenity, an electric-powered vessel.

The trip was "brutally exhausting," Miller says, requiring several 12, 13 and even 24-hour days of shooting. "I shot with a Nikon D700," he says "which worked out really well since I was on a moving boat and needed to make sure my shutter speed would be fast enough insure against motion blur." Miller says he initially wanted to use a gyro but it proved too heavy and since its battery life is roughly two hours and he had nowhere to recharge them, he had to shoot handheld. "I just jacked up my ISO to 3200 in order to keep the shutter speed at 1/2000th of a second. It was really pretty incredible that the camera was able to do that and yield acceptable images."

The two panoramics, one of the east shore and one of the west shore, contain 3,000 of the 4,000 images he initially shot. "I took so many because as I was shooting, I was trying to keep specific objects in at least three frames," Miller explains. "Since most of this project was shot moving north to south, as an object came into right side of my viewfinder, I would shoot it again when it was centered in the middle of the viewfinder, and then again in the left. That way if I had a problem with motion blur or something else, I at least had the object shot two other times." While sailing down the Hudson he shot both sides of the river in turn: he would photograph first the east shore, then turn around and shoot the west shore, then turn around and shoot the east shore again. Miller says he averaged a photo every 30 seconds.

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