Flooding: Big picture, small details

This year brought a slow-motion disaster to the Midwest in the form of the 2011 floods. We started our coverage in late May and it continues through December.

As a staff, we banded together to show the stress on the people and on the land where they live. We used all our resources with daily coverage that included videos and still photos photos from the air and on the ground.

I decided to use a technology that’s relatively new to the World-Herald, called GigaPan, to provide a unique viewpoint to our readers. A GigaPan is hundreds of high-resolution photos combined to make one large photo. To accomplish that, I use a robotic tripod head that rotates the camera to take photos at precise angles with a certain degree of overlap. Software is then used to combine the photos into an interactive web resource. Since the photos are taken over a period of time, sometimes as long as 30-40 minutes, objects move, and they can appear in half of a frame or in several different times.

This let us to put a panoramic image online that allowed you to see the a huge section of the flood at once. The amazing feature about this is it also allows viewers to zoom deep into the image to view the small details.

I recently spent a week reshooting some of the flood GigaPans before it snowed, to show the difference in the landscape as the water retreated. The initial flood GigaPans had more than 80,000 views.

For this GigaPan I was shooting from the roof of the First National Bank Building in downtown Omaha on June 29, 2011.

I returned on Nov. 30. It was much windier that day and shook the camera during some of the photos. Certain elements appear not to line up correctly as a result.

Next I returned to Hamburg, Iowa, which was under the gun for flooding for most of the summer after the initial levee was breached. I found a spot next to the town’s water tower on a bluff overlooking the secondary levee.

I returned on Dec. 1 and again dealt with a fierce wind. If you look closely, there is some repair being done next to the toppled grain bins.

The last place I returned to was Lewis and Clark Monument in Council Bluffs.

I didn’t have as much wind, but there was a haze that prevented a good view of downtown Omaha.

To look at the other GigaPans I made, visit the panorma page on Omaha.com.

Chris Machian

About Chris Machian

I was born in Omaha, graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a journalism degree in 2004 and have spent most of my life here. I was a photo intern with the Omaha World-Herald in 2003 and had various roles with the company before becoming a staff photographer. I love to shoot UNO hockey and last year placed video and still cameras inside the goal to provide our readers with another unique perspective. My goal is to use available technology in ways that help our readers understand the stories we cover. For instance, in 2011 I used Gigapan technology to provide a wide view of flooded areas while allowing users to zoom in on the smaller details. My love of this job extends beyond disasters and sporting events; I also enjoy covering the events that help define Omaha's cultural landscape.
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  1. [...] flood-related stories in six separate months this year and it took me to four states. I even used new technology to help tell the story. UNO hockey’s amazing run in the 2010-2011 season also was exciting to cover. My freshman [...]

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