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World / Europe / Russia / Moscow. The view from 300 meters above. Gigapanorama

Moscow. The view from 300 meters above. Gigapanorama

A beautiful blond stood near Kremlin Spasskaya Tower and looked busy sending a text message. The screen letters were too small and I could hardly read what she was typing. The gusts of wind on the roof of the skyscraper "City of Capitals" started getting stronger and my eyes became watery, so I turned away from the camera...

Since 2200mm focal length was too long for shooting this panorama I decided to take off the 2x extender. Then I looked into the lens again and sighed... I decided not to be so greedy and took off 1.4x extender as well. I left only Canon 800mm lens on my tripod.

I inserted a new flash card, picked up remote control, positioned myself comfortably in the armchair that I brought with me, and started shooting panorama of the city. After an hour and a half later I got up, moved my numb feet, stretched my shoulders and looked around.

The clouds were gathering in the south around the Moscow Encircling Highway (MKAD in Russian). The whimsical patterns of clouds' shadows covered Chertanovo and Kapotnya. I noticed that the rush hour has already started on Profsoyuzniya Street and I hurried up to go home. My work was done.

photo by Sergey Semenov

The note from the editor

I hope the thoughtful reader understood Sergey Semenov's sense of humor :)

Of course, one can't see the text on the screen of a Smartphone from 5 km distance even with the 800 mm lens that costs as a low range imported car.  Only American spy satellites can do this :)  But one can still notice that the girl was blond.

Let me add a couple of words to Sergey's short story about this photo shoot.

In the past we didn't pay attention to high-resolution gigapixel panoramas. Specialized websites feature a lot of such monstrous 10-gigapixel panoramas shot with the help of robotic heads. Technical execution and artistic quality of most of these panoramas is so low that you almost want to cry. But "never say never again" - suddenly our ideas took a new course. It so happened that we received awards for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in different categories of the  Epson International Pano Awards 2010 International Photo Contest in the total amount of over $8,000 US dollars.

Among other prizes we received robotic head for shooting gigapanoramas. The head has arrived and we didn't want to throw it away. So we decided to give it a try.

Coincidently we just got access to the roof of the tallest tower in Europe - 73-storey building called "Moscow", a part of the "City of Capitals" complex. We were able to get to the top of this 301-meters high building with the help of Dmitriy Chistoprudov. A couple of months ago we published our first panoramic photo tour shot from this roof:


So here we are, the City of Capitals - it is a unique in every sense place, especially considering that there are not so many aerial photos of Moscow. When taking into consideration all these factors we decided to shoot high-resolution panorama from this skyscraper.

In order to get professional result, we decided to use Canon 5D Mark2 camera with Canon 800mm lens.

The first thing we realized was that we couldn't use the head we have won in the contest, and that was the main reason of this experiment :) The fact is that our lens and camera weighted around 6 kg, and the head was only able to withstand the power of 4.5 kg. As a result we had to shoot manually.

As far as we know, the current largest panorama has the size of 150 gigapixels. This is the view of Rio de Janeiro from Sugar Head. No comments. Just have a look:


Here is another monster - Rio de Janeiro view from Corcovado Mountain, 67 gigapixels:


We didn't want to participate in this race for megapixels. Our goal was to take beautiful and quality photographs of the most interesting part of Moscow - the center, Kremlin and the surrounding area. This panorama ended up to be only 2 modest gigapixels :) However even this size included 20 meter city photo pano with approximately the height of 2 people. We couldn't find the place where to display this panorama, this is why we haven't printed it yet. If someone has a vacant wall - we'll be glad to hang it there.

We had several surprises while stitching and processing this digital photo panorama. It's worthy to mention that here at AirPano we have very fast computers, which usually easily deal with huge multi-layer gigabite files. The hourglass rarely appears on the screen for more than several seconds. But in this case our computer "thought" of this panorama for quite a long time, and saving retouched multi-layer file on the disk took up to 10-15 minutes. We even had time to go to the kitchen for a cup of tea - we haven't done this since we were students. Well, when we were students we were drinking tea while waiting for Windows 3.1 to start up :)

While putting together this panoramic photo we discovered several interesting objects:

1 topless girl tanning in the window

27 cars violating traffic rules

65 dogs jumping on the loans

239 birds in the sky

32745 ants :)

Without exaggeration, this is a first-time unique opportunity for open public to see and study the center of Moscow in detail from bird's eye.

You can see our other Moscow photo panoramas here:

1) Kremlin, Bolotnaya Square

2) Virtual tour over Moscow State University

3) Panorama near Novodevichiy Monastery

4) The first in the world panorama with 1-gigapixel resolution shot from the helicopter

5) Spherical panorama where you can see most of Moscow and surrounding areas, shot from 1000 meters

6) Virtual photo tour over MEH "Moscow Encircling Highway (MEH)  and  it's junctions"

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Add your review about "Moscow. The view from 300 meters above. Gigapanorama"


Marina Fatima, St Helena


nikolaos kostopoulos, Greece

Home? :P so Mr. Semenov which one of those high rise flats do you live in? And can you send me some pics of the inside of one of the more run-down flats? of both the hallways and a typical unit? As an Urban and Architecture nut I MUST know what such a place typically looks like on the inside. Mostly because here in the U.S. I'm not used to seeing that type of housing. Also, this picture is great in that it gives me a good perspective on the extent of the city. It fascinates me that major cities outside north America aren't nearly as sprawly. I'm not used to calling a city whose urban area is only a couple hundred sq. miles a metropolis! Which is sad because I was born in Europe, so I should know, but sadly I don't :(

Jeremy Weinland, USA


Mark Webarr, Argentina


meysam mokh, Iran

I didn't see some of the things you mentioned but, much to my surprise, I did see Big Ben and the Statue of Liberty! Can anyone else find them? Moscow is a beautiful city. I love the architecture and the space and trees. It's a big city with room to breathe. Very nice!

Chris Hawbaker, USA

Well done. I should be aware of this, but what is the approx. population of Moscow. Your explanation and descriptions are well done.

Ed Nelson, USA

Thank you for the compliment, Ed. According to the oficial data (Rosstat), on January 01 of 2012 the population of Moscow was 11 612 943 people.  

Varvara, AirPano

What you guys do it's absolutely fabulous.Congrats for all the panos and keep it going!!!

Virgil Ungureanu, Romania

It seems to me it is a sophisticated process to creat such things. And results are fascinating!

Erick Henderson

Thank you Erick!
indeed it takes some time)


Exelent! It's really worth to see before going to Russia.

Steve Rock

This pano is so detailed that really can be the best touristic guide of Moscow! Congratulations! Perfect!

Anna Anna