Photo: The view from the world’s tallest building, in 2.5 gigapixels and 360 degrees

February 1, 2013

Screenshot from http://dubaimap.hipa.ae/index.html

Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum has the sort of life you'd expect from the 30-year-old crown prince of Dubai. He is known for skydiving and horse riding, went to college in London, publishes romantic poetry under the pen name "Fazza" and hosts, among other things, an annual photography competition. This year, his foundation has released a special photo to mark the start of that competition. Actually, a bit more than a photo.

The screenshot, above, shows a still image from an interactive, panoramic photo taken from the top of the the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. You can try it out here, scanning along the Persian Gulf coastline and zooming in or out. Here's a bit from the photography foundation on how they put it together:

The image is composed from over 70 individual photos. Dubai based photographer Gerald Donovan created the shot using a mechanised panoramic tripod head to take a series of 48 panoramic images, each shot at a resolution of 80 megapixels. These were then stitched together with manually shot images to 'fill-in' gaps caused by equipment installed at the top of the tower such as the lightning conductor and aircraft beacons. The result is an image that can be zoomed, tilted and rotated, giving viewers a sense of how it must feel to sit atop the world's highest building.

To help you navigate the interactive and to pick out the iconic sights and buildings, here's a Google Map of Dubai, centered on the Burj Khalifa:


View Larger Map

The Burj Khalifa, for all the splendor of its view, has become something of a symbol of Dubai's disastrous construction bubble. The tower was begun in 2004, a time when Dubai's growth as a center of trade and tourism seemed appropriate to a 2,722-foot structure in the middle the desert. By the time it was completed in late 2009, investment and construction in Dubai had stalled. A year after opening, the tower's apartments reported a 92 percent vacancy rate.

All the same, the photo is a great way to look over the city. If you look southwest along the coastline (which appears to the left from the interactive map), you can see the famous, though not quite as tall, Burj al-Arab luxury hotel sticking out from the beach. Just past it are the artificial, palm-shaped islands of the Palm Jumeirah. It's the ultimate, ostentatious symbol of Dubai's absurdity. But it's also a great view.

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Max Fisher | February 1, 2013