Poly professor's enormous panoramic images are breathtaking

Cal Poly professor Brian Lawler’s enormous panoramic images are breathtaking in their detail

Monica_Jane2000@yahoo.comMarch 3, 2014 

My photojournalist friends talk about making photos. Not taking photos, like you and I, but making photos.

Brian Lawler takes this concept to the extreme. His picture-making process involves ordering foam core by the truckload, tracking down wallpaper experts and buying software so his Epson printer can create images even larger than 9 feet by 4 inches.

This effort is what it takes to make panoramic photos for an exhibition a year and a half in the making. “SLOPANO: Panoramic Photos by Brian P. Lawler” is without a doubt worth the attention the photographer and Cal Poly graphic communications professor devoted to the project.

His lecture on Feb. 15 at the museum about his pictures and process was standing-room only (a second talk is set for 2 p.m. Saturday). The oohs and ahhs went on as long as Lawler’s 33-foot-long photo, taken from what he calls Daniels’ Point, a spot on San Luis Mountain.

“I can see our house!”

“There’s where so-and-so used to live!”

I, too, found my neighborhood in the massive photo. It’s right next to Terrace Hill off Johnson Avenue in San Luis Obispo, another of Lawler’s favorite high places to capture panoramic shots. And, no, he doesn’t use his phone’s camera for these photos. Lawler uses robotic software and hardware by GigaPan. As one museum patron said to his family while looking at a portrait of the photographer and his camera, “You can’t sneak up on anybody with that camera.”

Another can’t: you can’t open one of GigaPan’s photos in Photoshop. Forty gigabytes!

“The resolution on the Giga-Pan images is nothing less than astonishing,” Lawler noted.

The fact that you can zoom in on a photo taken on Terrace Hill and count the number of hikers across the way on San Luis Mountain proves his point.

If you’re not up to hiking one of our area mountains, you can still get the benefit of the view through a few of the exhibit’s panoramic photos on the wall or by maneuvering into the Bishop Peak dome Lawler invented with area designer John Cutter.

“We designed a tent and printed the picture on the inside of the tent,” Lawler said, reflecting his innate ability to make stuff. This is a guy whose master’s thesis at Cal Poly involved creating a lightweight wooden camera mount.

I could go on and on — and also throw in the story about how Lawler was recently hit by a truck while riding his bicycle and still managed, while wheelchair-bound, to get the pieces of his exhibit from his downtown home to the museum in what must have looked like a scene out of a Fellini movie. I won’t, but I will practically insist that you check out this show.

You also might want to listen to the KCBX “Ears on Art” interview with Lawler at http://kcbx.org/post/slopano-art-exhibit-sloma.


What: “SLOPANO: Panoramic Photos by Brian P. Lawler”

Gallery hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Tuesdays. Show runs through March 30; reception during Art After Dark on Friday; artist talk at 2 p.m. on Saturday

Where: San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, 1010 Broad St.

Contact: 543-8562

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