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Gigapan Image Draws Attention of Millions Around the World

The Masjid Al-Haram, "The Sacred Mosque" or the "Grand Mosque", located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is the largest mosque in the world surrounding one of Islam's holiest places, The Kaaba.

In July 2012, professional photographer Issam Kanafani captured a beautiful Gigapan image of the Grand Mosque at night. The image became immensely popular, with almost 700,000 people viewing it within the first two weeks it was posted on the Gigapan website. Within 6 months, the image had more than 2.5 million unique page views and now, a year after the image was captured, it remains one of the most visited Gigapan images.

Viewers now have the ability to tag themselves and others in the image, as well as order a professional quality print of the image on gigapan.com.

Inside the Grand Mosque

Kanafani captured the remarkable shot from Raffles Makkah Palace Creamery Terrace overlooking the Kaaba from above at The Abraj Al-Bait Towers, also known as the Makkah Royal Hotel Clock Tower.

On a photography assignment for Raffle Hotels, Kanafani suddenly found himself with a stunning view of the Grand Mosque. “I could not help but get captivated by the overwhelming scenery taking place in front of my eyes,” said Kanafani. “It was like a canvas in the making. Worshipers flocking into the Grand Mosque to offer prayers from every direction, circling around Kaaba in submission and worship, dazzling lights from the minarets with the black backdrop of the night and the reflecting white marble made me stand in awe at this spectacular event. Unconsciously, I found myself setting up the equipment to capture and share this extraordinary ritual.”

Kanafani shot the image with a Gigapan EPIC Pro and a Canon 5D MKII in combination with a Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens.

The scene of the image is remarkable, partially due to the contrast between the black sky with the white marble of the mosque. “As with every professional photographer, contrast is a major element we look for while capturing images. This is clearly visible in the magical blending of the night sky with the bright lights shining from the minarets while reflecting back from the white marble floor into the sky, highlighting people's details, acting like an enormous reflector,” said Kanafani.

Gigapan.com Initiates Global Outreach

Kanafani shared the image on gigapan.com to bring the viewer closer to the magnificent structure and event, especially for those who are unable to visit the mosque and experience it firsthand.

“The Grand Mosque is a greatly engineered architecture with so many details that no one can focus on while performing prayers,” says Kanafani. “This was my chance to not only zoom in and focus on every detail in the structure but also attempt to present it as alive as it can ever be.”

According to Kanafani, Gigapan technology made easy what would have been the complex task of shooting this image. “Gigapan offers an end-to-end solution that addresses shooting, stitching, and hosting gigapixel images provided all under one roof, taking the hassle away from busy photographers without forgetting the friendly, professional sales and technical support personnel at Gigapan,” he says.

Photographer's Portfolio

Issam Kanafani is a professional photographer and freelance. He provides photography and video services in the areas of tabletop food, architecture, portraiture, nature and wildlife, hospitality and virtual tours. Over the years, he has built a rich portfolio of work spanning from private shoots to working with major multinational and international companies such as GSK, ROCHE, P&G, Pfizer, BUPA, Kinarps, Nokia, Krispy Kream, and Toyota, to name a few. Kanafani is a member of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and has sat on a number of photography judging panels such as “Toyota Motor Cross” and “Inspiring Makkah”. 

For further details, please visit his website at www.refractiveshadows.com.