Mount Rainier & Cowlitz Valley from Burley Mountain

Want to see just how vast the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Goat Rocks Wilderness and the Cascades are? This zoomable panorama will do the trick.

Double-tap or double-click to zoom in, and drag and hold the image to pan around.

We took a camera up to Burley Mountain in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on Saturday and shot an image sequence with more than 100 images, moving ever so slightly left to right, up and down — all to get a comprehensive view of what Mount Rainier and the Cowlitz River Valley looked like. The results amazed even us when we saw what it all looked like after stitching all the images together.

The Location
Burley Mountain is glorious in that it offers views of several mountains and wilderness areas. Located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest just 30 miles from Randle, the fire lookout tower at the top of the mountain stands 5,310 feet above sea level and is a favorite stop for backpackers and visitors to the GPNF. Getting there isn't necessarily a quick trip, but patience is rewarded with the best viewpoint Lewis County has to offer.

Check out more about it in our Mountain View Excursion here on DiscoverLewisCounty.com.

The Setup
We walked out to a point just beyond the radio communication equipment to the west of the lookout, and began to shoot away. The view to the north was clear yet hazy in the distance, but the view of Mount Rainier was unmatched. The photos in the panorama were shot with a 70-300mm zoom lens on a Canon Digital Rebel T2i camera, using a focal length of about 200mm for each photo. We didn't use a tripod, as we had hiked up the final 2.5 miles to the summit and packing a tripod would have added extra weight.

Overall, more than 100 photos went into this panorama.

The Editing
We spent some time toning the photos, which basically means we increased the exposure and changed the color balance of the photo slightly to make the forested areas more visible to the eye. We had to do this for each photo, but using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, we were able to do this in a time-efficient fashion.

We then used some pretty innovative software — Microsoft Image Composite Editor — to bring together all the images and stitch them together. The program worked very well to seamlessly integrate each image and keep them in great focus.

Once the editing was all done and we were satisfied with the finished product, we used Microsoft ICE to upload the finished product to Photosynth.net. The final result is what you see above!

The Details
Panoramic images like this require a lot of hard disk space on a computer, some good processing power and a good amount of patience. Each image that went into the panorama was captured in RAW format, which meant there was no compression on any file and the integrity of each original image was completely preserved as shot. Each image was 12 megapixels, but with all of them combined, the panorama became a whopping 529 megapixels.

For perspective, you could likely wrap an entire living room wall with this panorama at its full resolution and it would end up looking pretty clear.

So with the panorama being 529 megapixels, we were impressed when we were able to get the image to fit into a 787 megabyte file. For perspective's sake, that's about 1/24th or so of the total space available on a 16GB iPhone. However, working with it in Photoshop slowed down our computer just a tad because all the files being open at once chewed up some significant hard disk space and memory. But we're pleased with the results!

The Future
You'll be seeing a lot more images like this here on DiscoverLewisCounty.com. Being able to interactively zoom in and explore our landscapes here in Lewis County is a great way to let people experience our region immersively from a computer or phone.

That said, if you have any ideas of gigapixel images like this that we can shoot in the future,