Fooling the Eye: Dan Ambrosi’s panoramic images
by Wendy Andary
June 2012— Our San Mateo coast draws more than its fair share of photographers, from near and far. Camera bags and tripods in tow, they can be found on any given day along Half Moon Bay’s Main Street, on Devil’s Slide, and up and down the Coastal Trail. Each is hoping to capture THE perfect shot that defines the beauty of this region. The rugged cliffs guarding the seemingly endless miles of coastline, the pumpkins welcoming autumn, the harbor at sunset and the fairytale-worthy redwood forests never seem to disappoint.
And while these iconic sights sometimes get taken for granted by locals, they have never missed the sharp eye of one El Granada resident. In fact, these are all images that Dan Ambrosihas photographed hundreds of times over, although his take on these familiar scenes has quite a high-tech twist that will leave just about anyone wondering how he got such a striking shot. Hint: If you guessed that it must be the camera, you guessed wrong. And if you guessed that he’s a professional photographer who’s been at it for years, you’d be wrong again.
What started as a hobby for Ambrosi has recently turned into a full-blown passion for what he has coined “data-driven art.” So what makes this data-driven art any different than regular photographs?
When you look at one of Ambrosi’s photos — online at his website or, better yet, in person — everything isn’t what it seems. What appears to be an individual photograph is actually a series of sometimes well over 100 images. His secret to each breathtaking piece of art is something he likes to call his “software workflow.” This creative process Ambrosi devised himself blends and stitches multiple images together for an end result that appears to be a single stunning image.
With a love for unique buildings, creative imagery and design, Ambrosi earned a degree in architecture from Cornell as well as a master’s degree in computer graphics — which, among other things, seemed to enhance his keen sense of structure and balance in the world of photography. He always enjoyed taking photos and creating beautiful graphics and would often manipulate the two to create what looked like a photo but was actually so much more. “Healthy human eyes see with a very wide field of view, sharp focus, and the ability to handle an amazing range of color and contrast,” Ambrosi said — and he wanted his images to reflect that. He always felt that traditional photography was rather limiting and so he began toying with the idea of moving beyond the usual limits of photography. With his background in computer graphics, he discovered just the right cocktail of hardware, software and settings to break through those limitations. The final result — his data-driven art — only came after decades of searching, and trial and error. This quest became a mission for Ambrosi; he wanted to capture images of the world that better convey the feeling of a place and the way people really see it.
It seems that this personal quest has now gone public for Ambrosi. His panoramic images have caught the eye of many Coastsiders, including one who paid big bucks at a recent charity auction for one of Ambrosi’s first original pieces. These panoramic beauties — or “danoramas” as he lightheartedly refers to them — also created a buzz in Lake Tahoe recently when a prestigious Napa winemaker spotted one of Ambrosi’s data-driven pieces of art and wasted no time in commissioning him to do several for his winery. Ambrosi said he was thrilled with the offer and will no doubt enjoy the fruits of his labor on that particular project, as he was offered a weekend stay at the winery while he worked.
Luckily for Coastsiders, there’s no need to drive to wine country to see Ambrosi’s work! Check out his data-driven art for yourself online.
by Wendy Andary