The first thing you notice as you exit the plane at Fresno Yosemite International Airport is a stunning 70-foot-long panorama of the snow-covered mountains in Yosemite National Park. “Welcome to Fresno” was shot from Washburn Point, by Steve Collins.
At the baggage claim area you see a nine-foot-tall, 50-foot-long mural of Yosemite Valley, with El Capitan on the left and Half Dome in the middle.Collins shot this from Inspiration Point. Across the mural are the words “Gateway to the Park,” letting you know how close you are to one of America’s most treasured National Parks.
Another Collins mural of the same size blends together numerous photos of Fresno landmarks. Across it reads “California’s New Frontier.”
Steve’s been creating jumbo airport murals for some time now. As he explains, “I first got the idea of doing large photos and murals out of necessity when Big 3D Worldwide owner Tom Seville wanted some very large images. So I devised a technique and a shooting platform that would allow me to shoot several images and piece them together.
“Image files have limitations as to how large thay can be printed so I had to create larger images and bigger file sizes. some of the images are in excess of 40,000 pixels, far larger than any camera available.”
Steve captured all the images for these murals with the Kodak Professional DCS-760, which was built on a Nikon F5, with a Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 (for City Hall), Nikkor 28-70mm f/2.8 (for Grizzlies stadium), 80-200mm f/2.8 (for Savemart Gateway and Welcome images).
Collins, a trained machinist, designed and built a perspective control device for lining up his camera to take multiple images. It helps him blend the images together with relative ease in Photoshop.
Building the Murals
“I wanted travelers coming to Fresno to see how close they are to Yosemite,” said Steve. ‘Gateway to the Park’ is a reminder that Yosemite is just an hour away. I approached the airport’s air service and marketing department and showed them my work at the Boise Terminal. It didn’t take a degree in marketing to sell them on the idea and the images.”
To create these huge high-quality images, Steve takes multiple photos then spends hours putting them together to get a 9,000 x 30,000 pixel image from a 2,000 x 3,000 pixel camera.
The montage of Fresno, called “California’s New Frontier”, puts City Hall, Savemart Center, and Grizzlies Stadium together in one photo. In actuality, the sites are miles apart. Steve hired his long-time friend Lisa Walzem to do her magic on the city wrap with Photoshop.
“On the ‘Welcome to Fresno’ mural, I shot images and viewed them on my laptop so I knew I had it. It was extremely difficult to find a location because almost every spot that allowed viewing had trees blocking that view.
“For the ‘Gateway to the Parks’ image, I created a cropping guide on the computer and went out looking for the right spot. “When I found it, I set up the camera and panned back and forth adjusting for horizon. I made certain the tripod was perfectly level by placing a level on top without a camera. I shot several images, like putting together a puzzle.
“All computer work was done on my 17” Mac PowerBook G4 and Adobe Photoshop CS, using a Wacom tablet—the best thing since sliced bread.”
After capture, the image files were sent to a specialty lab in Alabama, where they were printed on 3M pressure sensitive vinyl in 48”-wide overlapping panels by the VuTek 2360SC Piezo Inkjet printer with a 3M inkset that used the standard CMYK plus light cyan and magenta ink. A 3M matte overlaminate was used for reducing specular highlights.