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Thinking Big Works For Short Hills Artist

Jay Hirschfeld explores using cutting-edge technology for art photography

Fine-arts photographer, Jay Hirschfeld, was raised in Short Hills and attended Deerfield Elementary School and Millburn Middle School before his family moved to Chicago (the Hirschfelds are now back in town.)

Recently, he's been experimenting with a cutting-edge process, GigaPan, to produce huge scale, panoramic photographs. One of his photos of an abandoned pumping station in the South Mountain Reservation is particularly arresting and has been receiving attention and acclaim.

Like many Millburn kids, Hirschfeld spent plenty of time hiking the South Mountain Reservation and was somewhat aware of the old building.

"I have no idea when I originally discovered it" he said. "It was probably during some walk through the woods. As a child I had been to the Reservation over and over.  When my family moved back here I wanted to revisit places I remembered. This time I walked by the station and really 'saw it'. Once I looked through the door I knew that I had to come back and take photos.

"At the time, I was interested in a different process, so I snapped some black and white photos. Later, when I began to use GigaPan, the station was at the top of my list. GigaPan is different than regular photography. It offers a high dynamic range image. That means that each individual shot is has three bracketed exposures. I combined them all for the image – that's what makes it so vibrant inside and outside." It took Hirschfeld four hours and three tries to capture the photo.

The GigaPan is a robotic panoramic head for a camera. The technology was collaboratively developed by NASA and Carnegie Mellon University for use by the Mars Rover. Today it's mainly used for reportage, but Hirschfeld has applied the process to fine arts photography with unique and imaginative results.

Hirschfeld first learned of the GigaPan process when he saw the now well-known image of President Barak Obama's Inaugural Address taken by David Bergman. "I've always been intrigued by large-scale photos" he said, naming Adreas Gursky as a favorite. "Gursky's large scale images are very cool, but when you get closer the quality is not so good. You can see the grain in the image. The thing about GigaPan, is that when you zoom in on a detail, everything is perfectly sharp within two to three inches." Hirschfeld also cites Jeff Wall, Gregory Crewdson and Banksy as influences.

Hirschfeld recent won a merit award at the George D. Spiva Center for the Arts' PhotoSpiva exhibit online and 'live' in Joplin, MO. His work can also be seen at the Stillpoint Art Gallery online.

Hirschfeld is also a video documentarian who shoots short films, promotions and news. His Miami-based company, Cineflock, is launching a new process of printing images on clothing and swim wear this summer.

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