How did this semi-retired physicist and pioneering laser-weapons researcher, working with an analog camera whose parts date to the Eisenhower administration, come to reinvent photography in the early 21st century, making images that are at least a decade ahead, in terms of resolution, of the most advanced digital cameras on the market today? It all began, rather improbably, with mice and the Milky Way.
The magazine , which holds 9-by-18-inch film, was formerly used in U2 spy planes. Graham Flint converted it to landscape use by grinding a custom lens  out of six types of glass. He focuses his shots manually, with knobs  that can align the lens along three axes.
The Road to 1,000 Megapixels
To create analog gigapixel photography, while digital photography was still in its megapixel infancy ("mega" means million; "giga," billion), virtually required someone like Graham Flint: a hobbyist photographer with an extensive knowledge of optics, physics, astronomy, and military aerial-reconnaissance cameras. After graduating in physics from the University of Birmingham in England, Flint emigrated to Seattle in 1958 to work on high-altitude remote sensing for Boeing, setting into motion a long career studying how light moves through air. After his five-year stint at Boeing, he left to head the Laser Devices Laboratory at Martin Marietta, then set off to co-found his own company, International Laser Systems, which he sold in 1983. Since then he has served as director of the U.S. Air Force's Developmental Optics Facility and chief technical officer of the Laser Power Corporation, and has designed and built a prototype digital camera for the Hubble Space Telescope. These days, he still acts as a consultant on various projects, commuting regularly to California from New Mexico.
But that picture, however impressive, is incomplete. Flint is a man of dizzyingly diverse talents and pursuits, what he calls his "avocational" side. An amateur architect, he designed an Italianate villa for himself-"Hadrian West"-atop Sandia Mountain in New Mexico; he also designed the classically inspired room in his current house in which he and his wife, Catherine Aves, were married in 1990. He has dabbled in antiques, historic restoration, philately (with a particular interest in British Empire stamps under King George V) and rare-book collecting, and he once restored to racing condition a Porsche RS60 he found in the service area of a Florida Porsche dealership. Only 14 of the cars were ever made.
In addition to his career and multitudinous avocations, Flint found the time to develop a telescope that searches for planets in other solar systems, which he placed in the observatory of Hadrian West. And in the late 1980s he began work on the "Vista Galactica" project for the Joint Observatory for Cometary Research in Socorro, New Mexico (now the New Mexico Tech Remote Observatory), a complete, high-resolution (in the one-gigapixel range) photographic survey of the Milky Way. Flint built a 6,000-pound wide-angle camera in his garage. It was so large that to move it out of the garage to its eventual home on New Mexico's South Baldy Mountain, he had to have one side of his driveway lowered. He faced a more serious hurdle at the Observatory, however: the discovery of hantavirus, a lethal disease spread by rodent droppings. The facility was ordered closed, and Vista Galactica was abandoned.single page
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