CyArk – Preserving World Heritages
31st May 2017, Singapore – As a photographer, I am sure many of you would have travelled around the world to photograph interesting places and culture of different countries. One of the highlights of travel photography is when places of heritage – dating back to past decades or even centuries – become part of the itinerary.
Although we have heard of “reckless” & signage-defying tourists who will destroy heritage sites in their quest for that perfect selfie, I would like to bring your attention to something more horrifying, something beyond your control, and super badass destructive – nature.
Let me give you a real example, a personal experience. In September 2009, I was visiting Bhutan on a lens review trip. I was at Monggar City looking at some really old temples and shooting the people, the small town and everything else – which the locals are preparing for a festival. There are so much colors & subjects to shoot. After I returned to Singapore a week later, I saw the news that the very place that I had visited just a week ago had been hit by a severe earthquake and one of the temple that I was shooting in Monggar had been completely destroyed. I later confirmed with my Bhutanese guide via FB that the damage is pretty bad and I was lucky to have left Monggar and and I was even more lucky to have photographed the main temple (I cannot remember the name).
Now, temples can be rebuild, iconic sculptures can be repaired, but then again, it’s already “not that original” isn’t it? Not forgetting most heritage sites (including UNESCO sites) are all over the world and how many can you really visit? I am lucky to have visited about 18 UNESCO sites since 2004 and at the rate that I am going, some of these sites may succumb to the brute of nature before I can even physically visit them!
OK breathe. What if I tell you that now all heritage sites can be digitally preserved and it can “visited” by anyone, anytime, in a full 360 degree view and you can “be there” via VR? You will be thrilled with what you are going to read.
When I was sharing about my thoughts with my photography peers on preserving heritage sites, or even places where changes takes place frequently, someone pointed me to CyArk. CyArk is a non-profit organization that “preserves” heritage sites across the world using digital technology and this means, the site(s) will be intact for ages to come, away from badass tourists, vandals or even the harsh condition of nature not excluding nature disasters.
A quick check on CyArk’s site reveals that they have completed an impressive 40 projects to date. That is 40 sites that will no longer subject to any form of threat! Further more, CyArk embrace the latest 360 imaging technology to bring us the best “visit” experience! You should also check out their work flow videos here. To ensure accuracy, CyArk uses LiDAR to measure key data points of the project site along with professional & structured light scanning to capture the details of smaller relics and intricate details on structures and buildings.
CyArk also employ the use of Photogrammetry by shooting a series of overlapping images (No, this is NOT HDR, but somewhat similar, only more accurate & more realistic) and later merged, layer by layer onto a 3D site skeleton to create the scene. Drones are also extensively used for hard-to-access, top down view and at sites where it is too fragile to step on. Such method produces realistic colors and textures unlike some of the 360 VR games that we had played, you get a super real scene which you can explore from the comfort of your home!
Now everyone can gain access or get “transported” to these locations in a priceless and realistic experience using VR technology no matter where you are located in this world. It is CyArk’s mission to share these 3D images with everyone! To take things a step further, CyArk collaborates with regional educators & professionals to create lesson plans which incorporate 3D imaging to encourage interactive learning and sharing. What CyArk is doing here is very inspiring, they are doing this not for the fame, but to share and inspire others!
As a commercial photographer for more than a decade, there are many times when I am out of the studio and just walking around, looking around in this country that I live in. Changes is something that most of us can relate to, especially when Singapore is land-thirsty and old heritage sites, iconic buildings, old estates eventually gives way to modernization and how I wish I can preserve all that and immortalize time and space – right at where we live in.
If you are inspired by CyArk’s mission, (drum roll….) I am pleased to share that you, yes you, can play your part too. Our disappearing history keepsakes and culture need photographers like you to lend a hand to help digitally preserve them!
Start contributing by joining the Uniquely Singapore Sites Contest that Seagate is hosting in honour of CyArk’s inaugural arrival in Singapore. They will be in town for just one day to spread their message of heritage preservation. There will be upcoming workshops and webinars that you can attend. Be the first to know by popping over to www.seagatecyark.com and follow Seagate’s Facebook page. Find out more about the Uniquely Singapore sites contest here.
I am in. What about You?
Image: Editor AL