Congratulations to Photographer Bahi Mashat for receiving more than one million views – in five days – of his Inclinations of the Heart pano on TourWrist. This pano has gone viral with thousands (if not tens of thousands) of Tweets and lots of Facebook posts. Bahi is the Official Photographer @ The Holy Mosque of Makkah.
[Below his embed pano is our full interview with Bahi.]
“What a great honour to be assigned to photograph the Holy Mosque of Makkah for an outstanding project; creating a virtual touring with spherical panoramas of the old Ottoman Architecture,” posts Bahi on his Facebook news feed. “Basically, I had a full access within the holy mosque except inside the Ka’abah which inshalla will come true very soon. Your prayers : ).”
“This 360 panorama was inspired by the Quranic verse of Prophet Abraham’s prayer,” writes Bahi in the text description of his pano on TourWrist.
Bahi also took this “exclusive 360 virtual tour inside a very special room in the holy mosque of Makkah called Al-Mukabariah. This room is for Muazen or the person who calls for prayer by saying Allah Akbar Allah Akbar,” writes Bahi in his text description of his pano on TourWrist. “I was honored to be the official photographer for a virtual tour project to document the old holy mosque of Makkah known as (Ottoman Architecture) and this is one of the panoramas I photographed : ).”
Bahi lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and daughter.
On Twitter: @BahiMashat
Tip: View Bahi’s panorama on your iPad or iPhone using the free TourWrist app for a ‘teleport in’ to Makkah experience.
360 Pano: “Those people are performing a prayer to Allah facing the Holy Kaaba in Makkah, the heart of islam, like if their hearts incline toward it.” Pano by Bahi Mashat
1. What inspired you to do a 360-degree pano of Makkah?
- I have always dreamt of taking photographs inside the Holy Mosque of Makkah because of its meaning to Muslims and the greatness of the place itself. The idea of doing a 360-degree panorama came later on as I thought it would be wonderful to share this almost unreachable mosque to anyone who would be interested.
2. How did you become the Official Photographer @ The Holy Mosque of Makkah?
- I was chosen for a national photography project last April inside the Holy Mosque of Makkah. I shot more than 500 panoramas around the Kaaba, focusing on the Ottoman architecture of the mosque. This particular part of the mosque is very ancient and has fascinating pillars, arcs and dooms that were built centuries ago.
3. Tell us about your Hajj experience? And, when was it?
Unlike the majority of Muslims, people of Makkah, have the privilege of accomplishing the Hajj pilgrimage at a very early age and several times in their lives.
- I was born in Makkah and achieved my first pilgrimage experience probably at the same time as my first steps as a baby accompanied with my parents. However, I have been able to performed Hajj few times since then and benefited from the greatness of this experience.
4. How did so many people discover your 360-degree panorama of Makkah?
- I published the link to the 360-degree panorama on my Facebook fan page as well as on my Twitter account and I guessed that social medias did the rest of the job. To be honest, I never thought it would reach 1+ million people.
5. Did you shoot other 360-degree panoramas within Makkah?
- Yes. As I mentioned, I possess more than 500 panoramas of the Holy mosque itself and I plan to take others around Makkah later on.
6. Any challenges with your 360-degree photo shoot in Makkah?
- First and foremost, I would like to make it clear to people that this photo was not shot during the period of Hajj. I shot this panorama in April 2012, yet the premises were full of people. This specific panorama was fairly easy to take as it was during a prayer time so people were aligned and I just had to shoot my photos and that was it. However, I had to overcome many challenges with the rest of the project mainly because of a tight schedule. (I had a month period to shoot and edit 500+ panoramas) and the crowd around the premises (which was partially resolved thanks to the constant help of 10 security members who would secure the zone that I needed to shoot). Finally, I had to deal with the structural complexity of the Mosque itself as the photo data had to be synchronized with a geometrical laser scanning to enhance the color and the exposure of 3D visualizing model for the construction purposes.
7. How many images did you shoot and then use in creating your 360-degree?
- To create a spherical panorama, I always shoot 9 photos with a fish eye lens; 6×60 degree around + one zenith [sky]+ 2 nadirs [tripod location]. For the record, I shot during the month more than 14,000 raw images.
8. Any interesting conversations as a result of 1 million views of your 360-degree panorama on TourWrist?
- I received hundreds of Tweets, Facebook comments and messages to congratulate me for the achievement. People shared with me their positive feelings about the fact that I had publish this panorama on a very special day for Muslims, that is Eid el Adha. I would like to share with you one of the most touching comment that I received. It was sent onto my inbox by one of my mentor in panoramic photography, Freddy Stapersma. I quote: “You deserve it my friend …Wonderful place … Good that non-Muslims can have a glimpse of that place up close now.”
9. Reaction by your family and friends to your 360-degree being viewed 1+ million times?
- Believe it or not, I have received a message from my niece to tell me to check online an amazing 360-degree panorama. She had not realized that it was my own work.
10. What’s the reaction from people when you show them your 360-degree?
- The Majority of people from whom I got feedback were amazed by the panorama, especially the fact that they can virtually explore the place by moving their mobile phones or tablets. I believe, TourWrist contributed to the success of this panorama by making it look so realistic, besides the ease of sharing the panorama link.
11. What gear do you use to shoot your 360-degree panoramas?
- Canon 5D II + Canon 8-15mm + Nodal Ninja Ultimate M1
12. What software do you use for post production of your 360-degree panorama?
13. How long did it take you to do the post production? (Any special challenges with so many people?)
- When I first started, I used to spend more than a hour shooting a single panorama in addition to 3-4 hours for the post-production. I luckily improved myself on that level, my record being 90 seconds to capture a full sphere. As to the post-production, I used to run batches of panoramas overnight for both High dynamic Range (HDR) processing and then followed with stitching the processed HDR photos in batch builder in the panorama software. Creating photo actions in Photoshop accelerated the process of editing the panoramas. Therefore, I would say each panorama took approximately 20 minutes multiplied by 500, which is equivalent to 7 consecutive days of post-production!
14. How and when did you hear about TourWrist?
- I heard about TourWrist a few months ago when I was looking for a website to upload and share my panoramas on my personal Facebook page. Quickly after exploring TourWrist for the first time, I became a fan.
15. Are you a full time pro photographer?
- I am actually a petroleum engineer working for Saudi Aramco Oil Company. Though, photography has been a passion for as long as I can remember. I consider myself as a freelance photographer. I am very fond of conceptual photography but I love challenges and enjoy shooting as narrow as macro to as wide as spherical panorama.
16. As a freelance photographer, what kind of projects have you worked on?
- I have had the opportunity to tackle a wide range of photography jobs: family portrait, newborns and children, landscape, corporate, 360 panoramas. I have received a number of photography prizes; among them was the Mahabba Awards 2008 for the best photograph.
17. Tell us about your National Geographic Photo Contest 2012 Entry?
- As I possess a rich library of exclusive photographs, I am always after opportunities to share my vision of the world and my love for photography. National Geography and the Big Picture are two high-quality publisher, whom I admire. Hence, I have submitted a favourite photo of mine for possible publication in National Geographic. It is entitled “Journey to the Heart of Islam” and illustrates Muslims circumambulating around the Kaaba meanwhile others are touching it. The photo may be found on the following link: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/2012/entries/170212/view/
18. Your plans for more 360-degree panoramas?
- I always have many ideas running in mind. If I had to name one location right now, I would probably mention the Holy mosque of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina.
19. Other than your 360-degree panoramas, any favorites on TourWrist?
- I really like the panorama that was taken on Mars because of its uniqueness and I cannot imagine the type of gears they used to realize such a project. In addition, I enjoy most of the architectural panoramas on TourWrist.
20. What question that we haven’t asked you that you would like people to know?
- I would like to mentioned whom inspired me to do photography. To this question I would reply that I was mainly inspired by three photographers:
- Freddy Stapersma who taught me 360-degree panorama from A to Z.
- Peter Sanders whom I love for enhancing the harmony between architectural objects and people. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to receive my Mahabba Award from his hands.
- Sharaf Dabbagh who shot a magical picture of the Kaaba’s door, that I have been admiring on my sister’s wall ever since I was a child.
Bahi, thank for publishing your Holy Mosque of Makkah 360-panorama on TourWrist and for sharing with us the backstory to your exciting panorama. We look forward to seeing more of your 360-degree panoramas on TourWrist.
- Update: this pano has been viewed 1.98 million times in 10 days. (11/5/12)
- TechPillsNews (Video) – TourWrist (in Arabic) (11/5/12)
Banner Image: Photographer Bahi Mashat