Determination and dedication are two of the most immediate words which spring to mind, when speaking to Tito Dupret, of WHTour. With a rather daunting 20-year schedule ahead of him, the Belgian photographer is spearheading the WHTour, which aims to bring together a documentary image bank with panoramic pictures and virtual reality films for all sites registered as World Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). "For most of my travels, especially the more arduous shoots, I take only the bare essentials," says Dupret "and REALVIZ Stitcher is definitely there with me every step of the way!." REALVIZ Stitcher is a professional-level application, internationally recognized as the "industry-standard software for creating panoramas." (3D World). Stitcher combines overlapping photos easily into stunning wide-angle, high-quality images for creating high-impact Web pages, definition mattes, environment maps, image sequences, and 3D models.
Thus far, the WHTour has covered China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Egypt. "What we wanted to do," explains Dupret "was to create a documentary image bank with panoramic pictures and interactive virtual reality films for all sites registered as World Heritage by UNESCO. Using these multimedia techniques in an edutainment mode to raise awareness on the preservation of the World Heritage sites, and promoting the notion of sustainable tourism in the heads of local administration, tourism organisations and travelers. We want to raise attention to the many fascinating treasures on our planet, comparable to a small garden that belongs to all of us. The WHTour would like to offer a permanent window onto this garden, stressing a prerequisite for its care and attention."
Breathing new life into ancient history © Tito Dupret & WHTour
"When the Taliban authorities destroyed hundreds of unique religious statues and temples in Afghanistan in 2001, I was outraged, and shocked at the loss of the ancient sites which now exist only in memory - and photographs." says Dupret. It was as a reaction to this destruction of part of the world's cultural heritage that decided him to record for posterity the vast riches that remain. Using the UNESCO list of designated World Heritage sites as a guide, Dupret has embarked on a worldwide odyssey to photograph all the sites, using a unique panoramic technique that captures the full character of each site.
"My shooting equipment is a monopod, Nikon 4500 with wide lens and Titanium PowerBook, to which I transfer digital images on the fly. For post-production and dissemination online, I use REALVIZ Stitcher 3.5, Adobe Photoshop 7.0, Adobe GoLive 6.0 and Apple QuickTime 6. Stitcher 3.5 is used on site to make a draft QTVR in order to check the quality of the shooting session for stitching. Later it is fully part of the workflow to produce all kinds of images that can be used : panoramas, virtual reality films, cubes..."
"REALVIZ Stitcher is an absolutely essential tool for the WHTour to produce its work. I don't know any other software that can help a wysiwyg user like me any better. It's simple and fast: all that I need on site."
For one of Dupret's most recent expeditions, the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Seti I was opened exclusively for the Belgian photographer for the first time in over a decade. Dupret spent two days inside the ancient tomb shooting photographs in the Valley of the Kings. Although the tomb has been closed to the public since 1991, Dupret was given access by the Egyptian government in order to support his mission of photographing World Heritage sites around the world. An extended feature on this project is currently being showcased by VRMAG, the Virtual Reality Magazine <www.vrmag.org>, detailing Dupret's experiences, whilst shooting inside the lavishly decorated ancient tomb. Dupret's stunning collection of Seti I panoramas may also be viewed on his website, www.world-heritage-tour.org .
"The entire WHTour project will probably take around 20 years to complete (125 countries, 720more... WH sites in the world), if the gods of money and health want it to be done. What I am learning from it is touching every field that can concern a human being: it is all about the feeling of being useful to others."