Photographer Sees The Big Picture

giga camera super camera big picture
CBS
Artist Clifford Ross is living proof that the key to success is thinking big. His pictures are so big that the viewer has the feeling of looking out a picture window.

CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger catches up with the artist and finds that it's not just their size, but the level of detail that makes his photographs remarkable.

With a lot of pictures, the closer you get the less you see — but with this one, the closer you get, the more you see.

In a photo taken from two miles away, the detail of a horse is clear.

"If you look up close up here, you can see the horse is grazing." Ross says. "The consensus here is that the horse is heading in our direction — but noshing."

There's a science to Ross' art. Each of his giant negatives becomes a 2.6 gigabyte file — that's about 100 times more data than advanced digital cameras.

But Ross' camera looks anything but advanced. Rather, it looks more like an old-fashioned portrait camera. It uses film, housed in a holder originally built in 1943.

"It's sort of an old-fashioned portrait camera on steroids," Ross says. "This thing could have flown reconnaissance missions during World War II."

Ross expected the art world to be interested, but he was surprised when he heard from NASA.

Artists and rocket scientists do not often meet. "It's a shame," Ross says.

His work has also caught the attention of the super-secret National Security Agency. While developing his photos, he also developed a talent for seeing how minute details fit together. That's what the intelligence agency and other scientists want to learn from him.

"Part of my interaction with the scientists," Ross says, "is essentially saying, 'Look. Take a step back. Do the details come together into a big picture?' "

And more than almost anybody, Clifford Ross understands the big picture.