Stephen Wilkes is the first to admit the huge photos in his Day to Night series take an absurd amount of time and effort to produce. And he knows you might wonder why he’d spend 15 hours shooting an image and weeks editing it. But in an era when anyone with a phone can snap a pic and edit it in less time than it takes to say “OMG,” his fanatical approach is his way of cutting through the visual noise and make an impression on people.

Wilkes says he is “maniacal” in his attention to detail when making these his information-dense, hyper-curated and highly polished accounts of a single day in some of the world’s most iconic locations. Every inch of his photos, some as big as 10 feet wide, are meant to tell a story. He says telling that story is an all-consuming process.

“The only person who can even talk to me when I’m doing this is my assistant,” he says. ”My wife has given up any kind of communication when I’m shooting a Day to Night.”

The amount of work that goes into these photos is insane. After intensively scouting a location and planning the shoot, Wilkes spends as long as 15 hours behind the camera, often on a crane high above the scene. He’ll shoot more than 1,000 frames between sunrise and sunset, trying to capture the shifting light and activity throughout his field of view. Through it all he remains as still as possible for fear the slightest move will shift the camera even a fraction of a degree.

“There’s a serious sense of uneasiness when you’re up in the air 50 feet,” he says. “You could have a gorgeous sunrise and the middle of the day looks great, but all I can think about sometimes is, ‘Am I going to get night pictures? Is the wind going to change, is something going to come in that’s going to change everything?’ It can all change that quickly for me.”

He and his assistant pore over the photos for weeks, creating dozens of digital collages that typically comprise 50 images. He uses a complex grid system to arrange the most interesting parts of each shot into a strong composition while staying true to the time of day that they were taken. The attention to detail reveals itself when you’re right next to the massive prints, which when seen up close stretch well beyond natural peripheral vision. The smallest oversight, like a slightly shifted shadow, can shatter the illusion by betraying the fact the epic image is in fact a collage of smaller images shot at different times of day. But when everything comes together perfectly, the viewer can step back or get nose-deep in the image without losing the sense of cohesion.

via Wired.

All photos: Stephen Wilkes

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