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WKU Grad Climbs To New Heights For 'Time' Magazine Cover


A recent assignment for WKU alumnus Jonathan Woods took him to the very top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.  Woods is a Senior Editor for Photo and Interactive for Time Magazine.  He graduated from Western Kentucky’s award-winning photojournalism department in 2007.

Woods says his interest in photographing the new One World Trade Center building began when he was working for NBC News’ website during the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks in 2011. Then, he ventured on an eight-month process of negotiating with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to allow access to the 405-foot spire on top of the 1,776 foot tall building known as the Freedom Tower.  

He and a staff member from the GigaPan company climbed the ladder to take a series of photos that eventually make up a sweeping panoramic look at the Manhattan skyline.

“We were putting a camera in a place that we couldn’t go scout.  It was on top of a 405-foot tall spire, which had a 405-foot tall ladder that we were not allowed to climb until the day we went up there,” said Woods.  “So we had to work off of blueprints to create something to put a camera in a place that didn’t exist.”
Woods described the thoughts going through his head as he made the ascent.

“It’s one of the most incomprehensible feelings as you’re climbing that ladder and you’re just thinking about ‘left-hand, right-hand, left-foot, right-foot,’ but at the same time, you’re also just totally taken aback by the surroundings,” said Woods.   

When they returned to the ground, they had captured over 560 high-resolution images, which would later be stitched together and color corrected to make up the Time magazine cover for the week of March 17th.

“You can see the little red lighthouse at the base of the George Washington Bridge nearly six miles away.  You can see three runways up there, you know – Newark, JFK and LaGuardia, the places that if you’ve ever been to, you can see them,” said Woods.  “You can see details on the crown of the Statue of Liberty’s head.  It’s really remarkable being up there and you stitch together these pictures and you see so much more detail than you can see with the naked eye.”

An interactive feature on the Time Magazine website lets visitors zoom in to different parts of the panoramic photo.

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