Happy Monday, brought to you from Iceland! It’s my last day and I’m writing this post to you from Keflavik Airport after an amazing week in a beautiful country. I have been so fortunate to travel to such an amazing place for JSConf Iceland!
This trip was full of firsts: my first time drysuit snorkeling in Silfra, my first time riding Icelandic horses, and my first time traveling with my Gear 360 camera! I bought the camera after a trip to Belize where I found myself wishing for more immersive panoramic photos, and it 100% has not disappointed in it’s inaugural trip out of the country to Iceland!
The photo at the top of this post is a view from the stage at JSConf Iceland, where I spoke about WebVR and how to get started building VR web applications. One reason that I’m so compelled by VR is the idea that it’s changing the way we relate to each other, and I love being able to capture moments in time for me to revisit in the future, and also that I can share on my trip as things are happening.
Now that I’ve spent a week with the Gear 360 on vacation, I figured I’d share some things that I’ve discovered that may be helpful for travelers looking to document their experiences immersively!
Splurge on the Selfie Stick
I was resistant to the selfie stick for my phone, even after traveling to Budapest last year with a friend who had one and being in awe of how great the pictures turned out. With the Gear 360, it makes a world of difference to be able to take photos from more than an arm length away: in the top photo, I crouched down to get a pretty accurate view from where my head would be standing, and in the photo from the Blue Lagoon I was able to capture a better angle than I would have been able to without it. I would have actually taken the camera into the Blue Lagoon, had the selfie stick not been locked away in my stored roller bag. Next time! Even though you wind up with the pole in some of your shots, I find they still look much better than having someone hold the camera in their hand directly.
You don’t need the App, but it Helps
I have an unlocked international version of the Samsung S6 Edge phone, and in the US, when I tried to download the companion app for the Gear 360, I was met with an error code about the accessory service. I had a backup phone that the app did work on, but I only remembered to bring that about half the time that I had the camera. There is a manual button to shoot on the top of the camera, but I found that the live preview on the phone makes a huge difference. As an added bonus, my phone seemed to detect that I was on an international network and downloaded the accessory service without any issues and I was able to start using the app on my primary phone. Success! It was also much faster for getting the photos off of the device and up online for sharing.
Avoid Unbalanced Lighting
This was less of an issue on this trip than I expected, but it’s an issue that I have had come up several times when I’m not paying attention to the lighting conditions of a 360 degree shot. The Samsung Gear 360 takes the white balance separately for each of the two cameras, which means that the seam can be really, really obvious if the lighting average is significantly different on one side when compared to the other. You can see this in the color of the sky in the Blue Lagoon picture, and also to a lesser extent in the Viking Village photo above, though it’s more noticeable in the sky than on the building themselves. I haven’t fully figured out how to fix this from a capture perspective, but I think that trying to orient the camera so that the seam split is aligned better with the sun might help.
Sharing is Caring
I didn’t think that I’d use Facebook’s 360 degree photo option as much as I do, but I freaking love it as a go-to for showing my friends and family what I’ve been up to as I travel. The only downside is that it does seem to downsample the pictures a bit, resulting in a lower-resolution image, but for Facebook, it’s not a huge issue. To share my photos more broadly, I’ve been using http://360.vizor.io/ to get easily shareable links that keep the quality settings of the pictures. It’s super quick and really fun to be able to show people where I am almost as it’s happening!
Surprisingly, I didn’t really get many questions about what the camera was, which tends to happen somewhat regularly in the States, and it’s safely gone through a number of security checks without suspicion. I’m heading onward to Copenhagen and Malmo now, and super excited to continue sharing pictures that I take with it! It feels like a little robot companion and I love having it around.
Do you have a 360 camera that you love traveling with? Got any tips and tricks for it? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @MissLiviRose!