Photographing snow in 360º

Two weeks ago, the Midlands was hit by heavy snow. But with it came an opportunity to take my Theta S camera out for some photos. All I had was the camera, a selfie stick, and some gloves. [Tweet this]

Taking photos in 360º takes a little bit more planning than any other photo. Not only do you have the framing, lighting, and general set up to worry about, you also have the ‘hide factor’ to contest with too. How easy is it to remove yourself from the shot?

Earlier in the year I took some photos in the park – specifically in the middle, where it opens out. The challenge here was waiting for dog walkers to disappear out of sight, set the self-timer and run. I took a rucksack with me, so running was awkward, and the unnecessary baggage made it difficult to hide quick enough behind a tree in the distance.

In the snow, I took none of those unnecessary extras. It was me, the camera, and a tripod.

On the way to the park with my Theta S camera within its hard case.

My tripod choice was simple, iKlip. In particular, the multifunctional camera/smartphone stand and selfie stick. I’ve used this with other cameras before, but what makes it stand out is the small area the tripod element takes. In other words, it’s easy to edit out of photos. This was exceptionally helpful for the little planet style photos I was intending to take, but also happened to make it easier and lighter to carry.

Leaving the luggage behind was a brilliant idea, but exchanging a lose-fitting jacket to three additional layers and a thick white coat meant I couldn’t be as agile as I hoped for. I also traded the self-timer function for Theta’s continuous shooting mode – where the camera takes a photo every few moments or so.

The first photo I took was on an icy bridge over a stream, with two small openings between the trees for the footpath to follow. I set the camera on the tripod, extended the shaft fully, and set the timer before running down the footpath and out of sight. I listened out for the shutter sound behind the shrubbery before returning to the camera. I took grip of the tripod with perfect timing, as moments later an unleashed dog began leaping over the bridge into the path of where my camera had been precariously balanced in the snow.

I decided to go off the beaten track, and headed up onto higher ground behind the trees.

Here I found tranquility. The only footprints were my own, and I could only hear my breath in the cold and the snow crunching under my shoes.

I put the tripod down into the snow, trying to cover the legs as much as possible while trying to keep the snow looking untouched. I extended the shaft once more, set the camera to continuous shooting, and hid behind a tree. I realised that the bare trees were difficult to hide behind, so I had to go a little further afield on the second try. I hadn’t gone so far away from the camera before, and I couldn’t hear its shutter sound so instead had to rely on counting so much before coming out of hiding.

My second attempt wasn’t any better, not only had I not counted long enough but the distance meant I didn’t see or hear the camera fall into the snow. The combined weight of the weatherproof case and camera was too much for the tiny tripod. I took a risk, however, removing the camera from the case for a second go. I knew how far I needed to go before ducking behind a tree, and I felt confident the weight balance was better. I set the camera, and made the dash, counting long enough for two photos. By the time I reached the tree, I didn’t know how far along the timer had gone, so allowing for two photos meant I had absolutely cleared the shot.

The result was magnificent. This was just the photo I was after.

With a little work using Theta’s iOS app, and Photoshop Fix, I was able to transform the flattened 360º image into its own little planet.

A little planet edit of the 360º photo.

Other photos are available on my VR/360º-specific Instagram profile, and on this website.