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  • Writer's pictureQuinne Farenwald

Immersive Travel: Capturing the Essence of Nepal with 360-Degree Photospheres

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

I just returned from an awe-inspiring 2-week trek in Nepal, the staggering scale of the Himalayan landscape left me in awe. The transformative power of immersive experiences became apparent as I reflected on the journey, prompting me to explore ways to preserve these moments beyond traditional 2D photography. The solution? 360-degree photospheres taken with a Google Pixel and viewed in an Oculus Quest 2 offering a level of depth and realism that regular photos simply can't match.

The Power of 360-Degree Photospheres

In the realm of travel photography, 2D photos serve as timeless snapshots, freezing moments in time. However, they often fall short in capturing the true scale and feel of a location. 360-degree photospheres, on the other hand, provide a more immersive experience, allowing viewers to step into the scene and feel the grandeur of their surroundings.

How to Capture Your Own 360-Degree Photosphere

Taking a 360-degree photosphere is easier than you might think:

  1. Open your Camera app on Google Pixel.

  2. Select Photo Sphere Capture from the photo mode carousel.

  3. Follow the on-screen instructions, moving the camera to each white dot until the process is complete.

Reliving the Magic in VR

To revisit these breathtaking moments, I uploaded my 360-degree photospheres to Google Photos and viewed them through my Oculus Quest headset. Here's how you can do it too:

  1. Upload your photosphere to your preferred cloud service.

  2. Open the built-in browser on your Quest 2 and go to the cloud service web address.

  3. Download your chosen Photosphere.

  4. Open Oculus App Store and download DeoVR Video Streaming.

  5. Go to Oculus App Library, open DeoVR and navigate to 'Local Files' folder at the bottom.

  6. Your downloaded photo will appear in that folder. Select the image to display. If the image is not displayed in 360 mode, in the lower left corner of the photo control screen, click 'Flat' and change to '360 Lat/Long.'

  7. Get ready to stamp your virtual passport as you embark on a virtual trek to the Annapurna Base Camp!

Issues Trying to View 360-Degree Photospheres in Decent Resolution

Originally, I tried to view photospheres in the Oculus TV app in "Your Media". I discovered it is a known community issue with an Oculus update that 360-degree photosphere functionality broke and has not been fixed. Expect to see:

  1. Poor Resolution: Default Google Pixel 360-degree photosphere resolution will appear blurry and grainy when viewed in Oculus Quest 2.

  2. Visible Seams: The seam where the two ends meet can be noticeable in the Oculus Quest 2, unlike the seamless view on the Google Pixel.

Enhancing Your 360-Degree Photospheres

For those seeking even more from their 360-degree photos by enhancing colors or removing stitching mistakes, editing is possible. Programs like Adobe Photoshop offer tools to refine and enhance your immersive captures. Here is a helpful guide to the process, the key steps are:

  1. Open 360-degree photosphere in Photoshop, however, note that it will open as a simple non-360 JPG.

  2. Make any edits you want.

  3. When you are finished editing, you need to bring back the 360 quality to the JPG. Go to the top Photoshop menu bar, select '3D' > 'Spherical Panorama' > 'New Panorama Layer From Selected Layer(s)'.

  4. Now to save the image, select '3D' > 'Spherical Panorama' > 'Export Panorama...'

In conclusion, while 2D photos have their place, 360-degree photospheres redefine the way we relive and share our travel experiences. They bridge the gap between static imagery and immersive reality, offering a glimpse into the majesty and scale of our world that words and traditional photos alone cannot convey. For a fun, stunning example of the immersive potential of 360-degree video, a medium I'd love to experiment with in the future, check out Alex Honnold's solo climbing video. As an accomplished rock climber, Honnold's video provides a visceral experience that traditional media cannot match. Get ready for your palms to sweat as you virtually climb alongside him.

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