There is a line from the movie “The Last Sumarai,” in which Katsumoto states “The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.” I find myself thinking about how that applies to photography as well.
Walking around with camera in-hand, I get lost in thought trying to compose the best shot, taking into account the lighting, foreground, aperture and other parameters. Most recently, I went to The Badlands in South Dakota with my family and at times wished I was alone, allowing me as much time as I wanted to get that perfect shot. It was perfect: overcast, misty and the park was deserted, with perhaps two other cars in the entire park. Instead, I felt rushed, my family was somewhat bored, preventing me from finding “the perfect blossom.” I took a number of stills and several panoramas with both my Google Pixel XL and my Sony a6000 and couldn’t wait to get home and view them in Google Daydream.
Departing The Badlands, I had a six-hour drive to our next stop in Rochester, MN. The trip was coming to an end. During the drive, I began thinking about the panoramas and the fact that photo spheres would be much more interesting. I had viewed a few in Daydream and they are immersive. I also thought about how two years ago my parents moved out of my boyhood home and how nice it would be to walk through that house again, experiencing life as it was through a virtual tour. But alas, that isn’t possible. As Thomas Wolfe pointed out, you can never go home again. The new tenants have different furniture, photos of other people adorning the walls and perhaps the rooms are painted differently. If only I had a photo sphere camera before they moved out; that truly would “allow me to go home.”
I resolved to put that to an end and have the ability to stop time in an immersive fashion. Shortly are arriving home in Illinois, I began researching photo sphere cameras and quickly narrowed it down to the Ricoh Theta S. While the reviews were more than positive, time and again it was pointed out that the pictures, when stretched out across the sphere, aren’t true 1080. So the blossom question arose: do I continue to wait for the perfect camera, or settle on what’s out there now? With Easter one week away and family coming over, as well as the Holland (Michigan) Tulip Festival quickly approaching, I purchased the Theta S.
My experience is mixed; the photo quality is not that great, however I didn’t want to wait as I had family gatherings, a family reunion, the eclipse and a motorcycle trip. I needed something to create that immersive, family moment. The image above certainly does, not so much in a blog post but certainly in Google Daydream. Of course one week after purchasing the Theta S, GoPro announces their 5.2k Fusion and Ricoh is set this week to announce a 4k version of the Theta S at NAB Shot in Las Vegas! Oh well, neither are available now and I would have missed capturing these moments.
In the end, this is the blossom I chose, even if it isn’t perfect. It’s not nearly as good as the photo spheres you can take with a full-frame camera paired with a fisheye lens and then stitching them together in post-production (see my virtual tour at https://bhimagery.com/category/virtual-tours/), however there were too many moments I wanted to catch where a full-frame camera wouldn’t do.