We met Erika through our mutual acquaintance and asked her to be our THETA ambassador since she was taking lots of fun 360 degree images on her trips and in her daily life with her friends and lovely dog. Let us share her story about how she enjoys 360 photography!

Photography life with THETA

Please introduce yourself.

Ciao! I go by Erika Mariko. After spending years as a digital design strategist for Fortune 500 companies and living it up in NYC, I dropped everything to hit the road sans any plans to experience what life offered beyond the screen.

In addition to freelancing, through my adventures I became an intuitive guide, which is someone who helps others navigate the complexities of life through practical and spiritual techniques. I also created the Intuitive Playground Retreat, and the first one is planned to be held in the beautiful foothills of southern Poland when travel opens up again.

<360 degree image taken by Erika>

What is photography to you?

Photography for me is a natural extension of my penchant for observation. I enjoy “people watching” and taking in the world around me. Even without a camera, I dissect scenes into lines, colors, shadows, textures, depth, and energy, and wonder how else it might be rearranged. It’s a fun exercise and seems to be a useful tool for memory.

What kinds of things do you usually photograph?

In general, I take photos of stories I’d like to share or imagine. Like many, I take photos of food. I also like to take photos of portals: windows, doors, and passageways. I haven’t invested in accessories or equipment like a selfie-stick or lighting so I feel especially grateful when I have natural light to work with. I love it when I can capture candid expressions of people and animals.

<A photo taken by Erika>

I try to capture landscapes but feel they rarely live up to the actual view. Maybe it’s just the difference between actual experience versus consumption. When I look at photos, I like to guess what’s not shown: what happened before and after, what’s on the mind of the subject, or of the one taking the photo, what else might be around that’s not in the frame, etc.

That is an interesting point of view.

How did you find out about THETA?

I was at my tech boot camp graduation when someone busted out the THETA and showed me how it worked. I was instantly intrigued and excited by it, so much so that I received one for my birthday a month later.

What aspect of THETA did you like?

I love the sleek design both aesthetically and practically speaking. It’s easy to use and fits nicely in the palm of my hands. Actually, it reminds me of Sailor Moon—a childhood favorite—with the way it looks and how it’s held in the air, haha!

The THETA is a conversation starter and a great group ice breaker. It comes in handy when I travel alone and want to be social.

That’s true! It is a good conversation starter, and also a great tool to capture the moment when we meet people, especially for the first time.

<Erika’s travel gear along with her dog>

Would you say it is easy for you to use?

It’s been a while and I only used up to the SC model so I’m sure a lot has changed since then. But I remember it being relatively easy to use out of the box—I didn’t have to resort to any Youtube tutorials or the likes. I found it pretty intuitive.

When I first encountered the THETA, I was a budding UX designer having just graduated from my bootcamp. I remember thinking the mobile app could have been designed more intuitively and offered lots of opportunity for a better user experience. I was going to be in Tokyo so I reached out to one of the members on the THETA team because I wanted to discuss the opportunities I saw with the product (more with the app and use cases than with the hardware). She invited me to meet some of her team members and they entertained me, allowing me to share my thoughts. Oh I’m still embarrassed by my brashness and still very grateful for their big hearts and the opportunity!

That person who invited you was me, haha! It was nice meeting you in person at that time and it was a great opportunity for us to exchange ideas with a user like you, who actually studied UX design in the US. And luckily, we ended up having you as a THETA ambassador.

Travel memories taken with THETA

We know you like to travel and take lots of 360 degree images with your THETA. Could you please tell us about your favorite travel shots?

Sure, I went to Lisbon to attend a conference back in November of 2016.

I had strategically chosen an AirBnB close to Manteigaria in Biarro Alto so I could start my day with at least one freshly made pasteis de nata and a cappuccino. Every morning, I would arrive just before they opened and by the end of the week, the staff had a smile and my order waiting for me.

I spent the days walking around, taking in the city from all angles. Lisbon has this welcoming but also effortlessly chill vibe. I was nurtured by its sunny and breezy weather; the beautiful views of the water and intricate architecture; the super easy to use public transit system; and of course, the wine. All this brought me back to my senses.

<Photo taken at the cloisters in Jerónimos Monastery>

<Erika’s other travel shots in Hawaii>

Please check out these blogs to learn how to use your THETA effectively during your travels.

Shooting and editing version

Saving, sharing, editing version

Best and the most memorable 360 degree image

Could you show us your most memorable 360 degree image?

For my 30th birthday, I took myself and my dog to Italy. I chose Italy because not only is it a beautiful country whose culture I vibe with, but also because it’s one of the most dog-friendly countries in the world. I loved that she wasn’t just allowed but very much welcomed in most restaurants. Even when I have a partner, I enjoy solo travel, especially when Mia can come along. This was taken at the end of our trip in Rome in the Villa Borghese. We were actually scheduled to return to Italy in early July but because of the travel restrictions, we have to postpone. I hope Italy will let us in soon!

<The original 360 degree image>

Your dog is so pretty!

I am very lucky to have Mia. Not only does she travel well, she’s a good listener and poses for me.

Could you show us any other favorite photos you took with her? And please let us know any tips.

She doesn’t care much for it but will humor me. So the biggest tip is to have a dog that will listen to you to sit and stay still! Otherwise, I would put the camera on the ground mid-way between us and ideally we’d all be at the same height. If not and the camera is too close to the pup or if the height is uneven, you’ll likely end up with Dog-zilla in the image. It’s cool but also gets old real quick.

<Another shot taken in Italy>

Could you please show us your best 360 photo too?

Once in a while, as part of my self-care rituals on a work day, I would treat myself to good coffee (not mass-produced crappy office coffee) and enjoy it “for here” at the cafe rather than “to go” and rush off to the office. This was one of those times. I was in San Francisco on a business trip and thanks to the per-diem, treated myself to an almond milk cappuccino from Equator Coffee located in the lobby of 222 2nd Street (LinkedIn’s headquarters). I absolutely love the open space with the expansive windows, wooden walls, steps you can chill on, and awesome artwork by Frank Stella. And yes, the coffee is excellent.

Oh, you successfully capture the entire creative space, the relaxed mood and yourself with your THETA. And I would love to try that coffee!

Do you have any tips when you shoot 360 degree images?

With the older models like the ones I used (m15 and SC), the image quality left something to be desired so good lighting is imperative. It was recommended to get a selfie stick for the THETA so that you don’t have your hand in an empty grip in the middle of the photo if you’re unable to put it on a flat surface.* But I like putting the THETA on a flat surface so that I can turn the image into a mini world/planet. Inverting it also renders a cool effect of going through a tunnel.

This one is cute too!

*Please have a look at this blog to learn about easy and creative tripod or selfie stick shooting techniques which let you have fun in new ways with your THETA 360-degree camera.

Dinner/Lunchtime shots with THETA

Do you take 360 degree images with your friends? Could you share your tips to take group shots during lunch/dinner time?

Yes, I took a lot. I would place it in the middle of the table, usually on top of something like a cup or napkin holder so that it’s elevated to near eye-level of everyone. If the camera is too low then everyone’s heads get inflated with giant foreheads and squished faces, especially the closer we are to the camera. It’s not a bad thing and it can be quite funny to capture. I personally like the outcome of images when the lens is at eye level with the subjects or higher.

<The original 360 degree image>

<Group shot taken by Erika>

All of the pictures look so fun!! We know that it is hard to capture the whole atmosphere like this with a smartphone. It seems that THETA was a good tool for you to capture the precious memories you shared with your friends.

Please have a look at this blog to learn how to best capture a group shot while eating.

Do you have any final comments?

It’s been a while since I used my THETA as I no longer have to plan vacations because travel has become part of my everyday life as a remote freelancer. I also don’t post as many photos as before since I’m “processing” a lot and don’t feel like sharing as much. But taking this interview and looking back at my images make me want to bust it out again 🙂

Thank you for sharing your amazing memories with 360 degree images. We look forward to your images on your future adventures!

For more details, please visit the product page.

Interviewee: Erika Mariko

Edit: Hitomi