360 Degrees of the Eastern Sierra

Michael holding 360 degree camera on a dirt roadFriends of the Inyo is using a 360-degree camera to show our wild backyard in a whole new way. Google for Nonprofits donated rental of this new type of camera, and I ran to the field to test it with an enthusiastic office dog.

Google’s donation allows us to create and share scenes of our favorite places and events on their Google Maps platform. Friends of the Inyo also retains full ownership of the images.

To test the camera unit we set out walking to one of my favorite quirky locations near Bishop. The unit resembles an upside-down walking stick with a tennis ball on the end, and connects to a phone with GPS capabilities. Observers might have suspected I was with CalTrans, searching for alien intelligence, or feeding a deep obsession with Pokemon Go.

Google map shows filming location in white mountainsOur target: the White Mountain foothills are convenient, scenic, and open for exploration.

Muffin and I crunched along the limestone gravel road with the faint crack of gunfire sounding at our backs from a distant range. Soon his paws bounded into the distance rustling young jackrabbits into a relentless and impossible chase. Meanwhile the faint beeping let me know our camera was sharing the moment in time with the world.

As strange and barren as this road may seem, this place is special to us. These images actually help me explain why the dry landscape with eccentric peoplefrom ultra runners, cyclists, campers, ranchers and locals are drawn to this place.

Sunset view near Warm Springs loopWarm Springs Loop

Our next trip was closer to dusk after a tough day at the office. We captured a beautiful show of the White Mountains, clouds, and shrubs along a road of packed dust.

I thought of that token family member asking, “Why would you work so hard to protect that desert wasteland? I mean it’s no Yosemite…” Imagine swapping a dry explanation for an experience. This camera unit transports them into a scene where a deep alpine glow ignites bushes and jackrabbits break free evading Muffin’s curious nose. At the same point another shot can place them under the Sierra wave cloud formation watching over a sleepy valley caught in time.

Map showing bishop street view locations
The 360-degree view grounds people in the middle of a real moment of the Owens Valley, whether they’re watching from Bangalore or Hong Kong.

How to take a digital hike!

Explore these scenes on https://www.google.com/maps

Click the little yellow street view guy in the bottom right corner of the screen. Drag him to our road off the Warm Springs Loop and drop him on top of one of the glowing blue dots.

Plans with Film, Video, and Storytelling

Technology and generous support from sponsors empower us to capture better scenes than ever. This project was testing the basics and new features so we can better serve our members and community.

We have professional and amateur photographers ready to capture clouds of migrating birds at our Owens Lake Bird Festival, the excitement of local flora on our exploration hikes, and the extraordinary efforts of our volunteers clearing trails and cleaning up our recreation sites.

Through each program we strive to ignite the imagination and excitement of our members and show you what we fight to preserve and where we explore, while building excitement for that next great adventure.

Thank you for joining me and Muffin on this adventure. Please click here to donate or volunteer for one of our amazing outings or stewardship events, and help us document why our places are the most special in the world, and protected by an equally amazing community of Friends of the Inyo members.