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name and portrait Scott Highton

website name Virtual Reality Photography
website url
city and country San Carlos, California, USA

personal statement I have been a professional photographer for close to 35 years, starting out as a newspaper and magazine photographer, followed by corporate and commercial work, and including a number of years working in wildlife and nature documentary filmmaking for broadcast television.  My photography foundations have been deeply rooted in visual story telling.

In 1994, I was hired by Apple to become their first independent photographer to work with and test QuickTime VR™, which was in development at that time.  That opportunity put me in at the ground floor of this exciting technology.  Another opportunity came a year later with a similar contract with the company that eventually became IPIX™.  So began what became a pioneering role for me in the development of numerous techniques and methods for effective panoramic and object VR photography.

The vast majority of my work is done on location, often in extreme environments or in extreme conditions.  This is where the challenges to creating compelling imagery are often the greatest, as too are the rewards and satisfaction of doing so successfully.  My experience as a pilot, scuba diver, and mountaineer, as well as a general enthusiasm for learning new things, has helped me to gain access to places and locations that abound with elements for good visual story telling.

But the greatest lesson I have learned over the years is that good visual stories can be created and told just about anywhere.  They do not require one to travel to exotic locations, or to risk one’s health or safety, but rather they require only a patience to observe and understand an environment, to figure out how to visually isolate its story elements, to utilize effective lighting, perspective and composition, and a basic knowledge of the technical elements of good photography.  Good visual stories can be found in our backyards just as readily as they can by traveling half way around the world.  The hard part is training our eyes to see them with the same fresh perspective and sense of wonder that we would traveling to a distant and exotic land – and that is a key to all good photography, whether traditional stills, panoramic VR, or motion picture and video work.
For a number of years, I have specialized in VR photography – primarily panoramic work for large corporations and online/print publications.  I have also been a regular speaker at leading industry events, including IVRPA conferences and as a member of the MacWorld faculty.  I have also served as a consultant for several photographic equipment manufacturers developing VR pan heads and other camera grip equipment for positioning cameras in unique locations.

Last year (2010), with the support of many friends and companies in the VR industry, I released a long-awaited book on VR photography techniques entitled: Virtual Reality Photography: Creating Panoramic and Object Images. It can be purchased online at:

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first image
first image title Lincoln Memorial
first image subject
first image place date Washington D.C. USA
first image caption This was a panoramic image that I had visualized for a number of years, and was actually shot as a part of a series to demonstrate the use of changing natural lighting and the challenges of photography under mixed lighting sources for a seminar I was teaching.

It was shot at dawn on a cold, rainy morning during a visit to Washington, DC – the city where I grew up. At this early hour on a cold winter day, I was also the only one at the monument. For over an hour, I was able to shoot a series of panoramic images showing the changing lighting conditions as the sun came up, undisturbed by anyone. It was truly a magical moment, and this image ultimately became a part of the cover of my Virtual Reality Photography book.

second image
second image title The Wave
second image subject
second image place date Paria Wilderness, Arizona, USA
second image caption The Wave is a dramatic, wind-carved natural sandstone formation in the Paria Wilderness, north of the Grand Canyon near the Arizona-Utah border.  It is in a protected wilderness area, and access is limited to only 20 people per day – selected via lottery, in order to limit the impact of excessive human traffic to the fragile environment.
Getting to it requires wilderness navigation though the desert for about three miles.  There are no roads leading to it.  But for those lucky enough to win access in the daily lottery, and to make the cross country hike, the experience is well worthwhile.  The Wave is indeed one of America’s special wilderness gems.

third image
third image title The Tetons
third image subject
third image place date Grand Teton national park, Wyoming USA
third image caption This is a partial panorama (less than 360° view), shot at dawn under a full moon from an easily accessible viewpoint within Grand Teton National Park.  It’s one of those rare images that was captured only a short walk from a warm bed, illustrating that great light can make any location look good, and can make an already dramatic location look extraordinary.

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