Sam Rohn, NYC Panoramic Photography Pioneer

Sam Rohn is one of the early pioneers of 360º panoramic photography. He has been shooting 360º photos since the 1990’s which makes him one of the very earliest of early adopters. He knows his stuff inside and out, and is a great guy. I’ve enjoyed meeting Sam in person from time to time over the years. I thought it would be nice to interview him so he could share some of his thoughts about panoramic photography, New York City, and location scouting.
A native of NYC and a location scout in addition to being a professional photographer, Sam is in one of those truly enviable positions: he gets to go to places that NOBODY else is ever going to see – and he has the panoramas to prove it! And these aren’t just average “ok” panoramas – Sam makes really wonderful images.
I first got the idea to interview Sam when I saw his NYC Ground Zero panoramas which were really quite lovely.
Sam, you must have made hundreds of panos in New York City? Yes, hundreds all over the world and in NYC, I’ve been a location manager for many years so I have access to a lot of locations that aren’t available to the public. sometimes I accidentally bring my pano gear 😉 and shoot some panoramas while i’m in there. Is panoramic photography useful as a location scout? Yes and no. Ultimately location scouting photos require using a long lens, wide lens, shooting from different angles, and from every corner of a room. it’s a lot of work. Scouting locations…. i’ll scout 5-10 locations every day, there no way i’m going to shoot 45 panos a day for what a location scout gets paid! But of course some locations are really worth shooting a 360 panorama…. You’re primarily a location scout? I’ve worked as a location scout on the aesthetic more than the logistic side of things, for 20 years now. So i’ve evolved into a photographer rather than a producer which is what a lot of location scouts do. These days, I work more as a photographer than a location scout. I miss location scouting when i don’t do it. With photography, you shoot one thing and go home. location scouting, you have to do many things and visit many places, think on your feet. i’m surprised at how little savvy photographers have with location scouting – locations, permits, and so on. for me, it’s second nature. What kind of stuff are you enjoying photographing lately? Usually i like shooting empty places, these days i’m enjoying photographing people. locations and interiors just sit there and are easier to shoot. People are difficult — they move and have to be caught off guard. I’m starting to appreciate it. Do you prefer shooting at night, or during the day? Traditionally I appreciate shooting at night or blue hour; shooting during the day is less consistent. the light varies quickly. At night, it’s consistent. During the day, from one day to another, as a location scout i shoot a lot of places over and over again – the brooklyn bridge or dumbo, i’ve shot them every day of every time of year, they always look different. You have to pay attention the time of day and year. When it’s easy, you have a nice day, it’s easy. but on marginal days, i like that challenge: clouds, they’re like cats, they do what they want! How has pano photography changed for you in the last ten years? It has become less of a specialty and more of a general interest hobby with panoramic software built into cellphones and such, everybody can shoot a panorama of some quality, good or bad. And this has in some way been good — it has increased the awareness that this kind of photography exists, with google street view etc. etc. but it’s also made it seem just like another trick or novelly and people lose the idea that its’ *photography*. Trying to produce good photos is still hard. Your panoramas on 360Cities are not your standard NYC landmarks – you have a few unique places and times there. Can you speak about that? A lot of my panos on 360cities are ones that no one else has: the hurricane sandy blackout, or the top of Brooklyn brigde – NO ONE else is going there! Or inside the UN nations general assembly hall – not easy to access – and some private rooftops that are not easy to access. A few of the places I’ve shot are gone – the atrium at 5 beekman street:      This place might not look like much to you but if you live in nyc you wonder what the hell is inside here. now it’s a 10 billion dollar condo but at one time it was an empty shell, and this is what it looked like:      I really enjoyed shooting panoramas of the dark, empty streets during the blackout that occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: ain’t gonna happen again until there is another blackout!   All of the panoramas I put up on 360Cities are special places that nobody else is likely to shoot. If you haven’t heard of the place, it means no one else is going to shoot it!   Sam’s photographer profile page: Sam’s personal website: and his location scouting website:

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