Professional Development

This Philly photog has taken 400K images of the city for Google Maps

You might be able to spot Mark Henninger on a clear day, riding the streets on his electric scooter with a 360-degree camera.

Mark Henninger on his electric scooter, which he rides to capture 360-degree images of the city. (Photo courtesy of Mark Henninger)
If you’ve ever gone on Street View in Google Maps to check out City Hall, the Philadelphia Magic Gardens or Love Park, chances are you’ve seen Mark Henninger’s images.

In fact, you may have even seen Henninger himself.

The North Philadelphia-based photographer and editor has spend the last few years riding around the city on an electric scooter capturing images of popular places — and even not-so-popular spots, like residential streets — on sunny days for Google Maps.

Henninger started this hobby when he lived in Bella Vista and noticed that a lot of the small parks in his neighborhood weren’t documented well online. So he started sharing those images, and images of his neighborhood, on Google Maps’ Street View.

“I really saturated that neighborhood,” he said.

One photo he uploaded of a neighborhood cafe eventually grew to hundreds of thousands (and now more than one million) views.

A Google Maps shot of City Hall. (Image courtesy of Mark Henninger)

Google gives photography credit to individuals uploading images, so outside of those collected by a Street View car, thousands of images depicting Philadelphia are submitted by regular ol’ residents.

Henninger spent a few years documenting the city here and there, but in the last year, he’s turned it into more of a serious hobby.

By day, Henninger is the editor of AVS Forum, a site covering and reviewing home theater technology and products. But in his free time, he’s taken to riding the city streets on an electric scooter or skateboard, taking 360-degree images with his GoProFusion, which has GPS capabilities and sticks out of his backpack by about two feet.

He then uploads the images, or “photo spheres,” in the case of 360-degree images to the Street View app, which threads them together and gives users the ability to “walk” down a street or see a building from a variety of angles.

Over time, he’s amassed hundreds of thousands of views of images around town. These places fall into his top 10 most viewed:

  1.  Greyhound Terminal
  2.  Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
  3. Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar (in New Orleans)
  4. Tattooed Mom
  5. Love Park
  6. Maggiano’s Little Italy
  7. Jefferson University Hospital emergency room
  8. Wills Eye Hospital
  9. Ben Franklin Bridge
  10. Yards Brewing Co.

Henninger won’t go out to capture images in bad weather — because he’s exposed to the elements on his scooter or skateboard, but also because he wants to show off the city at its best and brightest.

“My name is attached to imagery of the city, which I love very much,” he said. “In my mind I’m like, ‘You can represent your neighborhood or your city better this way.'”

He’s captured images of some of Philadelphia’s most popular spots, but he also aims to document areas of the city that are rapidly changing, like Francisville, Brewerytown or stretches of Ridge Avenue.

“Even if a [Google Maps] car has gone down that street in 2017, it’s very likely that street looks so different now,” Henninger said.

So far, Henninger has traveled about 330 miles of Philadelphia’s streets and uploaded about 410,000 images. This past Sunday, he said he took his longest ride ever: 17 miles up Germantown Avenue to capture some of the change happening in that corridor.

Henninger estimates he’s spent about $3,000 on his hobby, but he said he sees a lot of benefits in what he’s doing. He’s showing off the city and documenting change, yes, but he also thinks that Street View is the foundation of experiential augmented reality, and he wants to be a part of its evolution.

He’s been offered a handful of jobs from folks looking for a photographer to capture 360 imaging, but Henninger maintains that he spends his time capturing images of the city purely as a hobby.

“There’s a fun aspect of exploring the city on a nice day, and just giving yourself a chance to listen to what catches your eye,” he said.  

Companies: Google

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