By Adrian Klein
I remember when I got my first iPhone a couple years back I did not believe I would use it much. Someone told me you will use it more like a computer and a lot less like a phone. Looking back they sure hit the nail on the head. Between texting, apps and Internet access calling people seems to have taken a backseat. The sea of apps and other options we use our smartphones for is endless and I bet each of us could write an article that would enlighten the person next to us on something new. I also believe there are folks out there using their phone more than I since I still believe in trying to do some small trips on a whim without checking every detail and seeing what comes of it, which is part of the fun. Not to mention the sea of apps now days is large and always changing. I am sure there will be a part 2 in the future!
I would say one of the biggest uses for me is simply to get an idea of what the composition will look like without the process of taking out my DSLR when it’s tucked away in my backpack which is often the case when I am hiking and backpacking. Before this I was always trying to use my hands out in front of me to isolate the scene when composing (Still do this some out of habit). Sure it’s not perfect yet many times I have said “oh wow this has potential” after taking an iPhone photo and ended up with a keeper image with my DSLR.
Sure there are many apps yet sometimes just a bookmark to the right page is all that is needed. I have tried a number of options but my current top choice is www.noaa.gov using their mobile site. Although we all know weather forecasts are not 100% accurate NOAA seems to have the most reliable forecasts. On the page you can save many places you frequent to quickly access up to the minute forecasts.
NOAA Forecast Graphics – showing change of precipitation by percentages
The one app I do use occasionally for weather is from NOAA. This app gives more insight and better detail on predicted intensity and direction of precipitation than the mobile site.
App: NOAA Weather Radar
Cost: Free to $3.99
OS: iPhone app only but I have seen similar for Android
NOAA Weather Radar – screenshot of radar loop over Yellowstone National Park
Despite the many photography apps most of us will still need a separate tide app. Don’t leave tides to guessing as that can lead to a bigger adventure than you ever expected! There are many apps for a few dollars that can give fancy charts and graphs. I simply want to see the tide table and that will do me just fine. I use Tides which allows me to see multiple locations and adjust number of days visible from a few to a month. Good for those inside the United States as it only applies to the US and Caribbean Islands.
OS: iPhone app only but I have seen similar for Android
Comprehensive Photo Planning
Whether it’s our computer or smartphone technology is giving us many tools to plan specific photos in a way that could only be done in the past with extensive scouting and knowledge of an area over time. One of many is the ability to know moon rise, moon set, sunrise and sunset points in correlation to the horizon for the moon and sun.
Recently I have been using the app Photo Pills which is proving to be quite useful in the field and ahead of time. It has features that a variety of apps have separately as well as additional useful features. There are too many features to go into detail without dedicating an entire post to it. That said here are two very hand features that I have been using.
Augmented Reality – This is a game changer from how surgeries are being performed to planning photos. Getting an overlay of where the moon will rise, sun will set, the direction the stars move is very cool. We all have shown up at locations for sunrise for the first time and don’t know the exact location the sun is coming up. This app takes that guessing away.
Photo Pills augmented reality feature. Here you can see a location where the overlay shows when the sunrise will occur along with moon set.
Scouting – We all come to locations where the light is not right, wrong time of day and too many more to list. Being able to log the location for future reference is great. In this app I can log the location as a Point of Interest (POI) including notes, mapping and multiple photos of each location. If your list gets long enter in search word to shorten the list. I am a list person and until this app came along I would try to (not always successfully) log in my own folder for places to visit in the future.
Photo Pills points of interest you can store locations for future reference.
App: Photo Pills
This is a complex app and although some pieces are intuitive there is a learning curve to fully understanding many features. The website has many short tutorials to help understand the different features.
The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE) is an app which many of us already know is similar in features and price although does not have quite as many features as Photo Pills. The advantage is availability for both Android and Apple.
Full disclosure: I was provided a copy of the app by Photo Pills to demo. No expectation of review or feedback was requested.
If you are horizonally challenged (photographer speak) like me you have two options 1) always correct the horizon later or 2) use a bubble level. In some cases where I forgot my bubble level and I cannot get the horizon close enough by site I have used a level on my phone to help.
App: iHandy Level
OS: Apple and Android
Although there are apps that have sunrise and sunset info (Photo Pills, TPE and others) I find sometimes I want one click to get this info without digging through an app of other features when I am on location. As a landscape photographer this information is crucial where many other pieces of planning can be more nice-to-haves. This simple app gives sunrise, sunset as well civil twilight and dawn.
App: Sunrise Sunset Lite or Pro
Cost: Free to $1.99
OS: iPhone and Android
As we are starting to see the smartphone will be an extension of our cameras where more and more we will have the ability to control our camera from the phone, preview images, store backups in the cloud and more. It will be interesting to see how this evolves. One last thing to say…I do actually take snapshots with my iPhone as well. Imagine that! I recently started an Instagram account (akphotonw) to post some snaps for fun that are much different than my DSLR work.
What app(s) do you find most useful for photography? Feel free to add them with your comments.