As a new iPhone owner I found myself spending entirely too much time browsing Apple’s App Store. There really is an “app for that”, no matter what “that” is. I started to wonder if there were apps that could make my life as an outdoor photographer easier, better or more organized. After a few weeks of downloading and using apps, some free and some not, I’ve found a few that really are helpful to nature photographers. Some of these even came pre-loaded on the iPhone. Here are my selections:
Compass (Free) - Yes, I have a digital compass on my watch, my GPS and an analog compass in my backpack. So, why is the iPhone Compass so helpful? It’s ridiculously easy to read and it even lists your current GPS location. I like to use it with Sunrise & Sunset Pro as it makes it easy to determine where & when the sun will rise or set without introducing another gadget into the mix.
Sunrise & Sunset Pro ($1.99) - There are free apps available to determine that azimuth and altitude of the sun at any time of the day but none of the ones I tried were as easy to use as this one. When used with the Compass it is amazingly easy to determine whether that peak before you will be frontlit, sidelit or backlit at sunrise or sunset. Use it in conjunction with a topo map to pre-plan your photographic adventure before you even leave home. Awesome!
Park Maps ($0.99) - Every single national park map, on your iPhone. Zoom in, zoom out and scroll all around. Each map is downloaded directly to your iPhone to be accessible even when out of cell service. The maps are small and can be difficult to read for those with aging eyes like mine. Even so, I find the app useful for identifying the location of campgrounds, visitor centers and most importantly, viewpoints and overlooks.
The Weather Channel Max ($3.99) - Current temperature, precipitation, wind speed, weather conditions, humidity and sunrise & sunset times. Hourly, 36 hour and 10 day forecasts. Severe weather alerts. A radar map with past, present and predicted future movement of weather, i.e. rain, snow, clouds. Tide information for coastal areas. You can even save as many locations as you’d like for instant access. I saved several of the areas I visit regularly. It makes finding a weekend escape that much easier.
Google Earth (Free) - The same Google Earth on your computer in your hand. Super cool!
Maps (Free) - Another app that comes pre-loaded on the iPhone. Punch in any address and it uses the built-in GPS to provide directions from your current location. Great when traveling around an unfamiliar city on your photography adventure.
Milog Lite (Free) - I use this handy mileage tracker to record miles driven on every photo excursion. This is an easy and convenient way to keep track of mileage for tax purposes.
Notes (Free) - Yet another app that is pre-loaded on the iPhone. I use it to keep notes of locations I stumble upon that appear to have lots of photographic potential.
Here’s an example of how I used several of these apps on a recent short trip. While out four wheeling a new-to-me trail in the Moab area I discovered several sandstone peaks towering above a creek filled with green cottonwoods. I recognized the potential for fall colors and broke out my iPhone to determine whether it was a sunrise or sunset location using the Compass and Sunrise & Sunset Pro. It’s sunset. I opened my “Locations to Photograph” note in the Notes app and added pertinent information about the location. When I got home I transferred the trip mileage information from Milog Lite to my accounting software. Awesome!
Have you found an App that’s great for nature photographers? Leave a comment about it. I’m sure readers of my blog would love to hear about it. I know I would!