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iPhone Apps For Nature Photographers

October 13, 2009

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!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris Enright permalink
    October 14, 2009 7:04 am

    Good article Bret! I use sunrise/sunset pro as well. Another app that I found recently that I use quite a bit is “Topo Maps”. It let’s you store USGS topos on your iPhone for offline use, which is invaluable because as you know, a lot of places we go do not get cell reception to be able to get maps off the web. It can also use your phone gps to plot your location and get coordinates. It doesn’t have waypoint or tracking capability yet, but I believe that may be possible in future updates. The app is $6.99, but so far it has been worth every penny to me. The developer is also very friendly and open to discussion about future functionality.

    Chris Ebright

    • Chris Enright permalink
      October 14, 2009 7:07 am

      I forgot to add that the topos are free to download once you have the app, and they are available for almost every quad in the US. The only limiting factor is the storage space on the phone.

  2. October 14, 2009 11:31 am

    Hey Bret, love the new blog!
    Here’s my contribution…
    Astromo – constellation, star id and ephemeris.
    iBird – for bird id-ing (cus I’m not an ornithologist;), I use the “West” version.
    Focalware – amazing app for sun and moon rise/set plotting, plus moon phases. Really invaluable.
    AroundMe – not so much a photo app, just useful for looking at different shopping options near you.
    Evernote – the worlds greatest note taking app. Voice, text, photo. And it syncs to the cloud so you can access it from any computer.

  3. December 19, 2009 11:08 am

    Bret,
    Love the new blog, keep the info flowing. I don’t have home without my iPod and DOF Master. Yep, it’s a nice little hyperfocal distance app. Love it!

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