5 Must-Have Apps for Travel Photographers

5 Must-Have Apps for Travel Photographers

Google Photos

Having been an Android user for quite a few years now, I have come to love Google’s Photos app, and couldn’t imagine travelling without it. The biggest advantage for me is that the app backs up all my photos to the Google servers, giving me the peace of mind that all my images are safe. Images can be put into folders to separate events or locations, and if you can even allow it to recognise and group faces if that’s your cup of tea. Google has also put some pretty impressive image editing tools into the app. Along with a number of presets, it includes sliders that have been separated into categories named Light (exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, etc), Color (saturation, warmth, tint, etc), and Pop (whatever that is).

The great thing about Google Photos is that the web app (photos.google.com) works just like the mobile app. So if you prefer to browse, edit, or organise your photos on your computer, it’s no problem. The app is also very customisable and flexible. I have my set up to only back up when connected to WiFi so I don’t waste my data or get a huge bill when I get home from my travels. You can also select whether the app backs up the “Original” resolution images and uses up some of the many gigabytes Google gives you for free, or uses “High Quality” backups of up to 16 megapixels, which are free and unlimited. I love the “Free Up Space” function, which works by only deleting images from your device which have been safely backed up to Google Photos.

If you allow Google Photos to geotag your images, it makes it far easier to find them in the future. The app will also use that geolocation to automatically create folders and categorise trips for you if you want. As a travel photographer I find this feature incredibly useful. As with all things Google, the search function is insanely powerful. You can search by place, date, face, even type!

Best of all, Google Photos is completely free. If you already have a Google account (if you use Gmail or any other Google service then you already do), then you can just download the app and sign in. If not, it’s free to sign up. You can use it on your Android or Apple device.

 

Lightroom Mobile

If you’ve been immersed in the world of photography for any period of time you will have come across Adobe Lightroom. It is the industry standard for the management of digital images, and its photo editing tools are pretty insane too. In recent times Adobe has been aggressively pushing a cloud-based, mobile-friendly software model, and love it or hate that new direction, you can’t help but love Lightroom Mobile. It does almost everything that the desktop version does, but on your smartphone or tablet.

You can use it to edit images taken with your phone’s built-in camera app, or you can take images from within the dedicated LR Mobile app (including RAW capture depending on your device). You can also import any image into the app from your phone’s directory, which means if you have the ability to transfer images directly from your camera to your phone, then you can start editing them right there on location. Any collection that you create in Lightroom Mobile or in the desktop version can be synced so that you can view or continue to edit them anywhere.

The Lightroom Mobile app is free to download and use but if you want to use the premium features like syncing with Lightroom CC desktop and get free storage (up to 1TB depending on your plan), you will need to subscribe to one of Adobe’s Creative Cloud membership plans. If you don’t use Lightroom on your computer the free version will suffice, but if you aren’t, I’m not sure why because you get A LOT for $10/month. You can find out more on the Adobe website, or just download the Android or Apple version of the app.



 

Photopills

Photopills is simply the most useful photography app I have ever used. It’s the only app on this list that you will need to pay for, and that doesn’t stop me enthusiastically recommending it. It is a landscape and travel photographer’s best friend. It’s a swiss-army knife. It makes planning and executing photos fun and painless.

The Photopills app has far too many tools and features to cover in any depth here, but I’ll give you a brief overview. The app helps you to plan photos and timelapses with insane detail by using geolocation technology. It will give you information about the sun, moon, and milky way. If you want to shoot sunset and twilight it will tell you exactly when and where (depending on your location) it will happen. If you want to try some astrophotography and want to know when and where the galactic centre will be on the night of a new moon to make sure the sky is dark, it will tell you that too. You can use the Augmented Reality feature to visualise the sun, moon, or milky way on your phone. You can also plan your photos in the plans manager and save them for later, meaning you can plan for a supermoon in a couple months time and all your info will still be there when the date rolls around.

Photopills has a number of calculators for the inner photography geek in all of us, like exposure, depth-of-field (DOF), hyperfocal distance, star-trails, long-exposure, and time-lapse calculators. Not all of these will be useful, depending on what and how you like to shoot, but some of them are bound to be helpful. It also includes a number of useful widgets that can give you the info you want at your fingertips, like saved plans or a list of info based on your current location.

I’ve only scratched the surface of what this insanely powerful app can do. You could spend $10 on far less useful stuff. I know I have. If you’re not sold on it yet, go read about all the cool stuff it can do to help you make amazing landscape and travel photos. Or just buy the Android or Apple app.

500px

For me there is no better source of photography inspiration than the photo-sharing website 500px. I can’t think of a site that comes close in terms of the quality of photography and the algorithms used to feed me incredible images by some of the best photographers on the planet. 500px left Flickr in the dust years ago. Some of the most talented and hard-working photographers I follow I discovered through 500px. If I want inspiration, 500px will hit the spot almost every time.

The 500px app is no less useful. It is a vital tool for me as a travel photographer in finding locations and subjects, and planning my photos. I will usually create a gallery in the app and start searching for the location or area I am planning to visit, then as I find images of interesting places I save them to that gallery. Often I will save a whole bunch of images without looking at the specific details, then go back later and take a second look at them, noting the name of the beach or mountain or waterfall, etc. I use this information to make a shot-list in that area. I very rarely get to photograph everything on the list, but it’s a good starting point. If there’s a landmark or subject that I’m really interested in I can search again for that specific place and find more images to give me more inspiration and differing perspective.

I have used the app to help me plan a number of photography trips, including the American West Coast, Canadian Rockies, Australia, and of course New Zealand. I’ve even found it useful to find new locations in places I know well, like my hometown of Mt Maunganui, NZ. No matter what sort of inspiration or ideas you’re after, don’t go past 500px for helping to plan your next trip or location. It’s free to download the Android and Apple apps and to sign up.

SmugMug

When it comes to portfolio websites for photographers, SmugMug is one of the best. In my opinion, they are the best. I’ve written about this before in my in-depth comparison of SmugMug and PhotoShelter. One of SmugMug’s big selling points for me is their mobile app. There are many reasons I love this app, like being able to view and upload to my archive from anywhere or sharing images and folders to clients or social media from right inside the app. But the reason I really love it as a travel photographer is that I have my portfolio right there in my pocket everywhere I go. I can show my best work in all it’s high-resolution glory without any of the compression or downsizing you get with Instagram or Facebook. Galleries can be downloaded for offline viewing too, which is great if you don’t have data when you’re travelling or if you’re out of range of cell service.

Of course with the app come all the other awesome reasons to use SmugMug, like UNLIMITED uploads and storage, the ability to sell your photos with e-commerce, and a massive range of customisable portfolio templates that will make your website look badass. If you already use SmugMug, grab the Android or Apple app. If you aren’t, you can get a free 14-day trial and 15% off by using this link.

As promised, there are my five must-have travel photography apps. There are a whole bunch more apps that I couldn’t survive without when on the road, but these are the ones that make my life as a travelling photographer far more simple and stress-free. I’m always on the hunt for new apps to add to my ever-growing collection, so if there’s something you think I’ve missed, or if you have a question, feel free to leave a comment ūüôā

 

Brandywine Falls – Whistler, BC

Brandywine Falls – Whistler, BC

I love waterfalls. I mean I REALLY love waterfalls. I could stare and listen to the sights and sounds of thundering water falling onto rocks for hours. Whenever I’m visiting somewhere new and researching potential photo locations, I almost always search for waterfalls. They appeal to both the outdoor adventure lover and the photographer in me. They can make for some gorgeous images, especially being a big long-exposure photography fan. Long exposures can easily turn moving water into beautiful silky-smooth streams.

Needless to say, before I travelled to Canada, I spent many hours researching great locations and scenery to photograph. As most of my time was going to be based in British Columbia I searched for waterfalls in BC. Brandywine Falls, just outside Whistler, was one of the most dramatic, so I made my way there with camera gear in tow. Going in early summer was a great idea, as the water was pumping out from all the snow melting off the mountains. This image was made from the viewing platform above the waterfall, but I’m hoping to get back there to hike/climb/fall down the apparently very sketchy trail to the bottom of the falls.

If you’re planning to visit Whistler or BC, I highly recommend checking out Brandywine Falls. It’s an easy walk from the roadside parking lot to the viewing platform, and it’s well worth seeing for yourself!

Landscape photo of Brandywine Falls in Whistler British Columbia Canada

 

Mauao Summit Track Sunrise

Mauao Summit Track Sunrise

Sunrise at summit track on Mount Maunganui New ZealandClick to buy.

Walking up the Mount is a pretty popular activity for locals and visitors to Mt Maunganui. I really had no idea how popular it is though! I got to this location around half an hour before sunrise and even in the dark there were loads of people on the track walking or running up to the summit.

This is the only photo of dozens that had nobody on the track. I must be overdue to hike right up to the top for sunrise again. It’s well worth setting your alarm and getting up there for sunrise if you haven’t done it before. Great way to start the day!

Waiheke Island Wine-Tasting Adventures

Waiheke Island Wine-Tasting Adventures

Beautiful Waiheke Island

Having spent most of my childhood in Auckland, I clearly remember the excitement of getting on the ferry to Waiheke Island. Although it’s only a short trip, I seem to remember it being an epic journey across oceans to the faraway island that was always so full of adventure and mystique. In my mind¬†the ferry was¬†a monstrous ship that I could never seem to completely explore, despite the seemingly endless hours it took to get there.

In reality Waiheke Island is only a 30 minute journey and the ferry only a very modest two-level boat that you could easily walk around in a few minutes. My imagination isn’t what it used to be. Everything is more fun when you’re a kid.

I recently had the opportunity to visit Waiheke Island with some friends and the one thing that hasn’t changed from my childhood experience was the excitement of getting on that ferry. Maybe it was the nostalgia, or the gorgeous Auckland day, or going on an adventure with new friends, or maybe because we were going to drink wine and beer in the sun. Probably all of the above.

Visiting Waiheke Island is a very popular activity for both Auckland locals and visitors. The amount of people packed onto the ferry that day was testament to what a fantastic place it is to see. There isn’t a lot on the island, but if you’re up for adventure and stunning scenery, you won’t be disappointed. One of the most popular activities to do on Waiheke, and my excuse for setting my alarm for 5.30am and driving from Mt Maunganui, is wine-tasting!

Landscape photo of Onetangi Beach, Waiheke Island, New ZealandOnetangi Beach

Getting Around

Getting around the island is pretty simple. Buses are regular and will take you to almost anywhere you need to go. Many of the wineries and vineyards are within walking distance of the main bus routes, so you can easily create your own wine-tasting itinerary and enjoy walking and exploring. Of course, there are also a number of companies offering wine tours if that’s more your style. If you prefer to be chauffeured around in an air-conditioned van you will be able to visit more vineyards in a day, and this option is great for those who aren’t up to the (often strenuous) walking, or just prefer not to arrive at a beautiful hilltop winery sweating¬†like they’ve just run a marathon. There is also the option of renting bikes for the day, which seems like a great idea, but could make for an interested ride at the end of a day of drinking in the sun. Sun and wine are a great/dangerous combination. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

Panoramic photo on a walking track around Waiheke Island, New ZealandOne of Waiheke’s many walking tracks

Wineries

We only made it to three wineries due to opting for the walking tour. We started at the beautiful Onetangi Beach for lunch, then walked to Obsidian, then on to Stony Ridge, and finally Wild On Waiheke. Obsidian’s wine was by far my favourite, although I don’t consider myself much of a wine connoisseur, so don’t judge me. For the overall experience, though, Wild On Waiheke would be very hard to beat.

waiheke-island-wine-tasting-nz03 waiheke-island-wine-tasting-nz02 waiheke-island-wine-tasting-nz01

Wild is a brewery as well as a winery, in fact the only brewery on the island. Being a much bigger fan of beer than wine, I was sold immediately. Their beer was phenomenal! They offer beer and wine tasting, a restaurant, and they also have really fun activities like archery and clay-bird shooting, amongst other things, although I’m still trying to get my head around the health and safety considerations¬†of mixing booze and firearms! Unfortunately we were running short of time so couldn’t try the food or activities, but I will definitely be heading back there very soon! We did, however, manage to fit in a round of Cards Against Humanity, which was suitably offensive and helped to clear the bar of all the other visitors! Lucky they were closing anyway ūüėČ

waiheke-island-wine-tasting-nz05 waiheke-island-wine-tasting-nz06

We just made it onto the very full bus and spent the last few hours of sunlight drinking the¬†day’s purchases and swimming at Oneroa Beach. I was glad to see the sun go down after a long hot day, and I managed to grab this shot of the sunset despite all the wine and beer in my system, not to mention very cleverly leaving my tripod in my car in Auckland.

Landscape photo of sunset over boats on Waiheke Island, New ZealandSunset over Waiheke Island

All in all it was a fantastic experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Turn Around!

Turn Around!

I was reminded recently while out capturing this Mt Maunganui landscape of the importance of not getting so focused on one scene that you miss something potentially beautiful elsewhere.  This is especially important when photographing sunrises and sunsets, which obviously draw our attention towards the dramatic light. It is often during these times that the sky directly behind you can be gorgeous, although usually not so dramatic.  Sometimes these scenes can make for some stunning images as the colours in the sky are often a beautiful mix of oranges, blues, and pinks, not to mention that the foreground and scenery will be lit with a lovely soft light from the sunset or sunrise behind you.

This was my thinking while out photographing The Mount last week. I was sitting watching the light in the sky and realised quickly that the sunset wasn’t going to turn it on like I had hoped, so I sat and waited for the light to fade and the street and building lights to come up. ¬†As I was waiting, I turned around and looked behind me to see this:

Moturiki Leisure Island Landscape, Mount Maunganui, New ZealandMoturiki Island, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. Click on the image to buy.

Shooting with your back to the light can create some unique challenges though. There is less light to work with, which requires longer shutter speeds, and often your own shadow ends up in the frame if the sun is still above the horizon. These challenges can almost always be overcome, however, and you will likely find that the effort pays off with some great landscapes. So, next time you’re out photographing that dramatic sunset, don’t forget to turn around!

The Mount

The Mount

Mt Maunganui (Mauao)

In keeping with my resolution to have a second look around my home town after this little experience, I grabbed my gear the other evening and went out to photograph a scene I’ve wanted to for some time, but haven’t yet got around to. ¬†Of course it didn’t take much hunting to find this location, but it is still in my home town, so it counts. ¬†Mount Maunganui, or Mauao (the indigenous Maori name) is affectionately known here in New Zealand simply as ‘The Mount’. ¬†Admittedly, it’s not a particularly original or imaginative name, but it is what it is. ¬†The extinct volcano sits at the inlet to Tauranga Harbour and can be seen right throughout the Western Bay Of Plenty. ¬†The Mount is considered to be one of New Zealand’s top holiday locations due to its close proximity to Auckland, the climate and the white-sand surf beach that stretches for miles past Papamoa and¬†down the east coast of the North Island. It is also often high on the list of the many tourists who come to NZ as a travel vacation destination.

Landscape photo of Mauao from Leisure Island "The Mount" Mt Maunganui Tauranga Bay Of Plenty New Zealand View from Leisure Island of Mauao, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. Click on the image to buy a print, canvas, or license.

This particular night I had been watching the sky and it looked like it was going to turn on a gorgeous sunset behind the mountain, but a big cloud front pushed over and shattered my hopes. ¬†Such is the way with landscape photography. ¬†I had some fun with long exposures anyway and came up with something I’m happy with. ¬†This is a 60-second exposure, which as you can see has made the ocean nice and milky and peaceful when the surf was actually pumping.

Thanks for visiting. As always, I welcome and encourage comments and please share below.