Photo Location Scout App – Download on the App Store

My latest photography app, Photo Location Scout, is now available on the App Store!

PhotoScout App Icon

Have you ever been out and seen a location that you thought would be a great photo shoot location? You can take a quick photo or add a note, but sometimes the photo and note get caught up in the clutter of your other photos and notes. This can make it harder to recall the great shot idea you tried to save.

Photo Location Scout helps photographers capture snapshots, location notes, and details of photo locations so they can plan photo shoots. Photo Location Scout allows the user to snap a photo or use a photo from their photo library to help remember the appearance of the shot location.

iPhone 8 details screen

Photo Location Scout keeps your shot ideas with photos separate from your Camera Roll or photo library, but the photo still resides on your device. The app makes it easy to scroll through and revisit ideas you had to capture your next great photo.

Users can select from a list of photo types, such as architecture, drone, long exposure, and other types, as well as details to help plan the shot. Users can save the data in the app for later reference, and also go back and edit shot details or delete stored data when no longer in use.

iPhone Xs max list screen

Download on the App Store by searching for Photo Location Scout, or click the link below.

 

If you get it, please let me know what you think, and send suggestions for other apps!

Keep Looking Up

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I tend to run hot and cold on side projects like photography and blogging. I’m sure you can relate. We’re all really busy, and work, family, and yes, going out and shooting can get in the way of posting blog updates.

I’d hoped to get to Big Bend National Park this year to shoot the Milky Way, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen. Maybe next year.

But you never know when a great shot opportunity presents itself. That’s exactly what happened last month during our Florida trip. We were driving back and I happened to look out towards the beach, and to my surprise I could see the Milky Way. The light pollution maps appeared to show the area I was in as too bright, so I hadn’t thought much about trying to shoot, except maybe some star trails.

I’d never tried shooting the Milky Way, but I wasn’t going to pass an opportunity to try.

So I grabbed my faithful Nikon D5300 and MeFOTO tripod and headed to the beach.

Not the greatest Milky Way shot ever, but I’m pretty happy with it. Next time I’ll probably try multiple shots and some blending in post to knock out some noise.

Houston METRORail

I don’t have much experience with composite photos, but I’ve seen a ton of great examples. Last month I was in Houston and had some time to myself, so I figured I’d shoot the trains.

Nothing too complicated here. My trusty Nikon D5300 and my MeFOTO tripod. I only had my Sigma 30mm with me. Maybe this would have been a better shot with a wider lens. Overall I’m pretty happy.

Two shots, merged in Photoshop so I got a chance to work on my Photoshop skills.

Still Searching for Dark Skies

star trails over Woodville

Sometimes I feel like I’m too easily sidetracked in my photography. There’s no doubt long exposure photography is something I really like. Light trails, light painting, steel wool photography – I like them all. There’s no doubt that car light trails and other “trick shots” make for interesting images. While reading articles and tutorials and watching videos on these topics, I’ll run across other photography topics that grab my attention.

A while back I stumbled across astrophotography. You know, star trails, the moon, the Milky Way. At first I wasn’t all that into it. I shot some star trails last summer and had some fun with it but really didn’t stick with it.

That is, until last fall when I went out in search of dark skies. Like many people in the U.S. I live in an area with a lot of light pollution and I gave up on the notion of finding night skies that were dark enough.

But last year I didn’t plan. No maps. No looking at moon phases.

I had a great time. I got some good shots, and I also had some failures. I’d love to say each time I go out and shoot it goes exactly as planned, but that’s just not how it goes for me.

Here are a couple of shots from my last night time photography adventure. I have a friend who has a hunting camp a little over an hour north of here. There’s a small town a few miles away, and it’s far enough away from severe light pollution.

star trails over Woodville
my first try this year at star trails
blue hour in Woodville
shot during blue hour

I would have liked to scout the location before driving up. Sometimes you just can’t, and due to traffic, I didn’t get to the location until about 45 minutes before sunset. That doesn’t give much time to look around and see where you’d like to set up and shoot when it gets dark. That’s something I’ll definitely try to correct next time. Even though I’m happy with the shots I got, I felt rushed to find a spot and setup, and the added stress took away from the fun.

And this was my first night out shooting in what I consider really cold weather. Those of us who live in the U.S. southern states are lucky to have mostly mild weather in winter. But there are times when (at least to us) it gets really cold. It also feels colder when you’re out in the woods in the middle of the night.

So I finally settled on a spot, setup my Nikon D5300 and my MIOPS Smart trigger to run a time-lapse. I set it to capture 300 exposures. My battery was almost fully charged when I started, but it was completely drained at around the 3 hour mark. It was cold enough that my camera had condensation all over it, my first time ever experiencing that. I’m not sure when I’ll shoot in cold conditions like that again, but it makes me wish my camera had better weather seals. Or maybe I’ll improvise something to keep condensation off the body and lens.

I’d originally planned to shoot all night, and even had a spare battery I could’ve used. I had plenty of memory card space. But it was so cold and I worried about the condensation. I could’ve stayed at the camp and driven back home the next morning, but I headed home. It was a long drive, and I was tired. It was worth it though. Those were my best night sky shots yet.

So what did I learn?

Leave earlier than you think so you have plenty of daylight to scout your location. Or go some other time in advance so you can plan.

Familiarize yourself with how your gear reacts to weather. Or pick a time when the weather isn’t a problem. I’ll go back to this spot later this year, and this time the mosquitoes, not condensation, will be my main problem.

Use maps and planning tools like Photopills to determine the best times and angles to shoot. I was pretty much winging it for this shoot.

For edits, I should’ve removed the light trails from the airplanes you can see in the star trails shot.

Any other tips? Please share them in the comments.

First Try at Water Splash Photography

For the longest time I’ve wanted to try water splash photography. I was holding myself back, since I stubbornly refused to buy a real flash and remote transmitter. Instead I decided I’d use the flash on my Nikon D5300 and see what happened. The results weren’t good.

So I found a relatively cheap Neewer unit with remote transmitter/receiver bundle (somewhere around $80 I think), and gave it a try.

I’m pretty pleased with the results. I setup using a large glass bowl, a little blue and red food coloring, and a splash of milk to cloud the water. I used a big beverage dispenser with a tap to set the water drop frequency I wanted.

For most of these shots I used these settings: 1/200, f/11, ISO 100. For some shots I used f/14. I used some red colored tins to hold the drop dispenser (and also added a bit of randomness to the backdrop, which as nice). I will definitely try this again, hopefully over the Christmas break.

Feel free to send any feedback or suggestions. Have a great Christmas and New Year.

Searching for Dark Skies in Rural Louisiana

Fortunately, I don’t have to spend that many nights away from home. I drive a lot, but it’s usually there and back. I get up early, work, then try to get back at a decent hour.

Sometimes work schedules dictate otherwise. Sitting around a hotel doing nothing drives me nuts, since I’m used to so much going on at home. So if I can I try to go out and shoot. Since I like to shoot at night or very early in the morning this works out sometime.

Recently I was in Lake Charles, Louisiana overnight, and I wanted to try something different. I’m developing an interest in astrophotography and wanted to find a place away from city lights to shoot the night sky. Enter Dark Site Finder.

This site allows users to search locations worldwide for areas away from light pollution. There’s a color coded map overlaid a Google Maps style display. Lighter colors mean bright areas, close to cities, and darker areas mean areas out of town. If you find a site you consider dark, you can add it to the list of sites. In my case this wasn’t a problem – Lake Charles and most of the communities nearby are very brightly lit.

Screen Shot 2018-12-16 at 6.38.27 AM

This box represents where I spend 95% of my time – so mostly very bright areas. But it’s possible to get into some relatively dark areas.

The blue area shown below is where I was heading:

Screen Shot 2018-12-16 at 6.40.07 AM.png

I ended up driving about an hour northwest of Lake Charles, close to the Louisiana-Texas  border. It was quiet – and dark. The moon was pretty full, so there was a ton of moonlight. Not ideal conditions, but it’s not like I could pick a different time. Maybe in the future I’ll be able to set up a trip that coincides with the new moon.

In the end I stayed out until around 8. I drove the hour back to Lake Charles, happy that I’d gotten some good (at least for me) shots, and more importantly, increased my skill in finding good locations and working on getting better shots in-camera. This is definitely something I’ll do again when I get a chance.

A Foggy Morning in St. Francisville

Trying to shoot in foggy conditions can bring mixed results. I often find the view from a distance is much different from the conditions at the location. I’m not sure if that’s because the light (or lack of it) as you see a foggy location from far away, or what. Whatever the case, sometimes I stop and take a chance.

I was on my way to visit a project in St. Francisville, and since I’ve taken to having my camera with me as much as I can (probably some of the best photography advice I’ve read in a while), I was able to turn around and get these shots instead of wondering what might have been.

It was one of those cool, damp mornings we get in Louisiana. The fog was still really thick but wouldn’t be for much longer. I had plenty of time before my meeting, so I stopped. If I hadn’t I would have missed it.

This is right off the highway. I pulled in a small drive, got out, and captured these. I like the quiet and stillness of the overall scene, with a little mystery thrown in with the mist. That’s what I tried to capture.

foggy farm 2foggy farm

Blue Hour on the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge

I’m not quite to the point in my photography where I know for sure a shoot will go exactly as I imagine. But a while back that’s what happened while shooting from a rooftop vantage point in downtown Baton Rouge.

And I had the added bonus of enjoying family time and an excellent meal at Tsunami, a spectacular downtown restaurant.

It was really nice to set up my Nikon D5300 and my tripod and shoot away. I got some nice sunset shots looking west across the Mississippi River, but this one I think is my favorite. I would have liked to zoom in a bit, but I was shooting with my 30mm Sigma. Still, not bad.

Old Man River at Blue Hour

Driving in the Rain Bokeh

We’ve had a lot of rain lately. And I drive a lot. In following the “always have your camera” advice, I’ve tried to shoot more often. A couple of weeks ago I tried something a bit different, shooting deliberately out of focus. I wanted to capture interesting bokeh patterns and water droplets. I was pretty happy with how these turned out.

Once again I shot with my trusty Nikon D5300 and my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 – wide open. These are minimal edits – some cropping to get rid of the dashboard or mirror. I’m not the most creative person so I thought it would be good to try something different.

An Afternoon Stop in Avoyelles Parish

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven by a great photo, only to keep going because I was in too much of a hurry to get somewhere. Or I didn’t have my camera and tripod with me. Or I didn’t feel like shooting just with my phone.

I’ve read blog posts from other photographers that suggest always having your camera with you. I’ve taken that to heart recently, even going out of my way to stop and get pictures if I can. I think it’s paid off. For one thing, I think we can learn from every great or terrible photo – especially when it comes to technique and settings.

About a month ago I drove a couple of hours to a meeting, and along the way saw an open field with a barn and a large tree kind of out in the middle of nowhere. And I thought it’d make for some pretty good afternoon shots if I could get back in time. So I set my odometer (trying not to mess with my phone while I drive!) so I could find my way back.

I made it back and drove along a dirt path to reach the barn and the tree. I setup and got some bracketed shots. Nothing magic here – just used the bracketing feature in my Nikon D5300, my MeFOTO tripod, and Nikon remote. Putting together HDR shots in Lightroom is super easy, especially if you’re shooting on a tripod.

It was so quiet and peaceful. In a way I wish I’d have stayed past sunset, but part of the work/life/photography balance sometimes keeps me from shooting where and when I want. That’s ok – I wanted to get home and see my wife and kids because the next day I was hitting the road again. Sometimes there’s too much noise, too much work, and not enough quality time with them. But the 30 minutes I spent out there was worth it.

So my advice is to carry your camera all the time, and of course, watch the road, but if you see something interesting, make time to stop and get some shots.