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!

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.

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

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.

 

Photography Cure for Insomnia

Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge

Sometimes I have trouble getting back to sleep after waking during the night. Instead of tossing and turning, I started going out and shooting.

I’m not an experienced enough photographer yet to have settled into a set style or genre, but night photography seems to be my thing.

So I guess it’s ok that I go out and shoot at night, except of course missing out on some sleep. In a way that doesn’t matter because I’ve found I can clear my head while I’m out shooting, and when I get back from a late night shoot I usually go back to sleep quickly. Sometimes the shoots wind up being an early start to shooting a sunrise.

I’ve done everything from my first try at star trails, more interstate light trails, and more light painting, and even started working on time lapses.

Check these out:

light trails on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge
Late night light trails on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge
Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge
early morning shot of the Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge

I will get some others uploaded when I can, just to show a broad selection of the different shots I’ve gotten.

As a matter of fact, I’m writing this while out on a shoot. I have two cameras going right now, so maybe I will get something worth posting later.

Late night photography probably isn’t the textbook cure for insomnia, but it’s helping me.

Splash Photography

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try water splash photography during a brief (but pretty strong!) thunderstorm. This was my first real try at this, and that pretty much spur of the moment.

I picked a spot where the water runs off one of the ridges on our roof line, positioned the camera and tripod, and went to work. I used the self timer and then got in place. A couple of comments on my own shooting/setup – I don’t have a speed light, and I think that could’ve helped freeze the water. I think I’ll pick up one soon and try some different projects.

Make sure to have at least one towel nearby – you’ll need one for you, and for the camera body and tripod. If you need to clean water from your lens (and you probably will) it’s best to use the right kind of lens cleaning cloth. I was soaked, and was pretty happy to have a towel right there.

After I got my shots, just a quick trip into Lightroom to crop and export.

No great technique or post processing, just some fun trying something different.

Light Painting

You may be noticing a recurring theme – I really enjoy long exposure photography, especially at night. I love reading/watching tutorials on different photography and video topics. Light painting is, well, awesome. And there are a ton of different light painting tutorials out there.

A while back I was up in the middle of the night because I wanted to try capturing lightning in the night sky. That didn’t quite work out as planned, but I decided to kill some time by trying some light painting.

I started with a DIY lightsaber of sorts – a clear plastic tube used to store fluorescent light bulbs, some semi-transparent wrapping paper (blue), 2 small flashlights inserted into each end of the tube, my trusty Nikon D5300, tripod, and wireless remote. The 2 flashlights, tubes, and paper cost around $30. And I have enough to try many different color combinations – single or multiple tubes, you name it.

I picked a spot nearby with a bridge leading to a man made island, with a beautiful tree, fairly well lit at night. A couple of comments on my own shooting/setup – I should’ve worn darker clothing, and also should have set the ISO lower. I thought I’d overridden the Auto-ISO feature (I intended to shoot at ISO 100), but I didn’t. One thing’s for sure, I’ve made plenty of mistakes while shooting, and I have learned as much from my failures as I have from my good images.

I’ll try again soon and see what difference lowering the ISO makes. Each shot was at 30 seconds.

No great technique or post processing, just some fun trying something different.

Windshield Photography

I really enjoy long exposure photography, especially at night. A while back I saw some blog posts showing images captured while driving. Before I go any further, if you’re going to try what I’m calling windshield photography, put safety first and photography at least second. The author suggested having a friend drive while you ride in the back and take pictures. I’ll give that a try when I get a chance. For now, all the shots here are ones I got while driving.

So I thought I’d give it a try. Nothing fancy. I placed my trusty Nikon D5300 on my dashboard, set the shutter speed, guessed on manual focus, and off I went. One improvement I’ve thought of since would be to use a remote trigger, keeping both hands (mostly) free to drive.

The shots above are from two different rides around town. One was a rainy (very early!) morning commute, while the other was just a usual Friday night.

I knew I’d have some camera shake thanks to our fine roads (don’t get me started), so it was more to see what light trails I’d get based on different locations. Some of the best images came while driving around curves and by sitting at traffic signals in the rain.

While shooting in the rain, I keep my windshield wiper speed down so water droplets would build on the windshield, adding a different bit of bokeh to the traffic light shot.

No great technique or post processing, just some fun trying something different. I hadn’t yet heard the term windshield photography used, so I thought I’d see if it sticks.