Apps for planning a photo trip

by Paul Schmitt

Mike Goldstein offered some background on tools that he is currently using to prepare for a three week trip from Nevada up to Seattle. Using the internet (and presumably other) resources, he located potential photo locations and pinned them to a custom map in Google Maps. He also located lodging along the way and added those as pins. For each pin, he could color code it for priority plus attach links for details such as a hotel website, park website or phone number. Google Maps will also create driving routes to a selected next stop from the current location with drive time calculated.

A second part of the planning was locating apps which support a photographer both in preparation and then in the field. One favorite is PhotoPills which is currently on iTunes ($10) with plans for an Android version in the future. The range of features includes trip planner, sun/moon positions, night sky, DOF, FOV, time lapse and low light calculations. It seems to combine what has usually been scattered among a number of apps. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is another well respected app.

This spurred some more research by your editor. Further planning tools include the StuckOnEarth (free on iTunes ) which pulls up Flickr images for a huge range of worldwide locations. Try it for a place you are familiar with to see what it would offer in a new location. Unlike some other sources, it is rich in landscape and nature photos. Online, Sightsmap gives a world view which is colored like a heat map to indicate “hot spots” of posted images. One can zoom in to research a desired location. It is, however, weak on outdoor photos, and some hotspots lack photos to pull up .

The GPS data for a wide range of good photos are available on  This can be used to pin locations on a custom Google map. You could then use a GPS navigator to lead you to the exact spot.

Predicting the precipitation, wind and clouds for the next day is another valuable resource that can be accessed in the field with a cell signal. Some good resources include the apps Wunderground and Storm,  for the weather patterns in the next week, and the National Weather Service.  It has a powerful tabular feature that predicts accurately by the hour sky cover, wind, temperature and more.