Favourite smart phone apps for the outdoor photographer

Although I’m truly a gadget geek at heart, I’ve only recently been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century by acquiring a smart phone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent a lot of time salivating over the Apple iPhones and Google Androids, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to take the plunge.

In addition to all the cool telephony features a smart phone provides, there are a number of wonderful applications (commonly referred to as ‘apps’) that can be downloaded cheaply or for free and installed on the phone. Over 250,000 apps exist for the iPhone alone and there is an app for practically for any interest. For the nature and outdoor photographer, I’ve discovered several indispensable applications and here are a few of the apps really help with my photography.

Snowy Owl Perched on a branch | © www.bsop.ca

Snowy Owl Perched on a branch

iBird Explorer is an essential tool for the birder or bird photographer. There are seven versions of iBird available all the way from the Pro version for $29.99 to a Canadian bird oriented version for $9.99 and even a free version. Instead of lugging a heavy paper guide into the wilderness, you can now bring a complete reference guide along with you in your smart phone. In addition to the wonderful illustrations of the birds, iBird Explorer also includes the ability to play actual recordings of bird songs which can be a very useful tool, when used responsibly and judiciously, for attracting birds.

iBird Explorer showing Snowy Owl image

iBird Explorer showing Snowy Owl image

DOFMaster ($1.99) is a very useful application that allows you to determine the depth-of-field with a particular combination of camera body, lens and aperture setting. It can be an invaluable resource for landscape or macro photography when you’re trying to make sure that everything from hither to thither is in focus.



Photographer’s Ephemeris ($8.99) is an amazing app for landscape photographers. It will tell you sunrise/sunset times, moon rise and set times and azimuth and elevation of the sun/moon at a specific time. It really helps with planning your future shoots. For example, you can choose different dates to discover what the sun conditions will be like on a specific date and then visualize the results overlaid onto a Google map, making it easy to see how the light will affect your photographs.

Theodolite Free (a free app!) is an application that can be a companion to the Photographer’s Ephermeris. Using the accelerometer in the smart phone the application tells you the elevation angle of where the phone is pointing. So you don’t have to guess where a specific elevation angle is and you can see exactly by moving your phone above the horizon and watching the elevation information change as you move it.

Photographer's Ephemeris

Photographer's Ephemeris

Another favourite tool of mine isn’t a specific application itself but rather is the book reader application built into most of the modern smart phones. I’ve been able to download the manuals for all my cameras and major pieces of gear as PDF files. I store those files on my smart phone and now I’m never again left wondering about a specific custom function on my camera or how to operate a tricky feature on a piece of gear ever again. All that information comes along with me now as a slick electronic file easily read and in the same form as the original printed manual.

Padded Portfolios isn’t an app in itself, rather it is a service that allows you to take a number of your favourite images, formatted to fit the popular smart phone and pad devices and make them available (for a fee or for free, that’s up to you) for people to use as wall paper on their devices. If you’ve got some amazing photos to share with the world, Padded Portfolios can help you do it.

If you’re an outdoor photographer looking for some cool and useful tools to pack along with you on your next photography adventure, you won’t go wrong having any or all of the above applications loaded onto your smart phone. And if you’re like I used to be, and still wondering about the usefulness of these new fangled smart phones, maybe this column will persuade you to give them a closer look.


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