Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How my Motorola Droid smart phone makes me a better photographer.

I love my Motorola Droid! AT&T has poor reception where I live in Tahoe so an iphone is out of the question, Verizon has the best as far as I've experienced. A few months ago, I stepped into the world of smart phones and I couldn't be happier with my decision. I feel that my Droid has been one of my greatest new additions to my camera bag, it has proven to be an incredible tool that has helped me get more great photos than I would have without it. My favorite Droid apps that I feel help make me a better photographer are (all free, just search the titles in the Droid app Market) :

Google Maps- I feel like I have a helicopter's view of what's around me when 4x4ing the Tahoe trails. "Oh, there's a small lake right over there I didn't know about and would have never seen from the trail!"  I don't always get reception out there but I am often surprised at how often I do. 

Maps (-) - This app lets you view and save maps when you do have reception, then you can bring up that map when you don't have reception.  Bye bye paper maps.

Google Sky Map- You can judge where the sun and moon will rise long before they do. Great for picking out a location when shooting the sunrise or moonrise. I feel like I can look into the future.

GPS Status- You can tag your gps location and email a link to yourself containing the google maps location. Great for sharing location info on blogposts later. (see previous blogpost about the Tufas of Mono Lake)

MoonPhase- A widget that shows what phase the moon will be on every day for the next month. Great for planning full moon shoots.

SunMoon- Computes the rise and set times for the sun and moon based on your gps location. Another great tool for shooting the sunrise, moonrise, and sunset.

The Weather Channel app - 10 day, 36 hour, and hourly local and far away forecasts in my pocket. Many benefits to this one.

Camera- I like taking a picture of my real camera or a self portrait next to my real camera with nice scenery in the background and posting on Facebook while out in the field. I like to think it gets my "fans" and friends curious about what the final images I upload to my website will look like. (see photo below)

DroidLight- LED flashlight app. I've gone out on hikes thinking I'll be back before sunset. Then I decided to shoot the sunset. This one has helped me get back to my truck when I didn't plan ahead properly.

ScannerRadio- Police and Fire scanner. I actually don't use this one as the closest city on the app to me is Reno. But I see how it could be a great tool for photo journalists looking to be first on a scene.

SmartPark- You can tag the location of your car. This is great when 4x4ing way out there and then hiking way away from your vehicle.

Google Translate and aCurrency- Great while traveling. Know what you're saying and spending while shooting in far away lands.

So, my only complaint about the Droid is I can't find a model release app. Anybody out there know of one? The iphone has one...

Also, if you have any apps to add to the list, I'd love to hear about them, iphone or Android. Please leave a comment. 

Self Portrait shot with a Motorola Droid. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tufas of Mono Lake, California Photography

This last Sunday, May 2, 2010, I was driving back home from Mammoth Ski Resort and I realized that I had time to stop at Mono Lake and get some photos of the tufa towers. I had been wanting to shoot this area for years but I'm usually in a hurry when driving by.  This weekend wasn't supposed to be a photo trip but I got lucky and made it one.

I fired up Google Maps on my Motorola Droid and I easily found the South Tufa area. Here's a link to the location I tagged with my Droid. (I plan on writing a post soon on how my Droid and it's great apps help make me a better photographer, stay tuned) For more information on visiting Mono Lake, please visit www.monolake.org

I had a great afternoon and evening running around like a kid in a candy store shooting the giant tufa towers. There are plenty of trails around the tufas, and there are signs posted to not climb on them or remove pieces. I saw why. There were about ten other photographers out there but I saw one of them try to climb up a tufa tower to get a better angle. I was thinking "that's lame" when all of a sudden a chunk the size of small ice chest broke off and came crashing down on the guy. He was obviously very embarrassed but he was proud he didn't get hurt or break his camera. I wasn't impressed.

When you follow the trail from the parking lot to the South Tufa beach area, you can go to the right at the beach and keep your shoes clean. But if you go to the left, expect to get your shoes muddy this time of year. I veered a little off the trail and stepped on what looked like solid ground but I broke through the thin dry crust and ended up past my ankle in green stinky mud. Oops.

I didn't have my big camera bag with all my gear, only my Canon 5D Mark II and a 24-105 L lens. I also had my graduated neutral  density filter and I saw other photographers using theirs, but I opted not to use mine. The tufa towers break the horizon too much in my opinion to use it. I also didn't use my polarizer filter but I kind of wish I had when I shot the very green water, I would have liked to cut down on the glare a bit more.  I occasionally used my flash to help fill in the shadow areas of the tufas with some light and also during late sunset when the tufas would have all been silhouettes without it.

I would highly recommend using a tripod out there. Most of my shots were at f22 in order to get the tufas in the foreground and background in focus. This made the exposures too long to handhold, especially at sunset.  Bumping up my ISO would have helped but I prefer a low ISO when I'm planning on making large 30"x40" prints.

All in all, I was very happy with my Mono Lake photo experience. Easy access, no need for my 4x4. Very unusual and bizarre subject matter. The sunset was incredibly beautiful and seemed to last a very long time.  My only complaint is that I didn't get to shoot a sunrise, good excuse to go back. Here are the photos from the shoot. What are your thoughts?

Tufas of Mono Lake, California - Images by Scott Thompson

To view larger images, click on the "full screen" icon on the slideshow.

All photos are available as stock photography and fine art prints.