I’m guessing the blue moon photo did its job and got your attention. It might surprise you to know that a key element in its creation was a weather app. We’ll get to the details of that shortly, but first, a few words about not-strictly-photographic accessories.
You could say that there’s a “before, during, and after” to every image: the things you do to prepare, execute, and adjust that make a photo more than just successful. I don’t know about you, but I got past “successful” long ago, and key factors in my progress were some not-strictly-photographic accessories. Here’s a quick look at my new and updated essentials.
The gooseneck Platypod is incredibly useful for holding stuff, upright or angled, indoors or out. Bend it, shape it, any way you want it there’s nothing like it. The new model is the Platypod eXtreme (left in the photo). With adjustable and reversible feet, it’s made to hold tight to rough or ragged surfaces and terrains. In the photo it’s holding a Lume Cube mini constant light.
The eXtreme can be fitted with the Platyball, a ball head that’ll hold your camera for remote or low-angle imaging. The other Platypod in the photo is the standard model, and it’s holding one of my many prisms.
When I saw that people were painting with light, I thought, “white light, okay; light with color, better.” So I started carrying color gels as well as a flashlight. Over time came better flashlights and more gels in more colors in more convenient kits. Today I use a Fenix PD35 flashlight and a Rogue assortment of flash-photography color gels in a pouch I can throw in my backpack; outside the pouch, a pink gel.
I took this photo of one of London’s sundial sculptures—that’s Tower Bridge in the background—with the Fenix and a purple gel in a walk-and-paint exposure of about 25 seconds.
The TourBox Neo is a smart, sophisticated post-processing controller I’ve been using with my Photoshop and Lightroom programs. I’m a pen-and-tablet person, and can remain so with my left hand operating the Neo, not the keyboard, which makes for a faster and more efficient workflow. Essentially the Neo is a coordinator of movements, and even though there’s a bit of a learning curve, it’s ultimately easier to use than explain.
Knowing where to be, when to be there, and what to expect when I get there is vital. Three apps I use to provide that information are, left to right, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, Blue Hour, and Tide Chart. The Ephemeris told me where the moon would be, and its phase, for the blue moon photo, and Blue Hour indicated the time for the best blues. I got to the location early enough to photograph moonrise over the Atlantic, and then, guided by the Blue Hour app, came back the next day to photograph the seascape for the final, composite photo.
The Tide Chart app tells me when low tide is going to be, which means I’ll know when rocks will be exposed, and when I’m least or most likely to get soaking wet making the low-angle photos I love to make.
The Ephemeris also includes Skyfire, which tells me if tomorrow’s sunrise or sunset is going to be great, and that played a part in the sunset sail photograph, where there were actually three app factors at work: I knew the sunset would be great, the tides would be low (so I could place the camera low to the ground), and there’d be clouds. When I showed up at a place I knew would offer sailboats sailing by, everything came together for a photo that doesn’t happen by chance.
Where’s My Stuff?
AirTag, from Apple, is an accessory I can’t do without. Designed as an item finder, it does more than that in the peace-of-mind department. One tag goes in my backpack, one in my camera bag, one on my keyring (along with a tiny Fenix flashlight), and one in my wallet. When I first heard of tiny tracking devices I thought, As a travel photographer, how can I not have those? They are simply, and elegantly, essential assurance.
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