Top Apps I use as a Traveling Photographer.
I just wanna start out by saying I was not paid to do this and these are all apps that are either free or that I purchased. I just use them and love them enough to share. Also, I use an iPhone but I'm sure there is something similar for other phones. I've included some screenshots of these apps in action.
Before I get started on Google and Apple Maps it is necessary to say that when I’m pulling my trailer that I do not trust either of these to keep me out of trouble. They assume I’m driving a compact car and intentionally give me bad advice like U-Turns and they don’t care about low clearance issues at all. When I’m pulling my 44’ long, 13’5” tall, 101” wide fifth-wheel I’ll always be using my Garmin RV-GPS. The RV-GPS is a great little tool to help me avoid issues on the road as well as find the things I’ll need on a long trip with an RV. Though it isn’t an app, I wanted to make sure that no one was gonna try to use Google Maps or Apple Maps route their RV. The Garmin RV-GPS knows my truck and trailer’s length, width, height, and weight. It works great 99% of the time.
At the top of this list is my favorite map app…and Apple Maps. LOL, I love Google Maps. It’s my go-to for any time I wanna search for something using geolocation. I’ll use it as a normal GPS to get me where I’m going, obviously but there’s so much more. I’ll use it to get an overhead view of where I’m going to see if I can find a spot that might fit my truck and trailer. It’s so nice because it will interface with Apple CarPlay on the dash of my truck. I’ll have a large screen that even has a satellite view. However, CarPlay doesn’t always love Google Maps. So, I find myself using Google Maps to search then I plug that information into Apple Maps so I can use CarPlay or when towing I’ll plug that info into the RV-GPS. CarPlay will play the audio through my truck speakers and will know to be quiet when I’m in a call.
I find that Google Maps is still kinda glitchy when it comes to CarPlay but for everything else I love it. Both apps will route me around any delays. If traffic is coming to a standstill ahead of me for whatever reason and there’s a faster route it will let me know. Both apps will give me information about a place like ratings, hours, website, etc. but Apple Maps just isn’t as reliable. For now, I’m stuck doing it this way but it wasn’t long ago when Google Maps wasn’t even available for CarPlay. I’m sure Google will soon have it figured out.
RV Parky is great for finding places to camp for the night or an RV park to go to. Though it has some navigation options I just use it as a search tool and use my RV-GPS or Apple Maps to get me there. I like reading reviews of place that other RV’ers have written about a place before I go. For example, I’ll often want just a free place to park for the night. Often Walmart will let you park there unless city ordinance or the local manager says otherwise. RV Parky give me some insight before I go. Sometimes the reviews conflict but then I just call and make sure it is ok to park. It’s good to ask if there is a preferred place for RV’s to park. This app is great because you can easily apply a filter to exclude any places where overnight parking isn’t allowed. This has been a great time and money saver for me.
Everyone who consumes fuel needs Gas Buddy. This little app can help you find the cheapest fuel. They continue to improve the way searches. They offer a smart way to search for fuel prices that takes into account the distance that the gas station is from you. So, if it will cost you more than you’ll likely save then it’s going to rank those lower on the list. I would say that about 95% of the time I’m going for the top one but sometimes the second or third one is a better choice. My truck has the ability to tell me the same information but it is cumbersome to get that information. Gas Buddy is simple, it only takes a couple of taps to get the info you want. Then simply ask it for directions and it automatically opens in either Google Maps or Apple Maps. Fast and easy, just like I want it.
When I have downtime between events and travel days (so not often) I’ll use the Local app to find things going on near me. Local is made by Facebook and aggregates all the events near me in an easy to read list. I can also filter that list to only show me things I might be interested in. This is perfect for so many reasons. You get a full-screen view of all the info and if I’m interested then I can add it to my calendar with one click. Then I’ll get a reminder to go. If you like to know what is going on around you, then check out this little app. It is the first place I start with when I’m not sure what I wanna do today, tomorrow or this weekend (Haha like I have weekends off).
It’s actually not very common for me to have full hookups. I’m often only connected to power and sometimes I have access to water. So, after each event, I’ll need to pack up and go find a place to dump the Black and Grey tanks on my trailer. This is where the RV dumps app comes in. Sure, I could use RV Parky and just find an RV Park but often there’s a dedicated dump station that is closer and likely cheaper (or free). RV Dumps is pretty self-explanatory but it gets used often so it made the list.
The next few apps are not necessarily traveling specific but they do come in super handy when I’m traveling. If you’re in the Mac ecosystem and you don’t know what the Reminders app is or you don’t use it, then I think you’re really missing out. Sure, there’s plenty of list apps out there, and some have a better interface and maybe a prettier look. However, I haven’t found any that work as well with Siri as this one because it is native to Mac everything. The power isn’t in the fact that it is a list. After all, you probably have a pen and paper laying around somewhere near you right now. The power of this app is when you have “Hey, Siri” turned on. Since manually adding “coffee” to my shopping list is frowned upon while driving, much less while pulling a large heavy load, I do my best not to do it. But, by the time I get where I’m going, I’ll have forgotten to add that thing to that list.
This is where “Hey, Siri” comes in. When I think of something I need to buy later, like coffee. I’ll simply say “Hey, Siri. Add coffee to my shopping list”. She will reply back “adding coffee to your shopping list” or something similar depending on how witty she feels. LOL. I can do this while I’m driving but it is actually easier because I have a button on my steering wheel that I can use to get Siri to listen. I just push the button and tell her to add whatever to a list. If I haven’t made that list yet, she will even make a new list for me. This, of course, works for many other apps like texting, calling, email, and pretty much everything else. It’s especially helpful if you want to reminded too. Just let Siri know a time or even a location. For example, “Hey, Siri. Remind me to call John when I get home”. She will add “Call John” to my reminders list and then give me a notification when I’ve arrived at home. I suggest you try this out in all kinds of different circumstances. I like to have her remind me to do an Instagram story at 8:45 tomorrow morning so I don’t forget to start the next day with an introduction to where I’m at and what is going on.
The Books app on the iPhone is pretty nice. I really like to continually learn and I’ve found that reading books helps a ton. Though, if I’m being honest, I don’t really like to read books on my phone. Plus, it is not advisable when driving. I’m using this app to store the audiobooks I’ve bought off iTunes. While there are tons of other ways to enjoy an audiobook, I’ve found that this is best for me. Mostly because it works so well with CarPlay and because I can keep the books that I buy. I’m not a fan of subscription models because some months I hardly read at all and sometimes I wanna go back and read a book I already read. I find myself in places with a pretty poor internet connection, especially when driving. Having an audiobook already downloaded is so convenient. Plus, I will often listen to a book while I’m shooting at an event. It helps me from getting burned out and lets me learn something. I’m usually reading something about business, self-help, marketing, photography, or something that I can use to make my life better. I don’t really care for fiction, except, “Ready Player One”. That was a really good book.
Like audiobooks, podcasts are excellent for continuous education. I’m subscribed to so many podcasts. I love them. They often interview experts in their field. Even if their field isn’t related to mine, I can always glean something useful from them. This app also plays nice with CarPlay so I can listen in my truck anytime. I pretty much treat them the same way I treat audiobooks. I use them to better my life not to be entertained. If you are new to the podcast world and think that it isn’t for you, then you probably didn’t give it an honest try. There are millions of podcasts out there that I’d say there’s one for everyone. For example, if you like Team Roping then check out The Score from The Team Roping Journal. Chelsea does an excellent job with that podcast.
I’m often traveling to new places simply to photograph it. Photography is what I do for a career and a hobby. PhotoPills is a crazy app. It is simple enough that most beginner photographers can get enough value to justify the cost. If you’re an advanced user the app really shines. There are way too many features to list here but basically its a planning app for photographers. This app lets you figure out where the sun, moon, stars, and even shadows from the mountains will be anytime in the future or past. (The past isn’t very helpful LOL). There is an augmented reality feature that I use often when I’m on location. It uses the camera facing away from you to show what you are pointing at then it overlays the information on top. For example, I’ll use the augmented reality feature in the Sun “Pill” (Every different feature in the app is called a Pill) to see the path the sun is going to take. I can then scrub through time to see when it will line up perfectly with what I’d like to shoot. I also us the augmented reality in the Night AR pill to determine when I’ll be able to see the Milky Way. It even shows the core of the Milky Way with an orange dot. That way I don’t waste my time venturing out when it isn’t Milky Way season, or when the moon is going to be out and ruin my shot. I’ll also know where to look to see the Milky Way and what orientation it is going to be in. Sometimes I’ll wait until the Milky Way lines up with an object in my foreground. There’s a whole bunch of other great Pills to check out but I’ll have to go over those in a different post.
There are two apps called Dark Sky. One is for whether or something but the one I use is for finding areas where there’s little to no light pollution. Dark Sky shows an overlay of a light pollution map that can be turned on and off. Light Pollution is basically the glow that you see from a city or town but it can also be from smaller light sources close to you. It’s important to get away from light pollution when shooting astrophotography. I’ll use this app in conjunction with Photo Pills to shoot Milky Way Photos. I’ll find a place using the Dark Sky app that is far away from light pollution then I’ll use the Photo Pills app to see if I’ll be able to see the Milky Way or not. Sometimes I’ll shoot from inside the areas with a little light pollution if I know that I’ll be facing away from the source to see the Milky Way.
Dark SkyFind dark places so you can see all the stars.
Hopefully, some of these apps or ways to use an app are new to you and you give them a try. I could easily write a whole post on each one. I have tons of apps loaded on my phone but these are the top 10 that I use as a traveling photographer.