Tag Archives: landscape

Winter Photography Preperation

Winter is coming and we need to get ready for winter photography.  There are several different challenges that a photographer needs to overcome to produce good images. Cameras, lenses, batteries and all sorts of equipment behaves differently in the cold and we will go over the best ways to adjust to the weather and have good results.

Cold plays havoc on our equipment.  First of all, batteries will not last as long in the cold, it drains them much faster than normal.  Make sure you have a few spare batteries and store them in your vehicle or in your front pocket where they will stay warm.  That way when your battery in the camera runs down you can have a fresh one that wont’ be drained.  This isn’t’ as much of a factor if you are working out of your car because the car will keep things warm, but if you are out hiking it will drain fast.

In the extreme cold you have to remember that things will work slower as well. Autofocus will slow down and sometimes your memory card won’t write as fast.  Make sure you remember this when you are choosing your subject.

When you take your camera out in the cold it gets cold.  You have to be very careful when you bring it back inside.  Everyone knows that when you wear your glasses outside and then come back in they get all fogged up.  Same thing can happen to your camera and lenses.  Condensation or moisture forming on the camera when it warms up is obviously a bad thing because it will form on the outside AND the inside where you can’t see it.  This is actually simple to avoid.  BEFORE you go inside, take a zip lock bag and put your camera inside it.  As the camera warms up the condensation will form on the outside of the bag and your camera will be dry inside.  Make sure you have the bags with you and make sure you have bags that are big enough to fit the whole camera and lenses all at once.  A garbage bag will work as well but you have to make sure you have it sealed well.

It usually goes without saying make sure you are prepared for the weather yourself, but many photographers are more concerned with getting their equipment ready that they forget about themselves.  I’m a big one for comfort, I like to be warm and not freezing.  I live near an army base so I can get some really cool clothing. To explain things easier I will start at the feet and move up, ha ha.

Boots are super important, you never know where you will be and what’s ahead of you.  There are many times where I have been walking along and my foot crashed through some ice into water.  Make sure you have a good pair of boots, waterproof them with mink oil.  If they are high enough tuck your pants into the boots before you lace them up, then you wont’ get snow in  your socks.  Socks are critical, I have an extra pair in my car for those water mistakes.  Wool is your friend when it comes to socks.

Pants are pants, we’re not talking about Arctic tundra expeditions here, just a normal pair of jeans work good, same for a shirt.  Your coat is super important though.  I wear an army gortex parka.  You can find them on ebay.  They have huge pockets everywhere and zippers, velcro, drawstrings, and the hood is functional, not just for decoration.  Gortex will keep out the water and let your sweat out, and if you sweat and get wet from it you can get hypothermia fast–very bad.  These coats are not usually insulated well because the army uses a theory of wearing layers.  So under the coat I usually have polartec fleece on.  I don’t know what we ever did before fleece.

Hats and gloves are last on the list.  Gloves and photography don’t mix, but sometimes you have to wear them.  Thinsulate gloves seem to be the best I’ve found so far.  There are also some gloves where the fingertip comes off, those work good too.  As far as a hat, I wear the goofiest looking hat in the world.  Basically I have an elmer fudd hunting cap.  Go to your hunting and fishing store and get one of those horrid bright orange hats that has the flaps that go down around your face.  They are usually fur lined and they are sooo warm.  If you are lucky  you can find one that isn’t bright orange.

Some other small things that make it easier, cross country ski’s work well and there are tons of established trails all over the place in the winter.  Most of the trails are beautiful and wind through a forest giving you limitless photo opportunities.  Snowshoes are a great way to get around as well, and today’s snowshoes are easy to put on and very lightweight.

Don’t drive beyond the ability of your car.  It’s easy to get distracted and keep going “just a bit further” on that unplowed road. But it’s a real pain when you have to dig out for an hour just cause you drove 10 feet too far.. Carry a small shovel in your trunk just incase.  Also, if you are anything like me you are often out of cell phone range and that’s the only time anything will go wrong.  If the car dies and you are stuck there don’t try to walk out in the dark.  Make sure you have the necessary supplies if you have to sleep in your car, blanket, food, water.   Then the next day when you have to walk, make sure you leave a note in your car where you are walking to so the rescuers can find you.

Winter photography is a lot of fun and very rewarding. The images are stunning. This seems like a lot of preparation but it’s pretty simple once you have it set up the first time, after it’s all in place you just get in the car and drive and enjoy the day.



Florida Bird Photography

The time of year has come when the weather is just horrible.  At least in Northern New York it is horrible.  Up  here the skies are gray, it’s rainy, it’s cold, just no fun to be outside at all.  Many of us are faced with a similar problem, it’s discouraging and you just don’t want to get up and go out and photograph things.  Now is the time to go to florida!  If you time it right you can save a ton of money going down there and avoid all the tourists as well.

Florida is traditionally a tourist destination, but early to mid November and most of January it’s dead there.  The hotels are empty and traffic is light.  The locals are in a better mood as well which is a huge advantage!

Bird photography in Florida is simply the best in the United States without question.  There are more species there than anywhere else and they are completely comfortable with people approaching them.  You don’t need blinds, camouflage, or any sort of difficult equipment.  Simply get out of your car and go watch them and shoot away.

And if bird photography isn’t your favorite thing there are great coastlines, docks, lighthouses, marinas, the possibilities are endless.  I’m a nature photographer so I’m going to share with you some of the best places I’ve found to get some great bird images.


viera wetlands, brevard county waste water treatment facility   many birds and eagles and aligators and stuff N wickham rd  rockledge, fl

wakodahatchee wetlands   wastewater treatment facility  many birds and aligators and stuff 13042 jog rd, delray beach

1200 lakeshore blvd  st. cloud  spoon bill cranes and chicks walking   take trails from boat ramp

900 joe overstreet rd. kenansville  driving along road, pond on left, and marsh on right at end of road… tons of birds, eagles, owls, cranes

601 lakeshore blvd  kissimme  many wading birds

cape coral burrowing owls at library

922 sw 39th terrace  cape coral

laurel road dump   sign in at office… eagles, hawks, aligators

knights trail rd, nokomis

Honeymoon island state park  ospreys and possibly owls  1 causeway boulevard, dunedin, fl


Those are just a few specific places that will get you started, but there are tons more around.  Everglades national park is there too,  you can spend a day there easily at just one small section of the park.

Bird photography is tricky, you can spend years til you get it right so practice practice practice.  With the amount of birds around you can try all sorts of techniques as well.  Birds in flight are one of the biggest challenges most of us face.  Practice on simple shore birds and sea gulls.  You can sit for a few hours and work on tracking them in flight and figure out how they move and the best ways to take the picture.  After working on them for a while you have become much better at photographing birds in flight so you will have a much easier time when you see those eagles, owls, or cranes that look much cooler than an ugly sea gull.

Also, remember that you want to blur the background as much as possible.  Try to keep your aperture around 2.8 or 4.0.  Don’t be afraid to use a higher ISO if necessary, a picture with some noise is better than no picture at all.

As far as equipment this is one type of photography where bigger and more expensive IS better.  Sorry, but hands down, a 600mm F4 is going to do things that are impossible to do with a 70-300 with a teleconverter.  Now, I understand most people are on a budget and not everyone can buy the big glass, but don’t get discouraged.  Try to think of different ways to get the shot if you are limited on the lenses you have.  You might have to get your feet wet walking in the water to get closer, or you might have to use a bit of stealth and sneak up some.

The main equipment I use for birds is either a 600mm or the sigma 300-800mm.  I do keep a smaller 70-200 attached to a body all the time and this is the one I have closest to me.  Think of it this way, you are driving along, or walking on a trail and suddenly 10 feet ahead you see your subject.  A spur of the moment image is not something you will need big lenses for.  This is something you will need to click fast before it flies off.  Anything beyond 10 feet and you will have time to set up the tripod and bigger lens.

Teleconverters are also very important.  Even with huge lenses sometimes you just can’t get close enough.  I’ve seen photographers with 600’s and 2 teleconverters stacked behind it.. I’ve done it myself, ha ha.  The problem with using all those converters is you lose light and autofocus speed, sometimes you won’t be able to autofocus at all.   All my cameras and lenses will autofocus with a 2x converter but that may differ depending on what body and lens you are using at the time.

No matter which setup you choose, stability is key.  Tripods are your friend.  Live view mode is your friend.  Your tripod is just as important as the expensive lens you have with you, get a big heavy duty one, period.  Ball heads do not work for bird photography, you need a wimberly style head.  It allows you to pan and follow the bird in flight and has no trouble supporting 15lbs of camera and lens.

Live view is also a huge help, I’ve written articles on the advantage of live view, but essentially it’s a mirror lockup and still allows you to watch your subject.  A remote shutter release either infrared, radio or cable is important too.  If you are set up watching a nest with two teleconverters on a big lens, the slightest touch will give you camera shake, so some sort of remote shutter release is important.

It sounds like bird photography is expensive.  Well, it is.  Sorry but it’s not a type of photography that will be something you can just pick up and do cheaply but the rewards are amazing.  There are exceptions to every rule and even if you can’t afford all the expensive equipment you can still get out there and enjoy it though.  Don’t get discouraged wishing you had the biggest best lens. Have fun with the birds you can work with and then when you can afford more you can step up to the “advanced birds”.


Autumn Photography Equipment

Off into the wilderness I go, well, almost.  Before you head out to get that spectacular shot of the autumn leaves and waterfalls you need to make sure you are prepared.  The easy part of planning the trip is figuring out what kind of cameras and lenses and accessories you are going to take.  The other part is remembering all the extras you need.   Today’s article will talk about all the extra little things that are often overlooked as well as the “wish i remembered” things from my latest trip.
Clothes, it’s rainy, windy, wet and cold. Remind me again why we’re out in that sort of weather? ha ha  First and foremost you need good shoes.  Now my idea of good hiking shoes differs a lot from many people.  I wear Vibram five finger shoes http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/indexNA.cfm I can honestly say these are the best shoes i’ve ever owned.  My balance is better, they allow me to wrap my toes around rocks and sticks and roots, and blah blah blah, i could go on like a commercial.  There are a few drawbacks however, they will get wet and you will have wet feet throughout the day, and you can’t wear socks with them unless you get those special toe socks which would leave you with a wet sock as well as a wet shoe, so i advise against the socks.  To me it’s all about stability and not falling, and these help me a ton.  If you choose hiking boots make sure you have worn them before and they are broken in well.  Before i found the toe shoes i wore army boots.  They are inexpensive, strong, and give good ankle support.  Get some mink oil and waterproof the boots you get.   With boots you will be winning against me in the water department but i still bet i fall less often than you will….
Pants and shirts are common sense, but take along a light jacket/windbreaker that has a hood incase it starts to rain.  I have a really nice jacket that repels water and has tons of pockets.  While i wouldn’t count on it to keep my cameras all perfectly dry it does work well to keep the wind and sprinkles off of me.  Of course the pockets are filled with filters, batteries, cable releases and such.
Some guys are into hats, some are not, that’s your own fashion sense, i’ve found that any hat i’ve worn has always gotten in the way as i press my face against the camera.
So now we’re dressed, lets get to the location.  i’m driving up and that great shot is at the bottom of a gorge that only mountain goats would be brave enough to go down in.  And us of course, but ya gotta do it smart.  At my age i’ve started using safety gear. Now i know, when you are young you figure that you’ll be fine, so just skip ahead and let the old guys read this part.  I use rope on my way down, i’ve got a nice mountain climbing rope that is 220′ long and it makes my life so much easier.  I’m not talking about mountaineering here, just makes going down slopes safer because when you have something to hold onto that’s another balance point.  You have to decide how extreme of a hill/mountain/cliff you want to descend, but remember, once you are down there you have to get back up.  Going up is where the rope really comes in handy.  I use an ascender that is used by mountain climbers.  Basically you just attach it to the rope and it’s a handle to use to go up the mountainside very easily.  You might think i’m crazy, but the best shots are always at the bottom where the water is, not looking at it from above.
If you know me at all then you know i drive around back roads A LOT.  A word of warning, back roads do not have gas stations often–just remember that.  I work from my car primarily and driving can get tiring.  Bring along some energy drinks, bars, or goo packets.  My personal choice is a product called GU  http://www.guenergy.com/ some people don’t mind the taste, some think it’s the worst thing in the world.  The simple fact however is that it works better than any energy bar or drink i’ve ever used.  You do have to find your flavor, some are horrid (vanilla bean)  but the chocolate tastes like a rich brownie mix mmmm.  But it works great, when you feel yourself getting tired and dozing a bit, eat one and within about 10 mins you will feel awake again.  Of course it’s good for hiking too.
Don’t forget your iphone either.  If you don’t have an Iphone, then give into the dark side and get one!!  GPS, Maps, Hotel bookings.. it’s an indispensable tool that i use constantly. Assistants are helpful too “stop looking at the side of the road and stay in your own lane!!!” is one i always hear from my wife’s head. Although she sits there quietly and grits her teeth in terror, ha ha.  If you ever find someone that doesn’t interfere with your creative thinking then they would be a huge asset.  Personally i travel alone because another person distracts me a great deal.
So autumn is almost over but you still have another week or two to get out there.  These are observations i’ve made over my travels so far this year.  Leave comments and don’t fall in the middle of nowhere.

Autumn Photography

Well autumn is here and the leaves are changing. Everywhere you look there are reds, oranges, yellows–both on the trees and on the ground.  So today we will look at different ideas and techniques to use to get those awesome beautiful Autumn landscape images.
First lets look at equipment.  The majority of my landscape images are taken with a nikon d700 and 16-35mm lens.  I also bring along a 70-200mm but i don’t use it as often.  You will also need a tripod and a few filters.  I use singh ray filters, they have a nice polarizer that gives you both golden and blue hues at variable degrees of color.  Also they have ND graduated filters that you can get really nice results with.  finally you need a regular ND filter if you want to get those great shots of waterfalls and streams with leaves all over the rocks and shore.
Autumn is a time of year that is very unique, it’s cold, wet, foggy and miserable to be out in the morning. Unfortunately that’s when you can get the best pictures usually.  Here i’m going to outline my typical day from leaving my home to getting the images…
I live in Northern NY, so i’ve got the adirondacks and i live close to vermont and new hampshire.  All awesome places to get phenominal colors.  So i’ll get up and start driving around 9am or so towards my destination.  usually i have a general idea of where i’m going so that helps, you really don’t need much of a plan after the first day, i kinda just play it by ear and see where i end up.  so much of the first day is spent getting to the destination, lets say i arrive there about 1pm or so. Now the scouting begins, i’ll drive around that area, looking for streams, waterfalls, ponds–anywhere that might have some good fog rising off the water in the morning.
Don’t be afraid to talk to people either, locals know where all the good spots are and they love telling ya about how cool their town is.  Typically you need to find older people though because they take their time to see the world and don’t rush from one place to another ignoring their surroundings.  A good way to get into a conversation is find a good image, go ask permission if you can take a picture on their land.  Go back, say thanks, show them the picture on your LCD and then ask “do you know anywhere else that is really nice?”  and then they will open up a lot.. just make sure you get good directions.
I’ve been scouting around for the day, i’ve found a good spot for sunset pictures and i’ve figured out where i’m going to be going for sunrise.  This is super important, you will never find that perfect spot for the sunrise image if you leave the hotel and just drive around in the dark hoping you find somewhere good. You really need to be at the spot before the sun comes up so you will have time to get set up.
After i get my sunset images i start looking for a hotel that is as close as possible to where i’ll be going for the sunrise image.  Sunrise is around 630-7am in autumn so we don’t have to get up too early luckily.  So i crawl out of bed and drive to my location in the dark.  I already know where to go, where to park, where to sit.. it’s all planned out and ready.  Make sure you sit at your spot and get a few images, the light will change dramatically every 5 mins or so.  Be patient and get a few different color images and use different filters too.
So i’ve gotten my first pictures of the day, now i’ve got about an hour left of good light so i look around for some other things and then i usually make my way back to the hotel or find a restaurant for breakfast.   You need to learn to eat around your photography schedule so i often am eating in my car with granola bars or whatever it is you like to munch on.  Just make sure you eat, if you don’t eat your brain doesn’t work as well and you won’t be as creative.
And now the day starts over again..keep in mind, this is a basic idea of my day to day plan, but it dosn’t always work out that way, i might see some birds or wildlife that will distract me for a few hours, so you have to decide how strict you will be with your timeline.
And get off the main roads.  you wont’ find anything good on a highway, if you are going north just make sure you go north on some back roads.  it doesn’t even matter what roads you are going on. i often don’t know where i am until the end of the day.  Driving blind like that may scare you, but the results you get will make you smile.
Next week’s blog will be an actual log of what i’ve done and where i’ve gone over the weekend, so we’ll see how this plan worked out.
if you read this leave me some comments, i need ideas for new articles too, don’t just read and ignore, tell me what you think, i can’t improve these or anything if you don’t tell me what you think

Using “Live View” in photography

Many many photographers consider live view to be something unnecessary. I however have found it to be quite a useful part of my camera.  some cameras make it easy to use and some make it a bit less convenient.

as i sat in glacier national park watching a bear through the viewfinder i thought to myself “there has to be a better way.” i’m sitting down, my camera is on the tripod and here i am twisting my neck upwards and sideways to stare through that viewfinder for an hour at a time.  i can tell you, i felt that sore neck for the next 2 days.  so live view to the rescue.
the next day i was sore and uncomfortable so sitting and staring just wasn’t going to be a fun option, so i decided to give live view a try.  well, short story, it was great.  you can sit back, mount your camera on a tripod and watch the screen much easier than twisting around looking through the small viewfinder.  it greatly prevented more neck pain and i think this comfort thing is a huge advantage.

i have found this to be a huge advantage when shooting from a tripod but not so much when you are hand holding.  one huge advantage is shooting from a car.  frequently i’m driving and i use the window as a rest for a large lens.  sitting in the driver’s seat with a 600mm resting on the window makes for some big bending and twisting on my part to get my eye to that viewfinder.  but with live view i can simply put the seat back a bit, turn to the side and have a much more comfortable position and i am able to stabilize the camera better as well.

landscapes and scenics are a place where live view really can shine well for you.  i shoot many panoramas and live view makes it easy for me to keep track of landmarks and reference points so it will be easier for me to put together back on the computer.  plus, a huge thing that most don’t know about is live view is essentially a mirror lock up.  when doing long exposures the camera can shake with the simple movement of your finger pressing the shutter, or the mirror moving.  the problem with using mirror lockup in the normal viewfinder is that once you lock the mirror you can’t see what you are trying to shoot.  well live view to the rescue: now we can see what we are shooting, we can refocus, adjust for things, and with a shutter release cable or a timer release you can practically eliminate camera shake.  one example i have is when i was shooting some newborn bald eagles.  the light was poor, they were far far away so i had to use a long lens and teleconverters.  with the low light some of my shots were 60th of a second.  even with a big tripod and a wimberly head using such a slow shutter speed and a 600mm with converters just never would have worked well through the viewfinder. the simple weight of my hand on the camera was noticable.  so here we are with live view, the mirror is locked, i use a cable release and i don’t have to twist my neck up.  i simply sit back, watch the screen and when the birds do something interesting i just push the button on the release.

many many people will say it’s great to be able to see what the image will look like on a bigger screen than the viewfinder.  well, yes, that’s also a great feature.  sometimes when looking through a viewfinder we get caught up on the main subject and forget the surroundings a little.  with live view you can play around with composition a bit more sometimes.  on some cameras  you can set the point where it will focus and you can move that point around easily while watching the whole scene.  this is particularly helpful in wildlife photography where the subject is often hidden partially in the woods.  now you are sure the subject is in focus, not the trees all around it.

some cameras are better than others at how the live view will work and the benefits and drawbacks of it. it does look like nikon is improving on their design now by having a dedicated live view button on the d300s. this is great because i can still use my fast 9fps with live view.  unfortunately my older d700 does not have that dedicated button so i’m stuck with one frame at a time, but i’m sure they will change that with updates on new bodies.  most importantly be familiar with your camera.  play around with it and learn now it works.  this is a whole new way of thinking about composition and body position and like anything else in life it takes a bit of getting used to. once you figure it out and get comfortable with it you will sleep sounder and won’t be eating aspirin for neck pain at the end of each

Photography from your car

Many many photographers go on huge long photo hikes.  they pack everything up, cameras, lenses, filters, tripods, solar chargers.  And then there is the traditional necessities such as water and food for a day trip all the way to tents and sleeping bags and more for a longer trip.
Personally at my age i enjoy the comfort of a bed in a nice hotel each night.  Or at the worst an air mattress in the back of the rented SUV.  I’m not one of those guys that likes strapping 50-100 pounds of camera and camping gear to my back and going in the woods for miles.  There goes my back, my neck, my knees.. uggggg..
Now don’t get me wrong, i love nature, but my idea of hiking is simply walking through the woods with my shoes and a small camera and that’s it.  I’m more of a minimalist when i go in the woods, i drink the water i find and i eat the berries if i get hungry.. or maybe a couple granola bars in my pocket.  i’ve found that carrying tons of stuff first of all, duh, it’s heavy, but it also tends to make you stay near established trails that many have walked on already anyhow.
I’ve never really found anything breathtaking walking through the woods anyhow.  Usually i find a stream, the occasional pond, or some animals that run away at the first sound of me coming.  But if you must go in the woods then plan the trip, look at satellite images before you go, (see my previous blog.)
So if you are walking on trails that many have done beforehand, you are not finding that all important “original secret view” that hardly ever exists anymore anyhow.
I know that i am attracted to the latest cameras and lenses with the cool little fancy buttons and i love technology.  so why do photographers run away from using technology to get to our subject?  Cars people, cars.
When i work from my car i have everything i need for the whole day or even the week.  i have all my cameras and lenses sitting on the seat next to me within easy reach.  i love to have 3 or 4 bodies with lenses just waiting to be grabbed.  I hate changing lenses because before i kept them all mounted  it always ended up that i just took that great waterfall or mountain picture and then i forget to put the 400mm back on and i miss the animal on the side of the road up ahead.  But, in a car i can have all the cameras and lenses ready to go.. try that with a backpack.
Now, can we say air conditioning and heater? i’m at that perfect place in the morning, all set up waiting for the right light just before the sun rises behind me. Well, it’s also 50 31 degrees that morning and then there could even be wind!!  So we go back to the comfort thing, would you rather be standing out there at your tripod with your fingers going numb and teeth chattering? How about waiting in a nice cushioned seat with the heater going and your favorite music (audio books for me… i know, nerd), and a nice hot cup of tea or coffee and donuts…mmmmm
So i got that great picture and look, i have a car so i can easily drive to another site while there is still good light.  try doing that camping out.  i’m so sick of those guys saying “i had to wait all week for the sky and light to be just right so i can get this one shot.”  if i went away for a week and only came back with one shot my wife would kill me!  Even from a business standpoint: you waited all week, spent $1500 on airfare, meals, and all the other crap, and you got your shot! However, how many times do you have to sell it to get that money back?  i don’t know any professional that sits for a week, i’m convinced that is an old wives tale that ego trip guys make up so we think they are soooo dedicated.
Morning is now over, i’m driving all along back roads finding really cool stuff to photograph. I’m scouting for the next morning and the evening location.  I even have a chance to talk to the locals and find out the secret spots that are never published on the internet.
Cars also are a great way to sneak up on wildlife.  For some reason even in remote areas most wildlife won’t run from a car like they would if you were walking.  Plus, it’s a lot harder to get trampled by a moose if you roll up the window.  An example i have is a blue heron.  I have a beautiful pond at home and there is a blue heron that comes all the time to eat my trout.  Now, if i drive up the driveway he just sits there and looks at me, i can sit in the car forever and he still dosn’t react.  However, if i walk along the driveway he is gone and flies away instantly.  Cars are just great blinds for your photography.
Now i’m a big fan of national parks, and you will say all the roadside stuff has been photographed to death.  Well that’s true for the snapshot people.  As a professional we see things from an artistic point of view that they will never see.  the general public as a whole “knows what they like” but they don’t know how to get it.  hang out in the gift shop and listen to people.  grab a book and pretend to read it and stand near where they sell the large prints or even the post cards. i guarantee within 3-5 mins someone will say these exact words: “why doesn’t my picture of xxxxx look like that?”
it’s because we are professionals, we can see how the light is going to bounce off a mountainside, we know how to slow the shutter down and smooth out the waterfall, and now we have HDR.  Plus, i like photographing the same thing everyone else does because it makes me think and makes me try to figure out how to get creative and make it an original image.
Don’t be afraid of your car, don’t worry about what that photographer hiking through the woods is getting.  Enjoy what YOU are doing and getting and you will have an awesome week or day in comfort.

Using Satellites in Photography

the world is a huge place and you never know what is around the corner.  when you are traveling around and you’re not familiar with an area it is easy to miss some great pictures.  i’m always wondering what is around the next corner, over the hill, around the big rock.  well, technology is our friend here.
with the iphone we are able to see what is ahead of us!  pull out that phone and click on the maps app and you can get a beautiful satellite picture of what is around you.
you don’t have to worry anymore about being able to know the area like the locals do. with a satellite picture you have become a local.  there are still secrets out there that you will have to discover on your own, but this is a huge help in national parks which are huge and have trails everywhere.  now you can see where those trails lead.
the drawback to the app is that you need to have a cell phone signal to get an accurate picture of where you are on the map.  if you are going to be in an area where you won’t have a signal then make sure you study your maps ahead of time and plan your route.  i have however found that sometimes the phone will store a satellite map in it’s memory, but that depends on how you use your phone and how much memory it has available to it, so be careful with that one.
you also need to be able to identify what you are seeing, remember, you are looking from above, so there is a bit of learning to reading the maps.
most roads and trails are easy to spot, if you turn on the hybrid feature then it will give you road names on the picture.
ponds and streams appear as dark spots alot of times depending on how big they are.  these ponds are a great place to sneak up on wildlife.
the best way to learn about the maps is to go out around where you are already familiar.  walk around and keep track of where you are on the map so you can recognize the features in a place you won’t get lost as easily.