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Category: Tech How To

Take your Camera on your Next Drive and Turn Off your GPS App

Spending an extra hour on a road less traveled will often reveal new imagery for you to capture with your camera.

My GPS navigation apps have been pointing the way while I drive for years. Whether I’m using Waze, Google Maps, Apple Maps or my ancient Garmin, technology has been mapping my ‘fastest’ routes to my destinations. Of course, I sometimes wonder if the AI algorithms are actually sending me the longer way. That’s why I often run two apps simultaneously to see if I can generate directional consensus.

Yes, it feels imperfect, but it usually gets the job done for this city boy, who grew up in the easy-to-navigate box grid of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. (Complicated navigation challenges on the road have always been solved by my wife.)

The Value of Adding an Extra Hour to your Trip
I usually prioritize the shortest travel time when I’m in the car, but if you turn off your navigation app and take a little more time on the road less traveled, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you come across. I know this is not a revolutionary idea, but I’ve found that applying it for an hour or so on drives you’ve previously taken can expose you to new scenery, while not dramatically sacrificing your planned arrival time.

No, you’re not going off the grid for the day. You’re just taking the other route your GPS has shunned, possibly due to just a few extra driving minutes.

Taking my Time Driving through Connecticut
I recently applied this visual exploration strategy on a drive back from northwestern Connecticut with the hopes of finding some quintessential New England fall scenery to photograph.

I was not disappointed.

Kent Falls
Connecticut Fall Vista Timelapse
Bulls Bridge

Something New is Just Around the Corner
If you’re in search of new imagery to capture but don’t have a whole day to explore, turning off your GPS app for an hour or so while driving and sticking to local roads can offer the perfect solution.

This Mistake will Doom your iPad’s Photos and Videos

Are you backing up the media files you want to iCloud? I wasn’t, and I didn’t know it. And then the unthinkable happened. Here’s how to avoid my iPad’s fate.

Once upon a time, backing up the content on my iPhone and iPad used to mean regularly tethering them to my iMac. It was something of a laborious process, but necessary. Then iCloud showed up, and everything started to back up magically on its own. It was easy.

Set it and forget it. That’s progress, right?

But removing the chore of physically backing up my digital life also eroded my awareness of the details needed to ensure that my precious data was being properly backed up in the background.

Over the past couple of years, I must admit I haven’t thought about this much. And during the same period, my 11-year-old son effectively became the primary user of the family iPad.
(Minecraft, photo taking, videos of our cat)

How I Lost all of my Son’s Photos and Videos
Everything was working great, until it wasn’t, and the family IT guy was called in to help the iPad out. I quickly realized the iPad needed some real support and brought my iPad’s problems to the experts. It was decided to wipe the iPad, give it a fresh start… and then reload all of its data that was safely backed up in iCloud.

Easy.

Except all of the iPad’s data wasn’t being backed up. When my iPad completed its restore, all of my son’s photos and videos from the past few years were gone.

You might imagine I was a tad disturbed by this. And I may have become slightly catatonic when it was determined that the little setting to back up the iPad’s Photo Library to iCloud had not been activated.

It’s a rookie mistake. And while a huge part of me wanted to push blame elsewhere, it was ultimately my responsibility.

My son handled the loss much better than me. (He immediately began shooting new photos and videos of our cat.) He was also especially relieved that his many Minecraft worlds survived the iPad’s wipe.

Simplicity and Complacency
So, life goes on in the Lester home. My son hasn’t complained about his lost photos and videos. All seems normal.

I tell myself that this cautionary tale is a good lesson for my son to help him understand the importance of properly backing up his future digital files.

And it’s a painful reminder for me how simplicity can create complacency.

On the positive side, I’ve got better backup systems for the content in the remainder of my Apple hardware.

All this said, it’s probably a good idea to occasionally check any device’s settings for its iCloud backup plan. (Don’t just set it and forget it.)

Here’s how to do that.

How to Back Up Correctly to iCloud
To create a full backup of what’s on your iPad via iCloud, you first need to pay for enough iCloud storage to handle it. My family’s Apple devices are collecting sharing the 200 GB iCloud+ storage plan. ($2.99/month)

Then, you’ve got to tell your iPad what to back up. This is how to find the right setting for your Photo Library:

  • Tap “Settings”
  • Tap your name and face on top
  • Go to “iCloud”
  • Tap “Manage Storage”
  • Tap “Backups”
  • Tap your device’s backup
  • Tap “Choose Data to Back Up”
  • Look for “Photo Library” on top…
  • Slide the digital switch to the green setting!

Then, do the same for everything else you want to back up to iCloud.

Easy, right? But, you’ve got to do it.

Finding Peace with my Mistake
It’s been a few weeks since the ‘Lester iPad Incident’, and I’ve remained unsettled. Sure, I can attribute my error to the flaws of humanity and this human in particular. But I know I would feel better if it made more sense.

And then I figured it out…

A couple years back, I wasn’t paying for an iCloud storage plan. So, of course, the free 5 GBs of iCloud storage wouldn’t be enough for my son’s photos and videos. And so they sat there in the iPad, unprotected.
(Bad daddy)

When I finally upgraded to the 200 GB storage plan, I didn’t consider my son’s media on the iPad, and I didn’t update its iCloud storage settings to finally include the iPad’s Photo Library. (Forgetful daddy)

I had also chosen not to activate iCloud Photos, which would sync the photos to mirror images in iCloud as opposed to generating a backup file. That’s because I had wanted to keep my son’s digital media in a separate ecosystem from my own.
(Shortsighted daddy)

Looking to the Future
I think it’s time to properly recognize my son’s digital media creation and generate a child account for my son to use on the iPad. He needs his own digital space.
(Better daddy)

Yes, my son is growing up, and I need to keep up with all of his developing interests.
(More present daddy)

But it’s not only about flicking a couple of digital switches and paying for cloud storage. You’ve really got to own, organize and properly back up your digital content.

It’s a life-long endeavor and an important reminder for children of all ages.

How to Use an Apple Watch as a Remote to Snap a Better iPhone Photo

If you should come upon an amazing vista and desire a picture of yourself using your iPhone’s rear-facing camera, you can use your Apple Watch as a remote viewfinder to frame the shot. Here’s how.

I’ve often found when using my iPhone’s camera that one of my biggest challenges has been framing enough of the environment into a selfie pic. This has been especially difficult when I’m also trying to jam several people in. Sure, capturing all of the faces is hard enough, but if you can’t see where everyone is, the picture has limited value.

Of course, the solution is to move the iPhone to a distance beyond your arm’s length, which will get you the wider shot. But then, it’s not a selfie anymore. Well, not exactly. Let’s call it an ‘extended selfie.’

But how do you take the picture if you can’t touch your iPhone?

Camera Remote App
If you also have an Apple Watch, you can use it as a remote for your iPhone’s camera. The Apple Watch’s native Camera Remote app essentially controls your iPhone’s camera and offers a convenient 3-second countdown after you tap the shutter button. That should give you plenty of time after your look down at your Apple Watch and tap it to then look up at your iPhone’s camera in the distance.

Easy Activation
To turn on your Apple Watch’s Camera Remote app, you can simply proclaim to your iPhone, “Hey Siri, take a picture.” Or if it’s too noisy around you, you can also tap the app’s icon on your Apple Watch’s screen.

The Value of Using a Remote Viewfinder
This Apple Watch app can control the front or rear-facing iPhone camera. So that means you can take advantage of the better quality of your rear-facing camera for your extended selfie. That’s because even though you can’t see your iPhone’s screen when using the rear camera, you can still frame the shot using your Apple Watch. It effectively becomes a remote viewfinder.

Removing Yourself from the Picture
Using the Camera Remote app also opens up plenty of photographic options beyond selfies. If you’re able to position yourself far from your iPhone (but close enough to maintain the Bluetooth connection), you can erase your presence from the environment. And that should allow you to capture more natural moments.

Bring Along a Tripod
All of these options will give your iPhone photography a lot more flexibility. That said, you should also bring along a tripod. Propping your iPhone up against an object to get the right angle can be a really difficult and potentially risky exercise for your iPhone.

I know that using a tripod doesn’t exactly match up with the spontaneity of pulling your iPhone out of your pocket to take a quick shot. But a little Joby tripod with an iPhone grip should fit easily enough into any bag or backpack.

Shooting Beyond the Distance of a Selfie Stick
Yes, using a selfie stick can also help to get the shot you want. But performing this remote Apple Watch trick will offer even more opportunity to create a really great photo.

Just be careful not to put your iPhone in harm’s way… now that you no longer maintain physical contact with it. (I’ve have a tendency to do that with my cameras.)

To date, I’ve been successful protecting my iPhone while using it as a camera and found that using my Apple Watch as a remote viewfinder is a nifty tool to enhance my iPhone’s photos.

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