At Home with Tech

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Tag: nature

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.

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.

Nature, Technology, and the New Year

This photomosaic is my homage to the opposing elements that have helped to maintain my balance throughout the pandemic.

I don’t usually think of nature and technology as being cut from the same cosmic cloth. But together, they’ve done so much to help me endure all of the disconnection caused by the pandemic. Over the past year, I’ve found it remarkable to see how much these opposite elements have been able to fuel both the spirit as well as some simple daily essentials.

For me, there’s been a huge need to rebuild connection points that have been shattered throughout all of the disruptions.

Too Much Zoom?
I don’t have to tell you how much Zoom and other video conference platforms have helped to maintain face-to-face communication throughout all parts of our lives.

But unrestricted by life’s former patterns, our computers have also beckoned for our extended attention without regard to former boundaries. Zoom fatigue was the term we gave to the resulting drain on our life force.

Choosing to break away from the digital siren’s glow and step outside for a simple walk has been critical to maintaining sanity. Doing a nature walk is even better. For me, it’s been a great way to refresh and remember what’s really important in life.

Back to the Future
Leaning on both nature and technology helped me to keep it together in 2020. It’s about maintaining balance. And for me, I did that by better balancing my time between the two.

There were also ways to positively engage with both simultaneously. I found that snapping more nature photos and time-lapse sunrise videos was a joyous connective tether.

As we look to a better 2021, we should continue to weave together the impact of these two contrary forces. Eventually, there will be a next new normal after the pandemic ends. That life should continue to reflect our healthier balance with both technology and nature. (That’s my New Year’s resolution.)

And if your harmony isn’t quite there yet, now’s a great time to get started!

I wish you a safe and healthy 2021.

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