Friday, November 16, 2012

4 Days in Seattle: Finding the Best Photo Spots

A few months ago I took a road trip up to Seattle, Washington with my wife to explore a city that I had heard (and seen) very good things about but had never experienced before. While the trip was not specifically for photography, I knew I wanted to find some great photo spots along the way. And once I arrived in the Emerald City I knew I would not have trouble photographing this beautiful city!

Here are a few terrific photo spots I found on my brief stay (and by the way, yes I did create a photo guide to Seattle):

Kerry Park

This is almost certainly a well known photo spot to Seattle residents, and for good reason. Because it is in the neighborhood known as Queen Anne, it is on the highest named hill in Seattle, and directly faces the skyline of downtown Seattle. If the weather is clear enough at sunset, you might be able to see Mount Rainier in the distance, just to the side of the skyline.

12th Street Bridge

I had heard about this spot before, but had difficulty actually finding the location. After being misled to the entirely wrong place, I quickly raced to what turned out to be the right spot in time for the sunset. This vantage point of the Seattle skyline gives you a fantastic foreground as the light starts to fade from sunset due to the headlights and tail lights from the speeding cars on I-5.

Gas Works Park

The park itself offers myriad fascinating photography subjects with all the gas equipment still in tact and on display. Not to mention it offers yet another great view of the city skyline, as well as boats, canoers, kayakers, sea planes taking off, and the span of the Aurora Bridge all within a medium focal length away.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is probably one of two things people are likely to know about Seattle even if they're otherwise unfamiliar with the city. Known especially as the place where they throw the fish (but in reality offering a great deal more than that), exploring it with a camera doesn't disappoint. The scene offers much in the way of street photography, capturing music performers, fish throwers, tourists, locals, and characters of all flavors. It also has one of the most iconic signs in all of Seattle.

Space Needle

And of course the Space Needle is the other thing people are likely to know about Seattle. As you might guess, the view from the top of the Space Needle is fantastic, and if you can go at a time when the light and clouds are dramatic, you won't regret the dent it makes in your wallet to get up there.




There are so many other great photo spots throughout Seattle, some of which I discovered, and many which I'll have to save for my next trip that way. If you'd like to see my complete photo guide, head on over to ShutterGuides to get all the photo spots I found on my brief stay in a city that I feel offers endless photography opportunities! And if you'd like to add a guide to Seattle or any other city, we'd love to see you on ShutterGuides!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New and Improved Design

We've kicked the site design up a notch with a new and improved design for several of our pages across ShutterGuides.com, including the home page, profile page, favorites, search, and more! Stop on by and leave us your feedback.


You'll notice that the way we list photo guides is much different now. With the help of talented designer and photographer Toby Harriman we've made the photo guides more visually appealing by featuring the first few photo spots with larger versions of the photos so you can make an easier decision about whether to explore that particular guide more. We've also brought the number of spots that are in the guide up front and center to give you an idea of what to expect in the guide from a quick glance.

You might also notice that now we added an infinite scroll to the feed of recent and popular guides on the home page, so no more paging through to get more content.

We're only getting started! Lot's more to come, and we think you're going to like it!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Your Photo Guides: More Beautiful

We recently made some changes to how your photo guides are presented, and we think you'll like them. Now when you click on a spot to get more details, the map will slide over and zoom in. On the right side you'll see a larger version of the spot's photo, GPS coordinates, weather, and Exif information. We think you'll find this easier to use while exploring photo guides on ShutterGuides! And of course you can always go back to seeing the larger map by clicking the arrows in the corner or hitting "Escape" on the keyboard.

New photo guide layout: easier to use and more beautiful

Check out Toby Harriman's guide to Roaring Fork Valley as an example of the changes:
http://www.shutterguides.com/guide/79/roaring-fork-valley/

As always, leave us some feedback for this and anything else you think of, and stay tuned for more improvements soon!

Happy exploring,

Tim Gupta and the ShutterGuides team

Monday, July 23, 2012

Add Your #PhotoSpot to Google+

We've recently begun a new hash tag theme on Google+ called #PhotoSpot! If you'd like to jump in the fun, post a photo that shows off a location you've found that you thought was terrific for photography, add the #PhotoSpot hash tag to your posted photo, and optionally add the GPS coordinates to the post. If you don't have or know the exact GPS coordinates, you can instead describe where the photo was taken as best you can. Also, while you're at it, don't forget to mention +ShutterGuides and the +ShutterGuides team: +Toby Harriman, +Wyatt Walter, and +Tim Gupta.


We'll look forward to seeing your best #PhotoSpot on Google+! And while you're at it, don't forget to follow us to keep up with all the latest: +ShutterGuides


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New Features: Large Photos and Right Click Protection

We are continually improving ShutterGuides.com, and while it's a somewhat minor change, we think you'll like to know that now when you click on a photo spot, you have the option of viewing a large version of the photo that represents that spot, which should help make it easier to decide whether you'd like to go visit that spot.

Large photo of Palace of Fine Arts, a spot from photographer Tim Gupta's photo guide "Left My Heart in San Francisco".

And with that, we also added some "right click" and drag-and-drop copy protection to these large images to make it harder for someone to download your copyrighted work from ShutterGuides. As always, keep sending your feedback, and if you have some great photo spots to share, why not create a photo guide?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Explore Great Photo Spots

The ShutterGuides team is proud to announce the Explore feature on ShutterGuides.com. Now, if you don't have a specific destination in mind (or you do, but it's a pretty broad area) you can browse the map to find great photo spots. From there, you can click through to the photo guide that the spot is a part of to get more great spots from that guide.

Try it out today, and as always, we'd love to hear your feedback:
http://www.shutterguides.com/explore/


And by the way, we need your help filling the map with great spots! Some of the most popular areas we're looking to fill: Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, New York, Boston, San Diego, Houston... If you know some great photo spots there or anywhere, help us out by creating a photo guide for that area!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Same Great Taste, Less Waiting

Once again, we've been a bit quiet lately here, with heads down in code bringing improvements to ShutterGuides. We've got quite a few exciting changes coming shortly, but this past weekend we pushed out some new changes to make things much snappier, helping you find great photo spots faster!

Just what did we do? We trimmed down quite a few unnecessary API calls with better caching, as well as split up some of the worst-performing web requests into separate AJAX calls so they wouldn't block page loading. To give a nice visual on the effects of the changes, here's a graph from NewRelic (which we use to watch ShutterGuides) of response time for the last 7 days. Take a guess at where we made the changes :)


This is great progress, and I'm excited for more great stuff to come! If you do notice anything a bit off, have an idea, or just want to say hello, please stop on by our feedback site and let us know what's on your mind!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

4 L's To Make or Break Your Landscape Photography

Yosemite National Park probably conjures up images of rushing, gushing waterfalls, towering granite cliffs, delicate wildflowers in alpine meadows, and giant sequoias stretching to the skies. There's no place on earth like it, and photographers like Ansel Adams popularized it as the perfect place for photographers that it is. Over the past week, as I go through my memory cards of photos from my trip to this place of pure landscape magic, work on them, and share them online, there are a few things that make some photos stand out as keepers. Other photos, of course, will inevitably collect digital dust on some hard drive or in the cloud. From start to finish through my whole digital workflow, here are 4 critical factors that were common to the keepers, 4 "L's" that will make or break your landscape photography.


Location

During the course of the weekend we hit a lot of the usual spots in Yosemite Valley, and some that were less known as well. But we went to every location because of the view, panorama, angle, or some other standout feature (like wildflowers, river, Half Dome, waterfall, etc). This, of course, is at the core of what ShutterGuides is all about: sharing great photography spots (locations). Search for great spots in your city, the national park you're planning to visit, the country you're planning to visit for your upcoming vacation, etc. And don't forget to share the spots you find with others!

Lighting

Chasing the light will yield immeasurably better results. Taking photos during the "golden hours", sunrise and sunset, will likely leave you with more interesting images of the same exact subject than a shot of it at high noon. With ShutterGuides you can find the day's sunrise and sunset times for each spot, as well as the weather conditions to help you get the best possible light for your photography.

Lens

There are two sides to the lens conversation. One camp of people will say that you should get all the latest and greatest gear - upgrade, update, buy. The other camp says gear doesn't matter, just go out and shoot with what you've got. I fall a bit in the middle on this issue. I say, gear does make a difference, and in particular you should invest in the best lenses you can, but this will not take the place of knowing the basic technique of photography and practicing it as much as possible. But do make sure you have the right lens for the job. If you know you're going to be shooting mostly the granite cliffs, sweeping waterfalls, and broad valleys of Yosemite, make sure you have a wide enough lens (I say this with a certain bit of personal regret - I uttered the phrase "I wish I had a wider lens" far too many times while in Yosemite). If you're setting out to shoot wildflowers, consider a macro lens or something with a wide aperture to achieve the depth of field you're envisioning. Renting a lens can be a good option for trying out lenses before you buy.

With ShutterGuides, every spot will show you the lens that was used for the example photo (if the lens information is available). Do your homework ahead of time to make sure you have the right lens for the job.

Lightroom (or Aperture or whatever you use)

Ok, so it's not necessarily always an "L" word, but the post production software you use, whether it's Lightroom, Aperture, Photoshop, or something else, can take a photo from pretty good to jaw-dropping great (and don't be fooled, all those jaw-dropping photos have gone through some kind of processing). Post-processing software can help you adjust white balance (you are shooting in RAW format right?), tweak exposure, straighten crooked horizons, remove dust spots, and much more. I fall in the middle again on this heated topic: I say these tools are invaluable to your photography and will definitely improve your photos, but of course it can only work with what you give it. Neglect the other 3 L's and this "L" won't be of much use. But remember, Ansel Adams used a darkroom, too. Nowadays, if you're shooting digital photos, Lightroom (and Aperture, and...oh you get the idea) is the new darkroom.





I came back from the trip with a number of photos that I am really pleased with, and I can say without a doubt that every one of them was taken in a unique and stunning location, at a time of day with interesting lighting, with a high quality lens, and successfully post-processed and tweaked in Lightroom. The rest...well, better luck (maybe that's the fifth "L"?) next time.

What are your thoughts about these 4 L's? Any other biggies you think I missed?

Download my photo guide to Yosemite National Park

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Photographing the Golden Gate Bridge

Photo Credit: Toby Harriman
Few icons represent San Francisco to visitors and locals alike than the Golden Gate Bridge. Painted and orange-ish red-ish gold-ish color known as international orange, the suspension bridge spans the bay from San Francisco to Marin County to its north. And due to its vibrant sunrises and sunsets, beautiful lighting at night, and likelihood of being shrouded at any time in dense fog, it makes for a spectacular photo subject.

Photographer Toby Harriman has shot many angles of this spectacular bridge, and offers numerous vantage points in his photo guide, from Fort Baker, Cavallo Point, and the Marin Headlands from the north, to Marshall Beach and Treasure Island to the south and east, for capturing this San Francisco icon.

And to add to the fun, this year is the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. Plan to head there on May 27 for a festival that will take place with events from Fort Point to Pier 39.

View the entire photo guide:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

7 Photo Guides for National Park Week

Hey photographers, in case you needed an excuse to visit and photograph our beautiful U.S. National Parks, here's another:

Free admission April 21-29

Yellowstone National Park
Photo Credit: Nam Wu

We have a growing collection of photo guides to the national parks to help you make the most of your time:


Do you know some great photo spots in any of the national parks? How about a creating a guide? Here are a few popular ones we're missing:

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Olympic National Park
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Acadia National Park
  • Any others?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New Features on ShutterGuides

We've been laying low lately while we had our heads buried in code improving some things on the site. If you haven't been back to ShutterGuides in a bit you'll notice a some big changes that we hope make it easier for you find great new photo guides and spots!


Here are some of the biggest changes we've made:

Latest Guides

Now when you visit the home page or log in to your account you'll see a feed of the latest guides that were created on ShutterGuides. As we get started ramping up and gathering your best photo guides, we realized it was pretty difficult sometimes to find content through search. We think this feed of newly created content will give you some new places to add to your travel itinerary while we collect more and more guides.

Most Favorited Guides

You'll notice a new list of most favorited guides on the home page as well. This is another way to discover content in a "browse-able" way by finding guides that other users thought were great and added to their favorites.

Redesigned Profile

We've simplified and re-organized the profile page so that it's easier to browse at a glance. We've made it easier to navigate through your guides and favorites (or other people's guides and favorites), and set up the page for some future enhancements that will be coming soon. And we've given you more options to customize your profile and let others know more about you, like adding your location and your various website profiles like Google+, Flickr, 500px, Facebook, and Twitter.


We also fixed a number of bugs and other issues, and are still working hard on a few remaining things that are behind the scenes to set the site up to be faster and more reliable for the future. But don't worry, we'll be back to adding great new features to make it easier to find and discover great new photography spots soon!

As always, please give us feedback on the site, the changes we made, ideas you have, or anything else!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

4 Easy Steps to Creating a Photo Guide

With ShutterGuides, we've made it easy for anyone to quickly create a photography guide with the best spots they've found. Do you know Chicago like the back of your hand? Have you studied and found every spot in Yosemite that Ansel Adams stood at? Why not create a photo guide, complete with GPS coordinates, weather details, recommendations for equipment to bring, and, of course, a photo to prove that spot's worth?

Here's a walk-through of creating a guide on ShutterGuides:

(Well, ok, I said there were 4 steps, but just this first time, there's 1 extra - you'll have to link up your photo sharing account - for now we support either Flickr or Google+/Picasa. You'll import photos from this account for your guide.)
  1. Choose your spots: Select photos from your shared albums that you think represent the location well. Try to choose a photo that shows off the spot at least as much as your photographic talent. As you select photos, we'll import any public EXIF data for that photo, such as geotag, shutter speed, and aperture. (Remember to share that stuff on Google or Flickr if you want it imported.)
  2. Choose photos that best show off the location of your spot.
  3. Map your spots: You are, after all, sharing photo locations, so any photo that doesn't already have a geotag will need to be dragged onto a map. (For tips on recording and sharing GPS coordinates with your photos, check out our help page on this.) The further you zoom in before dropping the photo, the more accurate your spot will be.
  4. Map your spots by dragging the photos onto the map.
  5. Describe your spots: This step is optional, but helpful for anyone using your guide. You can write a short title and description for each photo spot, including things like recommended equipment to bring, tips, tricks, etc.
  6. Describe the spots, giving tips about equipment, time, etc.
  7. Describe the guide: Give the guide a memorable and descriptive title like "Left My Heart in San Francisco" or "One for Me, Tufa You - A Guide to Mono Lake". Optionally, write a short description to the guide, and add tags to help people find your guide later.
  8. Give your guide a memorable title, and (optionally) a description and tags.
That's it! Your guide is finished, and you're ready to publish. Don't forget to share the guide afterwards with your friends on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and the like!

So what are you waiting for? Join ShutterGuides today to create your photo guide!

And as always, give us feedback on this process. We want to make this as simple as possible for you to create the best guides you can!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hello World, Welcome to ShutterGuides

It’s been a long time in the making, but today we’re proud to announce the launch of ShutterGuides, the best way to share awesome photography spots! With ShutterGuides, you can create photo guides featuring awesome photo spots.
If you’re curious, the idea started a little more than a year ago. Wyatt and I and another friend were headed to Yosemite for a photo run, and I had spent the morning researching photo spots in Yosemite Valley. There was one scene in particular that I was interested in trying to capture: a view of El Capitan in the background, with the Merced River in the foreground, and sunset lighting the scene to make magic. But where do we go to get that shot?
There were a few somewhat helpful sites out there, but none really oriented toward sharing photography locations (most were very oriented to sharing the photo itself). We started talking about how useful it would be to have a site where you could easily share locations and research places ahead of time. Fast forward a year or so and many late night coding sessions, and here we are!
All you photographers out there, take it for a test drive, kick the tires (although not too hard please!), and let us know what you think, and do us a huge favor: create a photo guide to somewhere you visit or know well!
Oh, and if you’re still wondering, we did find that spot, barely. We very nearly missed the sunset, but here's the spot, complete with GPS location and photo details, as part of my Yosemite National Park photo guide:
http://www.shutterguides.com/guide/8/yosemite-national-park-founders-edition/#51

Oh, and don't forget to give us your feedback as we embark on this journey together!