Monday, June 17, 2013

Making the Most of the Situation

Every now and again I take a trip somewhere with the specific intention of taking photos. Some of these photo runs are extended week-long epic road trips to places like Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, while others are to nearby San Francisco for the afternoon and evening.

Recently I did the latter type of photo run with the family to scout out a few more locations to add to my San Francisco photo spots guide. I knew I wanted to hit Bernal Heights again, then on to the Bay Bridge to see the new Bay Bridge lights. I charged up the batteries, grabbed my gear and warm clothes, loaded up the family, and we made our way to the City by the Bay. 

I had been to Bernal Heights before, capturing a great sunset with photographer +Toby Harriman (in fact, I found the spot in Toby's awesome San Francisco Photo Spots guide), and was hoping for a repeat performance. This time, however it was not to be – dull, gray overcast skies with a high chance of boring. 

We took that as indication that it was time to eat (not to mention our rumbling tummies), so we found a great Peruvian restaraunt nearby, warmed up, relaxed, and ate a wonderful meal while San Francisco turned from dull gray to city-lights night. 

Next we went to the Bay Bridge, where I was hopeful to capture the new Bay Lights lighting "sculpture" on the bridge. We found a great parking spot, unloaded, started raining. I didn't have much in the way of rain gear (for myself, my family, or my camera), but after a few minutes debate we decided to go for it anyway. 

The rain sputtered out for a bit, started up again, and went back and forth again. I started to get a little bummed thinking about my two wasted efforts (Bernal Heights and the Bay Bridge), until I looked down at the ground.

It was then that I realized just what an incredible opportunity I had been handed. Looking down I noticed puddles, and with puddles come reflections. Plus, I realized, because of the rain there was virtually nobody there, affording me an unobstructed view of the Bay Bridge with the lights (which by the way is awesome if you are in the area).

I learned an important lesson that evening. While you're out shooting landscapes, urban photography, or anything really, make the most of the situation you're handed. Often times it's the uniqueness of the situation that makes for the best photos. And who knows, you might end up with a great meal and a wonderful collection of new photos.

For these two San Francisco photo spots and more, take a look at my San Francisco photo guide, Left My Heart in San Francisco.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New and Improved Photo Guides

Where are the best photo spots to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge? Where are the most interesting locations to shoot while visiting Yosemite National Park? These are the questions that ShutterGuides seeks to answer, and at the heart of our experience are the awesome photo guides that you all have added over the past year and a bit. For the past few weeks we've been gradually transforming the layout and features of these great photo guides to make sure they are the best they can be. Here are a few of the features we've added recently.

The spot photos are now larger and unobstructed to better show the location.

Larger, Unobstructed Photos

While the core of ShutterGuides is photo locations (rather than the photos themselves), we as photographers humans are visual people. The proof of the photo spot is in the photo, and so we've removed the extra clutter that was preventing the photo itself from being presented as large as it could be next to the map when you click on a spot to get the details. Of course, you can still click the photo to view the full size version as well. And, of course, your large higher-resolution photos are still protected by right-click and drag-and-drop copy protection.
Guide stats show how people are reacting to your guide

Guide Statistics

We've added some stats to help you see how your guide is doing. Now, in addition to seeing the rating your guide has received, you can now see how many photographers have favorited your guide, and how many overall pageviews your guide has received. After all, who doesn't like to see numbers?
New layout is cleaner and easier to use.

Cleaner Layout

We've rearranged the guide information to improve the overall layout and organization of the page. Now all the guide information is together, and all the actions you can do with a guide are together (favorite, share, print, etc.).

Improved Map

When you click on a spot on the map it zooms in to give you a closer view of the area surrounding that photo spot. And now, if you click to expand the map back out (or hit the Escape key on the keyboard), the map will return to the original position, making it easy to see all the spots in one glance. 

These are just a few of the big improvements we've made to the photo guides on the site. Behind the scenes we've also fixed a number of bugs to make things better and faster. As always, we welcome your feedback. If you have any thoughts, ideas, or issues, please let us know in the comments or hit us up on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

Thanks for adding those photo guides, and help us spread the word - we've got a lot more places left to cover!