Friday, March 22, 2019

6 Ways of Using the iPhone When Camping

An iPhone in one small package can replace a pile of electronic equipment, thus saving space.

For many of us, owning a tiny trailer or a teardrop is an exercise in downsizing--if not downsizing from a larger RV, then downsizing from your home to the trailer. The process of downsizing means living with less stuff, living with smaller stuff, and/or living with stuff that can be used in diverse ways.

I cut my downsizing "traveling teeth" in the very demanding school of bicycle camping, strapping around 30-60 pounds of gear on my bicycle and taking off. It's amazing how quickly the pounds can add up when packing, and it's amazing how whatever weight is packed seems to be more at the end of the day or when we're eighty percent of the way up a mountain. There's no greater incentive for packing efficiently than self-imposed fatigue.

One of my early epiphanies when bicycle camping was the utility of a smartphone--in my case, an iPhone. I was bicycle camping and traveling with my bike and gear on Amtrak with a small computer, a by-the-hour flip phone for emergencies, a GPS navigator, kindle e-reader, camera, and a wireless WiFi connector. I was carry too many devices and cords, so I bought an iPhone and reduced a stack of electronics to one device. I wrote about my switch to an iPhone on my bicycling blog in the article "One Apple 6+ Smartphone Equals 6 Electronic Devices." Yes, I've found my iPhone to be a really useful device, as I'm sure other phone brands are.

Here are common ways I use the iPhone when traveling either by bicycle or with car and tiny trailer:
  1. Phone (As one would imagine!) 
  2. GPS I use Google Maps quite a lot when bicycle traveling, and for the most part the app functions well. It has led me astray several times, but I've always found my way there and back. It's always best to download an off-line map of the area you're traveling in just in case you lose receptivity (pretty common when camping). I also have a GPS auto system that came with my Nissan Pathfinder.
  3. Computer Surfing the net is pretty easy on a phone, and I even sometimes write with the phone using Google Docs, although the hunt-and-peck process is pretty slow. I can also watch movies and listen to music. For movies, I have learned how to convert my DVDs to mp4 movies and load them onto my device as home movies.
  4. E-reader I can read ebooks on the Kindle app or the iBook app. Both work well, and the 6+ screen is a comfortable size for reading. Free ebooks from the Gutenberg Project (classics in public domain) are a great resource.
  5. WiFi Hotspot The Hotspot capability on my iPhone works well, I've found--as well as or better than the Verizon MiFi that I had earlier. (I usually take a small chromebook computer with me, especially when tiny trailer camping. Often by bicycle, I go lean and "rough it" electronically with just the phone.)
  6. Camera The iPhone digital camera/video had even more pixels than my Canon camera I owned but which broke and I did not replace. I would like to buy a better camera some time in the future, but right now my attention is on writing, so I'm staying with my phone. 
An iPhone has the capacity to save space in your tiny trailer yet still to take quality photographs.
Indian Lake, Farmington, IA, later fall

Having shown from my bicycle camping how space and weight can be saved by using a camera phone for multiple uses, I'm now going to focus on the camera/video component of my iPhone. I enjoy taking photos with my iPhone. It's easy to do, but learning more about the capabilities of the camera, my photos have improved. I'm looking forward to using some of the finer techniques and camera capabilities that I've discovered while researching this article. My article "Tiny Trailer Camping Photos (Without the Camper!" provides a few samples of some camping nature photos that I enjoyed taking, and that conjure up some of the best moments I had last camping season.

First, even though the camera is pretty much point-and-shoot technology, there are many ways to improve camera performance--besides the most element point of all (which is not about the camera)--composition. Regarding the camera, if you search online for iPhone or smartphone photography, there are many articles about how to improve a phone's photographic abilities. Three common topics are depth of field, exposure, and focus. There are also tutorials about how to edit.

One useful but not too technical article I found online was "Ten Tips for Taking Great iPhone Photos." The article provides concise and straightforward instructions on how to improve shots on an iPhone. These tips are probably compatible in concept if not specifics with other brand phones. I'm briefly listing the tips and have supplied the link with the article's title for those who want to inquire further. Some of these I didn't know, and those that needed some phone adjustment were not difficult. To their list on ten, I would add to experiment with a tripod, especially for video.
  1. Use iPhone camera shortcut (speeds up access to camera, especially if phone is locked).
  2. Experiment with third-party apps (article provides link).
  3. Target your shooting mode around your end result (such as square pic for instagram).
  4. Follow the rule of thirds (activate the screen grid for photos).
  5. Turn off your flash (try natural lighting and exposure slider adjustment).
  6. Use Burst mode for action shots (for both moving subjects or moving camera).
  7. Turn on HDR Auto (camera snaps several shots and merges to one).
  8. Lock focus on one spot (yellow box/lock alert).
  9. Slide the exposure meter to lighten or darken images (yellow box).
  10. Snap photos using the volume side button (rather than top, round digital button). 
Another article that provides general guidelines on using the iPhone as your main camping camera is by Becky Schade (one of the GGG's owner profiles), who at her website Interstellar Orchard, has the article "A Brief Introduction to Travel Photography." The article covers three aspects of photography with an iPhone: picture taking, RV photography, and photo editing. What distinguishes this article is its section on RV photography, tips Becky provides for making outside and inside RV photographs have more zip.

The video capability of the iPhone is good, and I have found the iMovie app to be a strong platform for editing. All the movies I have made for this blog, including a movie of Indian Lake and a trailer of Honey Creek Campground, were made using the iMovie app on the phone. Sound is something I would like to work with more but haven't really pursued.

I have included below a video by a RV couple from the site We're the Russos. They explain how they make their videos. It's a pretty comprehensive video that discusses tripod, sound, process, and editing. They use a video editor on their computer, but for my needs I've found the iMovie editor adequate, as I've said earlier.

The main thing is to play with the video capability of your phone . . . and then play around with video editing, using the iMovie app. Taking photographs and making movies with a phone can be an artistic pursuit connected to camping that takes up very little space. So--silence on the set . . . and action!

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  1. We found out on a recent trip how superior the IPhone photography is compared to the smart phones that Annette and I own. Could be an IPhone in our future.

  2. I'm looking forward to this camping season and taking time to try new aspects of using the iPhone camera. It will add some more creativity to the process.