Touted as apps for photographers, many of the programs available for smartphones are nothing more than software allowing users to make changes to their photos taken with smartphones. There are, one could say, gazillions of such applications, many not even worth mentioning. But there are many apps that are really useful for photographers using cameras, and that should be explored by those wanting to better solve some work problems.
In this article, I'll highlight five useful Windows Phone 8 apps for outdoor photographers.
Although there are lots of exposure calculators for smartphones, this one for Windows Phone 8 is interesting as it offers a double function: as exposure and star calculator. The program supports exposure calculations using ND filters and allows you to calculate long exposures up to 32 minutes, so it can be a valuable tool for night photography.
The Exposure Calculator section allows you to enter the current exposure values and calculate the desired exposure, introducing any deviation in EV and also the value of ND filters used. The interface is easy to understand and you just need to tap the arrow buttons to set aperture, shutter speed and ISO value in 1/3 stop or full-stop!
The Star Calculator is designed to get static images of the night sky and not star trails. The interface turns to red, which makes absolute sense for night sky photography, so your eyes keep in tune with the ambient light. You enter the focal length in use and the sensor size, and the program tells you the maximum exposure time (or shutter speed) allowed before the movement of the stars becomes apparent in the photograph.
Exposure Calculator can be found in the Windows Phone 8 Store, and is a free program. Download and try it!
Moon, by Chersoft, is a small app that tells you how the Moon looks from where you are, and also allows you to know where it is at any time and place. Nothing much different from many other apps, but this one has a trick up its sleeve.
Moon, even the Free version, can show you what the moon looks like and where it is at any time and place. And it will do so, with accuracy, for a few hundred years from now, following the Gregorian calendar... if your smartphone lasts that long. It is also able to tell you when blue moons happen (that is a second full moon in a calendar month—there are other definitions, but this is the one that Moon uses) and those rare months when there is no full moon at all, like February 2018 or February 2037.
The program presents, in a clean interface, altitude, azimuth, distance, illumination and upcoming phases, along with Moon phase and Moon rise, transit and set times anywhere and for any date, and times for all upcoming major phases (First Quarter, Full, Last Quarter, New).
Select any time and any viewing point to see exactly what the moon will look like and where it will be. Choose ‘now’ to track the moon in real time or pick an explicit time. What will the moon be like on next weekend’s night sky photography trip? Choose ‘here’ to display the moon as it appears from your current location, or pick a location from the map.
The commercial version of this app has no adverts, so you may want to check it if the trial version, which works without limits, appeals to you. Find Moon at the Windows Phone Store.
Aurorae Free is a simple tool for aurora hunters. It is not the kind of tool many photographers will use close to home, but still, it is an interesting app that shows the potential these programs put into the hands of photographers.
Aurorae, which was created by Pasi Vänttinen, has a commercial version (costs $0.99), which you may want to buy if the tool makes sense to you, as it also presents weather forecasts, important if you’re chasing the aurora, along with sunrise and sunset times and other information.
Aurorae Free uses geoposition for getting correct images to the user interface. It also updates the interplanetary Kp Index and the Bz value of Earth's magnetic field to the LiveTile, and shows whether the geomagnetic activity is quiet, unsettled or stormy.
The interface shows the current statistical aurora oval, aurora forecast image based on your geoposition, geomagnetic forecast for the next 12 hours in three-hour intervals, aurora probabilities for the day and the following two days, and the aurora forecast from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It also shows the current Moon phase.
Find Aurorae, both the free and commercial versions, at the Windows Phone Store.
Knowing the tides is important for outdoor and nature photographers photographing in coastal areas. Although there are multiple programs that can offer information about tides for iOS and Android, the apps available for Windows Phone 8 are not many, and most of them offer only information for very specific zones.
One of the few I found that offers tidal predictions for over 8,500 locations around the world, covering UK, Europe, Africa, Middle East, North/South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, is Tides, which costs $1.29. There is a trial version available that you should check before investing in the program.
Check also the commercial program TimeAndTide and the free Tide, which can be sufficient for many uses, although it is conceived for surfers. When you search for one of the programs at the Windows Phone Store, all the other titles related to it show up.
Tides is a very straightforward program that does what it says. The complete program offers the option to save locations, and also search and check the nearest locations, as well as presenting you with tidal prediction charts for seven days, height for the current tide, and other information like the Moon phase and sunrise and sunset times.
Translated into Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese and Spanish, besides English, the program is truly international and may be the one good app for a coastal photographer to have close by.
Find more about Tides at the Windows Phone Store.
Star Chart is one of many night sky viewing apps that amateur astronomers love and photographers will appreciate, as it becomes easier to find specific celestial bodies in the sky.
Star Chart offers you a virtual window opened into the visible night sky. Using state of the art GPS technology and an accurate 3D universe, Star Chart calculates—in real time—the current location of every star and planet visible from Earth and shows you precisely where they are even in broad daylight! Curious about that bright star? Point your device at it, because it might just be a planet!
The program shows all the visible stars of both hemispheres—that’s over 5,000 stars—as well as all the planets of the solar system, plus the sun and the moon. It includes all 88 constellations, with constellation imagery based on the beautiful artwork by 15th century astronomer Johannes Hevelius, along with the complete Messier catalogue of exotic deep sky objects. Tapping on anything presents you with facts about the sky object you are looking at, including distance and brightness.
Star Chart offers a night mode, with the red screen useful for night viewing of the sky, a search function, and a simple “point up to the sky and view” mode ideal to help you find the stars you’re after. For the price, $0.99, it is a real bargain, but do also check the alternatives, such as Starlit Sky, Outer Space, and Astroller.
Photographers tend to collect things, both gear, and in modern days, software. The same happens with apps for smartphones: once you start gathering those programs, you find that a lot of space in your phone may be filled with multiple programs that, in many cases, will do the same things. Because many of these applications are free, it is easy to amass a whole collection of programs that tell you, for example, where the Moon rises and sets every day.
So it pays to be selective. The five apps I've highlighted, however, will prove useful to any outdoor or nature photographer. If you're interested in other types of apps for Windows Phone 8, you can read our recent articles 5 Best Apps for Windows Phone Video Makers and 5 Photography Apps for Windows Phone 8.