Tag Archives: websites

Top Internet Websites for Trip Planning

4 Jul

One of the questions I was asked in a recent interview about photography was in regards to how I did my research to  information for the places that I go.  We’ve covered this topic before and today I thought it would be helpful  to list the top websites that I use for trip research. Most of these are pretty obvious, but I’ll explain to you how I use them.

There are a couple different ways to use Google for Internet searches. The web search is the obvious primary function. The search topics I look for are the names of hikes or places and pictures.  One useful feature of this site  is the Google Images. This is an excellent way to find information. Not only is the search done by pictures, but it takes the user to the landing pages of those images. Sometimes this kills two birds with one stone. Instead of searching for articles containing your keywords, you do a keyword search on pictures and clicking on the image takes you to information on the pictures.

For online book or map purchases, I believe Amazon is the best retailer. The navigation features of the website are user friendly, they offer suggestions for related products, and the prices and customer service are generally very good. I almost always use Amazon to purchase maps and guide books for areas outside of my home state, where it is harder to find information at your local bookstore.

Flickr is probably my favorite site for obtaining or viewing images on places I am interested in visiting.  It is not necessary to have a membership in order to search and see results on their site. You can see my Flickr page here.

You Tube
I like this site for hard to find areas, especially when it comes to backpacking trips. Videos often times give even more significant and realistic impression of the places you are trying to research.

NPS has several useful features that are sometimes worth checking out depending on when and where you are traveling. Each park has its own website so the layout and usefulness varies from site to site. Thus some sites have information and navigation features that are easier to use and find than others. The top reasons I visit are for viewing general park maps, getting contact information for the ranger stations, useful links for the weather and activities, and checking the park’s webcams.

In the last ten days before a trip, there is no site that gets more use than this one. The only other site that has a longer extended forecast is accuweather.com Other weather sites that I frequent are weatherundergound.com, who also has the best mobile site for weather and weather.gov, which is the national weather service’s web page that also gives the most detailed information available on issues like forest fires and storm advisories.

Trip Advisor.com
This is my default site for doing research on hotels and places to stay. I think Trip Advisor has the best and most honest reviews online. To books the hotels, it usually works best if you just go to the hotel’s actual website. Another useful site that I usually refer to for reviews is hotels.com, although I don’t trust the reviews on it nearly as much. It has a useful search feature of organizing hotels by cost, which is normally very accurate and current, and includes last minute deals.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and found this information helpful.  If there are any websites that you love to use that I didn’t include please feel free to let me know. It always rewarding to hear from users!

The Big Three: A Landscape Photographers Guide to Sharing Their Photographs On-Line

13 Aug

 Today we’ll begin a discussion and in-depth look into the three primary places I share my images online:  Flickr, Nature Photographer’s Network, and Photo.net. There are a plethora of other websites designed to share photography, but these are the three primary ones I use and the ones I’ll be focusing on in this series of blog posts.

I know some people on photography sites are territorial and take pride in thinking their site of choice is the best one. I try to respect the opinions of others, and am not here to undermine or discredit any of these fine sites – just to provide you the reader with my personal insights and experiences when sharing my images. In an effort of full disclosure, please note the opinions expressed here are based on personal experiences and may very well be completely different for someone else. Furthermore, these opinions are general summations and there are exceptions to every one.  So please don’t take anything personal…

The opportunities available on all these sites are far too many to list here; I am only going to discuss the ones I find personally relevant.  I will not get into the technical aspects of navigating through the sites, but will simply touch upon some perceived advantages and shortcomings of using each of them. We’ll do this in three segments – starting today with Flickr. (You can view my Flickr page on the link below)


Cost:  $24.95/yr for a pro account

What is it:  The world’s largest online photo sharing website.

Brief Overview

Flickr offers something for everyone interested in photography, from folks posting personal pictures of friends and family, to tenured pro’s in business for quite some time. You’ll find it all here. This site is about photographs – period. You can save, store, show off, and shop for images while perusing Flickr.

In terms of landscape photographers, you’ll find some of the best contemporary work around. However, it can be a little hard to find if you don’t know how to search for it.

The Community

The community is extremely friendly and very supportive, and even more importantly – objective. This is the site where I consistently get the most positive feedback on my work. If I am looking to test the popularity of a certain image, I will most likely post it on Flickr first. Abstract landscape images don’t seem to do as well on Flickr. If it is an image where I am struggling with the processing, I’ll look for help elsewhere and post the finished product on Flickr.  

Because Flickr has the largest community of people, you are sure to find plenty who are interested in seeing your work. It’s finding those people that takes time. The easiest way to do it  is by joining themed groups – where people display images of a certain genre or related theme.  The groups on Flickr have their own pros and cons, but are an almost necessary way of finding others on the site. As with all the sites, networking is very important here and it takes a consistent approach of spending time on the site everyday. Nonetheless, it is an achievable goal. Generally speaking, the better your work is the easier it is to do it. Overall, it is a joy to be part of the Flickr community and the uplifting spirit it presents.


There are lots of fun and interesting ways to customize your account. One of my personal favorites is to sort your images based on the order of “interestingness,” a secret algorithm indigenous to Flickr. I like to see which of my images rank the highest using their formula. Sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense, but its like a Top 25 countdown and its fun!

For me, a very important feature of Flickr is that my images can show up on high on Google searches if properly tagged. This is a critical advantage of using this site.

In terms of educational resources, Flickr comes up short in comparison to its counterparts. You can search for answers to specific questions, but if you are looking to post a question and get specific feedback to that question this is not best site to do so. This is especially true of questions regarding processing, printing, and marketing. There are other, more useful forms for that particular subject matter. Your best bet for obtaining information or getting answers to your specific questions is to email the person directly through the site. The vast majority of people are very cordial and will respond when contacted.

However, there is one aspect of research that I do on Flickr that I find particularly useful and almost indispensible. Because it involves looking at pictures and not reading technical information – it also provides some of the most fun I have while doing research. I do find the photographic database tremendously useful. It easy to search using key words and  I specifically use it to locate images of places I am thinking about visiting. Before I invest a lot time and effort into driving ten hours and then hiking 20 miles to take pictures, I want to see what others have captured from the location to gauge the aesthetics and whether it is the best place for me to spend my time.

The tools on Flickr are very easy to use in organizing and structuring your portfolio.  Uploading is a piece of cake, there is no limit on size, and from there it’s pretty much a drag and drop system which works extremely well. Further, the automatically generated slide show is a great future and fun to use.

What I love:  the community, Flickr statistics, web-based search engine optimization, huge, easy to search database, excellent online portfolio display and organizational tools

 What I dislike:  pornography is allowed and can sometime show up in unrelated searches, the graphics of the group awards can be obnoxious and some of the groups are pretentious

 Educational Resources:  B           

Ease of Use:  B + 

Benefits:  A –

Fun Factor:  A

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