Software apps for mobile devices are usually quite inexpensive, and it is amazing what they can do for you. You’ll find ones for telling you sunrise and sunset times, sun and moon angles, phases of the moon, when the high and low tides are - you name it. Just search for the information you want at an online app store or via a search engine and you will probably get more candidates than you want.
One of my favorite planning tools, which also has an associated web version, is The Photographer’s Ephemeris, (TPE). When combined with tools like Google Earth, TPE makes planning a snap. You can see where the sun comes up, where it does down, similar things for the moon, and there is even a new feature (Skyfire) that can help you determine whether a sunrise or sunset will be good several days in advance. I highly recommend this app.
For weather, there are a large number of apps available. The one I use for weather in the US is Storm. In addition to the usual hourly and daily forecasts, it also has radar imagery. That can be extremely helpful for determining what will happen with clouds and rain. It will also help you determine if conditions will be overcast for a while, how long of a break there might be, all sorts of variations. The key with weather apps is radar imagery in addition to the normal forecast information.
If you have a smart phone, you probably have at least one mapping application on that phone. These can also be very helpful, and a good trick to use if you are traveling to an area with limited or no internet is to browse the map in detail while you are still connected. Zoom to the amount that you are likely to use in the field and pan all over the area of interest. The maps will be stored on your device, and you will not need a cell phone signal to show you where you are. Most smart phones receive and process GPS signals, and that is all you need.
This could easily be a separate article, but if you have the means to geotag your images, do so. If you ever go back to an area, it makes it far easier to remember where you were. It also helps you share that information with others. You can record GPS tracks on a mobile device and sync them with photos later, you can have a GPS device attached to your camera, or you can tag photos from memory after the shoot using a photo app. All of these work.
Hopefully this information adds to your existing knowledge of planning tools and strategies. It is really difficult to shoot in an area successfully without at least a bit of planning, so I encourage you to try some of these methods and see how they can help. Happy photography!
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