Tips

HOW TO USE EVERNOTE FOR LOCATION SCOUTING by Neil Alexander

Egol, Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK

Egol, Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK

Saving location information, for me, is one of the keys to successful landscape and travel photography. The ability to dive right into a possible spot on a map and instantly pull up saved images and location information can be a huge time saver and save a great deal of frustration trying to find relevant information in amongst an illegible and unintelligible notebook, which is where I used to save this info. For many years I have extolled the virtues of Evernote to anyone that would listen but after a major change to the software some years ago, it has been pretty useless for pulling up relevant information based on a map view. Yes, you can geo-tag notes, add photos and thoughts but using the Atlas view has long been a complete waste of time because some genius at Evernote decided that being able to only view specific notes on a map was an irrelevant feature.

I use Evernote as a surrogate memory and filing system. I run a totally paperless office and home. Everything is scanned into Evernote and then shredded so I have notebooks for everything from school clothing receipts, boiler repair information, client invoices, business expenses, saved tech tips, the list is endless. And whilst going on for 8,000 notes are all carefully filed and tagged, they all appear in the Atlas view making searching for notes from a specific notebook only very difficult. I have a notebook, imaginatively titled “Locations” and in here are around 1000 geo-tagged notes with ideas from all over the world. The majority are dreadful iPhone snapshots - I’ve been somewhere, the conditions have been pants but I’ve seen something that could, emphasis on the could, make a decent photo at some point in the future or I’ve worked a composition until I’ve exhausted ideas but still not come away with what I was looking for and felt that it needed a re-visit. Or maybe it’s a place I’ve hurtled by in the car or on a train and decided that further investigation at a later date could be efficacious. They’re an assortment of personal memory joggers, selfies, street scenes and landscapes. Most are untitled. I’m also a prolific reader of newspapers and magazines, online and offline and have saved many many details of places that I’d love to visit and shoot, carefully adding GPS data to them all.
So I’ve been diligently storing this information but without a reliable way to retrieve it. Even using some advanced search criteria (for example: notebook:"Locations" resource:image/* latitude:53 -latitude:54 longitude:-3 -longitude:-2 ) proves to be decidedly unreliable. That was until I discovered an iOS only app titled “IdeaPlaces”.  http://www.ideaplaces.com/
It's essentially the missing link between Evernote and mapping but where it comes into it’s own is that you can set it to display only one Evernote notebook, associated content can be saved for offline use, you can set location based reminders, share data, update data and have it sync back to Evernote and much much more. There’s Dropbox integration too if you prefer to work that way.
Using the app, I can travel to any place and see only the data I’ve saved that’s relevant to the area I’m in and I can also plan routes much more easily.

So now that I’ve had this revelation, what is my workflow for getting my images out of Lightroom and into IdeaPlaces? Well it’s slightly convoluted initially but now that I’ve caught up with the backlog the process should be significantly streamlined.

 

The first step is to create a published service in Lightroom that, on publish, will dump a bunch of relatively low res images into a folder. (640px. Low res. Maintain exif)

1 - The first step is to create a published service in Lightroom that, on publish, will dump a bunch of relatively low res images into a folder. (640px. Low res. Maintain exif)
2 - Next, I trawled through around 38K images that had GPS data in the Exif and added them to this service.
3 - Hit Publish

Quick check - Open couple of sample images in preview, then show inspector > More Info > GPS - check has data

4 - Quick check - Open couple of sample images in preview, then show inspector > More Info > GPS - check has data
5 - Find images in finder, select all and right click > open in > Evernote.
6 - Wait until all new notes have synced.
7 - Delete images from folder
8 - In Evernote, move all new notes into Locations notebook
9 - Open up the IdeaPlaces app and wait for the data to sync.
10 - Boom! Completely searchable map view with stacks of data.

 

One of the biggest problems I have now, is that it transpires quite a chunk of the GPS data is inaccurate. I guess this is because either the phone hasn’t updated it’s location quickly enough when I’ve been snapping or because I’ve edited it in another app a few miles down the road and it’s been tagged at this new location, so I’ve a bit of pain to go through and manually update those locations I feel are incorrect. But going forward as a resource, it’s absolutely brilliant.

And even better, I can share all my lovely data with you too dear reader. As I continue to add to this data stream with new gems, I’ll keep my notebook updated. All you need is an Evernote account and the IdeaPlaces app, you can then subscribe to my Locations notebook here and use this data for yourselves. Obviously I can’t share third party copyrighted data in this folder, so sadly I’ll have to create another notebook specifically for my own use, but I’ll keep adding my own images on those I find on the internet that I can use under Creative Commons to share with you. 

Use this link to view the Evernote notebook - https://www.evernote.com/pub/neilalexanderd/locations

Caveat: Whilst I have been through the majority of the 850 locations I’ve already saved, I’m not guaranteeing complete accuracy. So please double check first and don’t blindly walk off the edge of a cliff or into a boggy swamp and then try and blame me!

If there's any particular places you'd like me to add or if you want to reciprocate then please comment below or drop me an email - neil@neilalexander.net

How I streamlined my business processes by Neil Alexander

Some time back I felt I had to overhaul the way I was managing my business. Paperwork was getting on top of me, I wasn’t invoicing properly and bills seemed to be coming at me left, right and centre. So I began to invest time working out the best way to take back control of my desk and my thoughts. The first step was to create a two notebooks in Evernote; one for invoices and one for expenses. All the email notifications that I received alerting me that a payment had been taken for something or other, I started sending into the respective Evernote notebook and add a tag for that month.


The next step, which was partly brought on by moving house and being unwilling to transport boxes and boxes of old paperwork, was to splash out on a Fujitsu ScanSnap duplex document scanner. I spent weeks scanning and shredding years’ and years’ worth of documents that I’d love to have just tossed but needing to keep 7 years’ worth of for the taxman. The ScanSnap was a dream come true. Even substantial documents could be scanned, saved and indexed within a matter of seconds. In fact it probably takes longer to dispose of documents in my ageing shredder than it does to electronically save them these days but I no longer have drawers and drawers of redundant documents, certificates, statements and letters lying around. And providing I tag and add to the appropriate notebooks upon import, I can access any of this paperwork almost instantly. Compared with trying to locate the correct box file and then having to leaf through hundreds and hundreds of pages to find the right one, only to find that whatever I was looking for was completely mis-filed, it’s a no brainer.
In fact, it’s been such a success that we are now a completely paperless household too. All warranties, receipts, school reports, pension statements etc etc are all scanned and saved into a shared notebook that the rest of the family can access.

Once I had a handle on the raw paperwork, I needed to get on top of my accounts. For many years, to keep costs down and simplify matters, I used an Excel spreadsheet for my accounts, much to my accountant’s annoyance. Though it worked for me on a day to day basis, I did end up incurring higher accountancy fees because of the amount effort he had to expend deciphering my handiwork. That was until I came across FreeAgent.  This is a piece of online accounting software designed specifically for UK based freelancers and small business owners. I can easily track my expenses and time, send invoices, check my recent bank transactions, generate reports for my accountant and send HMRC the necessary RTI for PAYE when I pay myself amongst all the other usual accounting features, and all from one website. There’s even an iOS app which is brilliant for recording ad-hoc expenses.

Using these three simple tools has completely revolutionised my workflow and business practices. The simple fact that paperwork and accounts are no longer a chore makes coping with the day to day running of my business so much more agreeable.

FreeAgent for a sole trader runs at £19+VAT / month and for limited companies, it comes out at £29/month. Use this link for a 10% discount - http://fre.ag/44pstrah
Evernote is a multi-platform application that can be downloaded from evernote.com for free. Premium subscriptions are £35 annually.
The Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 can be purchased for around £350 - Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 A4, Duplex Wi-Fi Scanner

And there you have it. Do you think there is anything I could better? What tools do you use? Feel free to comment below and share.

10 Great wall hanging tips by Neil Alexander

Precision hung photos in the new office along with my prized signed Ole Gunnar shirt which follows me everywhere. And a big space waiting to be filled.

Precision hung photos in the new office along with my prized signed Ole Gunnar shirt which follows me everywhere. And a big space waiting to be filled.

This week I'm going to discuss something that I really find to be a bit of a pain in the neck, hanging prints.
It's all well and good having lots of lovely printed photographs lying around, you may even get round to framing a few but if they never get as far as being mounted on the wall what was the point of all that effort? Since moving into our new house I have boxes and boxes of ready framed prints still to be hung. Whilst choosing mounts and frames can be fraught with choice, choosing what to hang, where and with what else can be a real minefield. So to aid my process of filling some empty wall spaces, I have put together a few tips and tricks to help us all get that art on the walls.

1. The first step is to decide what you’re going to hang. Is a theme required? How many images do you want to show? How many frames do you want to put up? Are you planning any diptychs, triptychs or panoramas? Is this series going to grow? Might you want to add to it in the future? And finally what kind of frames and mounts best suit your photographs and the environment in which they are going to be placed?

Photos hung on the new walls all perfectly aligned.

Photos hung on the new walls all perfectly aligned.

2. So you’ve worked out what you’re going to hang. The next task for you to do is choose the wall space you want to fill, and where on that wall you want them to hang. Don't hang works of art too high on the wall (a common mistake). The ideal height of the centre of a picture (if there is no piece of furniture below it) is somewhere between 155 and 160cm off the ground - this is about eye height for the average adult. I've hung mine high up here because I didn't want photographs to be directly in line of sight over the back of my monitor and I still have a bunch of smaller frames to go in the big empty space behind the red chair.

3. Hang works with a view to proportion and balance. For example, if hanging a picture over a fireplace, don't leave too much space under it unless that space will be filled, visually, with e.g. a clock. Also pictures need room to breathe. Don’t fill a space with the biggest frame you can fit in - make sure there is plenty of room around it.

4. If you are going to hang photos in patterns, then arrange them on the floor first before hanging to make sure you get the layouts and juxtapositions correct.

5. If possible, hang pictures from two points - either side of the back of the frame - not from one point. Not only is this safer, but it will prevent works from shifting and moving out of alignment over time

Using a laser level to make sure frames are lined up and aren't wonky.

Using a laser level to make sure frames are lined up and aren't wonky.

6. If you are going to put several frames up in once space, then get a tape measure and pencil out. Do the calculations first and put small pencil marks on the wall where your hooks are to go. Trying to do it by eye, I guarantee you from past experience, will only irk you 2 months down the line. If you want to hang more than one frame at the same level, then something like the Black & Decker Laser Plus system is a godsend. By all means use a spirit level to make sure they’re level, but in the end trust your eyes; dado rails and ceilings etc are not always level themselves.

I think my calculations are right.....

I think my calculations are right.....

If you don’t trust your maths, the alternative is to cut out sheets of paper and try it out.

7. Measure the wall space you want for your gallery. Cut pieces of paper to the size of your frames (tape several large pieces of paper together, if necessary). Fold paper in quarters to mark center lines.

8. Measure distance from top of each frame to where hook will be placed. Mark these points within the corresponding outlines on your paper layout.

9. Tape paper to wall with painter's tape or a spot of bluetack and experiment with different layouts Once you are happy with the frame layout, nail the picture hooks where marked. Remove paper.

10. Place all frames on hooks and step back and admire your handy work.

Finally, I mentioned a couple of weeks back that the office was closed for a spot of splashing paint around. Well I've finally finished and loaded up some vinyl. Happy days are here again :-)

Before...

Before...

After....

After....