How what3words has become an integral part of my photography toolkit
User story by Gabriel Nivera
I am a commercial photographer specializing in portraiture and landscapes with human elements. My passion is travelling the world, exploring new places, meeting the local people and immersing myself in their culture. All the differences I encounter and foreign sensations fuel my creativity. I enjoy telling stories with my photographs. They can be massive encompassing panoramas, or more intimate vignettes of daily life.
I was interested in what3words because geotagging has been an increasingly important part of my process over the past few years, but isn’t very convenient to implement. The majority of my work is in very remote and isolated places and the app makes it easy for me to record my location for future reference without having to bring extra equipment like a dedicated GPS device. I am often asked where I took my photographs, and it’s nice to be able to share the exact spot inside a national park, or which un-named mountain top I was heli-dropped into, rather than giving a general area. The what3words app has made it easier to keep track of points of interest that I may want to revisit on a future trip.
After a few weeks of using what3words in Canada on smaller assignments, I decided to give it a solid trial on a 12-day project in the Faroe Islands. This project would take me to some of the Islands more remote and untouched places, and would be an excellent test of the apps capabilities. Throughout that trip, it performed without issue and since then has made itself part of my workflow. I am now working to tag my archives with 3 word addresses where the location data is available to convert or my notes give me enough specificity.
I use 3 word addresses to record a location when I need to return there again in better light as well as direct crew members to staging areas. In the wilderness or very rural areas, conventional addressing is not adequate, and directing your production crew to a specific point in the middle of nowhere becomes a challenge. I found sharing traditional format GPS coordinates prone to human error, dropping and sharing pins didn’t always work across different phones. But sharing a 3 word address is simple. It’s easier to remember, less prone to leaving out or entering the wrong characters, and there no special hardware required other than the app. Using 3 word address strings on call-sheets has made coordinating a large crew in a sprawling location much easier – a location will have multiple staging areas for all the different people on the production; talent, hair and makeup, wardrobe, grips/gaffs, craft services, medics, etc. So being able to direct people to an exact area vs a general address cuts down on people wandering on set trying to find where they should be.
I have a simple rule when it comes to technology. If technology will improve the final image or makes the production easier and simpler, I will embrace it wholeheartedly. Otherwise it is becomes a distraction. As a result of this philosophy, I am very selective with the apps I keep on my phone to help me do my job. The majority of my photographs are planned well in advance, scouting a location multiple times in person, pre-scouting using maps and satellite views, consulting sun charts to determine time of day and direction of light, tide charts to know if a beach or walkway will be visible, and weather satellite apps for cloud cover that may affect light. what3words is an app that has quickly found itself in the rotation of technology that helps improve my production and creative process.”