Stuck on Earth: A New Kind of Map for Photographers

There are many ways to explore the world. Some folks prefer to go by plane, while others would rather to take cruises or stowaway on ships. These are usually the desired means of transportation for if you wish to travel across the pond, so to speak.

On the other hand, if you want to visit majestic places in your own homeland, you’ll usually take a plane, car, bus, or train to get there. The one element of the travel equation that’s missing is the map. All explorers carry a map with them, but things have changed a lot since the days of paper and compasses. In this day and age explorers prefer to take along a smartphone that has all of the tools they’ll need. The only problem with this solution is the device’s small screen, which poses a limitation if you’re looking to use it as a replacement for your map. This is where the new iPad app Stuck on Earth enters the scene.

Stuck in Earth is a free app invented by the renowned HDR photographer Trey Ratcliff. The app’s name is modeled on his photography blog, Stuck in Customs. Ratcliff designed the app to help photographers and explorers find the prime spot to take a photo while on their travels. It works like a traditional map, except with community involvement and photo sharing that spreads the word if there’s a great spot somewhere near where you’ll be traveling. If you love to explore the great abyss and take photos while doing so, then read on to discover an app that will assist you with your endeavors.


Stuck on Earth's "Hello" screen.

When you first start Stuck on Earth, you’ll be prompted to either allow or forbid the app from accessing your current location. I recommend allowing it to do so because the way the app works is centered on this specific feature. Following the permission allowance, you’ll hear the pleasant voice of Karen Hutton welcoming you to the app with a few kind words. “Well hello there. I see you’re stuck on earth, just like me. What’s your name?” Once you input your first name into the text field to the left, the voice will once again say “Hello there” and ask you to choose whether you are a daydreamer, explorer, photographer, or all three. I’m definitely all three, so that’s what I picked.

You will then hear a short lecture on a subject relating to what personality you chose. Once this is over, press “Continue” and you’re off to the land of digital exploration!

The little compass in the top left corner of the screen will be different depending on which personality you chose.

Once you’ve entered the app’s main function screen, you’ll see a map of the “Featured Photos” filter, which is a collection of some of the greatest shots from around the world. Tap a photo to see it at a larger size and begin wandering through the many works that it offers.

Elements of Interest

The many features within Stuck on Earth.

Stuck on Earth has a vast array of features to offer the end user. These range from the full map that you just saw on the main screen to sharing your own photos with the community. I’ve compiled a rather detailed list of the most notable elements within the app, and it’s available directly below for your reading pleasure.

  • Discover the places that you’ve always dreamed of going, whether it be by browsing pictures of the place or envisaging a trip there.
  • A map that will help you to locate the exact spot where a photo that you love was shot. The local map also includes a directions function if you can’t figure out what route to take in order to arrive at the correct destination.
  • See some of the most amazing photography on the Internet. Many professional photographers have contributed their works to this app for all to see. You might even see some of your friend’s photos on there!
  • Share your own photos using Flickr’s location tagging service. I’ll explain more on how to do this below.
  • Organize your trips to anywhere easily with the app’s built-in trip builder and photo importer.
  • A featured photos filter (mentioned above) that helps you to find some of the coolest images taken at the most well-known places on earth.
  • Follow photographers who have great photos of places that you want to go by tapping the “follow” button in the options pane of one of their photos.
  • Save trips in which you took photos of wonderful things abroad.
  • “Top 50 Lists” that help you to find the prime beaches, capital cities, amusement parks, airports, and more. You can also submit your own top 50 list to the community forums if you have a full list of interesting places.
  • The encouraging voice of Karen Hutton which will tell you where you should go next or possibly what a good featured photos selection would be. While this isn’t necessarily an amazing feature, it is a fun one for the times when you’re looking for a new land to explore.
  • Learn how to improve your photos with the included e-book titled “The 10 Principles of Beautiful Photography.” To access this book, you must have picked the photographer profile. If you did this, then just tap the little lens in the top left corner of the screen. If you picked another profile, then simply press the little gear on the main menu and then tap “Restart App” to clear your profile. This time you can pick the photographer personality and all will be straight in your world.
  • Not enough photos on the map? There’s a slider for that – and it’s located in the bottom left corner of the map screen. Slide it right to reveal more photos and slide it left to decrease the amount shown.

And those are just some of the features! There are a lot of other things that I just don’t have enough time to cover, but that leaves you with a great opportunity to examine the app yourself and find whatever features interest you the most.


Stuck on Earth's internal map.

The main aim of Stuck on Earth is to inspire the average adventurer to get out of his house and onto a trail in the Amazon – or nearly any other destination. The app does this by giving you a substantial number of photos from gorgeous places around the world. And I’m not just talking about the most popular places like Florida, England and China. I’m talking about places all over the world.

Stuck on Earth can, in a way, take you wherever you wish to go without the cost of a plane ticket. While it’s not exactly a true way to “travel” somewhere, it’s a great way to see the place before you visit it – making it easier for you to decide which is an important priority and which is not.

Now, everybody knows that it’s difficult to travel to other countries at the moment due to the declining economy, but Stuck on Earth still works towards fulfilling your dreams without the need to actually go anywhere. Not to mention the best feature of all which is, at least in my opinion, the built-in photo sharing capability that allows you to share where you live with the world.

While we’re on the subject of exploring, there’s actually a lot to be said about exploring Stuck on Earth itself. As I said in the closing sentence of the features section, you’ll have to actually examine the app yourself to find all of the features that it holds. If you don’t wish to spend a lot of time searching through the app, then tap the “Stuck on Earth” logo in the upper right corner of the screen and you’ll see a “Did you know?” section that should educate you in the small, but important features of the app. Just keep tapping “More tips >>” and you’ll find different tips each time.


The place where you can add your photos to the community.

As I mentioned above, you can share your own photos with the Stuck on Earth community by simply uploading them to Flickr and tagging their location on the map. If you need some instructions on how to perform this task, then you’ll find some detailed directions to get you started with sharing your own photos with the rest of the Stuck on Earth community below.

  1. First, you’re going to need to create a Flickr account. This can be done by heading to their signup page here. If you already have a Flickr account, then please sign in to it and proceed to step two.
  2. Once you’re logged in, either upload some photos (if you’re completely new to this, then please head over here for additional guidance) or click on one of your recent ones.
  3. Once you’re on a single photo’s page, you’ll see a map in the upper right corner of the screen. Click “Add this photo to your map!” to begin.
  4. Search for your location using the search bar in the upper right corner of the window and then drag the little photo to where you took it. You can zoom in using the “+” and “-” tools provided.
  5. Once you’ve placed the photo pin where you took it, you’ll need to specify what you’d like Flickr to say the location is by clicking the first drop-down menu and finding an area of your liking.
  6. Lastly, you’ll need to make sure the privacy is set to “Anyone” so the community can see your photos. (You’ll also need to do this with all of your photos that are private – if any.)
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 to tag additional photos.
  8. Now comes the fun part. Open up Stuck on Earth on your iPad and go to the “Explore the World” screen. Press the little up arrow in the bottom right corner of the screen and tap “Add My Photos.”
  9. You’ll be asked to log in with your Flickr account. I suggest checking “Keep me signed in” so you won’t have to waste time doing it next time you wish to upload some new shots.
  10. Once the page loads, you’ll see all of the photos that you geotagged. Tap whichever you wish to submit to the community – the limit is 10 per instance.
  11. When you’ve selected the photos that you wanted to add to the app, go ahead and press that “Submit” button at the bottom to proceed. The photos will flash and the selected ones will disappear. Press “Cancel” to return to the map. (Pressing submit will not exit the upload screen because it’s meant to stay there to give you a chance to upload additional photos, if you should see the need to do so.)
  12. Congratulations, you’ve successfully submitted your images to Stuck on Earth’s map for all to see. Repeat the steps above if you’d like to do it at another point in time.

While that wasn’t exactly the shortest process in the world, it will become far less time consuming once you geotag things more often.

A great way to skip geotagging things manually on Flickr is to buy a GPS-enabled camera or GPS accessory for your current camera.

But Wait, What About Social Networking?

One thing that you would expect to see in this share section is a mention of built-in social network sharing, perhaps on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ – which just happens to be Trey Ratcliff’s favorite network. With deep regret, I must inform you that there is currently no way to tell your friends on Google+ about a wonderful photo that you may have found.

However, this isn’t the end of the world because the app does have Twitter, Facebook and email integration. When a photo is shared, the recipient will be able to go to its Flickr link. Hopefully the developer will add Google+ integration soon.


The sunset that marks the end of this review.

I could say that this app has a lot of potential, but that’s completely incorrect. Stuck on Earth has already made a great deal from the potential that it has. One thing that would also be extremely helpful to explorers and photographers alike is a compass and built-in GPS. The current generation iPad does not carry a compass on board, but it does have a GPS – providing that you buy the 3G model. I hope to see the addition of a compass in Apple’s next 3G iPad as it would help with things like this, as well as provide GPS apps with accurate directional information.

Slight bugs and performance issues aside, Stuck on Earth does a beautiful job of digitalizing the tradition explorer’s favorite tool. It’s a great app for people who travel often and own a 3G iPad. Even if they’re not photographers, the app will serve them well by providing some of the best spots for taking photos. This app could feature as a compelling reason for an explorer, photographer or globetrotter to buy an iPad. It offers so much at no cost, there aren’t many apps that come close to what Stuck on Earth has accomplished.

I’m not sure how long Mr. Ratcliff is going to keep Stuck on Earth free, but hopefully it will be forever. All he asks is that you help out the community by submitting some of your photos – if you have any. This app is leading the way in the next generation of maps, and will be welcomed by the many explorers of the world. If you feel that Stuck on Earth is an app that would be welcomed on your iPad, then go download it here today and enjoy the many adventures that it brings with it.


A new kind of travel app that brings you the best places in the world to visit, photograph, and experience. It's the ultimate app for explorers, photographers, and daydreamers.