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Daily iPad App: Stuck on Earth

Stuck on Earth is one of those 'really good ideas' that only seems obvious after you've seen it and spent some time with this free app.

It's designed for travelers and especially photographers. Move a map to any place on earth, and as you zoom in you will begin to see photographs taken at those locations. The photos come from Flickr and other sources, and the developers check those images by looking for embedded GPS coordinates so the photos appear at the right place on the map. Many of the photos have comments, and you can get directions to any of the locations from directly inside the app.

It's a great way to explore things that are near you that you've never seen, but also it's a really useful resource when you're on the road. If you plan for a future trip, you can save the locations and photos on your iPad so you won't need connectivity.

There are also some built-in tours, like the 50 best amusement parks and top bridges to visit. Pictures can be shared via Twitter, Facebook, or email.

I started by giving the app a quick once-over, but I got drawn into the photo locations in my local area and before I realized it I had spent more than an hour exploring. I revisited some favorite photo spots in Europe, and explored places in Asia I'd like to visit. Soon, I'd given the app a few hours of my time, and it was a great experience. I also found the app useful to compare some of my photos to those of other photographers. It's instructive to see other approaches to the same subject.

Photos vary in quality of course, but most are relevant and excellent. Many of the photos are curated, so overall the experience is good. You can also submit your own photos. When you first set the app up, it will ask your name, and from then it will greet your personally when you sign on. I found the voice and sound effects a distraction, but thankfully you can turn both off.

The app is easy to use, and beautifully designed. The app is free, at least for now, but the experience is so rich I would have been glad to pay for it. If you love to travel, and you do a fair bit of photography I can assure you this app is a worthwhile download. It was developed by Trey Ratcliff, one of the most experienced landscape photographers around. Every so often you'll run across one of his outstanding photos as you explore the app.

Stuck on Earth is a 120 MB download and requires iOS 4.2 or greater. Check the galleries for some screen shots.

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