Introducing Picturesque - National Parks Image Trivia Game for Apple TV

I'm happy to introduce Picturesque, my first game and first app for the new Apple TV. Picturesque is an Image Trivia game focusing on America's great wonders - our National Parks. If you want to lean back get inspired for your next adventure, or challenge your friends to test their knowledge of these natural wonders, then try this. It's available today on the Apple TV App Store.

Home Screen

Home Screen

In Picturesque, the player's objective is to correctly identify as many parks as possible based on a random image of the park. It's a great fit for the TV because it combines social game play and interaction with rich photographic imagery. The pictures look amazing on a wide screen TV, and the new Apple TV remote makes the game play fun and interactive.

It's always exciting when you can build a product that bridges different hobbies and interest. Picturesque combines my work as an iOS developer with my passions for Backpacking and Photography. I'm happy for the result to be both my first game and my first foray into this new platform.

Game Screen

Game Screen

Designing the game modes was a fun part of working on Picturesque. We made the game modes include a time limit based on difficulty so that the game becomes more challenging as you progress to new levels. But we didn't want people to feel rushed to move on if they were enjoying the current photo, so we made the game require an explicit button press to move to the next image, instead of using an automatic timer. Enjoying the photography is just as much a goal of playing Picturesque as correctly identifying the parks are.

Because tvOS includes all of UIKit and Core Animation, we had a lot of flexible to design and build fluid animations between images in the game. You'll notice that the entire UI moves to advance to the next image. Transition animations like this look great on the large interface of a TV screen, but do still require a degree of subtlety the same as they do on smaller devices.

Picturesque is the first app I've shipped that is written entirely in Swift. I have to say that I am really enjoying developing in the new language. It's clear that this is our future as iOS developers. More and more of the work we are doing at Mutual Mobile is in Swift, and I feel very comfortable that this is the right direction for us to be moving in. Developing for tvOS in Swift 2.0 was a great experience.

Picturesque was designed and developed by myself and Ryan Considine. Working on this with Ryan has been hugely rewarding, and as an added bonus, we now have an added excuse to visit more National Parks!

With any new platform, this really is only the beginning. Developers have only had a few weeks to build products for this device, and I'm excited that it's now here and looking forward to seeing what's to come.

Game Complete

Game Complete

Wildlife Photography


I originally got into photography when I started camping. Visiting great state parks in Texas and venturing out into Canada, Colorado, and New Mexico was the perfect motivation to pick up a camera. But as I continued getting more into photography I became more and more interested in shooting sports. Like camping, I was very interested in sports and absolutely loved getting to shoot all kinds of events. I still love shooting sports, but it's not a regular part of my life, nor is it something that's very accessible. The wilderness, however, is very accessible to those who want to venture out, so I turned my photographic attention back towards the outdoors.

Shooting wildlife was really an accident for me. I went on a trip this summer to Colorado and decided to take my brand new Canon 300mm F4/L. I wasn't planning on doing a lot of wildlife photography, but I did want to experiment with the lens a bit. I knew it was good for flowers and compressed landscape scenes, and that it was very light (for a 300), so I brought it along.

Marmot 1

Along a few hikes I happened to run across some great wildlife. I saw several marmots and other small critters, and a few gorgeous birds. I hadn't planned to focus on wildlife but quickly that became my photographic focus on the trip. Much of the credit to that goes to the 300 F4/L (which I originally bought for sports). The lens is perfect for wildlife, by being both light enough to hand hold yet sharp enough to create stunning images of close up animals isolated with a gorgeous background blur. Just seeing a few of the images on the LCD was enough to get me hooked.

But there were a few other reasons why shooting wildlife was so appealing. For one thing, it's a lot like shooting sports. A large part of shooting sports is anticipation and fast reflexes. You have to understand the game and be able to predict what's going to happen, and then act instinctively by focusing on the right spot and quickly releasing the shutter. It's the same thing with shooting wildlife except that it's even harder to predict what animals are going to do, especially birds. There's no white lines that animals have to stay within, or goal to reach.

There's so much opportunity to experiment when photographing wildlife. You can try shooting at different angles to get different perspectives, or framing the scene differently to use a different background. You can get down low and shoot from ground-level for smaller animals, to see what things look like from their perspective, or hike up higher and shoot down on birds, to see what things look like from above. Like many types of photography, the background is very important when shooting wildlife. A lot of times an interesting background will really make a photograph more than an empty sky will.

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Shooting wildlife is also the same kind of drug as shooting sports. Part of what makes shooting sports so addictive is waiting for the perfect shot. Photographers will often wait an entire game, or even an entire season, for that perfect shot of an outfielder diving to catch a ball, or a receiver diving across the goal line with the football. Capturing those images is rare but it's something everyone wants to do. Likewise, looking for that bird that you can hear in the trees and trying to catch an in-focus image of it in flight is just as addicting. But even without that goal, just being out in nature and enjoying the scenery is enough motivation to make wildlife photograph an outstanding pastime. The same way just watching a game makes shooting sports that much more enjoyable.

If you're interested in taking up wildlife photography, then treat it like any other hobby. Just start doing it. Like sports photography, wildlife is also fairly gear intensive, but before you invest thousands in equipment make sure it's something you enjoy doing. You can easily get by with any DSLR and a medium-long range zoom lens. Go out in the back yard and take some photos, then go out for a hike at a state park and take some more. You'll see birds, deer, squirrels, rabbits, etc. If you're up north maybe you'll see some elk, or even a bear. Remember to respect whatever wildlife you do see though. When you're in the wild you're in their home. Don't feed animals or do anything to antagonize them. Just watch, take pictures, and enjoy the experience of observing nature.