Monday, August 03, 2015

Planning Sunset and Sunrise Landscape Photography with TPE 3.3

Sunrise at Topaz Lake on the California / Nevada Border
Planning landscape photography has traditionally been a process of considering a combination of location and weather.  If you have a general understanding of the geography of a region, you could look at weather forecasts a few days ahead of time and anticipate where and when the best photographic opportunities might present themselves.  During the course of a day you could modify your plan even further, and decide where to be for sunset based on where you see the best cloud formations developing, and where enough breaks in the clouds might let light through.

In recent years the availability of maps and satellite imagery online in programs like +Google Maps made the location planning easier.  The availability of fairly detailed weather forecasts days in advance through the National Weather Service made the choice of where to go in a region a little easier.  Apps like   +The Photographer's Ephemeris added lines to show the direction of the sun and moon at any time of day or night, so you could anticipate the exact sun rise and set time, general sunlight illumination during the "golden hour" before sunset and after sunrise, as well as anticipate the location of the moon.

Forecast for August 2, 2015
The latest version 3.3 of The Photographer's Ephemeris uses the SkyFire service to check weather forecasts to predict sunrise and sunset color, and show a color-coded overlay on a map of the region your're in.  The more red the color, the higher the probability of sunset color,  The mroe blue to clear it is, the lower the probability. You can see the forecast two to four days in advance depending upon what level of service you'e enrolled to receive.

Another handy feature of SkyFire is to compare forecasts for a list of favorite locations that you've saved, so you can decide between locations to drive to, in order to have the best odds of a nice sunset.

I've tested these features a number of times now, and they do well at predicting when there will or won't be sunset color.  Weather forecasting is notoriously imprecise, so of course you can't predict the direction or extent of the color, but so far the correlation between the SkyFire forecast and the outcome is impressive.

Here's the sunset that actually occurred with the forecast shown to the right for August 2:


Multi-day SkyFire forecast on TPE
The multi-day SkyFire forecast format is shown to the right. The bright red box showed a potentially vivid sunrise opportunity at Lake Tahoe.

The SkyFire service is an optional in-app purchase for TPE, with prices as follows:

Top In-App Purchases

  1. Location Synch (1 year)$0.99
  2. Skyfire Plus (3-months)$14.99
  3. Skyfire (3-months)$9.99

There is also a new location synchronization feature, which finally enabled me to sync my iPhone TPE with my Windows TPE.  There was a procedure to do it before that I had not been able to complete.  With this new method it was quick and simple.

If you don't already have TPE, here's a link that you can use to find it in the Apple iStore:

The Photographer's Ephemeris - Crookneck Consulting LLC

Crookneck Consulting also offers a Photo Transit app which enables you to anticipate what focal length you'll need to capture a certain field of view to get the shot that you want:

The Photographer's Transit - Crookneck Consulting LLC

I'm also testing TPE 3.4, so I'll probably have some details on that for you shortly!

Another sunset accurately predicted by SunFire