If you photograph outdoors, you know how important the sun is. Both the compass direction and the elevation in the sky have a huge impact on the shot. Many times I’ve come across a good scene, but the light wasn’t right. I wondered, “When do I have to return for the sun to illuminate that mountain face at a low angle? Do I need to come back at a different time of year?” Now I use a terrific iPhone app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) that gives me those answers.
The shot above is the south face of Mount Bourgeau on April 4, 2013. I took it during a snowboarding trip to Banff National Park, Canada. It took a few days of exploring and the advice of another photographer to find this spot with an unobstructed view. I planned to get the shot soon after sunrise, which meant that the lifts wouldn’t be running. That long hike in the snow would only be worth it if the light was right.
Bourgeau is a beautiful mountain any time of the day, but direct sun makes the face look flatter. I wanted the sun to illuminate the south face from the side, accentuating the 3-D structure. TPE showed me that I could achieve that if I arrived soon after dawn on April 4th. Even a few weeks earlier it would have been a waste of time because the winter sun didn’t rise that far east.
This is just a taste of what TPE can do. It lets you scout locations with multiple map types and explore sun and moon rise and set times on any date. It has all the angles, shadow lengths, and other details that give you assurance that you will get the shot you want.
I am impressed with the iPhone version of TPE. It is also available for Android phones. The Mac and Windows desktop versions are free, but I don’t think they are quite as good as the iPhone version.
I didn’t use our software on the photo at the top of the article, but I did use Snap Art on the image below. This is a variation of the pastel media type. I’ll probably use Blow Up to make a large print.