24 March 2010

Sunrise and Sunset For (Landscape) Photographers

Being at the right place at the right time is not an easy task for photographers. Generally speaking there are only two times when you have the chance that ‘ the light is right’. This is during sunrise and sunset when the sun is low above the horizon. The sky takes on wonderful colours and the lighting is much softer than in the middle of the day. This is called the ‘golden hour’. Click here to see an example. Especially landscape photos can look great or just awful, depending on the quality of the sunlight.
The downside of this all is that you have to get up early to arrive at your photo spot before sunrise. And if that is not enough, you will stand outside taking photos during sunset while your significant other is waiting for you because normal people are having dinner at that time. So I find it very important to know when and how the sunrise/sunset will be.
I used to lookup sunrise and sunset times at NOAA but it is a little difficult because you have to jump around to enter all the values for date, time, location etc. and I had only a vague idea where the sun would be.
Now I have found ‘ The Photographers Ephemeris’  (ephemeris=a table of values that gives the position of astronomical objects in the sky on a given date and time). This (Adobe AIR) application for Windows/Mac is made by a landscape photographer for (landscape) photographers. It has a nice user interface which lets you easily change location, date, time, see where the sunlight comes, and much more. With a little work you can determine when terrain (like mountains) will block the direct sunlight on your position, or if the sun will still be visible from your vantage point. This is something I have never been able to do before.
Click on the videos to get a quick introduction on what the application can do for you!

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