30 April 2010

OT: An outstanding tool for (modern) photographers

When I started this blog, I included "unrelated news" to the sub-head because from time to time I want to write about off-topics that don't quite fit into my website. Today is one of those days.

While I worked in advertising for ca. ten years, practically all the photo shoots I attended took place under controlled studio conditions. To an amateur photographer like me, these studios (especially where we shot cars), the equipment and the lighting capabilities were fascinating.

Under open skies, everything is different.

I am sure many of you can relate. Remember how you tried to take a photo of [the Statue of Liberty, your oldest kid at graduation, Richard Neutra's Brown residence], only to realise you were at the right place at the wrong time: the sun right in your face and a big black blob of a silhouette in front of the lens?

So sad, too bad. If you only had known the hour when the light was illuminating your target properly, you would have planned your photo session better.

Here is where Stephen Trainor enters. Because Stephen, an Englishman and photographer living in Colorado since 2007, programmed an application called The Photographer's Ephemeris, or TPE. 

It's nothing short of wonderful.

(I admit: I had to look up what Ephemeris means. The plural ephemerides – from the Greek word ἐφήμερος ephemeros for "daily" –  sounds like a tasty meze to me.) 
TPE (Mac, Windows, Linux and yes, also an iphone app for all those iphone-crazed photographers and yacht captains) is a free application that calculates sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset and shadow lines for any location you can pick on a Google map.  
In addition, if you don't shoot in pancake flat territory, TPE will also consider the elevation of your location and any possible interference from obstacles blocking the light, such as mountain ridges, as well as include the sun's angle on any chosen date.

TPE has many uses besides landscape and architectural photography. I recently used it to determine sunrise and -set for a house clients were interested in writing an offer on. Having the evening sun in the garden and on the pool was one of their selection criteria. 
Instead of observing current sun angles in early April and praying for the best in June and December, I located the property on TPE's Google map, picked the shortest and longest days on the app calendar, and showed the results to my delighted clients.

Sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset for a chosen location, L: Dec 22; R: Jun 22

A phenomenally useful tool. Thank you, Stephen.

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