Sunrise, Sunset, Moonrise, Moonset – easily found with PhotoPills

Architecture
I’ve been using this insanely cool app for a couple of months now. It’s called “PhotoPills” (app store affiliate link) and, if you’ve ever wondered not only when sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset happen but where in the sky they happen, this is the app for you.

Every pro photographer will tell you that the “best” light is the “Golden Hour” – that time approx 30 minutes before and after a sunrise or a sunset. This app does what a lot of other apps do – it tells you what time the sun rises or sets. But PhotoPills (odd name) goes even further by showing you visually where the sun or moon is right now relative to you and in which direction those events and others are going to happen. It also does it into the future.

Here’s an example. I went to my home town of Halifax, Nova Scotia in June. I knew I’d be in a particularly scenic spot on the Friday. I was wondering where the sunset was going to be and at what time. I told the app where the location was on the map, forwarded to the date and time I was expecting to be at there and the app told me exactly what direction and angle the sun would be at. It also told me (sadly) there would be no moon that night so I didn’t have to plan that shoot.

The app does so much more. From an augmented reality view of the sky (so you can plan shots even better) to determining the best long exposure times or figuring out the field of view for any camera/lens combination. You can even save points of interest, share them and see what other shooters have bookmarked.

The only downside is…no – not the price. At $10 for a full featured app, it’s imminently reasonable (although, my eyes would like to have a native version for the iPad. It works fine on the iPad but…). The biggest downside is the learning curve.

We are so used to having our iOS apps be dead simple to use that, when we come across one that needs more effort, we tend to give it short shrift. But if you stick with the app, watch the videos on the PhotoPills web site and take in what they are trying to teach you, I promise it’s worth the effort.

For those of you who either don’t want all the power or are too cheap to spend the money, Rick Sammons has a 99 cent app called Rick Sammon’s Photo Sundial (app store affiliate link) that is a universal app similar to but not nearly as powerful as PhotoPills.

I’d recommend starting off with Photo Sundial and then, if you find it useful, moving up to join the Big Boys by using PhotPills. Neither app will dissapoint though.