Predicting the light: "The Photographer's Ephemeris" by Stephen Trainor

Discussion in 'Landscape' started by David A. Goldfarb, Oct 30, 2009.

  1. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I just wanted to recommend a piece of handy new free software by landscapist, Stephen Trainor called "The Photographer's Ephemeris," which brings together a number of useful tools for predicting lighting for landscape and architectural photography in one package--

    http://stephentrainor.com/tools

    I haven't figured out all the advanced features for myself, but beyond the obvious things like figuring out when the golden hour is and the direction of the light at a given time of day, it will let you figure out things like when the sun will drop below a ridge line before sunset or for how long a rock face will be illuminated on a given day. To figure it out, I've got the location set at my apartment and the current time and date set, and I'm looking out the window and seeing what the software tells me about what should be where.

    Of course on a cloudy day all bets are off, and planning landscape trips often depends more on when one can get away than where the light will be, and the best photos are often the ones you didn't plan, but it does seem useful for figuring out where the lighting conditions will be good in a general way, or for careful planning when you want to return to a place you've already photographed when the light is in a certain spot.
     
  2. Denis K

    Denis K Member

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    This is the software equivalent of the turn of the century days when photographic plate manufacturers use to send out a card showing the required exposure settings based on season and time of day. I guess the software could also tell us when to set our alarm clock when we are on a photo trip to a latitude we are unaccustom to.

    Denis K
     
  3. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    Thanks, David. Looks cool and should be useful. Its now in my Mac toolbar. Too bad it doesn't include local tides, but that's asking too much of a free software program.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If he could connect it to AccuWeather and Zagat's guide, it could automatically make recommendations for local pubs on cloudy days.
     
  5. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Adobe's instructions for installing AIR in linux are lacking. Not all distributions will install with correct privileges from the .bin file that's downloaded from the Adobe web site.

    To install in a more standard way, open a terminal and go to the directory where AdobeAIRInstaller.bin is located. Then at the command line type:

    chmod -x AdobeAIRInstaller.bin

    then:

    sudo ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin

    This will install Adobe AIR.

    The install for the Photographer's Ephemeris didn't work if I checked or unchecked either of the options for adding a desktop shortcut or starting the program automatically after installation. It looks like they don't size the GUI install screen properly. At that screen, I just hit 'Enter' and the installation proceeded.

    Adobe is still very clumsy and doesn't adhere to linux standards very well, but AIR and the Ephemeris did install for me, and appear to run properly. It would be nice to be able to type in lat and long directly, as I have a number of places that I could just type coordinates in faster than scrolling and zooming a google map.

    There are several ways to get tide information with free programs in linux.

    Lee
     
  6. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I recommended this software to friends at an astronomy meeting last night. When I started it up this morning (to get a screenshot to include in an email with a link to the download website) there was a new version available, which the program downloaded and installed with a click and a password verification for installation (under linux).

    Perhaps these features were there before, but the new presentation makes them much more readily evident to me. The features are exactly what I wanted to see added. There is a timeline for the date in use on the right hand ephemeris panel. You can move a slider along the timeline, which gives alt/az numbers for both sun and moon in the right panel, and thinner lines to the current azimuth (compass bearing) of the sun and moon in the google map panel for any time of day you choose. There are also forward/back arrows by the timeline which go directly to the next 'event' for the day, including various twilight times (civil, nautical, and astronomical) and moon and sun rise and set.

    This makes it a much more complete tool, as shots at exact sunrise and sunset are rare, and it's nice to be able to find where the sun and moon will be when above the horizon a known number of degrees. The sun and moon both have apparent N/S motion as the earth turns, so exact rise and set azimuths are not the same as when they are up several degrees above local trees, buildings, mountains, etc. Using the google satellite map view, you should be able to very accurately position yourself for the shot you want.

    You can also move a gray marker to any point on the map. It will give you distance, difference in elevation, and visual angular altitude to that point so that you can tell whether it will block the sun or moon, or how high above that feature the sun or moon will be at a given time.

    Lee
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2009
  7. cmo

    cmo Member

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    Just in case he reads in APUG:

    Thanks, Stephen, this is great! I always wanted a tool like this.
     
  8. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I have been using google earth for this.
     
  9. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    The Photographer's Ephemeris uses a google earth map inside a window. It superimposes lines to sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, and to current sun and moon azimuths at any time, all color coded, on top of the google map. You can also choose the google map presentation among the usual suspects: road map, satellite photo, topographical, etc. In addition the rest of the display shows numerical data including both azimuth and altitude for sun and moon. It also has the ability to quickly change location (with stored user location presets) and date and time. There is also a timeline for a chosen date with forward and reverse arrows that skip to the next solar or lunar event (rise, set, etc). It's a very complete and well integrated tool.

    Lee
     
  10. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Ooh. Kewl.

    But can it also dispatch a drone to take the right shot.... :wink:
     
  11. rthomas

    rthomas Subscriber

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    Nice software. Now if I only had a laptop.
     
  12. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    "There's an app for that." At least that's what the ads say, so I guess you'd need an iPhone. :confused:

    Lee
     
  13. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Lee, I saw a 'droid' the other day, in fact several of my cool-kid buddies seem to have them now. The thing seems an ideal platform for location-based apps. I mean, we were driving and the thing was showing us, in almost real time, the view we were seeing through the windshield. Fun.
     
  14. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    That would be my choice as well... if I had a cell phone. I have a friend who has one, bought it the day they came out, and she loves it. In part her choice was driven by the requirement to repurchase DRM'd iTunes music after her iWhatever player died a few weeks before. No DRM on the Droid, and she's not a real techie. I see that Droid apps have gone from 10k to 20k in the last couple of months, and the Google phone is predicted to hit next month, also running Android Eclair. Have you seen Google Goggles? It's an Android app that lets you take a photo of a place, product, bar code, etc and then searches for a match on the web. Reviews say it's uncanny and very fast, using street view, product info, photos on the web, etc. If the photo is of a product, it will search the web for a local vendor and best price, then guide you there with the GPS.

    Lee
     
  15. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Okay...finally some application that I might actually use. Otherwise, I would rather "Be here now" than be thinking "I should be there about then."

    Vaughn
     
  16. Erik L

    Erik L Member

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    very cool, thanks for linking! It could prove to be a real time saver.
    regards
    erik
     
  17. Randy_Va

    Randy_Va Member

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    The tutorials are also very good, there are a lot of features that are not obvious, or at least they were not obvious to me.
     
  18. Greg Campbell

    Greg Campbell Member

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  19. rthomas

    rthomas Subscriber

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    I've installed this software on an ancient Dell laptop that I had sitting around in storage, in need of an OS and a task to perform. Now I have an excuse to take it with me when I travel. :smile:
     
  20. Louis Nargi

    Louis Nargi Member

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    Thanks looks interesting I'll read more later.
     
  21. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    It was announced today that Adobe Air will run on the Android smartphone operating system as of some time later this year (2010). So The Photographer's Ephemeris (an Adobe Air application) could be running on Android based phones and mobile devices at some time in the relatively near future.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/15/adobe_air_mobile/

    Lee