Apps to Track the Sun
If you’re a photographer and you shoot outdoors then you know how important it is to shoot when the light is just right. For me, I have to time the angle of the sun to shoot the front of houses and pools. So you’ll understand if I’m a little obsessed with tracking the sun.
I’ve previously written about the Sun Seeker app in the “Must Have Apps for Photographers” and the LightTrac app in “A Must Have App for Outdoor Photographers“. I’ve run across two more apps that track the sun, but first I want to review the LightTrac app since it’s what I use the most.
I have a couple of complaints about the app. First, it works differently on the iPhone than on the iPad. On the iPad, if you want to search for a location, just hit the “location” button and type in the address. On the iPhone, however, when you type in an address, you first have to save the location before you can see the angle of the sun. My second qualm about the iPhone version is that I often get that “Compass Interference” message. I know that’s an issue with the phone and not the app, but it’s annoying nonetheless. To be fair, I get the interference when using the Sun Seeker app as well.
The next two issues I have are with the maps in the iPad version. I shoot houses, so I need to pinpoint a location. Sometimes, when I enter an address, the marker is on a street or a nearby house. So I usually use Google maps to pinpoint the house and then compare it to the map on LightTrac to make sure I have the right location.
Secondly, when you zoom in all the way, the streets do not follow the map. Let me explain: Imagine the base map as a layer in Photoshop. The streets are “drawn” onto a layer on top of the map. When you zoom in all the way, the street lines do not line up with the street on the map. You can see in the iPad screen grab above how Archfeld Blvd. does not line up with the road on the map. All in all, my complaints are not enough to render the app unusable and I still rely on it for almost every shoot I do.
Alright… on to the new apps! The first is called “Magic Hour“. This app simply lets you plan to shoot during that magic hour a half hour before and after sunset when the sky displays those beautiful colors. Photographers usually call this the “golden hour”.
As you can see, you enter your location and the app tells you when magic hour begins and ends and even displays a countdown timer. Simple, but useful.
The next app is called “Sol” and I really love the graphical presentation.
Your location at present time is placed on top of a sphere. You use your finger to rotate the times of day around your location. So, for example, in the screen grab above, if I were to rotate “Golden Hour” above my location, the clock would tell me what time it would be. You can then transition to the phases of twilight until you get to nighttime and eventually back to the phases of twilight in the morning.
I think this is an excellent way to visualize the phases of twilight, understand there are two times of the day that mirror each other in terms of light and see how long each one lasts. If you want to learn more about shooting in twilight check out my “Twilight Photography” post.
There you have it; four apps to track the sun and figure out the best time of day to shoot. I linked to the apps in the iTunes store, but I believe most of them work on Android devices as well.