A Great Tool for Outdoor Photographers, 1

Have you ever wondered exactly where & when the sun or moon will rise and set? The answer varies with your location & the time of year.

  • How about knowing the answer to the those questions no matter where you are in the world? Wouldn’t this be great when you’re planning a trip?
  • How about if you not only knew the answers to the where & when but could also see it displayed on a map?
    • How about a map, that if you used HH as an example location, would show detail down to a picture of your house and a car in the driveway?
    • How about if you wanted to shoot a sunrise back lighting the HH Oak tomorrow morning – would you know exactly where to set up your camera?
  • The answers to these questions and more are available in a free program called

Here is a screen shot of the oak tree setup –

This can be zoomed in further to show two golf carts at #3 (left center) and a car on Charismatic (top center) (HH Drive is at the right edge). The HH Oak is near the bottom right corner. The yellow line is the angle of sunrise and the orange is sunset (light blue is moon rise and dark is set). In the right half of the window is all pertinent data about sun/moon rise/set for any date of your choice. The two videos provide a comprehensive view of the information and options available.

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In an earlier post I showed these two images (click to enlarge) –

The left image is from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park (MI) and the right is at the Thoroughfare Mountain Overlook along Skyline Drive.

Finding good shooting locations when traveling far from home (left image) is what TPE is designed to do. I went to this general location 5 straight mornings (up at 5AM) hoping for a misty sunrise before finally succeeding. I wanted a very specific shot – one with the sun coming up at the edge of the silhouetted trees at the right. TPE told me precisely where I needed to place my tripod. The branch that forms a “cup” over the sun was a bonus – all that I had to do was wait until the sun got up that high. Virtually impossible to plan & execute without TPE.
How about the right image? This is a location that I visit regularly (unlike Sleeping Bear) so I can plan in advance (for as many times as needed until the weather cooperates). I noted in the earlier post that this was a double exposure – the “real” moon was too far to the right. Now that I’ve decided that I really like this image, I’d like to do it in a single shot. What can TPE tell me about a good time to do this – with a (near) full moon? – shortly after sunset?  Here’s my answer.

On 2/28/10 there’s a full moon at 6:28 PM, a little less than 30 minutes after sunset. The lighting and sky should be perfect with that combination.

You can see a shadow of the tree (above the blue moon rise angle line and to the right of the red “tripod” dot). The dark area to the left of the red dot is an area of large trees so I have to stay between them & the “subject tree”. There is a steep bank running from the treeline & the subject but can be handled with the right kind of tripod (one that’s not designed solely for level surfaces). The only real problem is that Skyline Drive will probably still be closed due to snow & ice, so I’ll look for a March date. (Note, I mentioned a steep bank – TPE has several different map views like street map, satellite, and terrain. If I’d never been here before, I could check the topographic terrain feature to check for steep banks and cliffs and discover that my setup position was far from level.)

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Read this follow on article TPE, Part 2
TPE, to me, is like the insurance ad that says – “Don’t leave home without it“. On a two week trip to New England for leaves this fall, I had my morning and evening shoots planned before leaving home. However, you don’t have to go far to find uses for TPE. I use it regularly when looking for very specific shots within a mile of home.

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