The spring is sprung, the grass is riz.
I wonder where the boidie is.
They say the boidie’s on the wing.
But that’s absoid. The wing is on the boid.
I can’t lay claim to this verse, but I second that emotion.
So daylight is finally increasing and an old smudger’s thoughts turn to possibly leaving the house with a camera. But where will the light fall and how long will it last?
Being smarter than the average bear, we fire-up The Photographer’s Ephemeris. This marvellous tool is available as the usual web page, but also comes in smartphone versions to help people who have already left the house and find themselves wandering in the wilderness.
Find the spot you have in mind and take a look at how the sun (or moon) will rise and set, how they track across the sky and how high they get.
So what? Well I used this for a picture I wanted to get of a friend’s place, that was at the western end of a narrow road. I knew that the morning sun would glance across the face of the building, but I wasn’t sure exactly when. Easy – find it on the map, zoom in and drag the time-of-day slider across to see when the sun shone down between the houses.
I know I have mentioned this in a previous post, but what got me thinking about it was driving past a steamy big industrial site every day and watching the sun gradually climb over the hill behind me to illuminate the chimneys and then the buildings. If I wanted to come back at a weekend and stand on a nearby bridge, what time would I need to get there? Turns out I can’t be arsed to get up that early and drive nearly to work at a weekend.
But there you go. When does the sun fall on the front of a particular building, or backlight it? When would a low-angled sun fall directly down the line of a wet road? When will the moon be low on the horizon? What time is golden hour or blue hour? Go ask the TPE.
One more trick up your sleeve. How do you easily find north or south? With a wristwatch. It has to be an anlogue watch with hands though. In the northern hemisphere, point the hour hand at the sun and bisect the angle between the hour hand and 12 o’clock (works for GMT, but take an hour off for BST). This half-way angle points south.
For the landscape photographer (yawn), you might want to know when the sun will appear over a hill. Remember your trigonometry from school? Fair enough. Get a decent OS map and a bit of graph paper. Mark the low-level point you want lit and the high point that the sun has to clear. Work out the different in height and the distance between them. If you can’t remember the maths to calculate the upward angle from the low point to the high one, draw them to scale on graph paper and use a protractor. The TPE will then help you work out what time of year and time of day the sun will be in the right direction and at the right height (it shows the angle of altitude of the sun or moon).