Golden Photography impressions: Golden Hour and The Photographer’s Ephemeris


Not the perfectest of shots, but made possible thanks to Golden Hour

A recent trip to Canada changed my life in many ways. Firstly, it severed the ties I had to a silly corporate decision; and secondly, it put an iPad into my hands. Thanks to Apple’s “magical” device, I’ve been able to take gigabytes and gigabytes of photos (though I’ve uploaded only a few to my flickr account), sort them, and offload them later to my lappy, that foul tool that I no longer have to carry around. Along the way, I picked up two interesting iPhone/iPod touch apps: The Photographer’s Ephemeris and Golden Hour. Both tools do the same basic thing: tell where in the sky the sun is; it’s how they do them that is the interesting bit.

You see, the so-called golden hour is a magical time around sunrise or sunset that brings out the best colours in just about everything. In contrast to noon, the sun is at acute angles to the horizon, meaning it has to pass through a lot more air and other light-bending elements. Forget the sunken eyes of hard, nasty shadows; forget pasty highlights and enjoy gold, orange, blue and other wonderful rainbowish colours.

As you can imagine, the golden hour changes depending on where in the world you are. It is also not usually a full hour long. I’ve come to cherish it and cherish too, the apps that help me suss it out no matter where in the world I am.

The problem for iPod touch and iPad wifi users, of course, is that you don’t always have internet access, so calibrating exact locations isn’t all that easy. And depending on your iPhone’s antenna and your location, even iPhone users may not have the information they need to make informed decisions. Golden Hour remedies this by caching the most basic of information in-app. Trust me, it is a blessing.

Golden Hour
Golden Hour succeeds in user friendliness with easy to understand maps and easy dragging tools to calibrate any adventure for any date. If you have a trip planned for Nepal in September, put a tack in Nepal from the map page and then go to the golden hour tab. You can drag the date slider forward or backward through the entire year. The same golden hour tab shows you the exact time of sunrise and sunset with golden hour and other attributes hidden below a tap. Very clear.

Where it fails in comparison is its locations section: you can have only one location selected at once. Fine, you are only ever located in one place at the same time but hell, if you’ve been spoiled by TPE’s Multiple locations, this lack may weigh heavily on you. I am fine with it, however.

Its sun compass isn’t as easy to understand as the rest of the app, but it gets the job done just fine. Because most of the app is simple enough for a bloke like me, I tend to use it all the time.

Golden Hour Mindsizzlers, Golden Hour, 14.15MB – $4.99

The Photogropher’s Ephemeris
The Photographer’s Ephemeris is less friendly than Golden Hour, but it offers polish where Golden Hour offers raw fingertip utility. The basic difference comes in TPE’s layout. Rather than sandwiching extra solar information below a golden hour map as Golden Hour does, TPE provides sliding panels for date, elevation, and extra solar and lunar information. While it is more elegant and in ways, and more detailed, TPE has its own issues.

Firstly, its map isn’t as easy to decipher. You’ll have to bone up on geometry and maybe navigation to really “get it”. A sextant is a good object to carry with you; learn that and you’ll be sorted in no time. And of course, it doesn’t cache its data; what you see is what you get. Out of network range? Too bad – there is simply no information for you. No star, sun, moon information; no angles – in short, no use at all.

As mentioned before, TPE carves great utility from its scheduler. You can add multiple locations to your calendar. This really helps for planning shooting trips as you can more or less get suss out the sky for wherever in the world you will be. As much as I like its interface and overall utility, I do tend to use The Golden Hour more often as it is just quicker and because The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useless when out of network range.

The Photographer's Ephemeris Crookneck Consulting LLC, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, 2.62MB – $8.99

For photographers, both of these apps do what they advertise: predict the location of the sun. Of course, there is much more to each: you can predict moon cycles and suss out the sun’s exact angle too. There is actually a lot more these apps offer and that is half the fun. For their prices, you get a lot.

On the other hand, there are some frustrations involved with each app. In particular, locations information is always on. No matter that you are on the moon with no network connection of any kind, you will be faced with a “locating you” screen at every boot up. Since the most basic information of info is already included in Golden Hour app, this arbitrary boot up sequence could be made into an option. TPE, on the other hand, relies completely on network connection; without network connection, all you get is a bunch of lines with little to no meaning. The Golden Hour comes ahead here because sometimes, you just aren’t in the range of any network. TPE’s nicer interface and in some ways, deeper information is at a loss in compared to the one feature of cashed ephemeris data.

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  • Louis

    That is one sweet photo of a ghost house in Cape Breton mate. I can’t stop looking at it! (haunted photo?)

    Did you hear voices as you were taking the pic?

  • Haha, no. The lighting was perfect though. As we were hiking (about 4-5 hours), we legged it to come back in time for photos. Barely made it. My tripod is rubbish (complete and utter), so getting it to conform to my wishes was hard.

    Thanks for the comment. The file is composed of 3 exposures stacked on top of one another and blended to bring out different lighting. The original object was quite spectacular in the sun, but the HDR really brought it out I think.

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