PhotoPills: An app to track the sun, moon, planets and stars.
I have been looking for the right app for sun and moon trajectory. Finding an app is easy, but finding a good app can almost be a science. I ended up spending quite some time researching for an app for both my iPhone and iPad Pro. The ‘The Photographer’s Ephemeris’ (aka TPE) was my candidate for a long time, but I ended up choosing the app ‘PhotoPills’. First of all, PhotoPills is one app – not two, as the TPE offering – and PhotoPills offers a community with great tutorials. The price is 10$ and is considered fair from my point of view.
My key selling (rather buying) points were:
- Easy planner on top of Google maps
- ‘Finder’-feature; find date and time from location, direction and elevation. Also height of the terrain is included
- Augmented Reality – enter your height and calibrate your iOS-device, and you can plan your next shot today – or at any time in the calendar
- Seamless integration of features: Augmented Reality and Finder can save ‘events’ in the planner. In one feature, you can navigate to another by selecting the feature from a list in the bottom.
- App available for both iPhone and iPad Pro.
PhotoPills also offers a wide range of DOF (Depth of Field), Distance and Focal Range calculations. I don’t find them utterly important, but the list of cameras are huge; didn’t know that Fujifilm has 100+ variants.
I enjoy planning shots on my iPad Pro using a map. But when I am on location, I find the Augmented Reality (AR) very appealing. The app provides fast answers to questions like
- “Where does the sun go down today?”
- “When will the sun (or moon) be in this position in the sky?”
Here is a screen shot from my iPhone at a recent landscape shooting:
Only annoying part: Often the compass on my iPhone needs to be calibrated before the AR kicks in.
From the screen shot it is easy to see, that the AR is not 100% perfect, but the fault tolerance is acceptable. It only requires moving a feet to the side or slightly altering the cameras pointing direction. The main point is:
You can proactively find the right spot and direction, thus concentrate on operating your camera when the time is up. You are not loosing expensive time on moving you and/or your tripod around.