Announcing The Photographer's Ephemeris 3D

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A new 3D light planning tool for outdoor photographers

Launching worldwide on Tue June 27

Available now in Ireland and New Zealand.

The Photographer's Ephemeris 3D (TPE 3D) is a new app for iOS. Following on from the original TPE, we hope it’s a big step forward in letting outdoor photographers see how the light will fall on the land, day or night.

What is TPE 3D?

The Photographer's Ephemeris 3D (TPE 3D) is a unique natural light visualization tool for outdoor and landscape photographers. It’s a 3D map-centric Sun, Moon and Milky Way calculator: see how the light will fall on the land, day or night, for any location on earth.

Watch a sunrise from the future in a rich simulation of sunlight, moonlight and starlight set against the actual topography of your planned shooting location.

Need to see when the arch of the Milky Way will rise between two mountain peaks? Need to see what time in the afternoon the valley will lose direct light in September?

Watch the light unfold under clear skies hours, days, weeks or years before you’re actually there in person.


We plan to soft launch TPE 3D in select markets (including Ireland and New Zealand) on Tuesday, June 20 2017.

We expect to make the app available worldwide on Tuesday, June 27.

TPE 3D requires iOS 10. It runs on all devices that support iOS 10, but more modern devices benefit from higher detail in the 3D topography and higher resolution shadows and stars.

Why did we build TPE 3D?

Technology has evolved significantly since TPE was first released in 2009. Mobile devices today offer amazing power to process and present data in new ways. Coupled with the availability of digital elevation models for topography and 3D toolkits for graphical presentation, the opportunity was there to advance the way we presented data about the sun, moon and stars.

A couple of years ago two significant events occurred. Support for 3D graphics applications in iOS was significantly improved – a pre-requisite for building an app like this. Secondly, we received an email from a trusted user of TPE and professional landscape photographer saying, “wouldn’t it be great if…” – the challenge was accepted!

Technical challenges

Most mapping apps don’t allow the user to look to the horizon. You can tilt a little way, but only so far: that’s because when you can look to the horizon, you need to load more map tiles. In some 3D mapping apps, the curvature of the earth is greatly exaggerated, precisely so that less terrain needs to be loaded at any one time.

Most 3D mapping apps don’t attempt to simulate lighting: again, that allows less terrain to be loaded. If you don’t promise to show accurate shadows, it doesn’t matter if the mountain that casts the shadow isn’t loaded in the model.

TPE 3D pushes the limits of what can be achieved currently with simulated lighting, due in part to the sheer scale of the model that we need to illuminate. The shadow of a large mountain extends for a great many miles around the time of sunrise and sunset, and so the lighting and shadow algorithms are stretched in this app.

We’ve worked hard to find the right approach to solve these challenges, and have spent many hours working to find the right compromise between how much terrain we load, at what level of detail and what different devices can happily support. We hope we’ve found a good formula for this first release of TPE 3D, but we expect to keep refining things into the future.

Key Benefits for Photographers

3D mapping tools are not new – many photographers have used at least one well known program for years. Additionally, a good number of night sky apps present a 3D view of the stars, but against generic landscape or topography. We think TPE 3D offers a unique combination of benefits for photographers:

  • Sun, moon and stars are shown against a 3D model of the actual landscape: you can see if the moon is next to a specific mountain peak
  • Controls for date, time of day and camera position are designed with photographers in mind: it’s easy to check the light for just the time you need
  • Seeing the light against a topographic map makes it easy to interpret: satellite map images often have shadows ‘baked in’
  • In enhanced mode, you can control the focal length of camera, making TPE 3D useful as a guide to composition and lens selection


Key features includes:

- 3D topographic maps with simple navigation options
- Sun, moon and galactic centre continuous timeline showing key rise, set and transit events
- Full search capability to find your location (or enter decimal or DMS coordinates directly)
- Automated playback to watch a realtime or faster-than-realtime simulation of the light
- Flying mode for quick movement around a scene
- Enhanced mode for maximum topography and shadow detail
- Direct elevation control for the 3D model camera
- Camera pitch and bearing indicators
- Moon phases are rendered accurately in the 3D scene
- Zoom in/out to equivalent 35mm focal length in enhanced mode
- Daily and annual events lists
- Shared location database with TPE
- Navigation and Artificial Highlights lighting modes
- Support for multiple map pins
- User settings for controlling scene complexity


- This app is CPU and graphics intensive: modern device models provide the best user experience
- Requires an internet connection
- Does not currently provide simulation of lighting during solar and lunar eclipses
- Satellite maps are not included
- Topographic data is available only between 83°N and 83°S: data may contain artifacts and errors
- Availability of map types is subject to change, due to 3rd party map service availability, terms or conditions


TPE was first launched in 2009 as a free desktop application for outdoor photographers. It was conceived and developed by husband and wife team Stephen Trainor and Alison Craig following a landscape photography workshop in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado in 2008, shortly after moving to the USA from London, England.

TPE has been used by hundreds of thousands of photographers across the world to plan and execute some spectacular shots. It has been covered in National Geographic, Outdoor Photography, the New York Times, USA Today and the BBC.

TPE for iOS was launched in 2010 followed by an Android version in late 2011. The original TPE desktop app was re-written from the ground up in 2014 as a free browser-based web app with a new UI design. Skyfire™, a service for forecasting sunrise and sunset color, was integrated exclusively with TPE in 2015, and is available as a subscription.


We plan to launch TPE 3D as a paid app, selling individually for $19.99 in the US ($30.99, Australia, 21,99 € Eurozone, £19.99 UK, based on current Apple pricing tiers).

A bundle will be available making TPE 3D available to users who already own TPE and/or The Photographer' Transit at reduced price. The bundle will launch at $24.99 in the US, for all three apps.

That means that if you have already paid $8.99 for TPE, you can purchase the bundle to add TPE 3D and TPT for $16.00. If you already own both TPE and TPT, you can complete your bundle for $12.00, representing a 40% discount off full price for TPE 3D.

We expect to offer a pro subscription for future enhancements such as satellite maps and full offline support.

(All pricing is subject to change.)


If you’d like, here are some screenshots and videos – feel free to use them on your own sites!

File size 11.29MB | Last modified Sun Jun 18, 2017 at 18:39 | Download count 249

File size 14.31MB | Last modified Sun Jun 18, 2017 at 18:42 | Download count 131

File size 10.74MB | Last modified Sun Jun 18, 2017 at 18:43 | Download count 85

The Photographer’s Ephemeris 3D – Preview
TPE 3D – App Preview on iPad Pro
TPE 3D – App Preview on iPhone 7+

TPE 3D – Flying Mode Tutorial
TPE 3D – Enhanced Mode Tutorial
TPE 3D – Map Pin Basics
TPE 3D – Timeline Basics
TPE 3D – See the Stars
TPE 3D – Track the Sun