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Total Lunar Eclipse, April 15 2014

Saturday’s total lunar eclipse is expected to last a mere five minutes, making it the shortest of the century. If you want to capture a memorable photograph of the eclipsed full moon, some planning is going to help.

While Europe will miss out on this eclipse, the timing works out well for western parts of the Americas and Asia.

The eclipse occurs at moonset in the Americas, and as it’s a full moon, moonset occurs early in the morning. Let’s look at a couple of examples from opposite sides of the world:

Boulder, Colorado

Total eclipse will happen at 6:01am on the morning of Saturday, April 4, 2015. The moon will be setting to the west during late nautical twilight, meaning the sky should be a perfect complementary deep blue to the striking deep orange of the eclipsed moon.

Boulder looks up to the foothills of the Rockies to the west of town. If we can be sure that the moon is high enough in the sky, we should be able to capture it hanging above the famous Boulder Flatirons, a group of sandstone formations that sit above the south part of town.

Using The Photographer’s Ephemeris app on iPad, we can see that indeed, the moon will still be high enough in the sky to be visible above the Flatirons. In fact, it will be sitting above a gap just to the south of the main Flatirons group, if we shoot from the trail near South Boulder Road, which offers some decent foreground opportunities as well as relatively unobstructed views westwards:

TPE Screenshot

This is roughly where I plan to be this coming Saturday – hopefully, the weather will cooperate and there’ll be some decent shots there for the taking!

Singapore

In contrast to America, Singapore and other parts of Asia will see the total eclipse around moonrise. In Singapore, maximum eclipse occurs again during nautical twilight, with the moon rising to the east.

Singapore is a wonderful location for architectural photography. Since I was last there ten years ago, a number of striking new buildings have been constructed. One of the most prominent is the Marina Bay Sands.

Marina Bay Sands in the evening
Marina Bay Sands in the evening – 20101120“ by SomeformofhumanOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Might it be possible to shoot the eclipsed moon juxtaposed with this building?

It appears that the answer is yes – and even better, it looks like it should be possible to catch the moon in a gap between the towers. From Wikipedia we can find the building’s height of 200 metres (656ft). We can use the geodetics feature of The Photographer’s Ephemeris app on iPad to visualize the height of the moon in the sky relative to the building height.

If the moon lies below the top of the building when viewed from a suitable distance, and if we align ourselves with the gap between the towers, then we should be able to shoot the moon through the gap. The screenshot below shows a possible shooting location on the west shore of the bay (the map is rotated to view more or less due south), facing eastwards to align the rising moon with the Marina Bay Sands building:

TPE Screenshot

As you can see, the moon does indeed lie below the top of the building at the moment of maximum eclipse (8:01pm local time): the chart beneath the map shows the relative altitude of the building (the solid white line on the right hand side) and the moon (blue line). Using the tilt feature of Google Maps, it’s possible to check that we are aligned with the leftmost gap between the towers.

A 5-minute window of opportunity

Although it’s short, the April 2015 lunar eclipse is a gift for photographers: with the moon visible low in the sky at either moonrise or moonset during twilight, there are a huge number of possibilities for attractive compositions that place the moon next to a landmark, building or natural feature.

There’s still time to plan your shot, so don’t delay!

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TPE and Photo Transit App Bundle

This week we’ve made The Photographer’s Ephemeris and The Photographer’s Transit available as an app bundle on the App Store.

Buy them together and you can save over 25% on the individual apps bought separately. What’s more, if you already own one of the apps in the bundle, you can use the “Complete My Bundle” feature to obtain the other at a discounted price.

Complete My Bundle credits customers for any apps they’ve already purchased within a bundle, so that they only pay the balance for the remaining apps.

If you’re not familiar with The Photographer’s Transit, it is a complementary shot planning tool to TPE. You can define your camera and lenses within the app and then explore both horizontal and vertical field of view using the familiar map and elevation profile techniques you’ve seen in TPE. You can move back and forth between TPE and Photo Transit using the sharing features of each app.

The Photographer’s Transit also includes a project and shot planning feature that allows you to create multiple projects and save your planned shots together with reference notes, links and images.

The Photographer’s Transit is currently available on iPad. (We’ll be working on an iPhone version for release later in the year.)

TPT screenshot

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Apple took us by surprise last night, by featuring TPE on the App Store. If you’re in the US, you’ll see it featured at the top of the Photo Video category. Which is nice! :)

We had a request from Apple for promotional artwork late last week. The deadline on the request was 15 Feb, so we guessed the possibility to be featured would be for next week (the App Store is refreshed every Thursday). Being diligent (and somewhat excited at the prospect), we submitted the artwork early, and – lo and behold – there we were featured as of last night.

As a result, we decided to pull forward the planned release date of a major update to TPE on iOS – version 3.

You can watch the preview video to get a sense of what’s included, but I’m sure you’ll quickly see that the UI has been completely overhauled:

TPE 3.0 Product Image

Usability

With this release, we’ve modernized the user interface to match that of our free desktop web app, providing a consistent cross-platform user experience that we hope will make it faster and easier than ever for photographers to get the most out of these planning tools.

Previously, the iPhone and iPad versions of the app each had different UI designs. We’re happy to have been able to implement a consistent design across all devices with the 3.0 release and one that provides a flexible and extensible platform on which to continue to add new functionality in the future.

We’ve improved access to commonly used functionality within the app. For example, tap the displayed date to change it or select from a list of key events, such as the phases of the moon.

Location search and saved locations are now unified so you can search your saved locations list and the web simultaneously to find places of interest quickly and easily.

The best map type for a shot varies by location and shot type. Photographers working in a city may well prefer standard maps or satellite imagery. Landscape photographers shooting in the mountains will probably prefer Terrain or topographic maps. With TPE 3.0, the ideal map type – including two offline map options – is only a tap away, directly accessible on the map itself, rather than buried in the app settings.

The new UI can be configured to display the information that matters most to the user: the events timeline can be set to display up to seven different sets of data, or it can be hidden altogether to maximise the visible map area.

Functionality

TPE 3.0 includes significant new features, including line of sight analysis, a much-expanded Visual Search capability, and numerous ways to share data with others.

Line of Sight Analysis

The geodetics function in 3.0 has been enhanced to include elevation and altitude profiles, and line of sight analysis. Line of sight analysis enables the photographer to determine visibility between any two points on the map, enabling the virtual scouting of shooting locations and subject positions.

Building heights can be specified, along with adjustments to the measured elevation, making it easy to determine an accurate angle of view to the top of a major landmark, or to see the effect of shooting from on top of a building.

The sun and moon are overlaid on the elevation and altitude profiles, making it simple to visualise when they will be visible above mountains, ridgelines or buildings.

Line of sight on iPhone 6+

Visual Search

Previously, Visual Search allowed the user to position the grey map pin and find the next or previous date when the sun or moon would rise in that direction.

With 3.0, Visual Search has been significantly expanded and now allows you to:

  • Find rise or set for sun or moon
  • Search by azimuth and altitude to find when the sun or moon will appear at a specific position in the sky
  • Specify required moon illumination, e.g. crescent, full, or an arbitrary illumination percentage range
  • Specify if moon should be waxing or waning
  • Find only results that occur during specific sun altitude conditions, e.g. a rising full moon during civil twilight
  • Set the search tolerance (in degrees)
  • Fine tune disc alignment: adjust search to bottom, centre or top of the sun or moon’s disc
  • Search priority: set whether azimuth or altitude alignment is most important for your shot

Coupled with line of sight analysis, visual search can display dates when the sun or moon will appear above a landmark with a single tap.

Sharing

TPE now includes numerous ways to share a shot plan, including:

  • Airdrop
  • Email and Messages
  • Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, Flipboard and more
  • Evernote
  • Save image, Copy, Print
  • Email Detailed Shot Plan
  • Add to Calendar

When sharing a shot plan a custom URL is created that links to the free desktop web app, so that users who don’t own TPE for iOS can use it.

Sharing screen

Additional New Features

Additional Sun and Moon Information

TPE 3.0 now optionally displays sun and moon transit times and an indication of so-called ‘golden hour’ (defined in TPE as when the sun is between the horizon and +6°).

Additionally, an intuitive indication of relative or absolute shadow length is displayed on the map. The ’6° shadow circle’ shows when the sun are moon are below +6° above the horizon, corresponding to so called ‘golden hour’ or when the moon is hanging low in the sky and can be photographed against city skylines, for example.

Integration with The Photographer's Transit (iPad)

On iPad, TPE now integrates with its sister-app The Photographer's Transit allowing the user to move a shot plan from one app to the other with a single tap. A configurable setting is provided to manage how the map pins correlate between the two apps.

Feedback

We hope you like the new version and we’d love to hear your feedback. You can write to us at support@photoephemeris.com.

Having sprung the new release early, we’re a little behind on updating all the tutorials for the new version. It’s going to be a busy weekend.

TPE 3.0 on iPhone 6+ held in hand

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Location Sychronization

Today, we’re updating the TPE web app to version 1.1.

The most significant aspect of the new update is the release of Location Synchronization.

If you’re a regular user of TPE, you probably have built up a reasonable sized list of saved photography locations. While it’s long been possible to import/export your locations as KML in the desktop app, many of you have asked about the ability to synchronize the lists automatically across multiple machines.

Location Synchronization allows you to do exactly that, free of charge for up to 1,000 saved locations per account. To get started with Location Sync, go to the Locations page within TPE for Desktop and sign up for an account.

In addition to Location Sync, there are a few notable improvements and fixes in 1.1:

  • Infinite scrolling on the locations page: this improves load time and performance significantly for those of you with a large number of saved locations – just keep scrolling down to load more locations from your list.
  • The timezone database has been updated reflecting recent changes, in particular the new time zone rules affecting many parts of Russia
  • Incorrect time labeling on the chart affecting Daylight saving dates (i.e. today in the USA) are now fixed

We’ll be adding Location Sync into the mobile versions of TPE in the coming weeks (once we get our iOS 8 update complete).

In the meantime, we hope you like the 1.1 web app release!

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Location Sychronization

Today, we’re announcing a public beta of location synchronization for the TPE web app.

Location sync is something you’ve been asking about for a while, and so we’re pleased to have a solution that you can start testing today.

What it does

Location Synchronization allows you to push your locations to a central database and to pull them down on demand to a new machine. It works for the desktop web app today.

You can synchronize up to 1000 locations free of charge. You’ll need to create a free account to get started.

Any locations you synchronize are not shared publicly or with other users: they remain available only to your account.

The technology

We’ve spent quite a while pondering how to do location synchronization. Many of you asked if we could not just use iCloud. Apart from the various issues that iCloud sync suffered in its early days, the main barrier to using it is lack of cross-platform support: we need to be able to support desktop, iOS and Android.

We looked at other solutions that might support cross-platform sync, such as Wasabi Sync and Parse. However, it did not feel right to be dependent on a 3rd party service for something that would be so critical once users started putting data into it. (That decision seems to have been borne out: it looks like Wasabi Sync has shut its doors to new accounts.)

The other barrier to rolling out synchronization was our own Desktop app: the desktop app was always likely to the centre of the synchronization solar system. Planning at the desktop and synching locations out to laptops, tablets and mobiles is probably the key use case.

However, the old Adobe AIR desktop app was not a great place to be adding new capabilities: it was a technological dead-end.

With the arrival of the replacement web app, we were finally in a position to start tackling Location Synchronization properly in our own code.

What’s next?

It’s taken just over 2 months to get to public beta. I suspect we’ll be in beta for another 4-8 weeks to prove out the platform and build confidence that everything is going well.

Once beta is complete, we’ll promote the beta site to production, and any locations and accounts you create in the beta site will live on back in the main web app. We’ll then add location sync to the mobile apps. (As there’s a material cost to providing the service, so we expect to charge a small fee for this option on mobile platforms.)

Start syncing today!

Version 1.1 Beta of the web app is available at beta.photoephemeris.com today. But before you head over there, read more about how to get started:

Please let us know what you think!

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