New Settings in TPE for iOS 2.5

Right now, TPE for iOS version 2.5 is on its way to the App Store.

We’ve added a couple of new features that have been requested in recent months. Both are available in the Settings page:

  • Magnetic headings
  • Optional moon azimuth lines

Use magnetic north

When enabled, all azimuths, bearings and headings are calculated relative to magnetic north instead of true north. We calculate the magnetic declination (the offset from true north) for the primary pin location and for the selected date, using the World Magnetic Model 2010. This is the best generally available model for magnetic declination and is, I believe, what iOS (and Android) both already use.

The problem with iOS is that Apple’s APIs only allow you to calculate the declination for the current date/time and actual physical device location. For that reason, we bundle our own copy of WMM with TPE, which allows us to use the app in a planning mode, giving the magnetic declination for a remote location on a different date. There are more details in the help file.

We were prompted to add support for magnetic headings after receiving some wonderfully rich and detailed emails from a professional cinematographer working in California. These emails explained how cinematographers use Suunto Tandem compasses to determine bearings while scouting or planning locations. The absence of support for magnetic headings made TPE difficult to use for this purpose, so we’re happy now to have it included.

Moon azimuth lines

A few users have requested the option to disable the moon lines from the map display in recent months. This setting likely goes nicely hand-in-hand with the new magnetic heading setting, as I suspect most cinematographers care far more about the sun than the moon.

Anyway, if you’re lunaphobic, you can now rid your map of all things moon-related :)

Up next

We’re currently working on an update to TPE for Android which we hope will go out for beta testing in the next day or so. We think you’ll like the features it adds!

Comments, questions or suggestions

We’re always keen to hear your comments on TPE. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact us via photoephemeris.com/support.


I’ve had the pleasure of reading two new eBooks recently, both written by users of TPE.

The Golden Hours

Firstly, The Golden Hours: A Guide to Photographing the Light of Sunrises and Sunsets by Maine-based photographer Christopher O’Donnell.

The Golden Hours

The Golden Hours is a highly practical guide to how to achieve effective results when shooting around the times of sunrise and sunset. Artistry aside, the practical factors leading to a successful photograph can be divided into three parts: planning, execution and post-production. The Golden Hours does a great job of breaking things down along these lines, providing sound advice on how to achieve high quality results.

In addition, the eBook is lavishly illustrated with Chris’s own distinctive photography. The book includes a good number of coastal images, attractively combining beaches, lighthouses, jettys and boats with golden hour skies in a stylish way.

Chris’s book is available here.

Photographing Rocky Mountain National Park

The second book is Photographing Rocky Mountain National Park by my friend Erik Stensland.

Photographing Rocky Mountain National Park

Erik almost certainly has the finest portfolio of images from Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park that exists, and this book is the best and most comprehensive guide to photographing it yourself.

The book is organized primarily according to the geography of the park, with sections on Fall River Road, Bear Lake Road, Highway 7, Trail Ridge Road and the Grand Lake Area. Each location is illustrated with one of Erik’s own photographs. Even better, each photograph is accompanied by GPS coordinates, hiking round trip distance, best time and suggested lens focal length. (Clearly, the intention here is not that you should slavishly seek to reproduce Erik’s photographs, but rather, given that time is a constraint for many photographers, that you should maximize your chances of returning with some great results having ventured out with the right equipment at the right time.)

Photographing Rocky Mountain National Park is the first of a series The Landscape Photographer’s Guide, and of course, we approve of the use of the definite article in the series title ;)

Erik’s new eBook is available here.

I also want to thank both Chris and Erik for recommending TPE in their eBooks. It’s great to know that TPE helps in the creation of such high quality photography.


With temperature records falling in Sydney, Australia and our recent visit to Death Valley National Park, I was interested to see a recent Economist article showing a map of the hottest places on earth:

I entered these locations into TPE and it confirmed that if you live anywhere between 27° and 38° either north or south of the equator, you’re likely close to one of the hottest places on earth:

Hottest Places on Earth

My hazy memory of an oceanography class I took years ago suggest that these latitudes – outside the tropics – end up hottest on account of the Hadley Cell that drops tropical heat straight onto these areas.

Here’s a KML file you can import into TPE for Desktop or open in TPE for iOS, containing the hottest places on earth:

A KML file containing the locations of 8 of the hottest places on earth, as reported by the Economist on January 9th 2013.
File size 2.99kB | Last modified Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 12:10 | Download count 1154

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This evening, we released a minor update to TPE for Android, bringing it to version 1.0.5.

It’s a been a good while since the last update. However, in the intervening months, we’ve seen some encouraging growth in the user base, and some real improvements in the Android platform and ecosystem.

2011 wasn’t a great year for Android. Honeycomb and the introduction of 3.0-based Android tablets did not see widespread uptake. The vast majority of users remained on 2.2 or 2.3 devices. As things stood, there seemed to be some uncertainty around how the phone + tablet [+ ‘phablet’] Android market might evolve.

2012 turned out to be much more successful for the Android platform, with significant uptake of Android 4.x and some popular new devices hitting the market.

With those improvements taking hold, as of late last year, we started to dust off the Android code base and get it prepped for some new features in 2013. The 1.0.5 release is primarily preparation for adding some new bells and whistles to the app in the coming weeks and months.

With 1.0.5, we’ve updated all the underlying libraries in the app (e.g. the Google Android Compatibility Library), added automated crash reporting (just like Apple’s crash reporting for iOS, Google’s leaves plenty to be desired – in some ways it’s worse, prompting users to leave a message, but providing no means for the developer to get back in touch with the user – please, if you experience a crash e-mail us at Contact so we can resolve the problem for you), updating the old Android 2.x style menus to Android 3.x-based ActionBars, and more.

Also, we’ve rewritten the place name search function to call Google’s Geocoding API directly, rather than use the built-in Android SDK class, which was causing issues for a few users.

So, no major changes in functionality in this update, but the groundwork is now complete for further updates during 2013.

Please let us know what you’d like to see in future updates to TPE on the Android platform.

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More than perhaps anything else, TPE is about the directionality of light. Angles of sunrise and sunset, or the position of the moon during twilight – TPE is used by the photographer to understand the relationship of natural light sources to his or her subject.

There are, however, times when directionality of light is exactly not what you want as a photographer.

Today was one of those cases. We visited the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park. These magnificent trees are perhaps best photographed (a) in winter, with snow, and (b) on a cloudy day. We were lucky enough to have both.

Mariposa 1

With plenty of cloud about, the light was diffuse, even during the middle of the day when these photographs were taken, providing soft, balanced light that allowed every detail of the trees, moss, snow and ice to be captured. With direct sun on the trees, it would have been far harder to achieve an end result that avoided the extremes of light and shade.

Mariposa 2

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