TPE Top 10 Tips
1) Scout your location ahead of time
At your desk… Use TPE for Desktop to plan your shoot ahead of time. Choose the best map mode for your subject: Map for cities, Satellite/Hybrid for details of particular buildings, Terrain for landscapes.
2) Look for starred dates
TPE for Desktop shows an asterisk next to dates when a full or new moon will be low on the horizon near the time of sunrise or sunset: these are often the best days for images including the moon.
3) Pre-plan your shooting position
Use the time of day slider in Details mode to check the angle of sun at the time of game kick-off, or when the bride and groom will emerge from the church. Ensure you have the optimal shooting position for the critical moment.
4) Find a starry, starry night
Look for times after or before astronomical twilight and compare with the times of moonrise/set to find a truly dark time for astro-photography.
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5) Double check the angle of view
Use the secondary map pin (gray) to check the elevation angle from your shooting location to your chosen landmark. This can indicate what focal length lens you will need to accommodate the subject in the frame.
6) Don’t be kept in the dark
Use the time of day slider and the secondary map pin in combination to check whether the sun will be hidden by a nearby hill or ridgeline. Scrub back and forth to see the track of the sun (or moon), choose your moment, but then double check by aligning the secondary map pin and comparing the angles.
7) Adjust your horizons
Use the secondary pin to set the elevation at the horizon. TPE will tell you how far you can see on a clear day, plus it will fine tune rise and set times – this can be important for mountain photography. It’s easy for sunrise to occur 10 minutes earlier due to the height above the horizon – don’t miss the magic moment.
Find your favourite city-henge
Use TPE to find the dates when sunset aligns with your favourite city street. Manhattanhenge is probably the best-known example, occurring twice a year in late May and mid-July. Be sure to fine tune the sun position using the details slider so that it’s just above the horizon where you can still shoot it, then check the optimal date for the alignment with your chosen city street.
9) Save your locations
Build a list of your favourite places. TPE doesn’t limit you to a preset list of towns and cities. Once you’ve found your shooting location, you can save the exact spot for future reference.
10) Carry it with you
You can’t always plan in advance. If you need to know all about the light when you’re on the road, TPE for iPhone has the same functionality as the desktop version.
Get The Photographer’s Ephemeris
TPE for Desktop is a free download for Windows/Mac/Linux, available at http://photoephemeris.com
TPE for iPhone is available for purchase in the App Store.
Additional tutorials are available at http://photoephemeris.com/support
About the Author: Stephen Trainor has spent the last three years photographing around the southwest US, learning the importance of planning your shots along the way. More at http://stephentrainor.com.