Photo Gear Weekly

– There are seemingly countless accessories available to the photographer but I think actually the accessory that I find most valuable most of the time in my photography is data. And in the context of the data I’m referring to that means that I always want to have a smartphone with me out in the field or when I’m planning a shot because that enables me to take advantage of an app that makes it possible to plan very easily for including the sun or the moon in a photo.

And I use this for example, in Rome to photograph the full moon. I knew that there would be a full moon while I was there, thankfully the weather cooperated and I was able to use an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris available for smartphones, as well as a web application in order to plan that shot. Let’s take a look at what that looked like. I’ll start off in The Photographer’s Ephemeris app and I’ll set the location first in this case Rome, Italy. And so down at the bottom center I can tap Locations and then tap into the search field and I’ll type Rome and you can see that Rome, Italy is the top result there so I’ll go ahead and tap that, and then tap the red pushpin icon in order to center my view within the app on Rome, Italy so that I can start exploring the map to see where I might want to photograph from.

Next of course, I need to set the date correctly so I’ll tap the Date up at the top center and I will change that date to the date in question that happens to be October 5th 2017. And you can see in the display down below that the full moon is indeed on October 5th so I can use this app for planning for a variety of celestial events. Having set the date correctly I’ll go ahead and tap Done at the top right and now I can zoom in on the map in order to try and figure out what might be a good location for photographing that full moon.

So I think I’m going to start off at Castel Saint Angelo, that provides a nice elevated viewpoint, with beautiful views of the heart of Rome. I’ll make sure that my crosshair is over that location and then I can tap the red pushpin icon toward the top right and that will place the pushpin in that location on the map and now that I have the date and location set, down below I can take a look at the times for the moonset, the sunrise, the sunset, and the moonrise. And in this case I’m most interested in the moonrise but also, not just the time, but the location.

Note that on the map going out from my pushpin you’ll see a blue line, the color coding here a light blue line for the moonrise, a dark blue line for the moonset. Yellow for sunrise, orange for sunset. And that tells me the relative position of the moon, or the sun as the case may be, at the appointed time. So here moonrise and I can see exactly what the moon will be rising over, if I position myself at Castel Saint Angelo. But in this case that doesn’t seem to be providing me with the most interesting viewpoint for the moon and so I want to take a look at some other locations.

I do know that the hills over to the west of Rome often provide a nice vantage point so I’m going to navigate to that location on the map. Once again tap that red pushpin and now I can take a look along the line representing the moonrise and sure enough, that looks like it will be a good angle of view. Right over the Roman Forum, not too far from the Altare della Patria, and a couple of other interesting monuments there and so I think that would represent a good location from which to photograph the moonrise, figured out, of course, based in large part on The Photographer’s Ephemeris app, as well as my own existing knowledge of Rome.

Knowing for example, that this is the view from the hilltop that I thought I would photograph the full moon. So this was late afternoon light, and I waited around a little bit. Admittedly, I was a little bit nervous even though I had that information, I knew exactly what time the moon was supposed to rise, that it was a full moon, the exact position on the map where I could expect it to rise up above the horizon. But I was still a little nervous that it might not pan out the way it was expected. But sure enough, almost on cue, the full moon rose over the hills enabling me to capture this photo of the heart of Rome with the full moon rising in the background.

So if you’d like to incorporate the sun or the moon, or other events in your photography, and you want help figuring out the best locations, including the best time to photograph that particular subject you might want to take a look at The Photographer’s Ephemeris making your smartphone perhaps one of the most valuable accessories you could have in the field when you’re capturing photos.