landscape photography

Finding the Light: The Photographer’s Ephemeris

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Lake Whatcom
Sunrise over Lake Whatcom in Bellingham, WA.


A couple weeks ago I wrote about shooting during the twilight hours. If you want to capture the beautiful colors that are present at this time it might help to know exactly when the sun drops below the horizon and how long twilight will last. There are plenty of websites and apps out there that will give you this information, and one that I have used in the past is

Knowing when the sun will rise or set is helpful in planning an outdoor shoot, but a little extra information can help even more. When I took the picture above of the sunrise over Lake Whatcom in Bellingham, WA, I used a program called The Photographer’s Ephemeris to set up the shot. I knew when the sun would be coming up but in order to get the composition I wanted I needed to know exactly where the sun would be when it peaked over the mountains.  The Photographer’s Ephemeris gave me that information so I could position myself in just the right spot.

The Photographer's Ephemeris
Planning a shoot with the satellite view in The Photographer’s Ephemeris.


Anytime I plan to shoot at the ends of the day I turn to The Photographer’s Ephemeris. Not only does this program tell you when the sun will rise and set, it also gives you the direction of the sunrise and sunset overlaid on a nice looking map. There are various styles of maps to choose from including the Google standard map, a satellite map, a hybrid map and a terrain map; and just like Google maps, moveable pins allow you to obtain information for locations anywhere in the world. The program has a lot of other features including moonrise and moonset data, times of twilight, elevation information, and more.

Perhaps the greatest thing about this program is that their desktop versions for both Windows and Mac OS X are free. Additionally there are apps for iOS ($8.99) and Android ($4.99).

You can find the program at the website: