Would You Like to Know the Best Time and Place to Shoot Sunrise and Sunset? Now there's an App for that

Would You Like to Know the Best Time and Place to Shoot Sunrise and Sunset? Now there's an App for that

You may have heard of "Skyfire" last year, a web-based platform that used custom weather forecasting models to predict the best times to shoot sunrise and sunset. Now, there is a new mobile app available for iOS that uses the Skyfire platform, called "The Photographers Ephemeris," that brings this service to a new level.

The idea behind this app is that as a landscape photographer, you will no longer waste your time driving, hiking, setting up, and then waiting for interesting light and clouds to appear. I know, I've done it. A clear sky can be pretty dull when compared to a sky that's dotted with little puffy clouds, or edges of storm systems that light up like fire above a mountain.

With the TPE app, users can preview a map of their selected location, and get an overlay that reveals what areas are the most likely to have colorful light, for either sunrise or sunset. As explained on their website:

Using multiple weather models, Skyfire analyses numerous factors that affect sunrise and sunset color including:

  • Cloud type determination
  • Cloud height predictions
  • Gap light
  • Complex system behavior
  • Satellite weather information
  • Topography

The algorithm is run against the latest weather data multiple times per day. Forecasts for both sunrise and sunset are generated for the next four days. Each forecast is refined using the latest input data when the algorithm is re-run.

TPE displays Skyfire as a colorful map overlay, alongside the critical time and light angle information. A spot-check API allows TPE to display the latest forecasts for your favorite locations all in one place.


As you may have already gathered, this isn't your average sun-tracking app, with times for the sunrise and sunset. (There are lots of those, and they are free, so understand that this is much more than that.) The app is available two ways: $10 for 3 months, which gives users a 2 day forecast, or $15 for 3 months, with a 4 day forecast. There is also a 30-day free trial for you to try before you buy.

Of course there's no way to get a forecast that is 100% accurate, just like with the weather, but the creators have done testing where the app had an 80% accuracy rate. If you ask me, that's better than most of the weather forecasts I get off local news stations.

One last thing– right now the app only covers the lower 48 states, but as time goes on the coverage area is expected increase. To learn more about how the app works, you can check out the Skyfire for TPE webpage, or head over to the App Store to download it.

I for one, am looking forward to giving this a run on my iPhone the next time I go out to shoot, and see how it does on predictions– this might be a godsend for not wasting time using up "weather days" on productions where a crew could be doing something else!

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12 Comments

Lee Morris's picture

Elia was using this program for his landscape work. It's pretty amazing

Brian Carpenter's picture

I absolutely love his work. The dude is awe inspiring. My hope is that this app will be available for Android at some point, I've been following the app for quite a while but have been stuck using, not as strong alternatives, on Android. Edit - aaaaand just realized its already released for Android finally! Thanks for posting this and it served as a great reminder for me haha. Downloading now!

Justin Iyoki's picture

It's cool to know that pros like Elia use this in their workflow. It would be amazing to get a round-up post of the pros Fstoppers feature and the apps they use in their workflow. I see a couple pop-up in the BTS but would love to have something to refer to for apps on Landscape, Architecture, Film, etc that professionals frequently put to use or find invaluable. Awesome job with the BTS on Elia's tutorials btw! I'm glued.

Casey Berner's picture

Wow finally! I've been using all sorts of websites to get this information and would even print out moon/sun rise/set maps and charts before I'd leave on trips. Now it's all in one place. Downloading now.

Pascual Evo Jr's picture

This app has been around for several years.

Kyle Ford's picture

Interesting. I'll have to check it out, I've been using photopills for iPhone, looks pretty similar but with added features for weather.

Philip Lor's picture

I'm surprised you guys are just hearing about this app. It ha been one of the best photo apps for years now.

Justin Iyoki's picture

True. I found out about it when I found out about The Photographers Ephemeris, but I figured saving the projections from The Photographers Ephemeris was enough. It's nice to see it highlighted and to know that Elia uses it in his work though.

Justin Iyoki's picture

I've used The Photographers Ephemeris for video projects in pre-pro and saved out the projections for the times were shooting. It would be amazing to have the flexibility to look it up on the day or when in the field tough, so I could see this being worth its price tag.

Martin Beebee's picture

NOW there's an app? Really? The Photographer's Ephemeris has been around for years. The only thing that's changed is the price.

Stephen Trainor's picture

Martin - the price for TPE has not changed. Skyfire is offered as an optional subscription service as an in-app purchase.

Mike Last's picture

This article does a poor job at explaining what is going on. Skyfire, a new subscription service that provides 'hot spots' for sunsets, is now integrated into The Photographers Ephemeris, an app that has been around for years and tells you the best times to shoot sunrise and sunsets, as well as the direction of the sunrise and sunset on topographic maps.