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
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!