Getting to know when is the best time of the day, or the best lighting conditions in specific locations, is key for the outdoor photographer. Whether you are shooting landscapes or portraits outside, it is always good to know in advance what to expect in terms of lighting at your desired location. Of course, as the old saying goes, there’s an app for that.
While there is no shortage of similar applications, I find LightTrac easy to use and understand. It basically helps to plan outdoor photo sessions in advance, by finding the right lighting conditions and time, depending on the specific location you want to photograph.
The application calculates the angle of the sun, the moon, and plots the results on top of a map for any location in the world. While using LightTrac you can pick any date and time, at any place, then visualize the position and elevation of the sun and moon. It’s quite handy to be able to know not only what time sunset or sunrise will be, but more importantly, the relative position of the sun.
Here is the list of features for the iPad and iPhone version:
- Find angle and elevation of sun for any location and time
- Find angle and elevation of moon for any location and time
- Find sunrise, sunset and twilight times for any day
- Find moonrise, moonset and moon phase for any day
- View when full moon, new moon, first and last quarters occur
- View elevation chart and azimuth chart for sun and moon
- Integrated compass view on the iPad
- Search locations by address, city or zip code
- Save multiple locations and switch between them easily
- Use address book to pick locations from your contacts’ addresses
- Share your saved locations easily with fellow photographers via email
- Easily export your locations to KML file to view on other apps
- Does automatic timezone detection
- Available in English, German and French languages
There is also an Android version with a more limited list of features.
The application is very easy to read and understand. The screen is mainly divided into three sections: top, middle and bottom.
The upper section of the application’s screen shows the date and all information pertaining to moonrise and sunrise with times, including twilight for dawn and dusk. It also display the lunar phases for the month, and GPS coordinates. If you are looking to search information for a specific place, you can tap in “Location” and either enter your own GPS coordinates, or make a search by city name. The same can be done with “Date”; just tap to enter a date in the future.
But the upper section provides much more information. Just by sweeping to the left, there are two more screens. The first one will show you an elevation chart and an azimuth chart; these sets of tools basically help you to determine the position of the sun in the sky related to your location at a certain time of the day.
That’s practical information for sure, but it seems a bit geeky to me. I’d rather use the second screen. If you sweep one more time, the following illustration will show you the shadows projections from an object; it’s more practical and easier to understand than the previous screen.
As you can see in the screen captures above, the middle section shows a map with super-imposed information of the sun’s angle. The sun’s angle at sunrise is marked in yellow, at sunset in blue, and the red line will show the sun’s angle at any time you select. The selection can be easily done by moving the slider of the bottom section, and as you do, the time changes and the red line that represents the sun angle moves accordingly, emulating the position and movement.
There is also a very useful tool in the bottom section. If you tap in the clock besides the time, a window will pop up offering you to set a reminder, an alarm, or even add to your calendar that specific event.
In conclusion, LightTrac is a simple but practical tool that is very useful for the outdoor photographer, because one the best ways to create beautiful photos is to properly plan the best time of the day to shoot. This application allows you to do that very precisely and in advance.