The Photographer’s Ephemeris: New Web App for Desktop Users

Some important news for you landscape shooters who rely on the indispensable app : The Photographer’s Ephemeris.

On September 2, 2014, TPE for Desktop will be no more. On that date Google will turn off the Google Maps for Flash API, which TPE for Desktop needs. Once that happens, the app will no longer function. But no worries, as the folks at TPE have been busy, giving the old app a feature laden overhaul which is now up and running in beta.

This new version is a web based app and works on the current versions of Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer 11. You can access it here:

The new web app includes the same functionality as the old desktop version but it’s so much better.

The first thing you will notice however is that it looks a little different. The celestial events for the day are displayed in the Events Timeline below the map. A chart of the sun and moon’s journey throughout the day is displayed at the bottom of the screen  and it can be toggled on and off to increase map real estate.

New features :

  • Ability to share links.(You can look up a location, set the date and time, and then share the URL of the web page with a friend.)
  • Saved locations can now be used to set the grey pin position as well as the red pin – great for planning both camera and subject placement.
  • You can predict shadows by holding down the shift key (or pressing caps lock). This displays sun and moon shadow lines. If the shadow extends outside the circle, then the sun or moon lies below +6° above the horizon: this is the best time for good light (golden hour) or for positioning the moon against the landscape.
  • The best feature of all – you can now see a Google street level view with a click of a link.

The very best news of all is that TPE for desktop web app is still free!

Learn How to Plot the Sun & Moon

Moonrise over Alcatraz and the Berkeley Hills

Join Michael at Camera West in Walnut Creek as he demonstrates how to use an indispensable tool for landscape photographers.

This tool is called the Photographer’s Ephemeris and it is a free app for your mac or pc. With it, you can plot exactly when and where the sun or moon will be at any time of day or night; past, present, or future.

Want a photo of the full moon rising over Alcatraz Island? With the Photographer’s Ephemeris you can find the best time and day to get such a photo. The Photographer’s Ephemeris will show you exactly where to be to line up for that perfect shot.

In this 2 hour presentation, Michael will step you through how to plot such a photo. You will learn the interface of this app and leave with the confidence needed to plot your own sun or moon photos.

This is a screenshot of the Photographer's Ephemeris showing how the above photo was plotted

Friday, January 31, 2014
Camera West in Walnut Creek

Cost : $25.00

Call or email Michael at Camera West in Walnut Creek for more info or to sign up.


Shooting a Moonrise

Photos by Michael Maloney

Once a month, there is one day where the full moon rises at close to the same time as the sun sets. What this means for you the photographer is that you can get a detailed shot of the moon and still have detail in your landscape. You need to shoot quickly however because as the moon rises and we go into twilight, our perfect shooting conditions change at which point we need to decide if we want detail in the moon which is lit by the sun, or detail in the landscape which is now plunged into darkness. Choose to expose for the moon, and your landscape becomes pitch black. Expose for the landscape, the moon will lose all detail and look like a white dot.

The best way to determine when this one day occurs is to use The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE). This app is all you need to determine exactly when and where the sun or moon will rise or set on any day, past, present, or future, from any place in the world. I even use TPE to plan vacations! It is absolutely an essential app for landscape shooters.


  • Camera with an assortment of lenses. Longer lenses will show more detail in the moon.
  • A sturdy tripod
  • A remote shutter release or you can use the shutter delay function on your camera.

Camera Settings

  • I recommend shooting in the RAW mode. You can get much more out of your image in RAW – rather than JPEG.
  • Set your white balance to 3200 – 3800 K or Tungsten if you want a blue, colder tone…otherwise use Daylight balance. (If you are shooting in the RAW mode, it doesn’t matter where you set your white balance as it can easily be tweaked in post production)
  • Turn off your image stabilization (IS/VR). This is recommended whenever your camera is locked to a tripod
  • Set your ISO to 100 – 400. Do not use AUTO ISO. Since we are on tripods, and the moon is lit by the sun, we can get by using a lower ISO which will give us a better quality image.
  • Use single point auto focus. Recommended because with single point focus, we will know precisely where our focus will be. Once focus is set, turn auto focus off. Now you can arrange your composition and not worry about focus shift. You need to be very careful however not to move your focus ring. I often use tape to lock the focus ring in place.
  • If you are not comfortable shooting in the manual exposure mode, then use aperture priority (AV on Canon, A on Nikon). Aperture priority is recommended because we want control over our aperture. We want a small aperture (f8, f11, f16) for deep depth of field, especially if you are using a long lens. For those of you comfortable shooting in manual mode, bracket your exposures. (changing your settings for at least 1 stop over and 1 stop under). By bracketing, you are sure to get the perfect exposure.
  • Keep in mind that you will be changing your exposure settings as the moon rises and your scene gets darker. You don’t want exposures that are too long however, because the moon will appear as an elongated blur. You can get away with a 5 second or so exposure with a wide-angle lens, but with a telephoto you need to keep exposure times to no slower than 1 second.
  • Choose a small aperture if using a long lens (200mm +). The depth of field the smaller aperture gives you should allow both your landscape and the moon to be tack sharp. If shooting with a wide angle lens, you can get by with a wider open aperture.
  • A graduated neutral density filter (2-3 stops) will extend your shooting time as twilight turns your foreground dark.
  • Last but not least, to assure tack sharp photos, lock your mirror up if you are using shutter speeds slower than 1/30th of a second, or better yet, use Live View mode.

Tripod Tips

  • Make sure your tripod is set up properly – on sturdy footing, all leg sections firmly tightened, camera secured tightly.
  • Try not to raise the middle column. You will get better stability just extending the legs.
  • Always have one leg of your tripod aimed at your subject. Forget doing this with a long heavy lens in the wind can be a costly mistake!
  • Secure your camera strap so that it is not flapping in the wind. Better yet, take it off your camera.
  • If windy, use your body to protect the camera from the wind.
  • If using long lenses with big lens hoods in the wind, take the hood off. The hood can catch the wind, causing slight vibrations that will ruin your shots.

Shoot the Moon

Tomorrow is shaping up to be nearly a perfect opportunity to photograph the moonrise. The moon will rise at 8:01 and the sun will set two minutes later at 8:03. What this means for you the photographer is that the exposure for the moon will be similar to the exposure of the landscape, giving you detail in both.

So where are you going to shoot from? Use this handy app called the Photographer’s Ephemeris to pinpoint exactly where and when the moon will appear, anywhere in the world.

My photo above was taken a few years ago using the Photographer’s Ephemeris. I knew exactly when the moon was to appear behind the windmill. No more guessing or last minute scrambling to get into position!

For tomorrow, the screenshot below is what I plotted in the Photographer’s Ephemeris for a photo of the moon rising above Mt Diablo near Camera West in Walnut Creek. Using the Photographer’s Ephemeris, I know from my chosen shooting location that the moon will rise at 113.5 degrees, appearing above the mountain at 8:35pm. (The moonrise time is later due to the elevation of the mountain.)

It’s that easy so try out this essential app for landscape shooters and go shoot the moon!