While planning my annular eclipse shots, I had a brilliant idea. I found a historic stone church in Castroville and I dragged my friend Ashar along with me dressed in an Assassin's Creed costume. I bet you can picture where this was going in your head-an assassin hanging off an old stone church with the eclipse overhead. It was awesome!
Except it wasn't.
Because Castroville is so far away from Liberty Hill, I relied on Google Maps to figure out where to go and didn't actually check out the place in person beforehand. When we got down there, we realized there was no good angle to get the shot from because of the direction of the sun and its relative position to the church. We had to settle for parking with a bunch of other people on the side of the road in a clearing to get any kind of pictures.
For people who are new to photography in general and nightscape photography in specific, despite our research, we're gonna run into issues we never thought of. Fortunately, the Apple App Store and Google Play have a plethora of tools available for amateur and professional photographers alike. Since I'm into astronomy and nightscape photography, my favorite tool so far has been PhotoPills.
I wish I was a concise enough writer to condense everything PhotoPills can do, but I'm not, so I'll be posting their App Store speech at the bottom of this post.
The short, short version is that it helps me plan my photo shoots by providing date- and time-based directionality for the sun and moon. Not sure what that means? Check out this screenshot:
You can side to the date and time you want to shoot, drop a pin in, and see the directions in which the sun and moon are in relation to the pin. It's been tremendously helpful in planning a lot of my full moon shots, and I have several saved plans for the April 2024 total eclipse (still not sure where to go for it). It's been super helpful already, considering that's the only feature I've really used so far.
Their YouTube channel offers not only instructional videos on how to use the app, but also videos on how to get the most out of different scenarios, such as sunrise and sunset. They have two videos for each subject, one in English and one in Spanish, so that more people can learn and enjoy photography.
Their website is a treasure trove of knowledge, too! They have a blog that goes over the basics of different types of photography scenarios, and those usually get turned into downloadable guides. They also offer camps and contests for more enthusiastic photographers. They're building a community of both amateur and professional photographers who can share their experiences, knowledge, and opinions so they all help each other get the most out of their photos.
The YouTube channel is free, the website is free, and the app is free, so you really have no reason not to at least try this awesome tool. If you want to learn more about photography and learn how to get the most out of your shoots and photos, I highly recommend checking out PhotoPills.
PhotoPills App Store Speech
Unlock your creative potential! Discover how to easily turn any Sun, Moon and Milky Way scene you imagine into a real picture… and start shooting truly legendary photos every time you pick up the camera!
Whether your passion is to capture beautiful landscapes, immortalize the infinite night sky, surprise the bride and the groom in their happiest day... or to travel all around the world, PhotoPills will make you love exploring new artistic possibilities to tell visual stories in a way it wasn’t possible before.
* All in one app
PhotoPills is your iPhone and iPad personal assistant in all photographic matters. It provides tasty remedies to answer most of your questions when planning and shooting your creative ideas:
- The First 2D Map-Centric Sun, Moon and Milky Way Planner
- Sun, Moon Alignments Fast Finder
- 3D Augmented Reality: Sun, Moon, Milky Way, Celestial Equator, Polaris, DoF, FoV
- Photo Plans Manager
- Location Scouting Tool
- Key information: Sunrise/set, Twilights, Golden Hour, Blue Hour, Moonphase, Moonrise/set, Supermoon dates, Moon Calendar
- Calculators: Long Exposure, Timelapse, Spot Stars, Star Trails, Hyperfocal Table, DoF, FoV, Subject Distance, Focal Length Match
- Widgets: Sun, Moon, Milky Way... and much more!
* Endorsed by Masters
“PhotoPills is an invaluable tool which I use every time I plan a shoot.” – Mark Gee, Astronomy Photographer of the Year.
“A tool every photographer should have.” – Kevin Raber, Luminous-landscape.com.
“It pays off! Using such a tool ensures that we are repeatedly capable of quickly planning powerful shots; leaving maximum opportunity for more creative ruminations.” – José B. Ruiz, Innovation Award, Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
* How it works
Have you ever walked around a place and thought: "What a pity the Moon isn't EXACTLY right there... I would have captured a great photo!"? What about the Sun? And the Milky Way? Well, now you can just let your imagination fly and calculate when this specific magic moment happens in just a few seconds:
- IMAGINE: the Milky Way arching over a powerful landscape, a dramatic full Moon appearing from behind a nearby hill or a sunrise between two giant rocks on a magic beach... The only limit is your imagination!
- PLAN: easily calculate the exact date and time the scene you’ve imagined happens. Work smarter, not harder!
- SHOOT: just get out there, immerse yourself in the great outdoors, and enjoy living and capturing unique moments.
* No frustrations
No matter how many ideas you have, quickly calculate whether the photo is possible or not. Avoid wasting your precious time in useless research work.
* Never waste an unmissable scene again
Create a To-Do list of planned photos and get to the location on time.
* Get it right
Adjust your frame for the best composition before you shoot. Use the 3D Augmented Reality Views to see whether Sun, Moon and Milky Way will be at the desired position when pressing the shutter.
* Explore, discover great places and create your own database of locations
If you come across a location you’d like to remember, save it as a Point of Interest.
* Enjoy all daily information in just one swipe while traveling with the Widgets
Just swipe down from the top of the screen to get all the key Sun, Moon and Milky Way events for your current location and date, in addition to your upcoming saved photo plans.
* Get more than an app
Our goal is not only to help you plan your shots, but also to help you actually nail them. Whenever you need help, take a look at our step-by-step How-To articles and videos, join our free online courses or just contact us!
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take PhotoPills – you stay in Wonderland and we show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. Remember: all we’re offering are Legendary Photos and Goosebumps in your skin, nothing more.”