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Nature,  Software

PhotoPills vs The Photographer’s Ephemeris for Planning a Nature Photo Trip

Information like sunset and sunrise times, moon set and rise times, direction of the sunrise and sunset can be extremely valuable for nature and landscape photographers.  Two apps that can help to plan your landscape photography trip are The Photographer’s Ephemeris and PhotoPills.

In this blog post, I will review each app as I use them to plan a nature photography trip.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris

The Photographers Ephemeris

The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) app has been out for a while and had has several revisions.  I found this app to be quite easy to use and I found the information I needed quickly.  The TPE app is available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac.  The iOS version is priced at $8.99 in the iOS App Store.

I searched for several locations in The Photographers Ephemeris app: Clingmans Dome, the Taj Mahal, Bass Harbor Lighthouse in Maine, and the Kenosha North Pier Lighthouse in Wisconsin.  TPE found all four items without having to enter a GPS.  The app does require connectivity to search for new locations.  Depending on your connectivity at the site, it may be better to save the location in TPS ahead of time.

TPE has a wealth of useful features

  • Sunrise and sunset times
  • Moonrise and set time
  • Sun and moon rise and set directions
  • Moon type and percent
  • Sliding time scale at the bottom of the screen to view the sun and moons location at different times of the day (portrait mode)
  • Ability to quickly see multiple dates and change dates to plan months in advance
  • Twilight times
  • Sun and moon azimuth and altitude
  • Different features and look in portrait vs. landscape mode.


PhotoPills Planner Function

PhotoPills is a newer application that is only currently available for iOS.  The user interface for the app is different and takes a while to learn.   PhotoPills is also bundled with a bunch of additional tools including a Depth of Field Calculator, Hyperfocal Distance Table, Star Trails Calculator, and Time Lapse Calculator.  The PhotoPills App is priced at $9.99 in the iOS App Store.

To search for a location in PhotoPills, click on the load icon at the bottom of the screen in the Planner function.  I searched for the same 4 locations in PhotoPills that I found in TPE.   PhotoPills found the Taj Mahal and Clingmans Dome.   The App found Lighthouse Road in Bass Harbor, Maine (which was close).  The PhotoPills app could not locate the Kenosha North Pier Lighthouse.  From the Load menu, you can also enter GPS coordinates and load a previously saved plan or point of interest.

PhotoPills also has a host of useful planning features.  Much of these features are available by swiping the gray bar under the Planner header.

  • Sunrise and sunset times
  • Moonrise and set time
  • Sun and moon rise and set directions
  • Blue hour and golden hour times
  • Sun and moon azimuth and elevation
  • Moon type and percent
  • Shadow length and direction calculator (you need to enter the height of the subject)
  • Sliding time scape at the bottom of the screen to view the sun and moons location at different times of the day.
  • You can also change the date in PhotoPills to plan ahead.  To change the date, touch the time or clock icon (not the date) at the bottom of the Planner screen.
  • Portrait mode only


The Photographer’s Ephemeris is a mature application that is available for multiple platforms.  I found the application very easy to use, fast, with a reliable search function.

PhotoPills is a newer application available only for iOS at this time.  The user interface is unconventional and it will take more time to learn the app.  However, the app is bundled with quite a few cool features that are not available in TPE.

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