Blog, Prints & Photography Lessons from Edinburgh and the Lothians

Sunset & Sunrise Times and Positions

Ok, so here goes for my first tip and this is one I use pretty often myself.

We all know as photographers or even would be photographers that sunrise and the more sociable sunset are some of the best times to go out with your camera. What’s not so easy is locating the times and position of the sun.

It seems obvious now but until I became obsessed with photography I never actually noticed that the surise/sunset positions actually moved. We all know the time changes through the year and you can usually, with a little thought, get a fair idea of when it’ll be but over the course of a year the position of the sun changes to a fair degree.

If I’m only looking for sunset or sunrise times then I tend to use the Met Office iPhone app which will tell you the times for your location, but only the next one. ie, at 5pm it will tell you sunset may be at 7.30pm and after that it’ll tell you when sunrise is but it’s useful to get an idea of cloud cover as well, no point making the trip out if the sun is going to be totally obscured by thick cloud is there?

A more exact science is the website Suncalc.net.

What this website lets you do is to pinpoint a particular position, in the example below I’ve chosen the corner of the observatory on Calton Hill looking over the Dugald Stewart monument over the Balmoral and the Castle, that classic Edinburgh shot! From the position from today you can see on the right when sunrise was, when sunset will be and more importantly, the positions of the sun for each. The yellow line for sunrise, orange for the position of the sun now and the red for sunset. From this example we can see that the sun would be just to the right of the shot.

Suncalc.net, sunset position from Calton Hill

Sunset position from Calton Hill on September 19th 2010

This might actually be ok on a clear night but ideally for the perfect sunset you’ll want it coming down roughly behind Edinburgh Castle, so by playing with the date, we can see that on November 4th onwards, the sun will set just behind the Castle, which, with a bit of clear sky will be a near perfect position.

Sunclac.net Sunset Position November 4th 2010

The great thing about Suncalc is that as it’s based on the Google Maps api it’s a familiar interface and you can easily work out where you’ll be a sunset or not just by moving the marker around. You never know, it might save you a wasted trip. Most of the summer the only sunset you’ll get from Calton Hill is over St James Centre, not quite as attractive a building at the Castle!

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One response

  1. Thanks, that’s a useful link – I didn’t know about SunCalc.

    You might also like The Photographer’s Ephemeris – http://photoephemeris.com/ – which also has an iPod/iPhone app that works brilliantly well and offers a host of other functions as well as sun positions etc. The desktop version is free (the iPod/iPhone one is paid-for, but still pretty cheap).

    September 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm

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