In the time I’ve been seriously taking photographs, one thing I’ve discovered is that a little research pays dividends before you travel to a location to photograph it. I used to just turn up where I fancied and snap away, now with a bit more experience under the belt I usually have some idea of what kind of shot I want before I get there and it’s pointless going if the conditions aren’t going to be right!
Here’s a perfect example, this is the Belhaven Bridge just to the east of Dunbar:
At this location, high tide covers the walkway to the bridge so the bridge looks as if it goes nowhere with deep water either side, it in fact, spans the Beil water as it exits into the sea at this point which you can see at low tide. So, using the Tide Times website, I knew when high tide would be so headed down there for that. Sadly, it didn’t co-incide with sunset which you could check out on Suncalc.
Arriving later than hoped the tide was peaking but not covering the walkway. I know from research that night at the high tide height was 4.6m so; it follows logic that the walkway was just on the verge of being covered so waiting for a day with a tide predicted to be higher than 5m will give me the shot I want. The perfect time to take this shot will be a high tide, 5m+ co-inciding approx 20 either side of sunset. High tide and sunset co-incide on 24th May but with a predicted tide of only 4.2m it’s not the perfect night to get the shot, better to wait a couple of weeks and try again.
Tides also play an important part of decisions where harbours are concerned. I love long exposure shots but high tide, long exposures and boats bobbing about don’t go! Nobody wants blurred boats! In this instance, it’s better to forgo the 10 stopper and use a faster shutter and wait for a lower tide, or at least the boats in the front of the shot to be grounded. Of course, you always have the option of cutting the boats out of the shot altogether, but unless there’s something else as a good focal point then this leaves you with limited options.
Clouds are another feature of nature to keep and eye on. Nice blue skies are all very well, and indeed welcome in some cases but a bit of cloud cover always helps. To try and give an example, this is the top of the Falkirk Wheel on a day with little or no cloud cover:
I know which shot I prefer…
Fast moving clouds, by which I mean heavy broken cloud, are great for long exposure photography. Huge dark clouds with little or no definition are not! Clouds can also add a lot to sunsets as the light bounces off them and in HDR photography you can create dramatic scenes with a nice cloud cover:
So, before you head off. Keep an eye on the:
And plan accordingly!
What a week it’s been for the old sunset shots! It also helps that sunset is at a hospitable time at the moment too. Setting around 8.40 is much preferable to being out and about at the back of 10 or worse still, being sat in work watching the sun give a great visual display on the horizon!
My last post gave you whole tale of how I managed to get my favourite sunset shot of the year so far, but as I can see from my Flickr photostream, April tends to be a particularly good month for sunset shots around Edinburgh for some reason.
This was last night’s effort. The original plan had been to head down to the Cramond Island causeway, but since I’ve done that to death I headed down to West Shore Road instead to a spot further along the coast I spotted the other night which had a perfect view of the causeway, Cramond Island and the Forth Bridges behind.
To say this was a difficult shot to take would be an understatement. The sun was still high in the sky, actually just above the top of the shot. With the distance I switched to the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX HSM for a bit of extra reach but actually expected it to give me horrible lens flares, which surprisingly, it didn’t. Once again, I framed up the shot with no filters, locked up the tripod and slipped on the now invaluable Heliopan ND3.0 10 stopper, the result was a pleasing enough shot with a nice gentle orange glow in the sky but it left the water a touch dull.
To combat this I slipped on the adapter ring and filter holder and slipped in the sunset filter. With this in place I could stretch the exposure out to a full 60s, after a couple of goes at setting the grad this was the final result. It took a fair bit of post process if I’m honest as shooting into the sun had brought out every single dust mark on the sunset filter, of which there were many! There was also a bit of flare I’m managed to just about eridacate with a little dodge and burn. If I were to try this again I think I’d try shading the filters to try and get rid of the flare from the shot in the first place.
The night before though also produced a surprise shot for me. With the position of the sun and ideally wanting to get it over water the Western Harbour at the back of Ocean Terminal is a great spot. The obvious shot is the old pier with the Gormley statue at the end of it, but the flats at the other side of the harbour make for a good shot too, especially if the water is still.
However, it was the pier that produced the goods. I’ve shot this before on long exposure and had a lot of issues with light bouncing back into the lens from the filters and I finally figured out why. At this location there is a shiny bare metal fence which I sit the tripod up against to get the shot, the light has been bouncing off the metal and back up into the bottom of the filters and I effectively get a reflection of the inside of the lens on the shot, just putting an arm along the fence was enough to get rid of this totally, amazing what you can figure out.
Again with this shot, I set up the shot without the 10 stopper in place, played with the filters to see which combination worked best and then screwed in the ND3.0 and slipped the other filters back on top. In this case, I’ve used the ND3.0, circular polariser, ND0.9 soft grad and sunset grad filter on a 3 minute exposure to get the colour and effect on the water. The sun was still in the sky off up to the left of this shot.
That’s the more recent shots but like I already said, April is a good month for sunsets so here’s some of the month’s other highlights!
It’s not often I drop a new blog post about a single shot but I liked this one so much I thought it worthy of a little write up.
As you will see if you follow back my recent posts I’ve been experimenting with long exposure photography over the last few weeks, in fact, it’s becoming more of an obsession than an experiment.
What I have had bother with though, is getting decent colour into shots, hence why my Flickr Photostream has gone rather monotone of late. Stacking those Hitech ND soft grads is just a sure-fire route to a purple colour cast on the D90, which is pretty undesirable to say the least. However, last night everything just fell nicely into place and I ended up with, what has to be, may favourite shot of the year so far.
The original plan had been to catch the sunset at Longniddry over the rocks but other things I had to do put paid to that and I would have only made Longniddry just before the sun went down which would have been ok if I was more familiar with the location. As I’m not I diverted back up the Edinburgh coast with the intent to catch the sunset over the Western Harbour. However, since the shows are at Ocean Terminal just now and the place was overran with walking JD sports adverts with attitudes I headed for the more peaceful refuge of Newhaven Harbour instead.
I really didn’t want to be at Newhaven having really photographed the place to death over the last few weeks. Its easy location and multiple shot possibilities make it and attractive location but it’s fast becoming my new Colton Hill, somewhere I’ve visited so often I get bored of it.
With the sun setting though, it was Newhaven or nothing and apart from anything else, at this time of year bar the Forth Bridges, it’s probably the best sunset location in Edinburgh. Sunset was still about 25 minutes away when I got there so I originally setup with the Sigma 10-20mm on the D90 and took a few tester shots using the grads and polariser but no 10 stopper. 10 stoppers are only any good in harbours if the tide is out, with it in boats tend to bob about and blurred boats do not good pictures make.
With the sun and the available light dropping fast I moved position to put the sun behind the lighthouse to avoid any lens flares and replaced the ultra wide with the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX HSM, my absolute favourite lens. This let me frame the lighthouse and harbour wall nicely but avoid any boats in the shot. I then added the 77m filter ring and slipped in the polariser, ND 0.9 soft grad and tried a few test shots. I also experimented with a light tobacco grad and sunset filter but it was the red grad, a filter I’ve never used as I hated the results that was producing the goods. With the grads set properly, I locked the tripod securely and removed the filter holder and put it down on the camera bag careful making sure the grads didn’t move. I removed the 77mm ring and fitted the Heliopan 77mm ND3.0 10 stopper, fitted the 77mm ring to that and carefully slotted in the holder with the grads. I had to do it this was as with the 10 stopper fitted there was no way to line up the red grad on the horizon as you can’t see anything.
With light fading fast I upped the ISO to 200 and opened the aperture up to f8 and went for a 2 minute exposure which was ok but the red was too intense. I tried again upping the exposure to 3 minutes which turned out perfect.
As far as post process work went, there wasn’t a lot to do, the pleasures of getting it more or less right in camera. I created a new adjustment layer and increased the exposure to lighten the inside harbour walls and bring out some detail. I then erased all but the harbour walls from the layer. I then added a new photo filter layer to intensify the colour in the water, other than that, that’s about all I had to do with this one. Thankfully the sensor clean I attempted the day before must have been spot on as there was nothing needed cloned out at all. A welcome surprise.
So here it is the final product and most certainly my favourite shot of the year, so far…
Well, I finally got my hands on a 10 stop filter. Not the B+W I had originally hoped to get, they seem to be rather hard to get hold of just now in the UK, but a Heliopan ND3.0. After a little bit of research it seems that this filter is rated as highly as the B+W so when TeamworkPhoto on Ebay put a stack up for sale at a slightly lower price than the B+W versions a sale was inevitable. At a touch under £100 for a 77mm version it might seem expensive for a little bit of round glass but it’s when you start to use these things you can see the quality and exactly what your paying for.
This particular filter is the slim version so it fits nicely onto my Sigma 10-20mm lens and I can attached the 77mm p series adapter ring to it to allow me to use the CPL and grads easily too. The lens is usable at around 12mm upwards otherwise you do start to photograph the edges of the filter holder, which isn’t too bad as even without the 10 stop in place you get this same effect at around 11.5mm so no great hardship there.
First thing I noticed and it’s fairly obvious really, you simply cannot see a thing through this filter. It’s that dark. Hold it into very bright light, i.e. into the sun and you could just about compose a shot but with grads and a CPL in place as well, not a hope. This means the shot has to be composed on the tripod (obviously); the head locked in place and then carefully fit the 10 stopper and slip the filter holder with the grads on. Bit fiddly but you won’t be taking that many shots with this arrangement in place since you’re likely to be playing around in the 3 minutes exposure mark.
This was the first attempt with the 10 stopper. Taken on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, just the 10 stop and CPL in place. VERY bright light, around 5pm with a clear blue sky and, unusually for Scotland, a nice bright sun. 3 minute exposure and it’s nicely done the trick I wanted and got rid of all the tourists walking about in front of the monument, which was sheer luck not of them stood still long enough to get into the shot.
I did have another attempt later the same day at Newhaven Harbour and got some cracking results but the sea was rough, the wind was terrible and the grads were picking up spray all over and the shots were frankly unusable as a result. Lesson learned there.
Next night out was the Forth Bridges. A very familiar subject so a good place to test the filter out. I started around 7.20pm, approx an hour before sunset with the tide coming in and the sun still quite high above the Road Bridge. It seemed pointless to go shooting into the sun so I took a shot of the rail bridge with the rocks in the foreground getting covered by the incoming tide. This was a 4 minute exposure with the CPL and Hitech 0.6 ND soft grad. Very impressed at the lack of colour cast from the grad with the 10 stopper, at least if your not looking into the sun with it.
As the sun went further down I moved to the other side of the rail bridge to get the sunset with both bridges in the shot. A popular spot for photographers and sadly, the ned element of South Queensferry too it seems.
This was the last of my 10 stop shots for the night as exposure times were getting way too long with the decreasing light. This was a 331s exposure with the 10 stopper, CPL, ND0.6 soft grad and a light tobacco grad, ISO200 f11.
I have to say I’m enjoying the learning process with this new filter although my usual hit and miss method of calculating exposure times is going to get very tiring very fast. To that ends I’ve found an iPhone app called Long Time that does the calculation for you which I’ll give a trial of next time I’m out which will hopefully see the end of hit and miss results guessing exposure times.
There’s nothing better than a special event to bring out the photographers in Edinburgh, even more so it seems if it’s a once every 20 years lunar event as we had on Saturday 19th March. The event in question, the Perigee Moon saw the moon at it’s closest to earth for 18 years meaning it would look 14% bigger and 30% brighter. Would we even notice? Who care’s it’s a photographable event and plans had to be made!
Last week after being in North Queensferry I had noticed the moon directly above the Rail Bridge so that was a possible location. Blackford Hill was another but it gets slightly cold up there if it’s windy. So, with the help of Twitter and The Photographers Ephemeris, I decided on Calton Hill. From the Photographers Ephemeris you could see the position and time of the moonrise, around 6.30pm and due East.
On arriving at Calton Hill the first thing that struck me was the amount of photographers already setup at 6pm with cameras on tripods facing the wrong direction! I can only assume one set up incorrectly and the rest followed as they had all moved by 6.30pm.
It was cold on the hillside on Saturday and as you would expect, half 6 came and went with no sign of the moon. Typically, the clear skies of earlier in the day had given way to heavy cloud cover, not what you want for moon photography. My efforts were further hampered by missing my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 lens, which has to go for repair earlier in the day leaving me with just my backup Sigma 28-300mm zoom, nice enough lens but oh so soft on the focus at the 300mm end. With that in mind, moon shots were out but moon above a landmark might still work out.
Just when I was about to give up hope the first glimmers of an appearance were in the Eastern sky, at this point I was up at the side of Observatory house and this was the first shot I got of any sort of moon just to the side of the National monument:
Walking past the monument revealed where at the photographers had went; they were dotted everywhere around the hillside here. The moon however, was not in a mood to show itself and the only other shot I got was this:
Long exposure and moon shots don’t go but there wasn’t even a remote chance of shooting the land and then the moon to combine in Photoshop. Fed up and cold I packed up and headed off being that I wasn’t interested in getting the moon high in the sky. Typically, on the way back to the car with all the gear packed away the moon popped out, just for a minute.
Now, I hate not getting the shot I went for so the next night, the moon was due to rise at 8.15pm again, due east. On checking possible locations this time I went, appropriately, for the car park of the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill. You don’t want to be parking in the public car park up here at night unless dogging is your thing…
Predictably, 8.15 came and went and it was nearly 20 minutes later till the first glow in the clouds gave away moon position. Higher than I’d have liked I started to get some exposures of the land hoping if the cloud cleared I’d get a change of an exposure for the moon to combine in. After another 20 minutes of hanging about, finally the clouds obliged. 2 shots were got, first of the moon then without moving the camera a longer exposure for the land. This was the final result of the 2 combined with Photoshop CS5.
Not quite the weekend of lunar photography I’d hoped for and 18 years to wait for it to happen again.
Or fake it?
Processing this shot last night I thought an added moon gave it a nice balance!
Not that dissimilar to another faked shot from a couple of months back:
Lesson to be learned? You can’t control the elements so if you really want the shot, learn to fake it! ;o)
As a photographer I’m constantly seeking out new views and subject matters. However, with Edinburgh being my main focus over time it can be difficult to find something new. What this led me to discover is that doing the same shot over and over again isn’t a bad thing. Familiarity with the subject and trying something a little different can often produce a vastly improved or very different shot.
This is the scene I’ll use to demonstrate, the classic Edinburgh Calton Hill shot, taken from the side of the Observatory building with the Dugald Stewart Monument on the left and Edinburgh Castle and the Balmoral Clock behind. THE iconic Edinburgh view.
This is a fairly typical shot, sunny day, nice blue sky. Just the Nikon D90 fitted with the Nikon 18-70mm lens, CPL and ND Soft Grads used.
However, try the scene again at sunset…
This first example is the same shot done at sunset in February (the sun only sets in this scene from later October to March). This one has had quite a lot of PP work done and is a 3 shot HDR image.
Another sunset, this time at the end of August, the sun is setting out the frame but the HDR processing has brought out the sunset colours in the sky.
Finally another sunset, this time in October and not given any HDR treatment, this is down to the use of ND soft grads.
So, 3 shots, all from exactly the same spot but a very different result from each.
How about at night?
Weather can also play a big part. As soon as the snow hit Edinburgh in 2010 it was time to try the shot yet again, but with added snow!
Again, same scene but a very different shot yet again.
So we’ve seen how the processing of the shot, times and weather can all produce different results, how about using a different lens?
Obviously for this particular scene using a big zoom would be pointless as you’d lose the foreground interest of the monument but this shot was taken with a Lensbaby 3G, a selective focus lens at around 55mm, too much to get the whole monument in but we can still get enough of it so you know it’s the same shot.
Or how about even a very different camera, this was taken with a cheap Holga on 120 format B&W film.
So there you go, same scene, 8 times but 8 very different shots and I wont hesitate to take this one again if I think I can get something different again.
I’ll leave you with one other example, this was a shot I took just after Christmas 2009 on the Cammo Estate in Edinburgh with a fair bit of snow on the ground, initially I loved the shot, the HDR just worked perfectly but the fencepost on the right fouled the tree behind it and it bugged me every since I spotted it.
Never be afraid to revisit places you’ve been and take the same shot, at the end of the day if you get enjoyment out of it take the same shot every day. There’s always something different even if the same scene if you look for it!
I wish I could have made this a top sunset and sunrise blog post but not being an early morning person, sunset locations will have to do!
Of course, there are millions of places to photograph the sunset from, but not all of them will have anything to interesting in the shot. I’ve tried to avoid city centre locations s there are literally millions of places, what I’ll concentrate on there are the more full on landscape sunsets.
Some of these are pretty seasonal depending on the position of the sun and I’ll attempt to tell you when best to go and take your sunset pictures from there, as always, Suncalc is an invaluable resource in planning your location and timings.
1. Calton Hill
Calton Hill is undoubtedly one of the best locations for a sunset but it’s seasonal. From roughly October to March the sun will come down in view of the front end of the hill, i.e. the bit that looks onto Edinburgh Castle. The rest of the year your Calton Hill sunsets will have either St James Centre or the roof of the Omni Centre in the foreground, not the most attractive buildings it has to be said. The first shot below was late October and the 2nd one was early February. If you want the sun behind the Castle, early to mid November is the time to aim for.
2. Salisbury Crags
This one is pretty much an all year round location but autumn and spring will see the sun down nearest the castle. Due to the height it’s a challenging place to photograph the sunset and I don’t feel I’ve got a shot I’m happy with from here yet. Don’t go up with a really wide angle lens though; otherwise you’ll get the undesirable flats of Dumbiedykes in the foreground of your shots.
3. Forth Bridges
South Queensferry is such a good location if I could only take one picture again it would be this one and the Bridges. Get down the little road to the right of the rail bridge and you can get both bridges in one shot, it’s a summer shot though as the sun comes down too far to the left once you get to late October.
The road bridge is easier to get in the sunset shot but again, it’s best in summer unless you go over to the North Queensferry side.
Cramond again is best in summer, later in the year the sun will come down over the land and not the water, far less spectacular. In the height of summer on a calm night, try getting the boats moored at the mouth of the Almond or get out onto the causeway at low tide and get the sun reflecting in the wet sand. You might even want to risk some wet feet and get the sun through the submarine defences, do take care to check the tide times though.
5. Newhaven Harbour
Sunset is possible at Newhaven Harbour most of the year but later in the year the sun will set over Granton and you’ll lose the reflections on the water. Earlier in the year you’ll be able to get the lighthouse and long reflections of the sun in the Firth of Forth or from further back, even directly through the mouth of the harbour itself.
6. Blackford Hill
Blackford Hill is a bit of a funny location for the sunset. Ideally you’d want the sunset with Edinburgh Castle as your main focus from here but the sun comes down nowhere near the Castle from Blackford, you’ll only get that orange glow bleeding that far over the sky on the most perfect sunset nights. Otherwise, you’ll need to get right to the top at the trig point to make the best of it. The sun will come down roughly behind Corstorphine Hill in summer moving round to behind Braid Hill in winter. Best foreground interest will be the houses of Morningside or Craiglockhart Hill.
So, that’s my 6 favourite locations, how about adding some more in the comments below?
So, in part 1 of this blog, 11 Must Do Edinburgh Photographs I took you though all of my personal favourites. Now you’ve ran off and taken that 11 what next? Easy, in a city like Edinburgh there are most certainly another 11 worth doing in there so here’s part 2…
1. Bottom of Candlemaker Row looking up over the Grassmarket to Edinburgh Castle
Best done at night this one I think. And for that reason, best not done on a Friday/Saturday night as your right in the middle of the student drinking area here! Right at the bottom of Candlemaker Row, is a traffic island. Standing on that island you get the best view of this shot. Looking over the old building of the Grassmarket is the Castle, looking pretty imposing from this viewpoint.
2. The Forth Road Bridge
You couldn’t make the trip out to photograph the Forth Bridge without turning the camera onto the Forth Road Bridge. Often seen as an ugly sister to the striking Rail Bridge the Road Bridge is still a striking subject. There are 2 choices I’d recommend here. In South Queensferry itself is a small Harbour near the Orroco Pier pub. Head down there and to the left there’s a little bit of beach, You can get a nice low down shot from here taking in the rocks on the left.
If that’s not your thing, head over the bridge to the North side. Take the first exit once you’re over the bridge and head towards North Queensferry. As you come down the twisty road there’s a road off to the left. This takes you to a hotel car park. Next to the front of the hotel is a little path off up to the right, follow this up and you get to a viewpoint for the bridge. Great for long exposure night trail shots. You can also get out on to the bridge walkway from here.
3. City viewpoint on Corstorphine Hill
This one will take a bit of walking to find by well worth the hike over the hill. At the top of Cairnmuir Road in the Corstorphine area on the west side of Edinburgh is a little parking area. Park up here and head straight on onto the path up the hill. Continue heading along this path, keeping the iron fence to your right. You might hear some roaring going on here as the fence is the outer perimeter of Edinburgh Zoo. Keep going and about 1/2 a mile over the hill you’ll be able to see directly into the Zebra enclosure at the zoo.
Right here is bench with a fantastic view over the city. Take a BIG lens, at least 200mm, bigger if you have it. The Castle looks great from here with Arthur’s Seat directly behind but my favourite is taking the shot of Calton Hill and you’ll get East Lothian right the way to North Berwick as a backdrop.
4. St Giles Cathedral
No visit to Edinburgh could be complete without at least one visit to the Royal Mile. You could spend days here and not photograph everything. However, if you only do one shot, it has to be St Giles. Hard to miss near the top of the Royal Mile it’s a photogenic building at any time of day but my favourite again, is nighttime when it’s all lit up.
5. Fringe on the Royal Mile
Ok, so admittedly this one is pretty seasonal. 3 weeks in August to be exact. If you’re in Edinburgh in August then you’re in for a rare photographic treat. With huge crowds and street acts performing from 10 to 10 nearly every day you could spend hours here. My personal recommendation is a decent zoom lens; a 70-200 is perfect as you wont always get that close to the acts. Expect to take hundreds of pics in an afternoon here!
6. The Gormley at Ocean Terminal
It might not be the Angel of the North but Edinburgh does have six of it’s own Anthony Gormley statues. With number 1 found in the pavement outside the Gallery of Modern Art the other 5 are dotted down the Water of Leith until you get to the final one, which is situated in Leith Docks Western Harbour. Head down to Ocean Terminal shopping centre, that’s the one with ex Royal Yacht Brittania on display and head past all the parking areas till you get to multi story car park at the Debenhams side. To the left of the car park is a little walk along the dockside. Keep going here and there’s a derelict old wooden pier at the end of it. The Gormley stands right at the end of the pier.
7. Newhaven Harbour
Just 5 minutes along the shore from the Gormley lies the small but picturesque Newhaven Harbour. The main focus here is its lighthouse at the harbour entrance. Sunset works well down here but any time of day will give you a decent shot from somewhere.
8. Boats on the River Almond
Cramond is one place probably overlooked by visitors from Edinburgh, tucked away on the coastline just past Silverknowes. Cramond is mainly thought of for its island and sticking causeway, featured in part 1 of this blog. However, with the boating club mooring many boats along the mouth of the river Almond there’s a great chance of a nice nautical shot here. Look for the roundabout with the mast structure on the promenade near the causeway to the island, head upriver from here and there are some steps down to the water, a perfect spot looking down the river, especially earlier in the summer where sunset will light the shot perfectly.
9. Nelson Monument
One of the many monuments on Calton Hill the Nelson Monument is famous for it’s time ball on top, which is raised and lowered on the fire of the One o’clock Gun on Edinburgh Castle. The monument itself is the highest structure on the hill and gives great views of the city from the top. It’s a striking structure in its own right whether viewed from Princes Street of from right underneath.
10. Cityscape from Regents Road
If you’re up on Calton Hill you’re only minutes from this shot. Head down the hill and head off to your left to Regents Road. On the right hand pavement there is a small set of steps called Jacobs Ladder, from here you get a view over Waverley Station, the North Bridge all the way up to Edinburgh Castle. Great shot at night.
11. Undiscovered Gem: Cammo Tower
Probably never seen by visitors to Edinburgh is the Cammo Estate on the western edge of the city. Tucked away between the Barton area and Edinburgh Airport is a large area of public meadows and woodland. It’s a great place for a walk and the photographic potential is huge at any time of year. However one structure really stands out, the historic water tower on the eastern edge of the estate. Slightly creepy, it’s an interesting shot to take at any time of year.
So there you go, another 11 must haves. Feel free to add your own shots in the comments!
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.
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.
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!