Every now and then I discover something that makes my heart flutter a bit in excitement. There is a flutter happening now that goes beyond the first cup of coffee. For I’ve discovered an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. And I wonder where has my mind been all these years that I’d completely miss out on something so incredibly useful for those of us who chase the light.
Followers of this blog know of my relationship with the early morning light – that magical time between nautical start and sunrise known as civil start. On the flip side of the day, this magical time is known as civil end (sounds a lot like 2020). For years I’ve known the wonder in this time, but I didn’t put a name on it. The combined more-than-a-passing recreational interests in astronomy and photography led me to learn more about the three phases of light in the dawn and at twilight. The Photographer’s Ephemeris handily charts out these phases on a timeline at the bottom of the app. But where it becomes really exciting is with the lines indicating where the sunrise will be and where it is now. It also offers a line showing where the moon will rise. And of course you get the same effect on the western side of the satellite image showing where the sunset will be, where it is now and where the moon will set.
The word ephemeris is derived from ephemeral and the Greek ephēmero, or something that last for a short time. Each phase of the dawn or twilight is brief and fleeting, just as life itself is. An ephemeris is a method of tracking and predicting this ephemeral information that pivots above us. Making sense of the information falls on us. An ephemeris is usually associated with astrology and the position of the planets at the moment you were born. Or with astronomy and knowing the position of the stars now. Its handy information if you want to know where Mars and the moon are in relation to each other (dancing together last night), or if you believe in such things, why you don’t get along with your coworker.
Ultimately, information offers a measure of predictability and understanding in our lives. I had a general understanding of where the sun might rise or set, and likewise a general idea of where the moon might be on a given night. But there’s something powerful about having the information readily available on a phone app. A thrill of expectation, but also a measure of control about where you might position yourself for that epic sunset or moonrise picture. It also saves me from looking out the window on those mornings by the bay when simply looking at the time of nautical start the night before would give me all the information I needed beforehand.
I’m sure professional photographers have known about this app for years, but its new to me and perhaps to you too. I see The Photographer’s Ephemeris quickly rising to the top of my most-used apps. For it answers many of the celestial questions I geek out about in one handy place. And isn’t that the point of an app anyway?