It’s clear outside!
Clear Outside is a handy Android app that will display weather information about the current location or a location of your choice.
It’s really useful for astrophotography, landscape or sunset/sunrise photography as it will display the cloud cover too. The first time I used the app was on a sunset shoot with Blarney Photography Club at Garrettstown Beach where a member of the club told us about it.
We were hoping to shoot the Milky Way later that evening but the sky was mostly covered by thick cloud. The app said that cloud would disappear by 10:30pm so after the sun set we went off to a local pub for some refreshments. I’m glad we stayed around. Later in the evening I looked out the back door and saw stars twinkling and we drove back down to the beach where we were presented with a beautiful Milky Way and a really dark sky!
Other useful Android apps to have with you are:
- Golden Hour will help you plan your sunset or sunrise expeditions. Also check out Golden Hour Calculator,
- The Photographer’s Ephemeris are both apps that will show you sunrise and sunset times. I only have the former as I used Amazon credits to buy it but from using TPE for desktop I can see both have similar functionality. Give both a go, you can always get a refund within the Play Store time limit.
- Phototools is a useful app that I’ve used in the past to calculate the DOF (depth of field) of various lens settings but it also does more, including calculating ND filter times and sunset/sunrise times.
And further reading on astrophotography:
- My friend Marcus has written a great intro to night photography you should read.
- Avoid star trails using the 500 rule.
- This article suggested stacking consecutive photos which I haven’t tried yet.
- This is a comprehensive article on night photography. I like his suggestion on focusing. Stars are at “infinite” distance so you’d think that setting the focus at the infinity symbol would get crystal clear images but I find I have to move the focus back a little. I never thought to shoot at infinity during daytime and check where the focus marker was so I could replicate it at night.
- I have a “nifty 50”. It’s the Canon 50mm f/1.8 which takes lovely sharp photos but 50mm isn’t quite wide enough for Milky Way photography. It never occurred to me that shooting a panorama using overlapping photos would produce such nice photos. The same site has a useful Milky Way exposure calculator, and an astrophotography 101 guide.
- Nightscapes is a huge repository of information about night photography. I processed the Milky Way photo above with these tips in mind.
- You could try exposing to the right (over exposing) but I’m not convinced that will help too much.
- If you don’t have any lens filters then consider using bracketed photos to create a HDR sunset. The sunset photo above was created this way and while I think it’s a little too sharp and not perfect I still like it. I used the free Nik software to do this.
Phew. It’s raining outside, there’s been nothing but cloud for the last few days but I’ll be keeping an eye on my apps to see when it’s clear outside and I can shoot more stars!