New Ephemeris app allows photographers to preview scenes in 3D

The Photographer’s Ephemeris is a popular tool that allows creatives to view just how the light will look at any scene at any given time — but now the tool is getting a modern refresh. The developer will launch a new tool that integrates lighting information with a 3D topographical map with The Photographer’s Ephemeris 3D, expected to launch worldwide on Tuesday, June 27.

Like the original app, the 3D version will allow photographers to preview how the sun, moon, and even the Milky Way will influence their shots by depicting their location in the sky, making the app a popular choice for landscapes or for photographing the moon. Unlike the original app, however, 3D topographical information will allow photographers to see just how the shadows will fall in the mountains, the adjusted sunset time in the valley, and when the moon or Milky Way will appear right next to that mountain peak.

The developer, Crookneck Consulting LLC, says that the app update capitalizes on recent advances in 3D content on mobile devices, including an iOS update that was a necessary prerequisite for such an app. Because 3D mapping is so data-heavy, most apps won’t allow users to look at the horizon. Adding in lighting details requires more data, which means other developers haven’t tried it yet because that means less terrain can actually load on a mobile device, the developer says.

“TPE 3D pushes the limits of what can be achieved currently with simulated lighting, due in part to the sheer scale of the model that we need to illuminate,” the developers wrote in a blog post. “The shadow of a large mountain extends for a great many miles around the time of sunrise and sunset, and so the lighting and shadow algorithms are stretched in this app.”

The new app mixes the lighting data from the original app with topographical information, allowing photographers to check how a non-flat scene will look at a particular time. Users can control how complex the scene is to choose between fast loads and more detail, such as switching to enhanced mode for more detail. While the app requires an internet connection, locations can be virtually scouted using the app well in advance, including the use of actual coordinates and both a daily and annual list of lunar events.

While the app includes data on the moon’s phases, information about solar and lunar eclipses is excluded. The topographical information is also limited to between 83 degrees north and 83 degrees south.

The company plans to continue refining the new app, including a possible premium subscription that would allow users to access the information without an internet connection. After launching in Ireland and New Zealand last week, the app is expected to launch worldwide on June 27. The 3D app will list for $20, with discounts available for users who already own the $9 original app.