If you were shooting inside with a single light, you’d be concerned about where it was located and what direction it was pointing in, right? ¬†You wouldn’t just get someone to randomly position and focus it, then work around whatever it gave you. ¬†You want your lighting tools to do the best job they possibly can.
Unless you have a huge budget for serious HMI firepower, shooting day exteriors means you have one lighting unit only – the sun. ¬†And whilst you can’t control where and when it’s going to appear, you can calculate both of those and use that information to your advantage. ¬†A sun position calculator draws on a heady yet ultimately simple bunch of celestial mechanics to figure out the path of the sun through the sky at any given point on the Earth, for any given time.
Using that knowledge, you can perform all sorts of tricks, from the simple to the incredibly helpful:
- Work out sunrise and sunset times for anywhere on the planet on any date
- Work out exactly what compass bearing the sunrise will appear at, for those glorious long lens African savannah shots
- Work out how long the shadow of any given object will be at any time of day
- If your shooting location is surrounded by tall objects like buildings or trees, work out – months or years in advance of the shoot if necessary – the precise time when the sun will clear the top of a building that’s 55 degrees above the horizon from where your subject’s going to be standing
It’s a tool any DoP, gaffer or professional stills photographer needs to have in their arsenal. And thanks to the iPhone, we have a perfect mobile computing platform for the job, and thankfully the guys at Chemical Wedding have stepped up. Continue reading