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The Photographer’s Ephemeris 3D

It's a Shadow of its Former Self

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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Whilst preparing for a trip out with Joe Cornish a few weeks back, I noticed that Stephen Trainer, the brains behind The Photographer’s Ephemeris, was releasing a new application called The Photographer’s Ephemeris 3D. I know this sounds like a bad film sequel and I’ve always enjoyed the 2D versions more, however in this case the app is actually something I’ve wanted someone to develop for a while.

To summarise what the application does is quite simple, it casts shadows. Now that doesn’t sound that clever, but the clever bit is it casts shadows of Mountains and takes into account the curvature of the earth as well. All the while allow you to fly around the landscape to see the effects.

Here’s an overview video that Stephen released to go with the launch (epic Tolkeinesque voiceover too).

So I thought we’d give it a go on our trip out above Kinlochleven. First I took at look at the location on the new fangled Ordnance Survey maps (subscription only I’m afraid) and here’s the view.

OS Map Aerial Overview

So in TPE3D you navigate to the area you are interested in by swiping, pinching, etc., and then place a ‘marker’. You can then double click on the marker to get a view at ground level (and if you're slightly wrong, you can "walk" your viewpoint around to get a better vantage point). Here’s the view from our marker.

You can see along the bottom of the picture there is a strip that shows the current time, the elevation of the sun and the moon and some markers to show sunrise, sunset, moonrise, etc. You can swipe this left to change the time and the sun will move around in the picture and show the landscape lit correctly including shadows. As far as I am aware, this is pretty unique stuff - even Google Earth doesn't calculate shadows correctly. We used it to calculate the point where we would lose the light on the foreground and made sure we were on location a good hour before hand. Here's our view showing the light softening in the foreground.



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  • Annette Dahl

    Hi Tim. Interesting articel and app. But I really do not get your subtitle ”

    It’s a Shadow of its Former Self”. This makes the reader, or at least me, believe, it a useless app. So I am just a bit confused.

    • timparkin

      It’s TPE but it casts shadows! Oh dear, I’m being to obtuse again…

      • Annette Dahl

        … seems I was too obtuse … :-)

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