Someone has made an iPhone app that is almost exactly what I was thinking about need; Focalware by Spiral Development. This very handy app will show you the position of the sun and the moon, their rise and set times for any date and any location, and it does it via a simple graphic interface or you can see the data in list form.
When planning an architecture assignment there is always a need to get a sense of where the sun will be in relation to the building. In the past I would go to the U.S. Naval Observatory web site, enter the location and the assignment date, and print out a list of the sun’s hourly position. Then I would go to Google Maps, get a satellite view of the location, and print that out. With both in hand I would take a protractor and mark the sun’s position throughout the day relative to the building on the map printout. It was never 100% accurate but it never needed to be. I just needed a sense of when the sun would light the face of a building, rake across it or wrap around an edge.
Focalware’s YouTube Demo:
Focalware will use your current location, you can pick a location from a list or enter a location manually. The software assumes you know which way North is (it won’t find it for you) but there are some work-arounds for that and for determining the elevation of the sun or the moon. For North you can go to Google Maps on your iPhone and look at a satellite view. North is at the top. If you are on location it will be very easy to orient yourself correctly. If you are off-site or planning a shoot for a date in the future you can use the information in Focalware relative to Google Maps on the iPhone or on your computer to plot things out.
To determine the sun’s or moon’s elevation you can use one of the spirit level programs also available in iTunes. They vary between free and inexpensive. A Level by PosiMotion has a built in calibration function and, with the phone in horizontal position, a digital inclinometer or a nice sized level.
Focalware is $9.99 in the iTunes App Store. Direct Link
A Level is $0.99 in the iTunes App Store. Direct Link
Now if Focalware could come up with a way to overlay its information on top of a satellite map… now that is exactly what I was thinking about.
Another iPhone App for measuring a slope or sighting the elevation of the sun and moon, Clinometer.
iPhone App that does not show the sun’s position but does show the length of daylight, Sol: Daylight Clock.
iPhone App that can quickly display the time of sunrise, sunset, twilight, moonrise, moonset, moon phases, and more for locations around the world, VelaClock.