Often, free software is overlooked by photographers. I am as guilty as any of this trait. Outdoor photographers, particularly those who are in love with sunrise and set, moon rise and set and those who love to shoot astronomical phenomena like star trails and deep sky objects are ever in search of tools to aid them in finding the right place at the right time. Into this scenario enters Stellarium.
Stellarium is a free planetarium software package based on open source. It is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. It offers you the ability to enter your own location, save it as a preset and use it to find out the times of sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, phase, proximity of other night sky objects. Not only are the times offered, but you can find out where to look on the compass to see the sun peaking up behind that favorite rock formation or to find the moon setting behind your favorite lighthouse.
Another feature of Stellarium allows you to play the night in real time or at fast speed so that you can plan your shooting for tonight, tomorrow morning and anywhere in between. This is particularly handy for determining the exact time an subject will interact with your location over the course of a long weekend or a month of great weather. In combination with a map and a compass, it becomes a deadly precision tool in getting your tripod placed in just the right spot.
The program offers realistic horizon portrayals to help orient you and you have the ability to incorporate your own panoramic photos into the scene as well. See this link.
The best part about this software is that it doesn’t require a connection to the Internet. It works where ever you and your laptop are making Stellarium a legitimate field tool for any outdoor photographer’s gear bag. Find out more about Stellarium at www.stellarium.org.
Split Rock Sunrise Placement Courtesy of Stellarium Software and Planning!
Check it out today!
Rikk Flohr © 2008