I was recently invited to review an app from Juggleware called Sol: Sun Clock (iOS only). Claiming to be “the Swiss Army Knife of sunlight tools” and useful to “plan the perfect photograph,” I was happy to get to get some time to try it out. There’s a few things this app does well, and a few places it could use some work.
The “Mostly Good”
The interface is fun, and the graphics are clear to understand, if a little cutesy. It opens with a little tour of how to use it. Basically, the app uses graphics to show when different brightnesses of the day will happen at a chosen location. Times like golden hour and civil dusk are times when the sun is low and diffuse light helps a photographer make attractive pictures.
In the app, clouds rotate around the Earth indicating that the view is live, and you can choose different locations and dates. Dragging a finger around the dial moves the graphics so you can see the time that the golden hour will begin.
Going into the menus, there’s a chart that shows the various light times without trying to align the graphics dial (which is good because the time marker and the map marker aren’t aligned so trying to match up the graphics is annoying). There’s also a summary with facts about the day, like how long ago the sun rose, how long the daylight will be, and when the next solstice or equinox will be. In the settings tab you’ll find a help section and a glossary. The help section is well written and easy to follow, and provides useful insight to some of the apps less apparent features. The glossary describes the benefits of being attuned to the sun’s rhythms, defines the periods of light during the day, and gives definitions of annual events. These descriptions are, besides typos, easy to understand and helpful. However, the glossary fails to define pertinent words used elsewhere in the app, like azimuth and midnight sun.
My favorite thing about this app is the alarm settings. You can set an alarm for any of the times of day when light might be nice for making a picture. For me, I’d set an alarm for an hour before sunrise, wake up, check the weather and decide whether to go shoot or go back to sleep. I’d set an alarm to let me know when sunset is coming so I could plan to be in position if the weather was going to be cooperative. That’s a very nice feature, and I’ll be using it on those days I think I want to shoot but am unsure of the weather…or unsure of my willingness to get out of bed. It looks like it’ll be handy when traveling, too.
The “Could Be Better”
One of my big hangups, however, is the total lack of anything relating to the moon. As the second biggest source of light in our natural universe, I should think an app claiming to be a Swiss Army Knife for photographers would show the moon’s rising and setting times, not to mention its affect on the cycle of our lives. I’m very disappointed. An alarm for moon rise/set would actually be much more useful than the sun. Then I could plan to awake in the middle of the night when it’s totally dark and shoot those great Milky Way pictures. In fact, as long as I’m requesting updates, how about a Milky Way position, too.
Another problem is the lack of elevation consideration. According to the app, sunrise downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado is the same time as Sunrise on the top of Pikes Peak, which, though just a few miles away, is more than 7,000 feet higher. In fact sunrise is significantly earlier on the peak. This translates to the app not knowing when sunrise really is at any elevation, which means it’s inaccurate. To be fair, this is a failing with most of the sunrise apps I know of. Using the alarm clock with something like SunSeeker (reviewed here previously) could be a good coupling.
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