Review: Two Blue Hour Calculators for iPhone

The blue hour is pone of the best periods during the day for outdoor photography. Twice a day, just before sunrise and after sunset, the sky gets a wonderful blue tone that can range from a simple, single color to a gradient with dozens of different shades of blue. It’s not for nothing that many photographers value this time of the day and swarm out to take photos.

To illustrate what aim talking about, here are some sample photos that I took with iPhone during different stages of the blue hour.

 A photo I took here in Vienna at the beginning of the blue hour

A photo I took here in Vienna at the beginning of the blue hour

 A photo of the Dancing House in Prague halfway into the blue hour

A photo of the Dancing House in Prague halfway into the blue hour

 A photo of freedom square in Minsk, Belarus, towards the end of the blue hour.

A photo of freedom square in Minsk, Belarus, towards the end of the blue hour.

Speaking of the blue hour and light, the typical sequence of light is

  • Darkness, aka. night. If the moon is visible, there will be a little cold and blueish light. Great for mystery photos.
  • Next is the morning blue hour.
  • Then comes the morning golden hour
  • Until noon, you get soft and warm light (great for outdoor portraits)
  • Noon is the period of harsh light
  • In the afternoon the light starts to get softer and warmer again
  • Next is the evening golden hour
  • And finally we can experience the evening blue hour

Trivia: How long is the golden hour and when does it begin and when does it end? If you answered “one hour” to the first question, I have to disappoint you. The duration of the blue hour depends on the time of the year and your geographic location. Back in 2007, I experienced a blue hour that lasted almost an entire day during the polar night in Norway. And while the blue hour may begin around 8pm here in Vienna, Austria in spring, it may begin as early as 11pm in northern cities like Helsinki, Finland.

But luckily for us photographers, developers came up with clever ideas to help you to determine the beginning and ending of the blue hour (and golden hour). Those apps are called blue hour calculators.

In this blog post im introducing and reviewing two blue hour calculator I use and I use both of them. The ProCamera widget when I’m on site and Sun Surveyor App to plan ahead.

ProCamera App blue hour widget

If you already own ProCamera app, which I reviewed, you already have a basic blue hour calculator that takes your location and current date into account. This blue hour calculator comes as a free widget that will tell you the time of sunrise and sunset as well as the beginning and ending time of the blue hour.

To use this ProCamera widget:

  1. Pull down from the top of the screen to show the Notification Center
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and tap "edit"
  3. Under "More Widgets" find the "ProCamera" Widget and tap "plus", then tap Done in the upper right corner of the screen
 Enable the ProCamera Widget

Enable the ProCamera Widget

Now, locate the widget that you've just added. You may need to tap "Show more" inside the widget and it will expand showing you the time of sunrise and sunset as well as the time when the blue hours begins and ends at your current location like in this screenshot.

 ProCamera widget displaying the time for the blue hour (which is only a few minutes in this case)

ProCamera widget displaying the time for the blue hour (which is only a few minutes in this case)

It’s great and simple to determine the blue hour if you’re already on site. But if you want or need to plan ahead, there’s a better solution that will enable to determine the times for the blue hour and golden hour for any location for any date in the future.

If you don’t have it already, check my ProCamera review or get ProCamera right from the iTunes App Store. 

Sun Surveyor App with blue hour calculator.

The blue hour calculator is actually only one feature of Sun Surveyor App. By using this feature, you can determine all the important times like sunrise, blue hour, golden hour and sunset for any geographic location in the future. It will even tell you, in which direction the shadows will fall during the day and if you enter the night of an object, it will even tell you how long the shadow will be.

Moreover, Sun Surveyor App allows you to:

• Find the Location of the sun and the moon using augmented reality • identify photo opportunities of e.g. full moon, crescent moon, visible milky way

And here’s how to find the beginning and end for the blue hour for any location and date with Sun Surveyor App:

  • In the menu in the upper left corner, tap Map
  • In the upper right corner tap the current location. A windows will appear. Tap Search sind search for any location. If you can’t find the exact location, try a nearby city
  • Now tap and hold and move the map. A red crosshair appears in the middle of the map. Place it exactly on the desired location.
  • Sun Surveyor will display the current date, time and a timeline which contains the beginning and ending time for the golden and blue hours as well as the time for sunrise and sunset.
  • Tap the date in the lower left corner and choose any date in the future. Tap ok
  • The timeline at the bottom will update with the proper timings.
 Sun Surveyor App displaying the time of the golden hour and blue hour

Sun Surveyor App displaying the time of the golden hour and blue hour

Now you can predict the future. At least for the proper time of sunrise, sunset, blue hour and golden hour.  Get Sun Surveyor App from the App Store.