My favorite online tools to use for hiking and landscape photography!
Knowing where the sunrise or sunset will line up changes everything drastically when it comes to landscape photography. This is how people know when the Manhattan or Chicago-henge is going to happen (when the sunset lines up with the streets). I always use this before scouting out locations just to see where the sun lines up on a particular month of the year. If you are anywhere near the shoreline, you could have a great sunset down the coastline if this angle lines up perfectly. Some apps and websites even allow you to see elevation as well. If you are anywhere near the mountains, you know for a fact that this isn’t accurate as the last light may be 2 hours before the actual sunset if there is a 2,000 ft bluff in the way!
Sunsetwx.com may be the most interesting site out there for a landscape photographer. This is something that will predict if the sunrise or sunset will be colorful or not. The warmer the colors, the better “chance” you will have a great sunrise/sunset. I have found success in this about 50% of the time as it only accounts for those clouds that high in the atmosphere that are already going to turn orange and pink.
It does not account for any low hanging clouds closer to the ground that may contain rain droplets. Overall, I do check this website regularly and cross reference it with the paid subscription from The Photographer’s Ephemeris App “Sky Fire”. If both of the apps state that there will be good activity, I will be out the door fast!
Take this website with a grain of salt. In my experience it truly is just an estimate/predictor. Weather changes so drastically all of the time. It has been bright orange and red before on this site and then there was nothing actually there when sunset came, and vice versa. Either way, it is fun to plan these events!
The benefit of Alltrails.com is that it is 100% free to use on the web, however there is an subscription app that allows you to use it all offline (which may be necessary depending on the cell coverage in your area). It is an online hub where people track their hiking times, routes, and elevation gain. This site has been an invaluable addition in determining how long a hike will take the average person.
For example: If you are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, you may want to check out how long a hike will take. When at the actual trailhead for the South Kaibab trail, there is a sign that states it will take an average person 5-6 hours roundtrip. From personal experience and insights from the website, it can be done in 2 hours. Everyone hikes at a different pace, so you can use this website as an estimate based on your own physical fitness levels.
4. Weather Website(s)
If your goal is to see morning fog/mist on the fields or in the valleys, you need to make sure that you have a clear night, low wind, and high humidity in the morning. Of course, you will want to know if it will rain or not as well, Dark Sky gives up to the minute forecasts which are pretty accurate.
Ideally these are the conditions that you are looking for if you want fog in the valleys and around the bluffs (at least in Wisconsin):
Humidity is greater than 80%
Temperature and Dew Point are +/- 5 degrees of each other.
Wind speeds less than 10 mph
Clear skies overnight (there is some controversy over this one).
Overall, these tips are just tips. There is no certainty or guarantee for a perfect sunrise or sunset if you follow these. Weather is so unpredictable, however it is always fun to chase the light no matter what the conditions will be!