As I wrote in a previous post, the golden hour and the blue hour can provide amazing light situations for your photos, while the disadvantages of the hard midday light could turn a perfect subject and composition into a bad shot. Therefore, it is essential that you plan some of your travel according to the changes in the daylight. But these can vary wildly between locations and times of the year. In some places the golden hour can last the whole day; in others, the morning golden hour might come way to early making shots impractical. Luckily, several apps and websites can help you keep track of it. These are my personal favorites, tested and approved:
This app is my "personal guide to the sun." I use it in every location I go, and it makes checking the sunset and sunrise times, along with the golden and blue hours, a breeze. I personally love the Live View feature: it overlays the sun and moon paths to the camera view, which is incredibly useful to figure out quickly where the sun is coming up and setting down, and the path it will make during the day. You can also use the app to plan ahead, as it provides maps and street view on many locations.
Cheaper and iOS-only, this app was the first I ever tried and, even though I switched to the more feature-rich Sun Surveyor, I still use it and recommend it. It is a simple, well-designed app, which utilizes a day clock interface to display the blue and golden hours, with the possibility to set reminders, so you never miss the time. My favorite feature of this app and what makes me always come back to it is the Weather function, which displays a forecast of the light quality in the current location. It helps to know if it is worth it to wake up extra early to catch the sunrise or if you'd better off in bed.
(free / website / iOS) Although I believe the apps above are a good investment, here is a free app to get you started. It might not have all the functions of Sun Surveyor or the well-designed interface of GoldenHour.One, but should still do the job giving you the information you need.
There are also a handful of websites that can help you calculate the magic hours on any location. Twilight Calculator, created by Jens Koßmagk, allows you to set a location either by clicking on a map, searching for it or inputing the latitude and longitude desired. The results are displayed as a clickable table and a map overlay which shows the s.un directions on specific times. Time and Date's Sun Calculator provides a thorough analysis of the sun on the requested location. The results include useful graphs displaying the sun position above the horizon on any given day, as well as the yearly variation of sunset and sunrise times.
In any case, give the magic hours a try. Plan your visit to that tall observatory around sunset, or wake up extra early to catch the sunrise on that beautiful island. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed and your pictures will prove it.