Weather plays a huge part in architectural photography and often getting the money shot is about having the patience to wait for the right conditions. So I spend a fair bit of time looking at weather forecasts trying to figure out which days are going to be great photo days and which ones aren’t worth getting out of bed for. Luckily in the age of the internet there is a lot of weather data available online so we can be more strategic than just waking up, looking outside and hoping for the best. In Australia for example we have what’s called the Beauro of Meteorology , or BOM for short. Most countries have some form of equivalent and these organisations provide a stack of data so you can get beyond the weather symbols on your iphone, which are next to useless.
Now after pointing you towards a gold mine of weather data I’m going to tell you to ignore it. Why? Despite all the information BOM has it doesn’t tell me what I want to know, which is, will it be sunny today, or in the next week. It has cool features like a live radar map which you think would be really useful, but unfortunately it only tracks rain, not clouds. So the radar map can be perfectly clear even though the sky is covered in cloud. BOM has data on sunny days too, but it’s historical data, so it only tells you the likely hood of sunny days in a given month. The other problem with a lot of weather forecasts is that they don’t break the day down into hours. They tell you it’s going to be sunny today, or rainy, or even worse, partly cloudy.
Enter stage left: An iphone app called Weather Pro. In the last couple months this has been one of the most useful apps I have. Like many weather apps it tells you all sorts of information, but for architectural photographers it has two critical pieces of information. The first is sunrise and sunset times, and the second is what’s called sunshine duration. On the screen shot below you can see that each day has a sun symbol with the number of sunshine hours next to it. This allows you to very quickly scan down the forecast and see which days are going to have a lot of sun, which means less clouds. My experience is that a good day will have somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sunshine, but of course this will depend on where you are in the world and what season it is. A good example of how misleading basic weather symbols can be is the forecast for Thursday. The overall symbols looks like a partly cloudy, partly sunny day. You might expect to be able to get some photographs on this day, but when you check the sunshine duration it’s only 1 hour. So the sun is going to pop out for one hour and the rest of the day is going to be ugly.
The second screen shot shows you the more detailed information available when you click on a specific day. The sunshine duration graph shows you when in the day it is going to be sunny. For example, that little bit of sunshine for Thursday is going to occur during the mid afternoon. And if we look at the overall week, Monday would provide the best chance of good weather.
A couple disclaimers. 1) I’m not meteorologist, so i’m just explaining the method that i’m currently using. 2) Weather is unpredictable and you should expect this method to be wrong some of the time. This app has served me well so far, but there have been a couple days when it’s forecasts were just wrong. But to be fair, every weather app i’ve used has had some level of inaccuracy. This one appears to be better then most.