How I Use an Astronomy Website To Avoid Cloudy Shooting Days.


Getting Up At 5 AM To Shoot a Sunrise Is a Whole Lot Easier When You Know the Sky Will Be Clear When You Get There.

A few months ago, I was shooting a TV campaign for Farmview Market. I rolled out of bed, packed my gear, and drove all the way to Madison, GA—about an hour away—in time to shoot a sunrise at a dairy farm.

I got there in plenty of time, set up the shot, and started filming a time lapse. But then I ran into a problem—the sun never came up.

Well, not that I could tell, because so much fog rolled in, all I could see was solid white.

Weather Apps Don't Predict Cloud Cover

Shooting this sunrise shot required three different attempts.A few days later, I tried again. And this time, I checked several weather websites and weather apps, just to be sure. They were all forecasting zero percent chance of rain.

But once again, I didn't get the shot. The weather apps were all correct—it wasn't raining. But a row of clouds on the horizon was blocking any early morning color.

The same thing happened a few weeks later, when I was shooting an attorney video in Marietta. I met the client at the courthouse, hoping for some early morning "golden light" shots.

But there was no golden light that day. Just low-lying clouds.

Then I Found a Better Way

At that point, I started searching online for a way to predict cloud cover, and stumbled across a website designed for astronomers—

They use a color code system to forecast hour-by-hour cloud cover conditions at over 5300 observatories in North America. You simply go to their website, and click on a location. There are over 100 locations listed in Georgia. They even show the locations on a map page.

The website uses this color code to predict the level of cloud cover.On each chart, there are several rows of color squares, ranging from solid white (overcast) to dark blue (100% clear). It only forecasts about two days into the future, but that's all I really need for planning a production.

I've been using for a couple of months now, and so far, it's been extremely accurate. For reshooting the courthouse in Marietta, I referred to the Marietta Sky Chart. And for additional shooting in Madison, I used the Morgan County High School Sky Chart.

 I wish I had discovered this site a lot sooner. It could have saved me from several reshoots.

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