What Is Photrus?

The short version: Photrus helps you to bring you to the right place at the right time, or in other words: Photrus increases your chance to get the perfect weather for your photos, massively!

The principle is simple: You tell Photrus which weather you would prefer for which location, and as soon as there is a match, Photrus will send you an alert email, so that you can go there for photography. Hereby, we are not talking about simple weather phenomenona only like fog, mist, cloud inversions, we are also talking about complex weather scenarios, such as red sky, golden clouds, blue hour, rainbows, aurora, milky way, meteor showers, monster waves, etc., also with considering the visibility towards the particular phenomenon and for astro photography even the appearance and brightness of the moon is considered.

Born Out of a Real Usecase

Christian Irmler is a passioned landscape photographer from Austria/Europe who started with photography in 1990. As he was never satisfied with the poor accuracy of the common weather apps he knew, he started to study weather maps instead, which turned out as a much more accurate way of weather prediction. By that, in most of the cases, Christian was completely prepared for the weather situation, before he entered the field with his camera.

See yourself in his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@christian.irmler

"Honestly, it took me years to get into weather maps, but meanwhile I'm nearly always completely prepared for the weather. Today I make my own weather forecasts, actually."

Christian Irmler (2018)

But even if you have the experience to interpret weather maps, it is time consuming, as you have to check different maps several times a day. It works if you want to predict the weather just for one or two areas at the same time. But also when you got really good at reading weather maps, reality is that you will overlook even the majority of fantastic weather phenomenona for other areas around.

 

The Key Moment

In 2019 there happened the key moment that initiated the developing process:

In the Austrian Alps, most of the snowfall happens during the nights. But especially if you want to get subtle softness to the distance in a landscape photograph given by snowfall, you would prefer to get it during the day, of course.

Now, as Christian is also a software engineer who has his own company since 2001, he usually has a lot of work during the winters and not as much time for his photography than in the rest of the year. Sometimes he does not even have time to check the weather maps for multiple days.

And so, in 2019, as usual, Christian observed the weather maps several times a day, but there was no snowfall. Then he got quite busy with a project so that he didn't have time to check the maps anymore for nearly a whole week. And exactly in this one week there came dense snowfall in one of his prefered woodland areas, which he overlooked completely. And as it was a quite warm winter, Christian didn't find another opportunity for photographing snowfall that winter.

The idea of automating the observation process of weather maps was born.

"What if I would have an assistent who would check the weather maps for me and tells me if he found anything of interest?"

Christian Irmler (2019)

The Prototype

In 2020, Christian developed a prototype that observed his local area for the most important weather phenomenona, in the beginning just inside a forecast window of the upcoming 24 hours. He got an email alert when there was a match.

The huge difference to common weather apps was that there were not only individual points on the maps evaluated. The system observed also the areas around to get significant better accuracy.

During the testing phase of more simple weather phenomenona like fog, mist, cloud inversions, and gappy sky, Christian started to implement also complex weather scenarios like red sky, golden clouds, and blue hour in 2022, which requires a huge bigger area on the weather maps to observe for every single location - more weather data and more server power. From there on, the system checked the weather maps for real "photography weather".

Due to high sun erruptions in 2023, the chance for aurora increased massively in Austria. Usually there is never aurora in that area, just all 6 or 7 years very subtle for one night or so. But you read that always just the day after in the news that there "had been" an aurora to photograph. So, Christian implemented also an algorithm for predicting aurora and with that also different astro photography weather got added. And the forecasts got also upgraded to a time window of 48 hours into the future.

The unique thing is: there is not only calculated if there is the chance for aurora, if the milkyway will rise, or if there will be meteor showers, much more than that: it is also calculated if there will be a clear view to it and if the moon will not be too bright, for instance.  Even the reflectivity of the ground is considered due to moisture, ice, and snow.

Today, Photrus is quite clever: for every single weather phenomenon is considered if it is well visible or not.

With the same step besides astro photography weather, also seascape weather got added and by that, the prototype contained all important weather scenarios an outdoor photographer would dream of.

 

The Platform

After a lot of testing and finetuning till the middle of 2023, Christian got more and more clear that this tool did not only save a lot of his time, it also changed his planning processes completely. Everything got easier. And so he decided to share his tool also with others. The idea of creating a public platform was born.

The usage of the platform is quite simple: You tell the system, which weather scenarios you prefer at which location and as soon as there is a match, you get an alert email. That already 1-2 days before, so that you usually have plenty of time for planning your photo tour in detail. For a better overview, there is just one summary email for every run, which is usually once a day.

By the way, the name "Photrus" comes in relation to the "weather god", Christian mentioned some times in his YouTube videos just for fun. In popular belief, the apostel Peter (original "Petrus") is responsible for the weather. That gave rise to the made-up word "Photrus" - a combination of "photography" and "Petrus".

When we break it down, we could also imagine to wish a special weather scenario for a place and Photrus will do his best then for us ;)

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Weather Assistant for Landscape Photographers

"The best composition gets worthless when there is no mood conveyed with your image."

Christian Irmler - great-great grandnephew of Gustav Klimt (6th degree)

 

 

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