User's Guide

On behalf of the cotton candy team, welcome to the Escaype family! We hope you greatly enjoy using our service, feel at home in your group of fellow Escaype Artists, and our forecasts help you get those money shots. 

If, after reading this guide, you encounter any difficulties in setting things up, interpreting the forecasts, using the app, or have other questions or bug reports, please do not hesitate to ask in your group, and an Escaype team member will reply as soon as possible. If you have a more in-depth question, feel free to contact the Escaype team directly. (If you asked a question and we linked you to this page, we probably get your question a lot and answer it thoroughly in this guide.)


Our Android app has been tested on many phones running OS4 (KitKat) and 5 (Lollipop). Our iOS app is officially in beta, and has been tested on iOS 8 and 9 (will not work on older versions), iPhone 4S and newer.

The app has three primary screens: 

(1) Login screen. This one's pretty self-explanatory. Enter your username and password. If you've forgotten your password, tap "Forgot" and follow the instructions. If you run into trouble with this screen, contact us

(2) Main information screen. This is where you'll find forecasts by location. You can search by location and view the data for the current, next, and extended golden hour forecast periods. 

(3) Map screen. This screen shows heat maps for our forecast area to help you find hot spots. You can access this screen by tapping the map button in the title bar on the main information screen (Android) or with the link in the main menu (iOS). 

Main Information Screen



This screen will initialize at your phone's location, if you have GPS turned on. (Otherwise, it'll be ready for you to search.) 

a) Action bar. The top action bar contains the following buttons/functions:

Icon Button Function
Search Brings up a text box to enter a location name to search. Once you tap "Done" on the keyboard, the screen will refresh with the nearest station to your requested location. If you see a "No Location Found" error, try again; if it still can't find you, try a different location name or similar place.
Heat Map Takes you to the Map Screen.
Use My Location Refreshes the data with the nearest station to your current location, provided your GPS is turned on. If this button does not refresh the data, make sure your GPS is turned on, and if it is, you may already be reading data for the nearest station.
Help Launches the Escaype Web Help Center.


b) Time selector. The next row of buttons allows you to switch between the following forecast times:

  • Current, which is valid for the next golden hour event. If it is before or near sunrise, this event will be for sunrise. After that sunrise, it will soon update to the same day's sunset, and so on.

  • Next, which is valid for the golden hour event following the current one.

  • Extended, which is valid for the golden hour event following the next one.

Example: You check the app at noon. Current displays the forecast for tonight's sunset, Next displays tomorrow's sunrise, and Extended displays tomorrow's sunset. (The event for which the forecast is valid is always listed on the forecast, so you can check to be sure.)

You can switch the current view by tapping the desired tab, or swiping left or right on the main screen. 

c) Location and date. The next two lines allow you to make sure you're looking at the correct forecast:

  • City name, St, which will display the location of the nearest town or city to your desired location.

  • Station coordinates, which displays the location of our Escaype weather station nearest the location you entered.

  • Event time and date, which tells you the date you're looking at, and if the forecast is for sunrise or sunset.

NOTE! If in doubt about the location, check the station coordinates. We have placed Escaype weather stations in places we know photographers care about, so don't be afraid to be specific (e.g. typing "Hawk Hill" or "Twin Peaks" instead of simply "San Francisco". Both stations will display as "San Francisco, CA", but the station coordinates are different, and the forecasts may be different. Some stations are not near a city (e.g. typing "Salt Point State Park" returns a forecast for a point in the actual park, but the label shows as Duncan's Mills, the nearest town in our database), so you may see a town several miles away when the station for which the data are valid is very close to the location you entered. 

TIP! If you can't find a station at your favorite shooting location, contact us and we may add one!

d) Forecast data. The rest of the scrollable screen displays forecast data for the specified station, in the following order:

  • Potential, which measures the amount and quality of the cloud cover.

  • Chance of skunkTM, which tells you how likely it is that the clouds in the sky will light up, or "burn".

IMPORTANT! A score of very high potential does not automatically mean there will be a great sunset! It means you can expect the perfect kind of cloud cover, and is only indicative of a great sunset when it is coupled with a low chance of skunk. Similarly, a score of 0% chance of skunk is only indicative of a great sunset when it is coupled with high potential. 

Potential Meaning
We're expecting the perfect kind of cloud cover across most, if not all, of the sky.
We're expecting very nice, potentially very photogenic clouds.
We're expecting some nice clouds, but probably only in part of the sky, or scattered with large blue holes.
Cloud cover will be pretty low, but if you're pointing your camera in the right direction, you might have a chance.
We're expecting very few clouds, possibly blue bird skies.

Skunk Meaning
Most or all of the clouds in the sky are expected to light up.
A good portion of the clouds in the sky are expected to light up.
Some of the clouds will probably light up, but we do expect some places in the vicinity will get skunked, and there's a chance this will be one of those places.
Part of the sky may light up, but this is a bit of a roll of the dice.
It's more likely than not that the clouds in the sky won't light up.
Go ahead and make plans for a dinner through sunset, or turn off the sunrise alarm.

EXCEPTION! If we spot low clouds in the area, but there is a possibility of having gaps in them, or if we notice that something significant could happen above them, we will report both cloud decks in the description, and the chance of skunkTM will increase by 50%. For example, a beautiful high cloud deck burning above low clouds will have a 50% chance of skunkTM, because your ability to see the burn is contingent on finding a hole in the low clouds to view it from. If the high cloud deck was only partially lighting up, you might see a 70% chance of skunkTM (50% from the low clouds, and 20% from the high clouds). Best to find a spot that isn't as threatened by low clouds, but check your group for real-time updates.

The following table illustrates a few examples of potential, skunk, and what to expect.

Potential Skunk Expected Outcome
We're expecting beautiful clouds across most or all of the sky, and most or all of them will light up.
We're expecting beautiful clouds across most or all of the sky, but the burn may be underwhelming or localized.
We're expecting beautiful clouds across most or all of the sky, but they probably won't light up much. Any pre-sunset glow will probably fizzle.
The clouds may be a little too thin, patchy, or low, to be epic, but we're still expecting a nice show.
The clouds may be thin or only cover part of the sky, but there will still be some burn.
The clouds may be thin or only cover part of the sky, and only some of them will light up.
The clouds may be thin or only cover part of the sky, and they probably won't light up much.
The clouds may be thin or only cover a small part of the sky, but they'll light up, so if you're pointed in the right direction with a good composition, they should add a little splash of color to your sky.
We're expecting blue bird skies... maybe with a plane trail or two, if that's your thing.

The other data are the following:

Icon/Label What it is
Tells you how high we expect the clouds to be. "Mid" level clouds tend to be the most epic. High clouds can put on beautiful shows, low clouds can be dramatic, and very low clouds tend to be either rain or marine layer.
Tells you how much of the sky we expect to be covered.
Tells you the time we expect the clouds to burn the strongest. Will show n/a if we don't expect any clouds to light up.
Tells you the angle at which the sun will rise or set, measured clockwise from north. Can be very useful for planning purposes, as the most intense colors are often found at or near this angle. Also tells you the sunrise or sunset time. (This time may differ slightly from other sources, as there are different ways to classify this time.)
Description Provides a brief synopsis of what we expect will happen.

IMPORTANT! The Potential and Chance of skunkTM ratings do not give any insight onto the length of the burn -- only Best Time does. This change was made by popular request, because two minutes of epic may be all you need to capture that dream shot. Refer to the best time to determine the length of the burn, and if it is earlier or later. A few things to note:

  • If the clouds fade to grey 5 minutes after sunset, but Escaype forecasted a late burn, don't pack up yet!

  • If you notice that the Best Time is indicative of a very short burn right around the time of sunset/sunrise, this is often a sign that the gap on the horizon is small and the light will be blocked for the majority of the best color -- we may still display 0% chance of skunk, but you may only see yellow/orange and never pink/red. If seeing orange but not pink/red is a skunk in your book, make sure to check the best time carefully.

  • A short burn is NOT necessarily indicative of a skunk. There may be very intense pink that lasts for one minute, and we'll do our best to make sure you know about it.

  • The best time currently reports the time that the clouds are directly lit. You may observe color beyond this time range, often called "blue hour burn" -- if you notice a relatively long burn (>10-15 min) reported under best time, a blue hour burn may also be possible.

The Escaype Numbers

Are you a picture person, and the above tables did absolutely nothing for you? Fear not. 

Check out our Escaype Rating Examples page

Map Screen


The map screen allows you to quickly and efficiently browse through Escaype forecast data to find "hot areas" where our models are expecting the best light to be found. 

Action bar (Android only)

Icon Button Function
Back Returns to the Main Information Screen.
Search Allows you to enter a location name to search by. When you press "Done" on the keyboard, the map will refresh at the location you entered.
Use My Location Centers the map on your location, if you have GPS turned on.
Help Launches the Escaype Web Help Center.



Time selector

The next row of buttons allows you to switch between the three available forecast times.


Heat map layer selector

The next row of buttons, potential and skunk, allows you to turn each layer on and off. 

The above map shows potential only. The pink button tells you that potential is on, and the greyed out button tells you that skunk is off. 

Potential only is essentially a map of where the clouds are expected to be at sunrise/sunset. 


The remainder of the screen is occupied by a Google/Apple map with a heat overlay. Areas of higher potential with lower chances of skunk are highlighted in hot pink.

You can:

  • Zoom in or out on the map by using the standard two-finger gestures.

  • Tap the marker to reveal the potential and chance of skunk for the marker's location.

  • Move the marker by (1) dragging the marker and releasing it at the new desired location, or (2) long-tapping on the map at the new desired location. The map will refresh and the marker's potential and skunk will update when it is tapped.

Your group

After you register and subscribe, you will receive a set of instructions via email telling you how to join your group. If you have any questions or trouble following those instructions, please contact Escaype support

Your group is a fantastic way to make new friends who share your passion for photography, discuss forecasts, plan meetups, share current conditions, and the like. 

Other tips and important information

  • The app will always report what the model forecasts, and does not reflect any manual updates made by our forecasters. Always check your group for the latest updates. In the future, we seek to update the app automatically, but that feature is not available at this time. If it becomes necessary for us to override a model forecast, which may happen within a few hours of the event, should we notice a blue hole opening up somewhere, or if the models are having an occasional bad hair day, or if we'd like to add an important forecasters' note, we will do that in the group, and we reasonably assume that you are receiving the group updates unless you inform us otherwise in writing.

  • Because the Escaype model analyzes many complex data sets, the model does take some time to run. Group updates are posted as early as possible, then the rest of the data slowly comes out and is pushed to the Escaype servers and your app. The group typically updates four times daily: approximately 8AM (for sunset), noon (for sunset), 6PM (for sunrise), and midnight (for sunrise). The app typically updates about 45 minutes AFTER the group. If you notice that the app forecast is different from the one in the group, the group update is always the most current. If the forecasts in the group and app do not match, check to see if you are in one of these transition periods. For example, around 8AM, the group will issue a sunset forecast, but at 8:15AM, the app will still display the non-updated sunset forecast under "Next" and that morning's sunrise forecast under "current", until it updates around 8:45AM. We get a lot of questions about this, and the reason is we want to push a quick forecast into the groups as quickly as possible, then let the rest of the numbers churn as usual.

(Note: While we make every reasonable effort to adhere to these times, there may be occasional delays on our end or NOAA's end. We apologize in advance for any of these delays, as they are often out of our control.)

  • App crashed? Is it reproducible? Got a feature request? Submit a report by contacting us and we'll be on it ASAP.

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