If you have a small video tripod with a center post or removable head you can
convert in into a simple transit to make sun azimuth / direction and elevation
/ altitude measurements. You need a 360 degree 4" diameter protractor and a
4" plastic lid from a coffee or other can. Measure carefully the center of the
lid and cut a hole to fit the center post or bolt between the tripod and head.
The bolts between the head and tripod are usually 3/8". Carefully cut the center
out of the protractor so it will freely rotate within the plastic lid. A coping
saw and vice will make cutting the circular protractor easier. Hold the protractor
close to the cut. You only need the outside ¾" of plastic. Attach a pointer
to the base of the tripod head to point at the numbers on the protractor as
you pan the head. This is your azimuth scale. Black out any unused scales. You
want the 0 to 360 degree scale moving clockwise as you pan right.
You can attach a clinometer, Abney Level or angle finder (hardware stores, the
bigger the better, remove the magnets) to the top of the tripod head to check
the altitude / height of the sun. You will need a 90 degree bent shelf bracket
and a ¼-20 nut to attach the shelf bracket to the camera screw or quick release
shoe. Tape or Velcro the clinometer or angle finder to the shelf bracket so
that when the head is level a finder edge is level and reads 0 degrees and as
you tilt up it increases toward 90 degrees which is straight up. (The angle
finder might be up-side down.) Don't trust a magnetic compass around the steel
bracket and other parts of the tripod that might effect it
on Bogan Head
Angle Finder to
The angle finder or clinometer is your elevation scale and the pointer and protractor
your azimuth scale. Be sure to level the tripod. Point the angle finder/clinometer
in a known direction and adjust the protractor opposite that known direction.
Now the transit is aligned to true north.