Where do you want to put the poles for your shade structure? It might not be where you think! Often, people make the mistake of planning their poles exactly at the corners of the area they want to shade, only to find out that on a summer afternoon, when they need the shade the most, it doesn’t fall where they thought it would. This is because the sun isn't always directly overhead. During different times of the day and seasons of the year, the sun's position in the sky varies widely, and thus, so do the shadows it casts. Take some time to decide when you want shade the most, then go outside at that time of day and observe what direction the sun casts shadows. Use your own shadow or the shadow of something taller to get an idea of how far the shadow from your shade sail will be from the bottom of the pole. Use these observations to determine where you will need to place your poles to get shade where and when you want it.
Keep in mind that there will be physical barriers to where you can place poles. Because each column will have a concrete footing, poles will need to be offset from any walls or barriers at least a foot and usually more. Be sure to know where existing gas, electric, and sprinkler lines run, so you do not run into complications when digging those footing holes. Your project manager can help generate design ideas based on the information you provide, but in the end, you’ll need to give the final say on pole placement.