Knowing how to work with the light when taking photographs is one of the essential tools that a serious photographer should have. The way we work with the light can make the difference between a blah photograph and a stand out photograph.
While in a studio we can have a complete command of the lights, when we shoot outside, nature dictates. For this reason it is extremely important that photographers know how to adapt to the natural light of Planet Earth.
There are two special times during the day when we can create stunning photography with the help of Mother Nature. The first hour or so of light after sunrise or roughly an hour before sunset is known in photography as the Golden Hour. The exact duration and times vary between seasons and depend on your location in this planet. There are even applications that calculate for you the exact time of the golden hour so you can plan your pictures ahead of time.
During each golden hour, immediately after sunrise and before sunset, the sun is low in the sky and closer to our reality, producing soft, warm, golden and diffused light. This light doesn’t create harsh shadows and helps you keep details that are lost in the extreme shadows produced at midday. Of course, shadows aren’t always a bad idea; the long shadows created by the sun at the golden hour can add texture, depth, and that special something to your photograph.
The golden hour can be used in any type of outdoor photography: landscapes, portraits, boats, weddings, daily life….
Film director Terrence Malick and cinematographer Nestor Almendros captured the mysterious beauty of the golden hour in the 1978 production of Days of Heaven. Almost the entire film was shot during this golden hour and the effects are just magical. I highly recommend this film.
1. Calculate Your Golden Hour. You can help maximize your golden hour by planning before the actual shooting. Roughly it is one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. The following are free golden hour applications:
2. Shoot Fast. Don’t rush yourself or the subjects, losing techniques, coolness and rapport, but still be aware that you have roughly an hour to take advantage of this light.
3. Keep on Shooting and Shooting. Changes in lighting during the golden hour occur fast; the landscape you shot when you arrived will probably look significantly different when you leave. Shoot for the whole hour and be sure to capture as many photographs as you can. The two photos below were taken in Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, exactly from the same spot. The first one is one of the first photos I took when I arrived at 5am; the second one is one of the last pictures of that hour. Hundreds of photographers come daily before 5 am and stay in the same spot taking picture after picture of this magnificent view for the whole magical hour.
4. Adjust White Balance. Setting the camera’s white balance to “cloudy” is a good idea, but don’t worry if you don’t know how to do this, or if your camera doesn’t have this option.
5. Choose your location. Another benefit of this time of the day is that you will find less people around. For example if shooting in the beach, you will have more space and privacy. Sometimes you want locals in your photos, but sometimes you just want your subjects, so choose the location accordingly.
6. Be patient. Sometimes you need to wait and wait till the shot you created in your mind comes alive. In the photo below this paragraph, the sunset and the bridge needed the red double-decker bus directly under the sun to add that special touch to the photo. So, I placed myself in a position where I was able to wait comfortably for the bus to appear and shoot at will.
Remember that this is not an exact science. There are magical moments the twenty four hours of the day. You just need to find or create yours. Develop that photographer’s eye. Experiment with your camera and keep that passion alive!
The low tide is very drastic in Koh Phangan, a magical island in Thailand. Locals take advantage when the sun is low to search for clams.
More or less the same spot that the previous photo, but notice that not only the tide is not low at sunset, but also here is a difference in the colors of the sky and sea. Different time, different seasons, different sunsets…
This time is the Pacific Ocean_Miraflores, Perú. Notice that the waves make faces in the pebbles. The movement of the water adds life to the photo.
The Golden Hour is perfect to get magnificent SILHOUETTES.
This time produces also a warmth light perfect for outdoor portraits.
The golden hour gives a special warmth and intimacy to close-ups.
The sunset gives a special touch to buildings, like this one of Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
A sea of magnificent clouds covering the range of mountains of Los Andes in Perú during sunrise.
The birds, the fort, and the sunset in Fez, Morocco.
Sunset in Hyde Park, London.
Sand deserts offer endless possibilities for photographs. Sunsets and sunrises are very special in the dessert increasing that sense of awesomeness and oneness with nature. This was taken during some days that I took off alone when living in Dubai. I wanted to experience the desert by myself, just me in that magnificent vastness. Empty Quarters, Rub’ Al Khali in UAE, close to the Saudi Arabia border, the world’s largest sand desert. Excellent place to get lost…
This time is not just about colors. It is also about the angle of lights and long shadows. Same day in the Empty Quarters, where I spent a couple of days and nights in my Montero.
Hope you enjoyed the photos. Leave a note if you have any questions, concerns or just want to say hi, and
¡UN LINDO DÍA PARA TODOS!