Golden Hour Photography

Sunrise, Sunset – Photographing During the Golden Hour

There’s a reason why we call the hours around sunrise and sunset the golden hours of our day. After all, they offer “a kind of magic” as Freddie Mercury would croon (indulge me, I’m a big fan), a kind of magical light that lasts only for a limited time, a kind of light photographers often try to recreate using artificial light sources in and outside the studio.

Sunrise light silhouettes Manhattan skyline. Photo ©Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Sunrise light silhouettes Manhattan skyline. Photo ©Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

But what exactly makes the golden hour light so magical? Right after sunrise and before sunset, the sun is low in the sky, just above the horizon. Its darker, more reddish color during the golden hour offers a warmer light color temperature that enhances the subject we want to photograph–it enhances anything it touches, really. Hence, landscape photographers , for example, often shoot around the golden hour, to be able to work with that magical light. In addition, because during the golden hour the sun is low in the sky, its light creates long shadows that can make images, visual stories, mesmerizing and mysterious.

The golden hour doesn’t last long. “An hour” is used more figuratively. The golden hour lasts for a longer or shorter period of time, depending on where it takes place on the earth, and it’s reached when the sun is very low in the sky, (the sun reaches a certain very low altitude about an hour after sunrise or before sunset). The closer we are to the Equator, the faster the sun reaches that altitude. As we move farther and farther away from the Equator, the sun takes longer to reach that altitude. That’s why, in places farthest away from the Equator, the sun never reaches that altitude, and the golden hour lasts for a long time, in certain seasons. (Hence the white nights phenomenon that happen in June in places like Saint Petersburg; during the white nights, the sun never dips below the horizon at night.)

Sunset light peeking through the tree branches. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Sunset light peeking through the tree branches. Photo by Alina Oswald.

A few ideas for photographing the golden hour:

– scout out the location before the day of  the photo shoot; use a golden hour calculator (app) to have an idea of the time, location, etc of the sunrise and sunset or do it the old fashion way and check out the location at or around sunrise/sunset yourself, take a few shots with a smartphone, for example, just to prepare for the actual golden hour photo shoot

– arrive early–that is, before sunrise or sunset, before the sun start changing its color, because once that starts, the change can happen pretty fast

– bring a tripod, you might end up photographing in low-light conditions; bring zoom lenses or wide-angle lenses as well as telephoto lenses, in order to capture the entire scene as well as details, close-ups

– other ideas, in terms of camera settings: start by setting the camera at its native ISO value; high f-stop number (narrow aperture, in particular when shooting landscapes) and experiment with the shutter speed; also, as White Balance, try Daylight (5500K) WB if there is still some blue in the sky, if not, try to set the WB to Cloudy (or approx 6200K) White Balance to enhance the warmer tones

– be patient and wait for the best light to show itself; also, don’t leave right after the golden hour is over, in particular the sunset hour; hang around for a few more minutes, watch how the golden hour turns into the blue hour (more on that in another post); same goes for sunrise, only in reverse order, because there you get to watch  the blue hour light turn into golden hour light

– remember, clouds enhance the golden hour experience, make it more dramatic, so look for clouds; also capture silhouettes against the golden hour light

– when photographing the sun, the first impulse might be to include the sun in the image frame, but that’s not always necessary; rather, include hints, rich tones of warm light but not the actual light source (the sun), to let viewers know that the image was taken during the golden hour

Here are a few images taken during the golden hour:

Manhattan sunrise:

Sunrise light silhouettes Manhattan skyline. A closer look. Photo ©Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Sunrise light silhouettes Manhattan skyline. A closer look. Photo ©Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Haleakala sunset:

Sunset at Haleakala. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Manhattan sunrise:

Jersey sunset:

SunsetConversationsInGardenState_AO_LR

Sunset Conversations in Garden State. Photo by Alina Oswald All Rights Reserved.

Manhattan sunrise:

NYC Sunrise Up Close and Personal. Photo by Alina Oswald.

NYC Sunrise Up Close and Personal. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Grand Canyon sunset:

Grand Canyon Sunset.

Sun setting over Grand Canyon. Nature and Landscape Photography by Alina Oswald.

Manhattan sunrise:

NYC sunrise through the clouds summer of 2018

Maui sunset:

Haleakala National Park. Maui, Hawaii.

Sunset over Haleakala crater. A closer look. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Sunrises and sunsets offer more than magical light for photography. They mark the beginning and the end of our day, maybe even metaphorical bookends of our life, in a way. The golden hour doesn’t captivate only photographers and visual artists, but also other creatives, such as writers and performers. And so, while mentioning golden hour–sunrise, sunset–photography, remember the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof? Then check out the new Yiddish production of Fiddler playing this summer in New York City at NYTF. Just saying….

NYC Sunrise July 2018 clouds

NYC sunrise through the clouds summer of 2018

Happy photographing sunrises, sunsets and anything else! And, as always,

Thanks for stopping by!

Alina Oswald

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: