Part 5: Magical light – the best time to take photos
Some hours of the day are particular – at least when it comes to taking photos. In summertime, you have to get up pretty early or stay up quite long to catch those hours, but the result is worth the effort (and it is not that cold in summer as it is in winter ;-))! In the fifth part of our summer special we will deal with the blue and the golden hour.
Photo by Sebastian W. [via Flickr]
Blue or gold?
In photographic matters, two of those terms being fixed are the blue hour and the golden hour. Sometimes, the golden hour is also called „magical hour“. And rightly so, because photos taken its light most often do have a particular magical atmosphere.
The time directly after sunrise and immediately before sunset is called thegolden hour – meaning the first and the last light of each day.
Its counterpart is the blue hour which takes place before sunrise and after sunset.
Asmall note beforehand: To have a reflex or compact camera, whose capture settings may be handled manually, is the precondition for taking photos successfully in those lighting conditions. If it is not possible to control the settings, there is a danger of receiving photos that contain heavy image noises (due to ISO settings being automatically chosen as too high) or are blurred.
The blue hour
You need to be prepared if you would like to start taking photos during the blue hour! It would be best to choose a good vantage point in advance, to know what you want to take a photo of, and to take a tripod with you because the blue hour does not last long! This is the reason why it is important to be in situ as early as possible. The sun may set quite suddenly – the starting signal for the blue hour – which makes it a little difficult to catch exactly the moment of the best ligthing conditions.
By using the practical estimating option on the following website you can calculate exactly at which time the blue hour takes place: http://www.bluehoursite.com
Which images are suitable for being take photos of during the blue hour?
An answer to this question: Anything that is connected with city lights! For example, illuminated buildings, statues, churches, brigdes …
Photo by Eneas de Troya [via Flickr]
Especially in the evening hours, there is a lot going on in a city, which enables you to catch the lights of cars, traffic lights, shop windows or passers-by with your camera. If you use a time exposure , passers-by may provide interesting effects because they are only seen as smears on a photo and thus look like ghosts. You can achieve the same effect – only much more impressive – by taking photos of the traffic. If taken with time exposure, head and back lights of vehicles seem to be only coloured strips and thus provide motion as well as dynamic for your photo. Of course, this requires the use of a tripod as well as a good position of yours (which should be a secure distance away from the traffic – do not get run over! ;-))
Photo by Kenny Louie [via Flickr]
You may have noticed that the lighting conditions are essential. If you take a photo during the blue hour without any source of light within your image, it quickly appears to be boring and gloomy. Your photo should contain at leatst one or two illuminated objects.
For taking photos, stretches of water are especially beautiful. In the particular lighting conditions of the blue hour, the water nearly adopts the colour of the sky. Puddles make nice images if you are lucky and it has just rained a few moments before – but does not anymore when you take the photo.
Photo by Francesco Pappalardo [via Flickr]
If you have the chance and are willing to go a greater distance in order to search for nice images, you should have a closer look at factories and power plants. Especially in the dark or during the blue hour, those offer fascinating images because most often they are illuminated very well.
By using the aperture settings of your camera, you can control if you would like to see „star-effects“ on your photos. In the lighting conditions of the blue hour, those arise automatically under an aperture of approximately f/11. An example for this effect is shown on the following photo:
Photo by Wayne Shipley [via Flickr]
Instead, you can avoid this if you choose an aperture of f/7 till f/10. In order to receive a photo that impresses with regard to its quality, you also need to pay attention to your ISO settings. You should not choose one that exeeds 100 or 200. The ISO setting should also be the basis of the exposure time that is controlled automatically in the AV mode of your camera – but of course, you can set it yourself in the manual mode as well(which likely is a good idea because your photos should be a little underexposed on purpose – at last, it is nearly dark).
The golden hour
During this time, the light is soft and warm because its blue parts can still be filted out of the atmosphere, for the most part. Due to the slanted position of the sun, an indirect light is created that makes portraits look particularly great (you will find some examples, that are especially great, on this website ).
Photo by Fairuz Othman [via Flickr]
In this matter, it is important to pay attention to the white balance and not to use the automatic settings. Instead, you may try various modes of your camera. If you decide to take photos in the RAW mode, you have the chance to correct the white balance while reworking your photo with a computer program.
Photo by Jayme del Rosario [via Flickr]
Particularly if some clouds cover the sky, lighting conditions do provide for dramatic scenes and great colours. Take a look around! In these fantastic lighting conditions, nearly everything looks great.
Once more, we recommed to be at the scene of the event in time. The golden hour disappears as fast as it has appeared.
We hope you enjoy taking photos!