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The golden hour(s)

Created date

September 23rd, 2014
sunset
sunset

Actually, there are two golden hours—the half-hour before and after sunrise and the half-hour before and after sunset.  

These golden hours are when the light is softer and warmer, shadows are less dark, and highlights are less likely to be overexposed—contrast is less extreme. When the sun is low on the horizon, shadows are long and sinewy. Clouds reflecting the sun are golden or orange or a beautiful pink. With scattered clouds, the sky lights up in a rainbow of colors even after the sun has set or before it has risen. Without clouds, it’s less dramatic.

That’s the golden hour. It’s impossible to not get amazing photos. Find the setting for “scene mode” on your camera and dial the control to “sunrise/sunset.” It will produce pictures that will catch your breath. 

Framing your shots 

If you have an opportunity to frame the sunrise/sunset with trees, boulders, or a person in the foreground, they will be silhouetted and give your photo that extra depth and dimension.  Be sure your flash is off. Water, too, can provide dazzling reflections, which will mirror the beauty of the clouded sky.  

When shooting a portrait with a sunset background, you will want to use your flash to light your subject. Also, shoot a portrait with the sun to your back. In this case, the subject will be basked in a golden glow and radiate that warmth (no flash required).

Twenty to forty minutes after sunset is a great time for doing cityscapes. The sky is blue, not black, and balances nicely with the skyscraper lights. Astronomers call this Civil Twilight.  Remember to use your “scene mode.” 

It’s not necessary to use a tripod during the golden hour, but it is advisable.  However, it’s critical with night photography. In the absence of a tripod, you must try to find a sturdy foundation to prevent camera shake. Enjoy the golden hour(s).

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