Golden hour. Every natural light photographer's favorite word. Golden hour can be a beautiful time that works well for things like portraiture and landscapes. In case you don’t already know, golden hour is the name given to that time period just before, during and after sunrise or sunset where everything has this golden glow to it. It makes for really stunning photos that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get without faking it in photoshop.
Here’s the thing though about sunrises and sunsets, it always looks like you’ve got more time that you actually have. The peak moment where you’re getting the best light you can only really lasts for like fifteen or twenty minutes before it disappears until the next sunrise or sunset. You may look at the sky and think, well theres still a great looking sunset, but once you take the photo it doesn’t seem to have that pizzazz you’d think it would. I recently experienced this for myself.
I was awake really early yesterday for some unknown reason and I happened to look out the window and saw this crazy awesome red sky. I hesitated for a couple of minutes wondering if I really felt like going out to shoot since I knew I wouldn’t have much time to do it. By the time I decided to do it and grab my gear, ten minutes had past. I knew I couldn’t go very far before the sun got too high so I drove to a local park about five minutes away. Keep in mind now that its probably about a half hour into this sunrise. Once I got there, the light was amazing and I took the first shot above. I was rushing so the composition wasn’t all that great, but within five minutes, the light had changed so much that I was getting less and less great light.
After being at the park for only 10 minutes, that gorgeous light was basically nonexistent even though if you looked to the sky, it was still technically a nice orange sunrise. By the time I had drove back home, the sunrise had ended and no one would have even known such a beautiful scene even existed if they had just then awoken. So really, let this be a cautionary tale. If you plan on doing a shoot at sunrise or sunset, make sure you get there well before it actually starts so you can maximize the amount of time that you’ll be able to experience the golden hour. I wasn’t really expecting to get much out of this mini trip personally, but if you’re banking on this light to be there, it’s never a bad idea to over prepare. You have less time than you realize.
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