Friday, July 18, 2008

Golden Hour

Have you heard photographers use the term "Golden Hour?" I first heard it on a perfect afternoon in Nova Scotia in one of the world's most photographed places: Peggy's Cove.

My wife, the true photographer in the family, started planning where she was going to be during "golden hour" -- and, since I assumed this meant some event at a bar, I was completely on board.

When I asked her about it, she first laid one of those "are you kidding me?" looks on me and then explained that golden hour was that perfect time when the sun is just going down and a wonderful light bathes the world with soft, magical color. So we planned where we were going to rush to when Golden Hour actually happened.

While my pictures that day were nothing spectacular, I tried manfully to grasp the concept. Understanding only came when I finally agreed with myself that I could never explain the effect (and truth be told, I don't want to since something truly magical should never be explained) and simply accept that it happens...and try to position myself near something cool when it does.

The eagle statue in this blog was taken at the perfect time in Golden Hour. Other than cropping, there's no Photoshop work at all. This is the picture of an otherwise mostly uninteresting grey statue in Philadelphia. It sits at the entrance to a bridge near the Amtrak station. When we passed by it in the morning, it looked mostly uninteresting and grey. But when we returned as the sun was going down even my throbbing feet could not prevent me from wanting to stop and take some photographs.

You'll want to look very carefully at your subject during Golden Hour. If the object of your attention is moveable (you can get some wonderful portraits at this time) you'll want to move them so you get maximum light on their face. You'll be astounded at how the perfect lighting breathes magic into your subject.

What IS golden hour light? I really couldn't tell you. I have no idea how it would be replicated in a studio. And, having given it careful consideration for at least two and one half full minutes, I am convinced that the perfect lighting of Golden Hour is one thing that cannot be easily replicated in Photoshop...if it can be done at all. How would you get the great soft light and the perfect shadows without hours and hours on the screen with Photoshop? Better to just relax and take your pictures during this magical time.

I read a book once (okay...more than one book) where the advice to the 'serious' photographer was to spend an entire day around your subject. It advised that you watch carefully how the light changes and how the shadows move to create a completely new "look" to your subject. It's something I plan to day. But until then I will just wait for Golden Hour light to fall on a beautiful thing and make it even more beautiful.

But there's no question: Golden Hour is God's gift to photographers.