Lesson 67: The Rule of Golden Light

We have talked about the “Golden Hour” or “Magic Hour” on more than one occasion–see Lessons 16 and 17–but since I managed to get out to shoot briefly during Golden Hour, I thought it was a good time to revisit the concept.

Here’s the rule:  virtually anything you want to photograph will look better during the golden hour on a clear day than at any other time of day or under manmade lighting.  Since it would be unlike me to imply that any rule is always true, one exceptions that comes to mind is photos of objects, which can look great shot outdoors during the golden hour, but if you have some really specific details you’re trying to capture, manmade lighting might be easier to deal with.  Photojournalists have been known to scoff at the luxury of being able to shoot during the golden hour–history happens when it happens, not around the timing of the best lighting.

That said, if you have the opportunity to shoot during the golden hour, take it.  As I mentioned in Lesson 17, there is an app for that.  It’s called Magic Hour and you can set it to tell you an hour ahead of time when Magic (or Golden) Hour begins as well as when it actually starts and it will even countdown magic hour for you.

That said, I am currently living in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Chattanooga is surrounded by ridges and (small) mountains.  These high-elevation features make for great scenery, but they also block the sun.  My Magic Hour alarm went off at 7:37PM.  By 7:55PM, the only things still being hit by golden light were the tops of the tallest buildings around.  Geographical obstructions make for a very brief golden “hour”–more of a golden 15 minutes!

In any case, in those 15 minutes, I happened to be out walking my dog along the Tennessee River, so I grabbed some shots.  It’s hard to resist when the light is so pretty.

Your Assignment:  Try to get out during the golden hour with your iPhone (or other camera) handy.  Stay out of ravines that run North and South or you won’t get much light.  You can look up magic hour for your part of the world on a given date here:  http://www.golden-hour.com  Notice the difference in the color and angle of the light.  Try photographing things that you have photographed in other light conditions.  If you can, compare the photos and see if you can tell the difference the lighting conditions make.

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