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Capturing Magic

The Golden Hours of Photography

By C.B. VisionsPublished about a month ago 6 min read
Top Story - April 2024
17
The river bank of the iconic Ruhr in Essen during sunset.

In the world of photography, timing is the key to everything. While skilled compositions and technical proficiency are undoubtedly crucial, the perfect lighting can create the perfect photo. Nowadays, we can determine any light ourselves and are no longer dependent on any natural light source, thanks to the developed technology. We can turn every day into a night by using the right filters. And we can illuminate every night to be seen as a day. A typical process, especially in the film industry.

Natural light holds a unique charm in photography, when the spontaneity of the moment and the authenticity of the environment are paramount. Carrying extensive lighting equipment isn't always practical, and even if it were, it might detract from the genuine experience. Natural light adds depth and character, enhancing the mood and atmosphere of the image. While technical possibilities grow, the simplicity and beauty of natural light remain integral to capturing the essence of a place.

Over four years of tireless touring through Germany and its neighboring countries, I acclimated to the diverse lighting conditions in each location, often unable to escape the harsh midday sun. As the journey unfolded, I lost the perfect timing, leading to missed opportunities for optimal lighting in my photos. The worse the image lighting became, the greater the effort in later image editing became. While there were still many memorable moments captured, I realized the importance of being more mindful of the lighting conditions to enhance the quality of my photography throughout the tour.

Every day gives us two particularly favorable times for taking photographs. On the one hand, the blue hour, in the morning directly before the golden hour and in the evening after it, in which we can freely determine the light; and, of course, the Golden Hour.

Few moments hold as much allure for photographers as the Golden Hours, also known as the Magic Hour of Photography.

It refers to the periods shortly after sunrise and before sunset, when the sun is low in the sky, casting a warm, golden hue across the landscape. These fleeting moments offer us a unique opportunity to capture scenes bathed in soft, diffused light, with rich, saturated colours and long, dramatic shadows.

One of the defining characteristics of this Magic Hour is the quality of light it provides. Unlike the harsh, overhead sun of midday, which can create unflattering shadows and washout colours, the low angle of the sun bathes everything it touches in a warm, flattering glow. This soft, directional light helps to sculpt and define subjects, adding depth and dimension to photographs.

Besides, the Golden Hour also offers us a wider ranger of creative possibilities. The warm, golden tones lend a sense of warmth and intimacy to images, evoking a feeling of nostalgia and tranquility. Whether capturing landscapes, portraits or cityscapes, we can use the golden light to imbue our photos with a sense of magic and enchantment. And there is another tremendous advantage: the sunrise/sunset can create a unique background for the scenery.

Golden Hour at the public beach of Mon Choisy

While still living in Pointe aux Cannonier, Mauritius, I created an almost daily routine to walk to the public beach of Mon Choisy late afternoon. At the beginning, it just was once a week, later it became every third day. With the sunset on the horizon over the Indian Ocean, I could add a lot of depth to the photos. When I started, I thought, it is something stupid to do, because the landscape would always be the same, so I would be shooting the same photo every time. However, it taught me that the landscape itself stayed the same, but everything else changed constantly. This routine sharpened my sense of the endless possibilities that nature has in store for us.

With the time, I became known as “the one with the camera”. Just another positive aspect of it, since it brought fame and more attention to my work.

“The long shadows and warm tones can create striking silhouettes and contrast, adding drama and visual interest to photographs.”

After I left Mauritius and moved to Essen, the banks of the river Ruhr became my creative “home”. Since I had learned that every day is different, the Ruhr actually offered me a tremendous amount of opportunities to explore and train the camera aspects. I took each walk along the river during the Golden Hour. These walks not only sharpened my senses and creativity but also gave me a certain amount of relaxation after a strenuous day. The Golden moments have an influence on our mood, too. Especially in our fast-paced technology-based times, it is even more important to let these natural moments have an impact on our soul.

During my time in Mauritius, I never really planned for the golden hour, but simply tried to be at the location an hour before sunset. I now use various apps that predict when the sun will be where and when exactly that hour will begin, so that I no longer have to leave it to chance.

Nowadays, we can predict pretty much everything, and we should take advantage of these possibilities. However, we should be prepared for surprises on site. Sometimes something stands in front of us, sometimes the weather doesn't stick to the forecast in the end, or the sun refuses to give us a magnificent sunset and simply disappears silently on the horizon behind the clouds.

The Golden Hour presents unique challenges and opportunities for us to explore. The modern technology and forecasts make it easier to plan such shootings. Even though we can check every location online nowadays, I still feel it is absolutely necessary to visit them in advance to internalize the conditions on the site personally. Rapidly changing light conditions require quick thinking and adaptability, as we must adjust the camera setting and compositions to make the most of any available light. The more we know, the better, the faster, and the easier we can adapt to the conditions.

And of course, we need to be aware of which of the two Golden Hours we need. The outcome of both is the same, you hardly can tell from photos if it is a sunrise or sunset in the background. Yet, it can make a tremendous difference to be out in the morning, when the hoarfrost is painting the landscape. Even foggy conditions are more likely in the morning than in the evening hours. After we lay eyes on the motive, we need to figure out what will be the best time for the shooting.

I wanted to take photos of the Holstein Gate in Lübeck once. Since it is already a frequently photographed location, it was quite difficult to create something new there. I planned the trip carefully, composed the photo before I went there. And messed it up big time. I did not use TPE app, else I would have known, that the sun sets on the wrong side of the Gate. So I had to return without the desires image. The next trip, about two years later, was even better planned, but they build a photo-box in front of it, so that I could not take the shot again. I needed a third trip and this time I waited until the box was gone, just to be on the location at the right time but on the wrong day. The sunrise did not appear the way I hoped it would. All the planning did not lead to the perfect photo yet.

Every location has its unique challenges to which we need to adapt us. And we always also need a pot of luck to achieve what we want.

The following apps I find most useful: PhotoPills & TPE (TPE 3D). Especially PhotoPills helps me to set the timing, while TPE helps me to discover the right place from where I can take the shot, since it shows me where the sun stands at every single minute of the day. I recommend both apps and to test their possibilities whenever time allows to do so, because they offer a high variety of opportunities beyond their function for the Magic Hour.

The Elbbrücken in Hamburg, at the end of the Golden Hour.

For those willing to rise early or stay out late, the rewards are worthwhile. The Golden Hours offer a chance to capture moments of unique beauty and magic that are truly unforgettable. To master the challenges of the golden atmosphere, it is required to be out there as often as possible. With the time we can learn to understand the weather, we master the skill to predict the glory of this hour. So, next time you are out with your camera, do not forget to keep your eyes on the sky to capture the world aglow in golden light.

Thank you for reading!

arthow to
17

About the Creator

C.B. Visions

An author, who writes tales of human encounters with nature and wildlife. I dive into the depths of the human psyche, offering an insights into our connection with the world around us, inviting us on a journeys. (Christian Bass)

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Comments (10)

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  • Ameer Bibi23 days ago

    Congratulations 🎉🎉 for top story amazing photography specially sunset

  • Congratulations on your top story.

  • Flamance @ lit.29 days ago

    Great piece of work great job

  • Gorgeous photography 📷 and prose

  • Anna 29 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • Carol Townend29 days ago

    I love golden sunsets and sunrises. My husband likes to capture them in photographs. There is something that we find peaceful about these times, and when done right, the photo's can be breath-taking

  • D. D. Leeabout a month ago

    This was a really nice read. Your photos are as well. I’ve always found myself in awe of the sun. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Vicki Lawana Trusselli about a month ago

    Your photos are beautiful. your story is well written.

  • Rick Henry Christopher about a month ago

    Your photos are perfectly beautiful Krishan. Thank you for sharing you insights. Your tips on the apps are helpful. I always have a problem figuring out where the sun stands and I end up with photos that are not very clear. TPE can help with this issue. I subscribed to you so I hope to be reading more great informational articles from you.

  • Kali Mailhotabout a month ago

    As I'm reading this, it is the golden hour in my area, and I can see the whole effect right from where the sun sits as I look out the window over my desk. It was wholly inspiring to read this in that setting! Personally I admire photography, but I am not often the photographer. However I really enjoyed hearing how this connects with your ideas on revisiting the same place, and finding new perspectives. That certainly gives me something to chew on. I personally love to emulate the golden hour of the prairies in my poems, of which the nostalgic, peaceful feeling of it is certainly the most significant part to convey. It is quite gratifying to see how a photographer likes to convey those same aspects of the poetic nature.

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