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Golden hour photography

by Greg Belfrage

Lighting is one of the biggest challenges facing any photographer.  Shooting outdoors can sometimes be especially difficult because you cannot control the level or quality of light.

That's one reason so many photographers enjoy shooting during the golden hour.  The golden hour, or magic hour, is the hour immediately after sunrise... and the hour before sunset. 

The sunlight during these hours has a warm, soft, golden glow and can produce some really great results.  You'll also find objects cast long shadows during the golden hour.  The combination of these effects will make your photos much more visually interesting than shooting under full sun.

Most of my best photographs have come from the 90 minutes near sunset.  I generally shoot for an hour before sunset (the golden hour) and the 30 minutes after sunset (the blue hour).  

It can help to plan your subjects in advance to make best use of available light.  I keep a small notebook in my camera bag of photo and subject ideas, so I'm never at a loss when conditions appear good for taking photographs.  I also jot down the best time of day to photograph each subject, based on its direction and facing.  Some will photograph best in the morning while others will receive better light in the evening. 

For instance, the photo below was taken in the morning.  Shooting the same photo in the evening, with the sun behind me, would have produced dramatically different results.

The quality of light is so rich during the golden hour that some outdoor photographers refuse to shoot at any other time of day.  

Get out and experiment!  In addition to the great quality of light, you may find shooting outdoors around sunrise and sunset to be peaceful and serene.

Greg Belfrage is an amateur photographer in Sioux Falls, SD.  You can view more of his artwork at http://www.redbubble.com/people/dakotavistas  or follow his photos on Facebook.