Those of us who love our gardens and the wildlife in them often turn to our cameras to try to preserve the ever-changing landscape around us. A great nature photo brings you back to the moment it was taken, allowing you to hear the twitter of birds, smell the fragrance of the blooms, feel the breeze on your face. Photography is more accessible than ever to amateurs today, with newer cameras helping make focus and exposure easier to control, but truly special photographs require more than just a good camera. One of the hardest things to get right is often the lighting, which is what makes the time known to photographers as The Golden Hour so wonderful.
The Golden Hour is generally defined as the hour or so just after sunrise or before sunset. (There’s no scientific formula, though this website offers to help you calculate the Golden Hour for any location and day.) During this time angle of the sun is low, and the light breaks through the atmosphere to give everything a softer, warmer look. Locations that are overexposed during high noon may be perfectly lit during the Golden Hour, turning an ordinary photo into an extraordinary one.
Bird photographers will realize that the Golden Hour coincides with a time of highest activity for birds – sunrise. More birds are out and active early in the morning than at any other time. Those who love to photograph flowers will find them accentuated first thing in the morning by leftover dewdrops catching the first rays of the sun. Combine those factors with the magic lighting, and you’re likely to take some of your most wonderful photos before you’ve even finished your first cup of coffee.
People love to take photos of sunsets (I must have hundreds of them myself), but challenge yourself to turn away from the main show for a few minutes and see what that slanting end-of-day sunlight is doing to the landscape. The light in the last moments before sunset casts pinks and golds onto everything around. Try capturing birds silhouetted against the fading light, when their feathers often reflect the colors in the skies above and change their appearance ever so subtly.
Photographer Ansel Adams once said, “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” It’s certainly true that rules don’t always apply, but that doesn’t mean we amateur photographers can’t gather as many tips from the professionals as possible to make our photos special. Using the Golden Hour to your advantage is one of easiest ways to make your amateur photos look professional – and memorable.
Looking for more photography tips? We’ve got you covered – click here!