Undoubtedly, landscape photography is driven by certain laws of nature. It is no secret that the most beautiful pics can be captured either in the morning or in the evening. The Calvinist scale shows clearly that the best for photography are the so-called ”golden hours”. Places lit by noon light might not be so attractive to photographers while dawn, dusk, sunrise and sunset are uncomparably scineric. But why? Why at this time sun emanates warm tones of light with dominant monochromatic shades of gold, purple or red? Why can we observe a real spectacle of lights then? Hopefully, in this artical, I will provide you some detailed explenations why you can see good ambient light druring golden hours and why we should get outside with our DSLR during this time of the day. Let’s dive in!
Depending on the height of the sun over horizon, we are dealing with different intensity and colors of light. Many landscape photographer chase for goleden hours as the sun hanging low over the horizon penetrates through denser air, dispersing it subtly into warm tones. As the sun shades at the low angle, blue tones are lost in the atmosphere, giving you long- lasting red and purple ambience. Direct sunlight is replaced by indirect sunlight. Not to mention that, the low-hanging sun shades, enhances the three-dimensional nature of the photograph, positively impacting the photo’s exposure.
An additional element that enhances monochromatic colors during gloden hours can be the fog, which is strongly moistened with warm colors. The mist is characterised by dense air desepring light very intenlsly blocking harsh light comming from the sun. The least fertile part of the day for photography is the noon, as the sun sets high above the horizon, throwing sharp light that is almost perpendicular to the surface. This subtracts three-dimensional photographs flattening the frame. Excessive differnece between shadows and highlights look unacractive on the captures what can force us to the use of a gradation filter finally. Most of my photos captured during the noon are these ones i deleted from my computer recently as they do not provide any aestethic values in my photography.
Of course, when taking a picture in RAW format, you get a considerable control over DNR (dynamic range) of your pictures. I mean boosting detailes in shadows in particular what can hopefully boost the balance between shadows and hightlisght or lights and blacks. If i have to take a shot in noon light I always use gradation firlter (ND grad 3.0) from Lee as it can minimize very bright light spoiling the photo composition. To avoid nasty contrasr you should firt and foremost shot in golden hours. During differnet times of the day, we experience different tins of landscape. The table proves that:
|Time of the day||Dominering tint|
|dusk and dawn||bluish|
|sunset and sunrise||red, purple, pink, gold|
Why does it happen from more detailed point of view? The most basic answer is that light is refracted by particles in the atmosphere. To better figure this out, we need to have a basic understanding of how light behaves in the air, the atmosphere’s composition, the color of light and wavelengths. As sun is coming out, we see red or orange as dominiring colour of light because of the longest wavelenghts out of all colours form white light spectrum. As the sun approaches the horizon line, we are not able to see blue or violet as their lenghts of waves are too short to be seen. Sunlight must traverse a greater distance through our atmosphere so light waves are reflected and scattered. As a result, the sunlight appears dimmer. This is the major reason behind change in sunlight colour. What we first see during golden hours is orange and then it turns into red because even more of the short wavelength blues and greens are now scattered. Only the longer wavelengths are left to be seen.
A bit of phisics but still much-needed and worthy to understand these natural phenomenons giving our pics abolutely great ambient light. Not to mention that what I recommend is to download a tested golden hour app to report exact times of sunrise and sunset for different locations. It makes life easier for all landscape phtograpers chasing good golden gours light.