Our Friend the Sun (Part 3 of 3): Blue Hour

Like Golden Hour, Blue Hour is another fantastic time to shoot. The sky transitions between dark blue to light blue or vice versa depending on the time of day, and really gives off a rich blue hue in your photos.

When is it?

The timing of Blue Hour is basically the opposite of Golden Hour. While Golden Hour occurs during the hour after sunrise or before sunset, Blue Hour occurs during the hour before sunrise or after sunset. If you want to pinpoint it exactly, here’s an easy site to find Blue Hour: http://www.bluehoursite.com/

Lighting_Part3.jpg

What to Shoot?

Blue Hour is awweeesome for landscapes, cityscapes, and if you want to capture light trails. See some of my examples below:

Flathead Lake, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana

Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Techniques

Since there’s less light during Blue Hour you’ll have to have a camera where you can control the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO (I’ll be getting into Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO in my later posts). You'll also need a tripod or something sturdy to rest your camera on. Anyways, these are usually my settings:

  1. Mode: Manual

  2. Shutter Speed: Varies

  3. Aperture: f/8 - f/22

  4. ISO: Not higher than 1,000, but the lower the better.

I’ll get into post processing in later photos as well, but capturing Blue Hour is fairly straight forward as you’re set up in a fixed position. Just make sure you get to your location early enough to set up and be ready to capture the quickly fleeting moment! 

Panda Travel Signature.png
 

Our Friend the Sun (Part 2 of 3): Golden Hour

Golden Hour

Golden Hour aka Magic Hour aka my favorite time to shoot. Why? Because the sun is way softer and warmer, giving huge depth to your photos. As briefly mentioned in Part 1 of the Lighting Series, cameras capture images with light. Since the light from the sun is softer, you have more flexibility on how to use the light with each capture.

When is it?

Golden Hour occurs twice a day, about an hour before sunrise and about an hour before sunset. There’s a bunch of apps out there that give you precise times on when Golden Hour will occur, but honestly, just know about when sunrise and sunset is and shoot away.

Lighting_Part1.jpg

How do I shoot during Golden Hour?

In the simplest form, there’s really 2 ways to position yourself to shoot during Golden Hour: Front Light and Back Light:

1) Front Light

This is the most straightforward technique with the sun somewhere behind the camera, lighting your subjects. However, since the light is softer, your subjects can face directly into the sun without them squinting. Here's a buffalo from Yellowstone National Park, front lit, during Golden Hour. Notice how the colors are warmer and more vibrant, and the shadows more dynamic:

IMG_6514.jpg

2) Back Light

From Part 1 of the Lighting Series, I mentioned not to shoot into the sun. You can forget that during Golden Hour. Back Lighting is one my favorite things to do during this time because it adds so much depth to your image. Here's my shot from Yellowstone National Park with the herd of buffalo backlit:

IMG_6550.jpg

Have no fears during this time. Shoot away and experiment. Try positioning your subject between you and the camera or snag some cool lens flares like the image below:

IMG_6500.jpg

The mighty Ra is generous at this time and will bring you much fortune. I hope you’re as excited as I am about Golden Hour aka the Michael Jordan of Light aka the.. you get the point. Amazing colors in nature reveal themselves during this time. Go capture them!

Panda Travel Signature.png
 

Our Friend the Sun (Part 1 of 3)

1) Lighting and Your Camera

Now that you’ve learned about Composition, you're on your way to become a better photographer! The next topic is the most powerful source of lighting on earth: the sun. The sun is one of those factors that can really make or break a photo. Why is the sun so important? Light is essentially the basis on how a camera captures a photo:

A simplified diagram of how a camera captures a photo.

A simplified diagram of how a camera captures a photo.

To put it really simply, when you hit the button to capture a photo, light comes in through the lens, hits the electronic sensor (digital cameras) or film (analog cameras), and turns it into an image. Sure there’s different techniques with shutter speed, ISO, and aperture during different situations to help during low light, but let’s worry about that later. Part 1 of the lighting series focuses on Location of the Light Source:

2) Location of the Light Source

The Location of the Light Source is key. Unless you want to shoot a dramatic sunset with objects silhouetted, you don’t want the sun behind your subject or else they’ll be pretty dark. Try to keep the sun behind you or to the side of you:

Bad Positioning - Sun behind the subject

Bad Positioning - Sun behind the subject

Good Positioning - Sun lighting the subject

Good Positioning - Sun lighting the subject

What’s amazing about the sun is that as it moves throughout the day, thus the appearance of your subject will change with it. Shadows of your subject become longer and more dramatic during sunrise and sunset. Colors of your subject become deeper and more vibrant. I love shooting during these times because of how different the same thing can look. Check out the same image of the Grand Tetons during sunset and sunrise:

The Grand Tetons during sunset as the sun is behind the mountains.

The Grand Tetons during sunset as the sun is behind the mountains.

The Grand Tetons during sunrise as the sun is hitting the mountains.

The Grand Tetons during sunrise as the sun is hitting the mountains.

Thank you so much for reading! In 2 weeks, I’ll be describing one of my favorite times to shoot: Golden Hour. Be sure to subscribe to receive updates and follow @HappyPandaTravels on Instagram for inspirations!

Panda Travel Signature.jpg