Although I am on the prowl almost constantly for pictures, especially when I'm traveling, I would have to guess that I do 70-percent or so of my shooting during what photographers call the "golden hours." The golden hours are the first hour or so after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. During these times the sun is much lower to the horizon, making the light softer and more golden in color.
There are a number of benefits to shooting at these times. The sun is lower to the horizon during the golden hours and the warm color of the light is, of course, an obvious draw. I had been shooting this bridge late one afternoon and the light was very blue, very common and I was pretty frustrated. I had actually begun to pack up the camera and was going to look for another subject and then as I was loading up the car, looked back and saw the bridge transformed by this golden glow. I should have known better and waited longer! I had to quickly grab the tripod and head back out onto the dock I was shooting from and reframe the scene. It was worth it because the shot suddenly came to life and I've sold this shot several times to book publishers.
Light quality is another nice benefit of the golden hours. There is a softer quality to the light, which means that contrast is gentler, shadows are more open and highlights are less likely to be burned out. Also, because the light is raking across the land at such an oblique angle, there are a lot more textures brought out in landscapes. And if you're doing a portrait, you can place the low sun behind your subject and get a nice warm glow around the hair (turn on your flash in this situation to open up the faces a bit).
2 weeks ago