Typically, for Landscape photographers, we tend to favour in taking photos in the morning or evening, which is the transition time from night to day or vice versa. During the transition, the colour of the sky will change from yellowish to multi colours, then blue colours before it turns into entirely dark or the other way around in the morning. At the same time, the lighting of the scene will also change accordingly. The transition time can split into the following light phases.
The light phases are based on the elevation of the sun, as the starting time and duration of these light phases can be varied depending on the location you are. Fyi, here’s the complete list of light phases from Photopills web site but let’s focus on Golden Hour, Blue Hour & Night time, the favourite phases for photographers.
Golden hour is what people refer as the best moment to photograph the scenery. It started when the sun position is getting low at around 6° from the ground and go to -4° below the ground.
During this period, the sun is low and produce a nice, soft light with warm colour tone. Unlike taking photo in the daytime, it doesn’t produce strong shadows with harsh lighting. Every time when I process a photo that taken during this period of time, I tend to emphasize the sunlight, create a blazing warm
When the sun gets close to the horizon, this is when the sky and the clouds started to light up by the sunlight and showing different colours, yellowish, red, orange. We often called this phenomena as “burning clouds” here. 🙂
To photograph during the Golden Hour, most of the time you will need to do bracketing shots or using filters so that the sky in your photos won’t be overblown. To find out how to do bracketing shots, you can check out my previous post “Exposure Bracketing For Perfect Details“.
After the golden hour, when the sun elevation goes from -4° to -6°, the sky gets dimmer and the colours slowly turn into a singular blue colour. This is also the time phase that commonly known as Blue Hour.
During the Blur Hour, the contrast between the sky and foreground is less intensive, when you can take a picture of scenery in a single shot without overexposed the sky or underexposed the foreground. It is the easiest time phase to take the photo, and it is also the best time to photograph a city. The moment the sky turns blue, the city starts to light up by all sort of artificial lights. Most of the lights are warm, orangish colour. Blue sky, orange lights, the two contrasting colours that are opposing to each other on a colour wheel can create a powerful combination to the visual, making your photo more “POP”. Don’t believe it? Check out how many movie posters have been following such colour guideline by google “blue and orange poster”.
After the Blue Hour, the sky turns into dark blue (Nautical & Astronomical Twilights) and then into pitch black colour. That’s the time that most photographers would stop their shooting and start to figure on where are they should be going for breakfast/dinner. (Photography always come together with delicious meals ^^)
You will still be able to take photo of the city during this time phase, but the lights of the city can be over intensive and get overblown easily. Bracketing shots would be advisable to recover those overexposed city lights.
For landscape, you can consider in photographing the starry night sky, such as Milky Way, if only you are at a place far away from light pollution. You may also want to check out the moon phase and also the best timing to photograph the Milky Way. I have a series of blog posts on how to locate the Milky Way, you can read it here: “Complete guide to photographing the Milky Way“
Or even trying out Star trails.
You may wonder? How about the daytime? Are we not able to get a good photo during that period? Well, in most cases, daytime is the less favourable time for landscape photography, due to harsh lighting and less interesting sky. However, you can still come out something during this light phase by doing Long Exposure Black & White Photography. If you are interested into this genre of photography, you will need to get ND filters, at least 10-stops filter and above. Sometime, you may need to stack more than 1 ND filter just to darken the light intensively, so that you can use long shutter speed to create a motion blur effect on the cloud.
Now you should’ve a better understanding on what kind of photos can you get at different time of the day. I hope you enjoy the post, am I looking forward to see you again in the next one! Happy Shooting!
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