Don’t Sleep Through the Golden Hours

by Earl J Posted on March 03, 2010

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Have you ever looked at your photographs and thought that their color and contrast would be so much better if you had avoided the middle-of-the-day blahs? It’s much easier to create great pictures when you “Don’t Sleep Thru the Golden Hours”. The colors are richer, the details from the increased contrast are enhanced, and it’s amazing to compare and see how much better things look at sunrise or at sunset. I’d like to illustrate by showing you a few examples of scenes I’ve captured in the early morning hours and during the hour or so leading to sunset – the Golden Hours.

I was on an overnight ferry from Stockholm, Sweden and got up before almost anyone else to get this view as we were coming into Helsinki, Finland. The black outline on the right is a part of the ship I included to give perspective to the shot.

These first two photos were taken with my first, 2MP digital camera. Not bad results, as long as the prints are not enlarged too much.

Another time I got up early was to take photos in the gardens of Chateau Villandry, France. If I had taken this later in the day I would have lost the details produced by the long shadows and would not have had the rich, blue morning sky.

This is in a botanical garden in Porto, Portugal, again very early in the morning. Much of the definition and detail seen here would have been lost in mid-day.

I got up before sunrise so that I could capture shots like this one while on the Suwannee River in north Florida. Once the sun got higher, the wonderful contrast and colors would have been washed out and the effect would be quite different.

OK, I know this is another of the many sun-set photos we’ve all tried to take. But I’m including this one of the Pacific as viewed in Florence, Oregon, because these colors lasted a very short time. I shot lots of pictures here and found the couple and their dog added new attention and dimension to an otherwise standard sunset photograph.

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  1. BarbaraJ Says:

    I am glad you did this article. Earl this in my opinion is the best time to take beautiful shots. I have found that when we are on trips with the waters, fishing boats and sunsets. I even take my flowers in the same light, morning and evening!

  2. Joey Says:

    Great article Earl. I love your photographs and the time of day sure makes a difference. I’ve noticed when I tried taking photos of my flowers on my deck, that I’d often times be dodging the shadows. Great tips!

  3. AnnAbbott Says:

    You are so right. I know this but I never find myself out those special times of the day. I must make it a point to do this. Something as simple as know that the light at dusk and dawn is the best will make your pictures so much more dramatic. Thanks for the excellent tips and examples.

  4. conniee4 Says:

    What a great article! First, great photos! And second. Great time of day (no harsh sun/shadow’s) Well written! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

  5. scrapsage Says:

    Earl, this is so well written, and easy to understand. Your photos are stunning, as I would expect from you, but the information is so relevant and makes such a huge difference in the look of the photo. Perfect tip, easy to implement and guaranteed to give excellent results!

more about Earl J

I'm a long-time film photographer, starting with a darkroom in my parents' fruit-cellar when a teen-ager. I fought the change to digital at first, but no longer. I've become a convert and Shutterfly has been my on-line provider since 2002. Since then I've placed (as I write this) 135 orders for prints, enlargements, calendars for every year and 42 photo books in different sizes. I'm very pleased with the top quality of all Shutterfly products.

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