The Golden Moment

Garden of Eden, Arches National Park, 2002; note pleasant but predictable mid-after light
Garden of Eden, Arches National Park, 2002; note pleasant but predictable mid-afternoon light

Photographers who shoot outdoors a lot try to take advantage of what has become known as the “Golden Hour” or “Golden Moment.” In reality, this period of time during the first or last light of day can vary depending on what you are shooting and how you want to use the light. Essentially, this moment is when the sun is low in the sky, and providing desirable illumination, whether on human faces, or the landscape all around. It differs quite dramatically from the harsh glare of midday sun, and also from the soft light of cloudy days.

Light from the Golden Moment is generally warmer, meaning that it is rich in reds and yellows that convey warmth. An additional element of the Golden Moment is that the sky itself is often beautifully lit by the setting sun, though this often happens shortly after the Golden Moment on your subjects subsides.

I look at first and last light every day, and shoot using it when I can. The only thing a photographer can control about this light is where he is when he expects the light to be right.

Garden of Eden, Arches National Park, 2004, just before sunset; note dramtically warmer tones and a more inviting character of the image
Garden of Eden, Arches National Park, 2004, just before sunset; note dramtically warmer tones and a more inviting character of the image
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