Is the Time of Day Important?


Over the years a lot of ink has been spilled over the issue of light in photography.  The “golden hour” is the holy grail of photographic light.  The “golden hour(s)” are those times right after sunrise and just before sunset when the sun gives off it’s golden hue.  Outside of the golden hour the sun is bright, casts hard shadows, and (especially if its overhead) does not cast a very good light at all, it tends to be a hard, white light.

We don’t always have the luxury of determining when we will photograph a given subject.  Seldom can I be at a particular place at the right time to catch the photo that I want.  A few years ago I was on a tour of Poland that included a boat ride down the Dunajec River; the scenery was beautiful but the boat ride took place outside of the golden hours.  I had no choice as to when the ride took place and I couldn’t go back later, so I made the best of the situation and took numerous photos as I went a long.  You can’t choose your relatives, nor can you always choose when you’ll be in a given place at a given time, so you make the most of the situation.

All that being said, the importance of the “golden hour(s)” came home to me this past week.  I usually bring my camera with me whenever I go out.  I was on a call and wanted to take a photo of a barn that I’ve photographed a number of times.  This time there was snow on the ground and I wanted to capture the image.  I got to the people I was visiting at about 1:15 and took the photo (#1) before I went in.  A few hours later, I took another photo (#2) as I left.  It’s important to remember that it is winter in the northern hemisphere and the sunsets earlier  in the day, so the “golden hour(s)” are earlier (and, in the morning, later) in the day.

Photo #1

Photo #1

Photo #1 was taken at 1:20 p.m. ISO 200, f/11, 1/200 second.
(to see the full sized photo, right click the photo and open it in a new window or tab)


Photo #2

Photo #2


Photo #2 was taken at 3:46 p.m. (about an hour before sunset). ISO 200, f/11, 1/200 second.
(to see the full sized photo, right click the photo and open it in a new window or tab)

Yes, the exposures are identical based on my hand held Polaris incident light meter.  While giving off the same light, the sun was lower in the sky and gave off a richer light that was lacking earlier in the afternoon.  In the photo #2  The shadows are better; I like the (for the lack of a better word) hue of the light better; the tree trunk is more pronounced.

Some may make the point that photo #1 is underexposed, but an examination of the histogram says that is not the case.  After examining these two photos, I’ve determined that I will make more effort in utilizing the golden hours in my photography.  That will not always be an option for me, and in those situations I will make the best of the situation (can you say “polarizing filter”?).

I may not be able to choose my relatives but sometimes, sometimes, I can choose the time I take my landscapes.  I will be more aware of when I shoot and try to utilize the golden hours in my photography.

Jim the Photographer
Manchester CT


About Jim The Photographer

I am a photographer from Manchester, Connecticut. My photographic interests are many and varied.
This entry was posted in exposure, golden hour, photographic lighting, shoot locations and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s