THE GOLD STANDARD
Much loved – perhaps too much – the mellow light at Golden Hour always lives up to photographers’ expectations…
…Although those expectations may be a bit too common. A low sun (for the technically minded, around about 20 degrees above the horizon) is a crowd-pleaser, no doubt about it. It works viscerally because anyone looking at it in photographs would quite like to be there physically. The golden colour is inviting.
The low angle of the light in Golden Hour has two conventionally attractive effects on the image. One is that it rakes the surface of a landscape, throwing it into relief with a combination of light and shade. It gives things more definition. The other valuable effect is that it gives you a three-point choice of shooting direction: you can shoot with the sun more or less behind you for punch and richness; with the sun to one side for strong modelling of most subjects; or into the sun for atmosphere, contrast and even silhouettes. It’s worth checking your general location for each of these, because it can increase the variety of imagery possible in a short amount of time, which is always a good thing. This, combined with quite often unexpected details catching shafts of light as the sun goes behind buildings, trees and suchlike, generally keeps photographers very busy. Late afternoons are a little more predictable than early mornings, simply because you have the earlier part of the afternoon to see the way the sun is moving.
Raking light falling on the Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, from an afternoon sun less than 10° above the horizon. Lengthening shadows are all part of the appeal of Golden Light
The lower the sun, the longer the shadows become – but the time passes quickly, so if you see a shot, get it before it’s gone