Much loved – per­haps too much – the mel­low light at Golden Hour al­ways lives up to pho­tog­ra­phers’ ex­pec­ta­tions…

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…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

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