MA GIC HOUR

When the sun is just be­low the hori­zon, the light is slightly more nu­anced and sur­pris­ing

NPhoto - - Niko Pedia -

When the sun sets in a clear sky, all the nor­mal dy­nam­ics of light change. Gone are shad­ows and con­trast, and the bal­ance be­tween the colour of the light on dif­fer­ent sides of the sky sud­denly be­comes al­most even. The re­sult is a short pe­riod of time when the light is del­i­cate and shift­ing. The same hap­pens in re­verse be­fore sunrise, so you get two chances a day in good weather. The term comes from the movie in­dus­try, and the most fa­mous film shot en­tirely dur­ing Magic Hour (in­cred­i­bly ex­pen­sive to do) was Ter­rence Mal­ick’s Daysof

Heaven in 1978. It’s re­ally worth watch­ing that film to see how a great di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy, Nestor Al­men­dros, used it.

Depend­ing on the lat­i­tude, you may not even have one hour, so it’s as well to work quickly and know what you’re look­ing for. Colour is Magic Hour’s strong suit, for the rea­son that there’s a sub­tle but in­sis­tent op­po­si­tion be­tween the warm hues in the di­rec­tion of the sun and the bluish ones on the other side of the sky. Im­me­di­ately af­ter sunset, they be­come more matched in bright­ness, so that at some point you have two op­posed soft light sources bathing a scene or sub­ject from ei­ther side. Look for re­flec­tions – bod­ies of wa­ter work par­tic­u­larly well at Magic Hour.

The River Nile, just min­utes af­ter sunset. The still wa­ter re­flects the warmer part of the sky, while the wa­ter ruf­fled by a breeze re­flects the cooler colours from the op­po­site di­rec­tion

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