I have always been surprised when someone in either my online class with the BPSOP, or in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct all over our planet asks me what I mean when I say not to forget to shoot in the Blue Hour.
As a result these same photographers will get to a location maybe a few minites before the sun comes up or will pack up when the sun sets (or even sooner) and head for home. All I can tell you out there that you’re missing out on some quality time.
OK, maybe for some of you out there I need to explain exactly what I mean by the Blue Hour, and let’s get the technical stuff out of the way first:
Depending on where you are on our planet and the time of year, the blue hour occurs when the sun is between -6 to -8 degrees below the horizon. During the blue hour the sun is so far below the horizon that only the blue and violet wavelengths are scattered and visible in our sky; while the red and yellow wavelengths pass through into the rest of the universe.
As the sun comes up (golden hour) the blue and violet wavelengths diminish leaving the red yellow and orange to start taking over; this is what’s referred to as dawn. Dawn lasts until the sun breaks the horizon, and at that point it’s sunrise.
Conversely, Sunset (golden hour) is when the sun is nearing or on the horizon, and it’s followed by dusk when there’s no direct sunlight anymore. The red, yellow, and orange wavelengths are fading and the blue and violet are becoming dominant; this is the blue hour…then only darkness.
Btw, blue hour happens even when it’s overcast so don’t pack it in and go home. The length and strength depends on how much cloud cover there is.
I love shooting in the blue hour. It’s moody and magical and can often make up for not so good photos you’ve taken during the day; especially if for some reason you were late for the golden hour.
Since it requires longer exposures and slower shutter speeds, unless you’re using ancillary lighting, you best finish up any portraits before the sun is too far off the horizon.
I like shooting landscapes scenes with structures in them, cityscapes, silhouettes, and anything that has water as one of the main subjects or dominates the foreground. Red and white car lights are great subjects, filled with visual interest and tension.
So, my fellow photographers, next time you go out either go out earlier for the morning blue hour or stay late after the sunset. You’ll thank me for it!!!
-BPSOP Instructor: Joe Baraban