Don’t F*ck with the Golden Hour Syndrome

Did you already experience this moment of stress when the sun is about to set and you’ve still not found anything interesting to photograph? Or when warm and cosy in your sleeping bag you wake up and see clouds transforming into gold? Then you’re certainly affected by the Golden Hour Syndrome. But don’t worry, we all are (to a certain point).

“A period of half an hour after sunrise and half an hour before sunset”. This could be the definition of what is known as Golden Hour. Every photographer certainly knows about this concept as it represents the moments of the day when we are supposed to be out shooting.

Every twilight I witness inspires in me the desire to go to a west as far and beautiful than the one where the sun sets. — H.D. Thoreau, Walking[1]

Light becomes orange, sky glows and colours pop. Suddenly this golden hue transforms everything around and even the most mundane subjects become interesting. These lights are called Golden Lights. Why wouldn’t you fall in love with them?

Without golden light...

Without golden light…

With golden light!

With golden light!

 

Problem is: “Love is blind” — I’d rather use a more literal translation from French: “Love makes blind” which IMO makes more sense here. The danger of falling in love with Golden Lights is that it may even make us forget to pay attention to the other interesting moments of the day. We may then end up only photographing during Golden Hour, leading to certain frustration if nothing happens then. This is bad.

Although it’s a great idea to be prepared for the Golden Hour, they are certainly not the only moments during the day where you can get interesting photographs and it’s a good practice to just stay alert all the time. Cloudy sky gives great opportunities for softer lights and harsh middle-of-the-day direct sunlight can also be helpful to describe harsh conditions or activities, or to create strong contrasts when working in black and white. I could also speak of the enchanting Blue Hours, right before and right after the night, or the eerie shots one can get under moonlight. Even shooting before sunrise and after sunset can lead to incredible shots… One day has plenty of different lights to offer, so why discriminate them?

Light is still very interesting after the sun has set. This shot has been taken with the very last lights during twilight. Notice the soft curves this light creates on sand at the bottom of the photograph.

Light is still very interesting after the sun has set. This shot has been taken with the very last lights during twilight. Notice the soft curves this light creates on sand at the bottom of the photograph.

 

Every light deserves some attention. Some maybe more than others depending on what you intend to photograph, and some lights can be hard to work with — especially harsh sunny daylight — but great shots can be obtained in every kind of situation. So instead of becoming a light-racist, try to think out of the Golden Light box. Now you’ve been warned: don’t f*ck with the Golden Hour Syndrome, it can make you blind!

This photograph has been taken under harsh midday lights. However, by under-exposing the shot, I managed to create this contrasty image.

This photograph has been taken under harsh midday lights. However, by under-exposing the shot, I managed to create this contrasty image with vivid colors.

 

Have you experienced Golden Light dependency? Are you still addict to Golden Hours? I would be delighted to read about you in the comment section. So don’t be shy, we can help you! ;-)

If you’re not familiar with the concept of #MakePhotographs or feel outraged by what’s written here, please read this.


  1. Translated from French by myself. If you know the original text, I’ll gladly replace my approximate translation.  ↩

Comments

  • 23/01/2015
    reply

    Intéressant comme article, ta dernière photo est une belle illustration de tes dires. J’ai pour ma part rarement l’occasion de sortir aux Golden hour, donc le problème ne se pose pas trop :)

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