By Adrian Klein
I am sure some of you are sitting there thinking of your next big trip or outing and about the amazing sunrise and sunset photos you will bring home. Full of pop and snap with red, yellow and orange tones. Capturing amazing golden hour images is a physical high for many photographers. Drug addicts have their substance of choice, techies have the next gadget they are clamoring to get and photographers it’s bringing home that prized image you have been waiting for. Yes for some of it’s about the journey yet that is not the majority. The majority is looking for that next high which usually means sunrise/sunset moments.
The golden hours are moments I often live for too for many reasons yet as each year of photography passes by in my life I try to step back and look at where I am to grow in other areas or challenge myself. This is one area I always remind myself. There is a lot more to photography than the golden hour.
Now that I have your attention I will elaborate on benefits to forgetting about the golden light and where it really makes little to no difference.
Stock Portfolio: I will agree the market for stock photography has blown up into the realm of saturation. If it’s a semi-known location there will be hundreds of images to pick from with a few clicks online. If it’s a well known location it will be thousands or tens of thousands. It’s not normally the fine art golden hour work they are after. I have licensed my fine art work yet more often than not it’s the more “realistic” imagery that many publishers are after. As a matter a fact as I was working up this blog post the Photo Cascadia crew received an email from a company we work with looking specifically for “sunny” and “bright” photos.
My mother in-law last year for Christmas stocking stuffer bought me a special issue from Sunset Magazine called Our National Parks. How many images do you think were taken during the golden hours? Well for this issue I actually decided to count for the heck of it. Out of 93 images I counted 8 (or 9%). There were a few forest and canyon photos yet most were out in the open with various landscapes.
The above is only one example. If you are selling stock, or trying to, it’s best to think outside of the golden zone.
Intimate / Abstract: If you like to look at the finer details whether it’s macro or intimate landscapes you will find many hours during the day for most locations where this is an option. Often all you need is a small area of shade if you need that all. For macro work I see some in the field taking a diffusing panel that way they can take photos regardless of clouds or sun.
Here is an image from a recent trip to Olympic National Park backpacking along the coast. The sun had been up for a couple hours at this point. I found this area and was able to get my composition with a small patch of shadow. Only a few feet to my left was sand and rocks already bathing in the morning sun.
Snooze Button Lifeline: I have lost track or the number of people that have told me I am crazy for getting up at a time when some are just finishing their night on the town, all for the purpose of getting somewhere by car or foot to click the shutter of my camera.
If you are not a morning person or are not awakened by visions of magical sunrises dancing in your head then rest assured there are plenty of options. Search the web. You will find many great photographers from stock to fine art where a majority of their work is not taken during the golden hour. Get your beauty rest then head out. I can’t say I don’t fall into that trap once in a while myself. Sleep is a necessity and going days on end sleeping half at night and half during the day certainly can wear on the body.
This is one of the reasons I like winter season photography. The sunrises are later and the sunsets early. Here is a winter image taken after sunrise where I slept in and missed the golden light. It still worked out in my favor in the end.
Forests and Canyons: Both of these depending on their exact makeup and location will vary on what will make for the best conditions yet normally it’s not first thing in the morning or the last light of the day you are after. When I head out hiking into the Forest in the Columbia River Gorge I have had only a few exceptions of needing to be somewhere very early or very late. Most are fine during the day, an overcast or wet day at that.
I remember traveling The Narrows in Zion National Park years ago. The area I was photographing only had the perfect light for less than 30 minutes in mid-afternoon. If you are a night owl you will still have no problem making your way into forest and canyons for the best images.
I have more thoughts and examples on this subject that I will share in part two of this post. What are your thoughts on this subject? If you find yourself always chasing the golden hours and forgetting about the rest of the day please feel free to chime in.
Location: Portland, OR
Adrian Klein has a passion for the outdoors and landscape photography that is endless. He has traveled the parks, shorelines and wilderness capturing images that represent each area through his own artistic eye from the curbs to the far off trails.