Recently, I went on a photowalk with a friend. We went to Frankfurt, the European capital of finance, to do some street and architectural shooting. After roaming the busy streets of Frankfurt’s city center, around 7 pm, my friend suggested we head to the banks of the river Main to get a better look at the skyline. Once we arrived, he set up his tripod, mounted his Nikon D800 equipped with the 14-24mm f2.8 on it, and laid down on the grass. When I asked him what he was up to, he said, “Now we wait for the blue hour to arrive.”
I was confused. My approach to photography had so far been to capture whatever I see, whatever I happen upon. Rarely would I seek out a specific location in order to photograph it, let alone wait for the light to change in order to get the perfect shot. (Though I was aware that this is the approach often taken by more ‘serious’ photographers, or those making a living from it.) Since the blue hour was still over an hour away, we used the time to chat, but also to prepare: trying out different angles, finding the correct crop, taking test shots in order to find the best camera settings etc.
When the blue hour finally arrived, I realized why we had taken the time needed to prepare: we were all set, and ready to get the shot we wanted. We could still tweak the settings or change the crop, but all the basics were covered. And thanks to that, we got away with some great pictures that might not have been possible had we stumbled upon the scene accidentally after the sun had already begun to set. Thanks to our being there well before the blue hour began, we were able to take pictures from every possible angle multiple times, and capture the way the light changed. This later made it possible to choose from the many pictures we took the one that we liked best.
Shooting a city skyline during the blue hour is not the only scenario that benefits from being prepared. For outdoor portraiture, the golden hour–which is the time just before the blue hour, when the sun is already low and the light is soft and warm–is the most beneficial time of day. In order to be able to get the shots you want, it is advisable to be prepared well before the sun gets low, so that you won’t waste time figuring out settings and angles once the light is ideal. Because fiddling with settings or even troubleshooting can eventually cost you a shot or even the entire shoot.
Landscapes are beautiful to capture not only during the golden hour, but also early in the morning. While it may mean that you’ll have to get up early while it’s still dark outside, you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful light of the day, and quite possibly some of the most beautiful pictures you ever took.
Although it may seem like wasting time at first, in the end taking your time and being prepared will pay off.
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