Cloudy conditions prevented a spectacular sunrise from happening, but the blue hour light in combination with the radiating clouds was wonderful. Yellowcraig Beach near North Berwick, East Lothian.

The blue hour in landscape photography

Camillo Berenos Photography Photographic musings, Scottish east coast Leave a Comment

The golden hour seems to have become the gold standard (no pun intended!) of landscape photography. It seems that every other time of day, shooting is reserved for those who have set their camera to full-automatic and probably shoot JPEGs (the horror!). And it is easy to understand why the golden hour has gained its popularity. Who doesn’t like the warm colours and long shadows, especially with a sky which is on fire? However, by the same token, perhaps it’s fair to admit that sunrise/sunset shots have become slightly extremely cliché? Judging by what’s popular on 500px.com, it seems like sunrise/sunsets have almost become a requirement for a landscape photo to be considered extraordinary. While I don’t have anything against sunrise/sunset shots (I love them as much as the next guy), the type of light an artist uses should be a deliberate choice. Yes, choice! Which implies that there are various other lights that can be considered desirable for each and every scene an artist wants to capture.

 

One of the most defining qualities of a photograph is light. Studio photographers can carefully create, position and modify their light. As such they have total control over how they can use light to fulfill their vision. Some choose to always use Rembrandt lighting when shooting portraits. Others don’t really care about Rembrandt lighting, but always, no matter what, use Butterfly lighting. As a landscape photographer we are limited by what nature has on offer. Not all types of light suit all landscapes. Shooting at noon in mid-summer when there is no cloud in the sky, is probably not such a great idea for most.

 

Cloudy conditions prevented a spectacular sunrise from happening, but the blue hour light in combination with the radiating clouds was wonderful. Yellowcraig Beach near North Berwick, East Lothian.

Long exposure seascape in East Lothian with the bass Rock in the distance

 

But many different types of light have their place. The blue hour, the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset, is a fantastic time of day to shoot landscapes. Despite this potential, it is often ignored by landscape photographers, even by fairly dedicated ones.

For a long time I have been among those who did not appreciate proper blue hour conditions and I was heavily disappointed when sunrise did not unfold as I expected. A few much needed hours of sleep lost, and all for nothing! Disappointments have been frequent, partly because of the unreliable weather forecasts and I could not appreciate the early morning light under cloudy conditions. I even went so far to get rid of the blue light during post processing!

Unfortunately, cloudy conditions are all too common here in Scotland, so I better embrace it then. And it is actually under these very conditions that the blue hour light is even more noticeable, which makes blue hour photography an attractive alternative for the standard golden hour shots!

I have only recently lost my fear for cloudy sunrises. The photograph in this post is a recent shot taken near North Berwick on the East Lothian coast in Scotland, where I have not tried to get rid of the blue hues by white-point adjustments. The colours are very close to how I perceived them that (ridiculously early) morning. I am definitely looking forward to more blue hour photography!

What do you think? Do you prefer the blue hour or the golden hour, and why?

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