Shooting Challenge: The Golden Hour

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: The Golden Hour

There is a time every day when the world is just a touch more beautiful. It's during what's called the golden hour (or magic hour), when the sun's angle is just so that shadows soften and colors warm.


The Challenge

Take a photo during the golden hour, which is actually two hours—the first and last hours of sunlight in a day. Well, approximately.

It's an excellent time for portraits, landscapes...really anything you could possibly want to photograph.

The Technique

As soon as you read up on the golden hour, you'll see that exact definitions vary, with enthusiasts getting very technical as to the exact altitude of the sun on the horizon. The basic premise is just this: as the sun lowers toward the horizon, nature's spotlight shines on us indirectly, blue light scatters and shadows lengthen.

And for the most technical among you, there's an app along with a free calculator if you know your latitude/longitude.


It absolutely helps to check times of sunrise and sunset, but this is as much of an exercise in seeing light and color—paying attention to the way the environment affects your photography.

For that component, Lens Diaries (*warning* prudes, there is a nude in this collection), has a fantastic piece that walks through the general experience of shooting portraiture during the golden hour, along with a bit of pontification regarding proper white balance.


The Example

Our lead photo by skippyjon is a perfect example of the golden hour's subtle photo magic. Note that this photo doesn't burn orange into your retinas. Rather, a simple photo of a bike, grass and a fence develops an almost nostalgic aura thanks to the time of day it was captured.


The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, April 18th at 8AM Eastern to with "Golden Hour" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameGOLDEN.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameGOLDENWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of photography blog Life, Panoramic and Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.



Golden HOUR not Golden SHOWER. Make sure you know the difference.