Sheep set the scene.
So what is the Golden Hour?
In the golden hour of early morning and evening, the sun is low in the sky where soft, diffused light is produced. Soft light is desirable because it doesn’t create those harsh shadows and tends to be helpful for the dynamic range of a camera. Details appear in subtle shadows and blown-out highlights are not a problem. Of course that warm, golden glow is magical to the eye.
On our trip, there was little chance to get these magical-times-of-day photos unless we chose to miss dinner. Sheep in early evening (top photo) and sheep in morning as the sun rose from below the fog.
While at a hotel in Penrith, I went out early before breakfast and rushed out on dinner just to see what the sun would do to the country road and fields of sheep. But since we where there only one night, the morning greeted me with fog. But when the sun did melt the fog, by then it was higher in the sky and I lost some of my opportunity. But fog added its own allure.
The light changes pretty fast during the golden hour, so what you shoot when first arriving will look very different minutes later. Thing to note, the golden hour varies from day to day, season to season, GPS place to place. If weather allows, you can see it happen right where you are too.
Follow me on a morning walk. This is a time I do wish I had the D750. You need maximum control on exposure. But the P510 was a little trooper.
Click to see bigger.
The sun-kissed the tops of the grasses and it sneaked in right below the fog.
Exposure is a bit tricky with this camera since ISO cannot be accurately set if using Scene Settings like in yesterday’s post. You have to make that choice from the Manual Settings Menu.
You will be shooting in lower light conditions, so choose wisely and use Manual. Trying to get the full dynamic range capabilities of this little camera really pushes its ability if on any Auto setting. Cameras come nowhere near the dynamic range of the human eye.
Walking a short distance on this country road, you can see how fast the light changes.
Something I forget to do myself many times – is get off auto white balance (AWB). It isn’t the best choice when shooting during the golden hour. Tip on the P510: You can only access White Balance from the Manual Setting Menu and like Exposure Compensation, it can be adjusted in increments of +1 to +3 or -1 to -3. To make a change of Auto to Cloudy, you must make a numerical selection after choosing Cloudy as an option.
I try to remember to set the white balance to Cloudy, so as not to neutralize that wonderful golden glow. Cloudy will deepen the vibrancy of the image just like how clouds diffuse the sunlight on an overcast day. It will warm up the image too.
The camera will attempt to neutralize the warmth of the image otherwise.
The next photo shows the same area in the bright afternoon with a bald sky. Nothing special, right? Look at that bald sky go bright white!
As much as I would like to shoot these landscapes (like the last post on a moving bus) at golden hour, you have to really know the place as to where and when the sun will set. It is why I walked the same road three times in the course of 17 hours. We arrived late afternoon, then departed this place the next morning. I took another walk the opposite direction toward town, and the opening images is from that walk. Penrith is a very small and idyllic country town with lots of sheep.
There are apps to tell you accurate times of sunrise and sunset, and also how light will affect a certain GPS location, but it may suggest a very different time of year for that award-winning shot. Apps can tell you that special few days too. You just need the weather cooperating on your side.
Only really serious photographers use these apps. I had one on my iPad, but never really used it for photography. In architecture school we learned how to calculate azimuth and altitude, and had charts to show how the sun hit, so these apps can be very useful taking away all that graphing and computation. In garden design, all you need to know for your site is this basically. Architects determine a bit more.
Play with exposure compensation. You can get a shadow look to your foreground subject by setting the EV (exposure value) to -1, -2 or -3. Conversely, to light up the subject in the foreground, try EV of +1, +2 or +3. Alternatively, you can slow down the shutter speed or add fill flash. Like in the last two posts, I use exposure compensation often on the P510.
This camera does not have the flexibility in settings of my D750. What I miss most is the ability to accurately set a good exposure. I do miss my D750 for times like these, but have to admit the P510 did a reasonable job. The P510 was only set to NORM jpg, not FINE like it normally is set. This was to buffer faster on those fast-moving bus rides. For a blog image, a small file fits the bill.
Above, the wildflowers (fireweed) glow as the moon rises. That is our hotel in the above image. Sheep grazed right outside the windows.
You can see from these images how diffused light (and the fog) makes for a much more interesting image. One thing about the golden hour, it really makes a meadow especially beautiful. Add a few grazing sheep and you might make a little magic.