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The Golden Hour in Silver

It’s the first weekend in November. Partly cloudy, here, but there will be sun, and very little rain, if any. I drove up to my father’s house after work yesterday, hung out for a bit, so that was cool. On the way there, though, I got distracted. I knew the leaves would be changing soon – there had been trees in various states of change. I didn’t expect it to explode with color!

There are times when a photographer wants the sky to be a little overcast, for the sun to be hidden. It’s a softer light. Shooting when the sun is strongest can cause very sharp lines, strong definition, harsh shadows. There’s a place for that, there’s a way to use that light, but it’s tricky to get something soft and beautiful without editing. During the parts of the day when the sun isn’t so strong, it’s easier to use the light and shadow to good advantage. When it’s brightly overcast (not something those in drier climates see often), that’s wonderful for portraits – minimal shadow.

Then there’s “The Golden Hour.”

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Doesn’t mean I haven’t shot a sunrise; it’s just really early.

It’s a period of time before sunset or after sunrise – actual length depends on latitude and time of year, and probably altitude, although I’m not sure about that one – when the light is softest, and warmest. If you’re in a particularly photogenic place, look around an hour before sunset or after sunrise. The dedicated ones will be there. Me, I’m better at sunset than sunrise, ‘cuz sunrise comes so early in the morning.

The light during that special time doesn’t necessarily add a golden cast, although that’s the most common effect. If you shoot the right things with the right settings, the light becomes silver. A soft silver, which sounds contradictory, but it’s there. The saddest thing is it is so fleeting. From late fall to early spring, when the day is shorter, the one after sunrise and the one before sunset aren’t so ridiculously early or late, so there are some advantages to those times of year, I guess. I can’t imagine shooting dawn during summer in northern Michigan, let alone Alaska! Too early for me.

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Decorative grasses in the sun

That’s a little weird for me to say, if I’m honest. I’ve been awake for the past three hours – it’s 8:30. I woke up on my own. Happens all the time. When it happens during the week, I have to pay close attention. There’s a point where it’s just too late to go back to sleep, and a dilemma zone (to borrow from my driver’s ed classes) when it might be too late, or there might be just enough time. Those I decide by how tired I am. It’ll result in yawning by 9:30 regardless, but if i sleep, I’ll be less irritated with the world.

But I digress…

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Caught changing

This past Monday, I had an unexpected free evening. The sun was shining, the temperature was mild (upper 50s, I believe), and I had a camera. Well, I had a camera after I drove home from work and picked it up. Some trees had already lost half their leaves, while others remained steadfastly green. Still others were in the process of changing, decorated with leaves in green, flame orange, and scarlet, sometimes on the same leaf. I headed for one of the more picturesque – and popular – parks in the city, Ault Park.

I was a little surprised; I had no trouble finding a place to park. I expected it to be packed like it usually is on a beautiful day. There was a fair-sized crowd, but nowhere near what I expected. Made it a lot easier to take my time and get the shots I wanted, while listening to the various photographers cheering along their subjects. There were a few times I wanted to intervene, but it wasn’t my gig, my opinion wasn’t sought. So I kept my thoughts to myself, and wandered among the trees, pausing to admire the colors, then analyze the light, pick an angle, and click.

Today I will be going out again, shooting with a friend. It’s not about the photography, although that is important; it’s about spending time with a friend, doing something you enjoy. Plus, so many trees have changed all at once, it’s gorgeous!

Something to keep in mind: When you spend your time behind a camera, it’s entirely too easy to try to capture a moment instead of being in it. Very necessary when you’re doing portraits or events, but when you’re doing it for fun, well, it’s time to take a moment and be in it.


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