The solstices are important events in the year for me and my family because our psyches seem to make a connection with these transitions.
Our Golden Hour event in June 2013 was challenging and fun, members asked for it to come back, and we wish for it to become part of our repertoire.
On the longest of days (the summer solstice is actually marked very early in the morning), and the first of the summer, it's a good occasion to practice taking photographs during the golden hour. The first and last hours of sunlight can be magic, and we'll be spending that last hour in an appropriate spot, Vanier Park.
The light reflecting from the 'scapes feels soft (because of diffusion) and warm (because of the amber hues), the bellies of clouds can turn from grey to orange to vermillion, the air looks thick, objects glow and details pop. So we'll spend part of the evening capturing cityscapes and landscape photos, sunset photos, golden light bathing all sorts of man-made and natural objects, and portraits too.
Perhaps you typically do not photograph after supper or are a magic hour enthusiast or just enjoy calm periods of photographing. In any case, it could definitely be fun and influence our process. So let's go capture some dramatic scenes.
Above: The conceptions by Dionysios Psychas
You can bring your tripods and ND filters (if you have them; for sunsets and slower times).
Here are a couple of pages about the subject to get you started, but I encourage you to seek out information: Photography Mad and DP Review.
Above photograph by Sharon Wish
We'll explore Vanier Park: the park itself, the paths, the ponds, the sculptures, the dog beach, the ferry ramp, Hadden Park, the area around the MacMillan Space Centre, the Burrard marina and even under the Burrard Bridge. We'll meet at the sculpture "Gate to the Northwest Passage" at 20:00. As usual, we will make introductions, the subject will be presented, there will be tips, we'll have a short Q&A, identify members with like camera brands to help each other navigate their gear and then we'll head out to try to make memorable photographs and have fun. We'll also buddy up.
The golden hour will begin at about 20:30 and end at about 21:30 (sunset). Twilight ends at about 22:00. Even after the sun completes its drop behind the horizon, the colors can be awesome.
We will end the Meetup at 22:00 in front of the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre (1100 Chestnut Street), by the pool in front of the Crab. From there we'll head over to Chewies Steam & Oyster Bar (2201 W 1st Avenue, corner Yew St) where we can share photos and conversations and celebrate the Midsummer a little.
NB: This is not a lesson, just a photo exploration. If you participate in the event you should also participate by sharing your images in the album (up to 8); ask us questions and we'll get a discussion going to help each other with technique and composition.
The function of the group is to learn and practice the techniques of photography. This involves learning photography not only from your guides but also by sharing knowledge with your group-mates. The intention is also to organize and get to know new people. The attendant size of the meets will be small so participants can have the opportunity to get to know all their group-mates and spend time with a guide. If you select to attend a meet and then cannot make it, please be courteous to others in the group and change your RSVP status as soon as possible to allow others the chance to participate.
Please feel comfortable in posting your photographs and advising others; critical appraisal is helpful. What will also be appreciated are ratings and, especially, comments to individual meets and the group dynamic as a whole. This is important because it will ultimately add value to our meetings and improve our experience.
We want to work with this beautiful light; one that softens edges, lowers contrast, elongates shadows, warms surfaces, emphasizes texture, captures particles in the air and creates gentle tonal transitions. Here, we want to practice capturing the effect on the surroundings.
Here are a few captures to practice and post.
1- A photograph of a cityscape where the light affects the surfaces and edges of built structures.
2- A photograph of the park or beach where the light affects natural textures.
3- A photograph of a landscape or a long shot where the light affects the tonality of objects and the atmosphere.
4- A portrait photograph where the light affects skin tone. Ask a stranger to pose for you.
5- A photograph of the sunset where the light will affect the level of exposure.
In every case, use the color, quality and direction of the light, and the play of shadows, to your advantage.
Tips for beginners
Photographing during the golden hour means taking advantage of the effect the color, density and direction the light has on objects or people. Take the time to think out your composition. And any camera will do; but know how to best use its capabilities. However, a camera that allows for manual control will offer more range with which to compose. During the evening golden hour, light levels diminish quickly. To get the desired exposure we can compensate by opening up the aperture, slowing down the shutter-speed or increasing the ISO.
If you open up the aperture, you decrease depth-of-field. This might be appropriate for mid-shots and portraits but might not be so for landscapes or long-shots.
If you slow down the shutter-speed, you increase the chance of capturing blur by motion or camera shake. This might be appropriate depending on the subject. Of course, creating blur with intentional camera movement by panning can produce alluring results.
To compensate for low light you can also increase the medium's sensitivity, ISO. A high ISO typically produces "noise" with sensors (which is not nice) or shows grain in film (which is), but this might be fine depending on the subject.
The use of a tripod to steady the camera is good for such an occasion when an exposure typically needs slower shutter-speeds, whether you want to keep the ISO relatively low or the aperture relatively small. If you do not have one on hand you can steady the camera on a bench or rock, the ground, or even by your stance. Work and compose with what you have.
Even though this is a great opportunity to photograph opposite the sun, we'll be in a spot where we can photograph sunset. Another situation when photographing in this light condition, especially towards the sun, can be the great difference in brightness between the foreground and the illuminated sky, a high dynamic range. You have to be attentive to the reading the camera light meter supplies and compensate for the large variation in the levels of exposure. To get the desired exposure we can choose some intermediate setting between high and low readings, use exposure compensation when on priority modes, or using a graduated neutral density filter.
If we have neither, we have to take a hands-on approach. If the photograph is facing the sun and you find a pleasant silhouette with striking colors above, take a meter reading off the disk of the sun (not right at it) to get an exposure of the illuminated sky that is bright and rich, and not blown out. If you think more detail in the shadows is necessary for your composition, take another reading of the foreground and then chose a setting in between to brighten it somewhat. You can even position the disk of the sun behind an object (even right outside the image frame) to reduce the overall brightness and possibly bring out detail in the subject in shadow. This can also be done for dramatic effect.
Generally, it is important to verify the white balance setting so as not to create a particular color cast on the image. In the case of golden hour photography make sure it does not counteract an otherwise warm looking scene. Unless of course you’re blue sunset makes an impact. Take a test shot to make sure the cast is accurate or pleasant; then change it or turn white balance off. If you expose to RAW, an off cast can be easily corrected.
Verify the sharpness of the image by using your depth-of-field preview. If you do not have one then the rule of thumb for aperture is: large f-numbers (like 16 or 22) will give you sharpness throughout; small f-numbers (like 1.4 or 2) will only render the focused object sharp and make things around it blurry. Depending on the direction of the light, the bokeh can be spectacular.