Attempting to obtain a perfectly balanced photo during blue hour has its own set of difficulties. With these three suggestions, you will be able to capture more excellent photographs for your portfolio.
For most photographers, the blue hour is defined as the period of time between twilight and the start or end of the day’s light. In a literal sense, this is correct; nevertheless, I’ll refer to a blue hour as the period of time during which you can clearly see the stars while simultaneously having adequate ambient light present in your setting. Photographing at these periods has unique problems that you may not be aware of until you are in the midst of attempting to capture your first image.
The importance of scouting your site is critical to all sorts of landscape photography, but it is especially critical when you are going to photograph in a place with little light accessible to you. Of course, this is more applicable to photographing blue hour at sunrise rather than sunset because you may plan on arriving at your location and setting up your equipment well before blue hour begins. However, there are occasions when we don’t have that luxury, and getting the perfect blue hour picture time is essential.
If you’ve ever tried to picture at night for astrophotography, you’ll understand how difficult it can be to establish a composition in the dark. Here are some tips to help you out. I’ve previously prepared a comprehensive post on how to make the most of your time when site scouting, but the three most important suggestions are as follows:
- Think of a shot before you go that you’ve seen others take from the same place and use it as inspiration.
- Remember to keep your photo basic because you may not have enough time to come up with a truly unique composition.
- After your initial visit, remain around and look for additional compositions to take with you when you come back.
You could be surprised to discover, upon arriving at a destination that you’ve seen on social media, that it looks quite different from what you expected it to look like online. I’ve arrived in a number of locales that were unfamiliar to me but that I’d seen numerous times before, only to discover that they were nothing like I had expected.
If we take the Mobius Arch as an example, you’d never think that in order to capture the shot, you’d be standing on a large rock right next to it, trying not to slide off and lose your camera in the process. It is these limits that are beneficial to be aware of before arrival rather than attempting to figure them out when time is of importance when you are already there.
When attempting to pull off this sort of shot, timing is very critical to success. This is an extremely little window of time in which to capture the image we need to capture (this is for North America, these times might be a bit stretched at the poles). The idea is to catch enough light on the landscape and stars in the sky in a single exposure to create a compelling image. According to my observations, this period lasts around 5 minutes.
The Sun Matters
The final advice is most likely the most significant, but it requires an understanding of the other suggestions in order to be effective. 180 degrees away from the sun is the darkest region of the sky after the sun sets or before the sun rises, depending on the time of day. As a result, many of your compositions will only work for dawn or sunset, rather than both. As a result, it is critical to understand where the sun will rise and set based on your photographic composition.
If you’ve ever attempted to photograph a gorgeous sunset that occurs behind a mountain range, you may have come across this situation. A scenario in which you’re exposing for the detail in the mountains but the sky is utterly devoid of detail because it’s simply too bright to capture in a single photograph is described as follows: What may not be immediately apparent is what occurs when the sun has completely set. While there is still light on your landscape, the night sky where the sunsets will stay much too brilliant to ever catch any stars in the distance. When you’re out shooting and the sun begins to set, pay close attention to the part of the sky that becomes the darkest first and you’ll see precisely what I’m talking about.
In addition to all of this, the most beautiful light on your scene will occur in the opposite direction of where the sun sets during blue hour. Even when the sun hasn’t yet reached the horizon, you may still consider the place from which it is rising or setting to be your source of light. Sometimes you’ll get just gorgeous soft light, and other times you’ll get more shadows in your picture, depending on the time of day. Herein is the allure of the blue hour. Because the light is bouncing off of the surrounding atmosphere, the tonal ranges you see during this time are totally dependent on the environment.
Without the procedures described in this article, it would have been impossible to create this image. Even if it had been conceivable, attempting to time mix a very wide-angle panorama like this one would have been a major pain, if not impossible. I was able to catch all I needed in a single exposure by carefully preparing my photo, timed exactly when I could capture the stars and details in my scene, and anticipating where the sun would be. If you’re interested in learning more about how I created this edit, make sure to watch the video at the top of the page. It is my hope that this was informative and that you discovered something to work on the next time you are attempting to capture your own starry night blue hour image!