Photographing the Emotional Golden Hour

Every day without fail, that golden, celestial ball of fire rises above the distant easterly horizon to bask the planet in warm, life-giving light and as the day's end draws closer, it will lower itself back towards the west, intensity reducing until it disappears behind the horizon at which point day gives way to the night. In the photographic world, in particular, these two events are commonly known as the golden hour.

Emotion in photography is as subjective as photography itself. One image can trigger different emotions from different people and the emotion I feel when capturing the image, cannot be assumed to be the same emotive response triggered by others that view my images. However, one thing is for sure, there is no landscape photo more likely to capture one's attention than one captured during the golden hour.

As a landscape photographer, I feel I am automatically wired to try and capture those beautiful red, orange and pink tones and is why I will patiently (and sometimes impatiently) stand, camera composed at the ready and wait for the sun's finest act to take place. The softer more pleasing light and longer shadows seem to enhance the image exponentially.

Photo of Westminster Bridge and Big Ben at sunset taken by Trevor Sherwin

26 secs
f10

ISO200
18mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF18-55mm

Why does the golden hour spark such emotions in us?

The sun (particularly during the golden hour) will likely evoke a primitive, positive feeling for most people which is why all over the world, the sun continues to be revered and worshipped in different ways, be it the summer solstice at Stone Henge or like below on sunset strip in Ibiza where I took this image of the sun-seekers daily celebration of the sun going down at which point the music is turned up. As the sun drops towards the horizon, there is a quiet calm along the rocky beach, onlookers are relaxed, gazing out to sea, almost mesmerised by the view and all experiencing their own unique emotions triggered by this celestial event. As the last of the sun disappears below the horizon there are cheers and clapping as they all celebrate this daily event.

Photo of a Fire spinner in Ibiza at sunset taken by Trevor Sherwin

1/60th sec
f3.6

ISO200
39mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF18-55mm

As mentioned above, I will sometimes get to a location in plenty of time, weather checked and camera at the ready and wait for the scene to develop to something I had visualised in my mind's eye and the vast majority of times, I leave with less than I'd hoped due to too much or too little cloud to create those dramatic and emotive scenes. That's not to say there is no image to capture in cloudy or clear conditions as these will conjure their own albeit different emotional reactions but when there is a good chance of a sunset, for me, nothing else will do.

That moment when it all comes together

On the rare occasion, when the planning has paid off (or I get lucky which can also happen) and I know I am walking away from the location with a golden hour keeper, there is no better feeling as a photographer. It makes those hours of preparation, scouting and waiting around worth it.

Photo of the Shard and Tower Bridge in London at sunset taken by Trevor Sherwin

30 secs
f9

ISO200
20mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF18-55mm