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Gary Schmid

jul14

Blue hour: the perfect moment

By Gary Schmid, lunes julio 14, 2014
The exposure for the main image was 15 secs at f/14 and 0.8 sec for the fountain, ISO 100.

The exposure for the main image was 15 secs at f/14 and 0.8 sec for the fountain, ISO 100. © Gary Schmid

Even without a camera in my hand I love the magical moment between daylight and nightfall, known by many as the 'blue hour'. Unfortunately the moment only lasts around 20 minutes before the sky turns pitch black. But it happens twice a day – in the morning and the evening. Many photographers discuss whether the morning or the evening occurrence has the best light, but for me I prefer the evening, where I can frame the image during daylight and then wait for the 'blue hour' to occur. In the early morning this is sometimes challenging when it comes to composition, and if there is a city skyline involved you have to consider that there are less lights on the buildings and on the streets.

A common mistake made by amateur photographers is that they have their ISO set to AUTO. The problem with that, of course, is that the camera raises the ISO to very high levels because of the low light conditions – and that is not helpful for the image quality. Even though the latest DSLR sensors have improved extremely well, it is still better to keep the ISO low and place the camera on a good tripod. My ISO is always around 100–160 for these types of shots.

Because I travel to many different countries for my job I always face different timings and of course the 'blue hour' timings are changing throughout the seasons with the length of the days. So I use a very helpful app which gives me the exact timings for the location I'm in. You can find plenty of them online but the one I'm quite happy with is “Sun Surveyor”. For my shoot tomorrow, as an example, it shows me the following times for Dubai:

Morning: Blue Hour 04:50am - 05:26am, Sunrise 05:36am, Golden Hour 06:28am
Evening: Golden Hour 06:20pm, Sunset 07:13pm, Blue Hour 07:34pm – 07:58pm

Looking forward to another shoot tomorrow at 07:34pm onwards for one of my clients. Wish me luck in capturing the 'blue hour'!

This image was taken right at the beginning of the 'blue hour' as I wanted to capture the reflection of the setting sun on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The exposure was 10 secs at f/14, ISO 100.

This image was taken right at the beginning of the 'blue hour' as I wanted to capture the reflection of the setting sun on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The exposure was 10 secs at f/14, ISO 100. © Gary Schmid

With this long exposure, a nice side effect is that moving water looks very smooth. The exposure was 18 secs at f/18, ISO 100.

With this long exposure, a nice side effect is that moving water looks very smooth. The exposure was 18 secs at f/18, ISO 100. © Gary Schmid