Tips on how to take an Esperance golden hour photo with a Digital Camera.

Posted by ANDREW HALTER on

l had an interesting discussion with a couple of photographers the other day, they thought its a cliche form of photography for Sunset and Sunrise shots - but from my own experiences of what sells in the shop - I would have to argue otherwise.

So why is it called the golden hour?

To me, it means the warmth of light the sun on the horizon displays, generally, mornings and evenings can seem calmer and so less aerosol particles which diffuse the light and haze the horizon details. Also, fewer people means less potential interference in your composed shot.

I don't relate the golden hour of photography with relaxation as it always seems like a rush to get the perfect shot before the golden warmth of low sunlight is totally gone.


To get a good shot there are three things to consider but first what defines a good shot?

Photography as like all art is really at the behest of the eye of the beholder and so this definition of an amazing shot is open to discussion of personal intent and general aesthetics, so of course, we are back full circle to the three things to consider to get that good shot.

Other than artistic statements normally a good photo has following attributes:

The sharpness of subject, No image noise and generally a balanced image in the expression of shadows and highlights with the intended light sources. To get this balanced outcome it can be a challenge in Sunset and Sunrise photography. 

1. Conditions

  • Clouds can showcase that orange /red or purple as the sun sets.I prefer the less dense cloud types it seems to provide a more gentle tone of reds into the image than the darker thicker cloud types  

cloud types


  • Wind - If its windy generally its a day to give it a miss, it conflicts with camera shake which introduces blur and loss of sharpness. Plus it can add to airborne particles which means horizons can be washed out and contrasted in effect losing image quality. Mists, low clouds or fogs can add to the scenery mood so that's not to be confused with a haze.


  • Light - the darker the conditions, the more issues can arise - such as having to bump up the iso range or open the aperture which might go against the intent of image, depending on what depth of focus your trying to achieve.

The example image below is actually with the sun setting behind me, not in front of the camera.

    the sun was behind me when i shot this sunset shot

    2. Gear

    • The Camera is obviously the first choice - full frame with a good sensor that offers a high dynamic range. This helps with recovering your shadows if it's a little underexposed which is better than overexposing the highlights which you cant recover in post process 
    • Lens - this will come down to the intent of subject and composition, for example, a 70mm prime will compress the background closer to the foreground (think West Beach rock ) whereas a 28mm lens will offer a wider field of view for a more panoramic shot. 
      • Tripod - a good heavy tripod is essential for golden hour sunset or sunrises because your going to at some stage want to have a slower shutter speed to allow a longer time for light to feed the sensor, the benefit other than  the photographers intent of a pearly smooth water is that it helps keep your ISO as low as possible for post-processing noise issues. If I can't shoot at iso 100  to 150 then I go home. Being heavy means if there is a slight wind it will help with anchoring to prevent camera shake 
      I use a Manfrotto as pictured - its heavy to lug about even though its made of carbon fibre. 

        monfroto carbon  tripod is what i use


        • ND Filters - have a good ND filter it helps with keeping the light balanced for a high dynamic range - Most times I shoot with a Graduated ND filter - ND filters are basically like putting on a set of sunglasses for your lens. I buy middle range ones as I am rough with my gear and tend to scratch them easy - cheaper filters result in some white balance tint issues but can be fixed in Lightroom or on some of the cameras in the menu options with a custom White balance profile setup.

        nd filters offer dynamic range and longer shutter times


        • Remote - I usually use my connected wireless remote to shoot so I am not pressing the button at the time the lens actuates for the shot. Alternatively using your camera's self-timer works too but limited to waiting for the brief countdown might miss that opportunity of the perfect shot.  


        3. Composition
        This comes down to what your intent of the image is, but some basic rules seem to work for me 
        • Lines that lead the eye seems to be an important one - can be a wave, man-made steps and rails perhaps a rock features, even a natural border of plants and reeds can lead the eye to a subject - i believe it gives subtle direction to the subject or is the subject itself.
        The image below might seem like its the steps with the lines that draw the eye, but it's also the reef and the rocks which all have symmetrical lines to them too.

          steps and rails lead the eyes as a line sight towards the reef at 11 mile

          • What mood is trying to be composed? A dark moody style, an uplifting mood or something else. For example, a calm water with pink clouds can provide a feeling of serenity, composed at the right location it all comes together.


           Lastly, as a fine art canvas and photo paper printer, I can suggest getting the shot right first produces far better print results for image quality than having Photoshop or Lightroom to do the heavy lifting to adjust for colour corrections.

          You can check out my images of  Esperance Sunset and Sunrises for more ideas of your next photography session adventure.




          When people are home cooking tea or still in bed it makes it all worth it when you pop in the CF card once home and go WOW - did i take that!



          Hope this brief article helps in some ways with your photography and if you wanting to have a canvas or glass frame done please consider us for your printing or glass framing - Contact form below


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