March Theme Challenge – “Blue Hour”

For this month, March 2022, the theme challenge is “Blue Hour”. This is the time of day referred to as twilight which is, approximately, the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset.

Twilight is the duration before sunrise or after sunset between day and night. Twilight goes through 3 stages; civil, nautical, and astronomical twilight. For more detailed information on twilight please visit Wikipedia about Twilight.

In general Civil twilight is approximately 20-30min before sunrise and 20-30min after sunset. Civil twilight is the most favourable time within “Blue Hour” to take photos, because the light from the sun could reflect off any high clouds, if present, that are in the sky which can create result in a beautiful colourful light.

Civil twilight is also a great time of day to shoot at slower shutter speeds which allows you to create photos that show motion. This time of day is at a lower brightness of light which makes it possible to obtain slower shutter speeds without the use of neutral density filters.

Hopefully viewing the following images will provide some inspiration to pick up your camera and get you out there to create some of your own interesting images.

Here are some examples of the colourful light that occurs on the high clouds in the sky when lit up by the sun before sunrise or after sunset. Typically this colourful light occurs within the time period between 5min to 10min after the sunset and 5min to 10min before sunrise. As already mentioned with less light this allows for slower shutter speeds, and in these cases you can capture the movement of the waves as blurred action which shows motion in your image. the first image captures the motion as the wave is receding and the second image shows the water as the wave is coming in. It’s important to push the shutter at the right time and therefore best to use a cable release. You can also use a 2 second self timer mode but you have to push the shutter 2 seconds before the decisive moment.

A cell phone camera can capture amazing images as well during Civil twilight. The second image of the Moon is a Photoshop “composite” using a cell phone image of the clouds and a DSLR image of the moon taken with a zoom lens as the moon was setting just before the blue hour which was then combined in photoshop, this is why the moon looks large in the final composite image. This moon image, although not similar, was inspired by the scene of Luke Skywalker when on Tatooine looking at the twin suns in the Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope Movie.

Taking images during civil twilight combined with the right atmospheric conditions (land fog caused by cooling air temperatures) can create some dreamy landscapes as well.

Reflections can create interesting images as well. Look in all directions you never know what you’ll be able to capture.

Even when the magic colour in the sky doesn’t happen, take advantage of the low light for slower shutter speeds to create some long exposure images resulting in a dreamy landscape.

March still has cooler temperatures and we still need to be aware of the possibility of moisture accumulating on your camera equipment in certain situations. Please refer to last month’s February theme challenge – “Winter Scene” and scroll down to the paragraph on “Equipment Care” for more information on how to protect your equipment.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are a few YouTube video links to help with some hints and ideas.

Blue Hour Photography instructional aids:
Getting The Best Photos in Blue Hour: by Nigel Danson (18min 16sec)
The Blue Hour it’s the best time for Landscape Photography: by Gary Gough (11min 26sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

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