Saturday, November 19, 2016


Lighting is everything in photography. The right lighting can elicit awe, suspense, intrigue, feeling, or a sense of uniqueness.

I look for the quality of light, angle, color, amount, direction, or the time of day. I like night photography, but I prefer that magical twilight. My definition of twilight is roughly 10-30 minutes before sunrise or after sunset. Magic!

Scenes taken at any other time of day can look good, in fact very good, but twilight gives them a little extra flare. The sky becomes part of the composition, instead of just taking up space. 

On-line calculators or apps to determine sunrise or sunset don't work for me. Whoever designed them did not have photographers in mind. Sometimes I read their predictions, but arrive at my designated and pre-determined spot 20-30 minutes before sunrise or sunset. That extra time allows me to take my time getting the right composition, determine my depth of field, get a preview of my exposure, and test my settings.

Here is what I did for this first example. I used a combination of shooting at twilight (late evening) and painting with light at Garden of The Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Using the BULB setting, I first walked along the walkway as I shined my light on the walkway, zig-zagging it side to side. I told my assistant to tell me when he could no longer see me. It was so dark that my movements did not register. I then came back (flashlight turned off) and stood next to my camera, with the BULB setting still on, and painted the side of the formation to the left, highlighting it along its thin side. I then released the BULB setting. All in all, about a two minute exposure.


The following two examples are from the quaint and historic town in the Ozarks, Eureka Springs, Arkansas. 

This was more like 45 minutes before sunrise. Clouds in the sky always enhance the feel of an image. The dark blue background makes the buildings stand out.   

This is a very popular subject among photographers. I had seen many renditions of it, but what I had not seen was a photograph of this seven story statue at twilight. So, I put it on my to-do list. I chose a time a few minutes after sunset, to pick up what I hoped would be some dark blues and pinks. Christ of The Ozarks statue.


I saw this image in my imagination 3-4 hours before I created it. I liked the composition in late afternoon, but it looked too plain for me. My right brain could see a deep rich blue sky,
if I came back later that evening. I could not have ordered the clouds that evening, but was sure grateful and counted myself lucky--they added mystery and drama to the scene. Zurich, Switzerland.

I did some research on a most famous arch in Utah--Mesa Arch. I wanted to see, not only what other photographers had done with it, but what they had not done with it. I saw just enough images to conclude that there must be hundreds (if not thousands) of images on-line on Mesa Arch in Canyonlands--all created in the early morning light, after sunrise. I only saw one night shot. So, what did I not see? I did not see the arch photographed at twilight. Hmmm? I added the idea to my bucket list. 

I took my part-time assistant with me because I knew I would need some help. We arrived just before sunset. I got my composition, my depth of field, took some test shots, then patiently waited for the right lighting. I went there in December, hoping to get the La Sal mountains snow capped--I lucked out! In addition to selecting twilight for this image, I knew in advance that I would also do some light painting to highlight the underside of the arch--something I did not see in my research. A 25-second exposure allowed me just enough time to paint the arch.     

This last example was created at my #1 locale in Colorado--Telluride, elevation 8,750.' There is a free tram from town that takes you to 10,500' for a breath-taking view above the Swiss-like box canyon town in southwest Colorado. The view of Telluride from up there is great, but incredibly phenomenal at twilight, as you look out at 12,000' and 13,000' peaks.

As you can see, virtually any subject can be enhanced by photographing it at twilight. So, take your camera out someday before sunset and add some splendor to your photographic collection. Think of a photograph which you are very proud of, then ask yourself, "What would that look like at twilight?" You might surprise yourself. Your best shot of the year might be just around the corner! Have fun.

Contact me if you have any questions about twilight photography.