Wild blue yonder


A cyclist is greeted by a sunset as he rides down the Calaveras River Bike Path in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400).

“Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see” -Irving Berlin


The Lodi Elementary P.E.Teachers march in the 14th annual Parade of Lights through downtown Lodi (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/15th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600).

The “blue hour.” That’s what photographers call the time just after sunset when it’s the best time to take night shots. It’s then (or just before sunrise, but I’d rather sleep in) when the sky turns a rich, deep blue, adding some beautiful color to the photo and providing some visual separation to silhouetted trees and rooftops from the background. It last’s about a hour, hence the moniker. After that, inky blackness envelopes the heavens, and you’ll have to wait till the next day for it to happen again.


A entry from the Lodi Cycle Bowl participates in the 14th annual Parade of Lights through downtown Lodi. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/40th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600).

There are some local night events that I can tell aren’t organized by photographers or have photographers in mind. If they were, they’d be set during the blue hour. They usually start well after the last remnants of color have evaporated from the sky that otherwise would maximize the event’s effects.


The Port of Stockton fireboat leads the annual Delta Reflections boat parade at the Weber Point Event Center in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 125mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 3200).

During the summer, one can only imagine what the bright and colorful bursts of the Independence day fireworks would look like against an indigo sky, because they usually start around around 9 p.m., about an hour after the optimal time.


People watch the annual Delta Reflections boat parade at the Weber Point Event Center in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 3200).

With all the Christmas lights gracing houses throughout the valley, this is time of year that has the most opportunities to take a blue-hour picture. But there are a couple of events that could benefit, photographically at least, from starting a little earlier. Dusk and the blue hour arrive at about 5 p.m., but both the Delta Reflections lighted boat parade in Stockton and the Lodi Parade of Lights start at about 6 p.m.. Both provide a lot of oohs and aahs from the spectators but, again, from a photographer’s standpoint, would look a little better if they started earlier (granted, one can catch the boat parade at the start near windmill cove, but its arrival in downtown Stockton is well after dark).


The Justice for Jeremy float prepares to enter the annual Holiday Parade in Lathrop (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/40th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600).


The Sunrise Rotary Club float makes its way down Fifth Street the annual Holiday Parade in Lathrop (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/20th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600).

This year, there was one event that did take advantage of the blue hour. The annual Lathrop Holiday Parade, which runs the length of 5th street in Lathrop, started at 5 p.m, but rain clouds threatened to prematurely darken the sky. With fingers crossed, I  prayed that there would be a break in the clouds. But at the start of the parade a sprinkle turned into a cloudburst and poured rain down on the parade route, drowning my hopes for a blue hour photo. But, after several minutes, the rain eased and the clouds parted on the horizon just enough to give the sky a nice deep blue tinge.

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