True blue

The last Readers Photo Challenge assignment explored the time of day know as the golden hour. This month’s challenge is what’s known as the “blue hour.”

Like the golden hour, the blue hour occurs twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening. Unlike the golden hour, it happens about an hour before sunrise or just after sunset. It’s in this twilight period that the blue hour happens. All too often photographers, think that when the golden hour is goes away, their picture opportunities go with it. But that’s when the blue hour is just beginning. The sky gradually deepens to a dark royal blue and, in the absence of any artificial light, a blue cast will envelope the scene. That veil of blue can help to give a quiet and somber mood to your pictures.

The blue hour is often useful when shooting cityscapes. Its a time when man-made lights start to come on and because of their inherent warmer colors, provide a nice counter point to the blue of twilight.

This time of year the evening blue hour starts around 8:30p.m., then is done by about 9:30 p.m.. There is a transition time between the golden and blue hours that is also quite beautiful. There will be a fading band of orange on the horizon which transitions to a blue that gets deeper and darker the higher in the sky you go. Eventually, as time ticks by, the sunset will disappear completely and the blue hour will take over.

When shooting during the blue hour the biggest concern is that you will have less light to deal with, so be careful with you exposures. Because the low light can confuse you camera’s auto exposure systems try to use manual. If you’re unsure, just “chimp” it (review the photo on your camera’s monitor) and adjust the exposure accordingly. Also because of the low light situation you’ll probably be dealing with slow shutter speeds and wide-open apertures, which means camera shake and very narrow depth of field (the amount of the photo that’s in focus) will be problems. Try using a tripod to reduce the camera’s shakiness and take time to focus the camera with great care.

So the next time you go out to shoot during the golden hour, stick around a little longer and think blue.

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1. Entries can be emailed to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Blue hour” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between August 4 and August 17. The subject is up to you but they must be shot during the “blue hour.”

3. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (eg: “John Doe, Stockton. Weber Avenue in downtown Stockton. Canon EOS Rebel Ti with 18-55mm lens”)

4. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and where they are and what they are doing. (eg: “Jane Smith, 25, Tracy walks down Main Street at Hunter Street in Stockton”)

5. Please feel free to include any interesting anecdotes or stories on how you took the picture.

6. The deadline for submission is Friday, August 15*. The top examples will be published on Thursday, August 21 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

(*Please note that the publication day for my column has changed to Thursdays and the deadline days have been moved up to the preceding Friday.)

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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