Coping with sunsets, a golden-hour virgin’s guide

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Allow me to start this short missive by giving a bit of background for those who don’t know me very well.  I don’t do sunsets, and I really, really don’t do sunrises.  Admittedly if you rummage through the galleries here on my website a couple have managed to slip through the net, but they are a rarity, and to be perfectly honest those images are pretty much there as a record of the suffering I had to endure in order to get them in the first place…ahem.

Apologies in advance, I know I’m committing landscape photography heresy here, and it’s not done for dramatic photo-snobbery effect, or to somehow grab wildly at making my own drab images more ‘worthy’, but as a rule I just don’t like the golden hour.  I’m much more often to be seen walking off a beach or trudging back down a hill as the sky starts to go nuclear, usually accompanied by disbelieving looks from other photographers as they coo and hammer away at their shutter buttons from behind their sunglasses…I jest of course…a bit…I do sometimes hang around for the blue hour.

There are any number of reasons I guess for my personal dislike of golden hour, or more precisely Lucozade half hour, chief amongst them the fact that I generally think in black and white first, instinctively looking for structure, line, form and space and as a result my favourite colour images are more often than not those where the subject of the image is colour and colour itself provides one of the key compositional elements in the image.  Sometimes for me the glorious, soft, unctuous light of the golden hour is too easily used to mask an otherwise average or lazy composition, relying all too often on the viewer being seduced and made to ‘oooh’ at the sheer gorgeousness and drama of that brief moment of exquisite light. I know I’m hugely in the minority here…so don’t hate me too much…but a Peter Lik fan I ain’t.

Anyway on the weekend I found myself atop a greywacke pavement in Snowdonia helping a fellow tog recce a few locations as the sun started to drop away to the horizon over the Lleyn Peninsula and the sky began to colour up. I’d spent the previous hour or so with the lens pointed firmly at my feet searching out abstract patterns in the rock surface, but as the colour temperature began to increase, the familiar war cry of my photographic compatriot rang out…by text, as he was out of earshot…’Boom!’.

For some reason this sent me into a mild panic, and a combination of golden hour fever and groupthink set in, causing me to hastily frame up a vista with a sun-drenched erratic leading the eye…badly…to the distant peaks of Snowdon.  I fired off a couple of frames as I passed the camera on each of the 25m laps of the pavement I made whilst attempting to outrun the ruddy midge cloud that was intent on turning my calves into something closely resembling corned beef.

Then as Mr Lik painted the sky and turned the saturation up to 11 to make my retinas weep, I looked down….and there beneath my feet the bedraggled stems of heather were suddenly burning under the low orange sidelight and contrasting with the blue shadows of the sandstone…hmmm…interesting.  I grabbed the camera, pointed it down and for the next 10 minutes ran around exploiting the Lucozade effect and the slightly disorientating perspective you can get where the subject’s relief can appear reversed due to the strong sidelighting.  A few of those images are included below…don your sunglasses first though…

So I’ve only gone and enjoyed a photographic sunset haven’t I?  Does this mean I’ll shoot another? Probably…Does it mean I’ll walk off a beach or a mountain as it all goes nuclear above me? Maybe not, I might be tempted to hang around and point the camera at my feet again and exploit it that way. But as for sunrise…..nah….you can just sod off…you’re having a laugh there…


  1. David Woodfall  —  August 17, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Really interesting work thank you

    • admin  —  August 17, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks David, appreciate that.

  2. Andrew  —  August 17, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Great blog as always and I’m in complete agreement. I have been known not even to take a camera out of the car if my mates are shooting sunsets. Great set of detailed shots.

    • admin  —  August 17, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      Cheers fella. I think I’ll take the camera with me, but I won’t be pointing it in the obvious directions…

  3. Iain McCallum  —  January 6, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Some interesting and controversial thoughts here…I’m sure they might have burned you as a witch in photography folklore!


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