Become a “shooting star” overnight! Photographing the Blue Hour

You really feel like a rock star when you learn the “Blue Hour” technique of photography. It is not very difficult. These few considerations will get you on your way.

  • The optimum time to get the great balance of artificial and ambient light is between 30 and 45 minutes before sunrise and after sunset.
  • A tripod is essential.
  • Look for scenes that have some kind of artificial light(warm) to balance and compliment the blue ambient light of the sky. During the day when you are out exploring, train yourself to look for interesting blue hour compositions and look for the artificial light sources that will illuminate the scene at night. Many tourist attractions are illuminated at night.
“Field of Miracles” | Pisa | Italy

“Field of Miracles” | Pisa | Italy

  • Avoid strong, large, and direct light sources pointing towards your camera. You can have them behind you, to the side, above or below you in front of the camera as long as the light is pointing toward your subject and not into your lens.
“Santa Maria della Salute Blue” |Venice | Italy

“San Giorgio Maggiore Blue” |Venice | Italy

  • Small direct light sources pointing toward your camera can be great, especially if you stop your lens down to f16 to create a starburst effect. Check your captured images on your LCD to make sure you are not getting unsightly flare from the direct light sources. You can clone out some flare in post processing. The further away those direct light sources are the more starburst effect you will get and less flare and blasted out blobs of light.
“Burano Lollipop” | Burano | Italy

“Burano Lollipop” | Burano | Italy

Rovinj | Croatia

Rovinj | Croatia

The above photograph taken in Rovinj, Croatia had the light source directly in front and below my camera shinning on the tree.

  • Use a cable/shutter release.
  • Avoid underexposing as you will have a lot of noise in your dark shadows. Bring your exposure up so that your highlights are not washed out. Don’t worry about the direct light source(street lamps, etc) as those will always be washed out unless you do a separate exposure for them and blend them into the scene in Photoshop. That is a whole different topic, Exposure Blending.

The photograph below taken at Manarola, Italy is a situation where the dark foreground area had unsightly noise in the shadows. I used noise reduction software in Photoshop to reduce the effect.

“Manarola Blue” | Cinque Terre | Italy

“Manarola Blue” | Cinque Terre | Italy

  • Adjust your ISO higher if your exposure needs more than 30 seconds. Remember that at the higher ISOs you will get more noise in your images.
“Nightwatch” | northern | Slovenia

“Nightwatch” | northern | Slovenia

Santorini | Oia |Greece

Santorini | Oia |Greece

Provence | France

Provence | France

Have fun and unleash your inner star!

Jim + Magrit

P.S. We are already filling up our 2016 tours. We’d love to have you come along on one or more of our exciting photo adventures and now is a good time to sign up and reserve your spot. Check out all the exciting places we’ll be photographing in 2016 by clicking here. »

2018-03-06T03:55:58+00:00

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