Friday, June 11, 2010

Blue Hour

Have you ever noticed photos with amazing blue skies, like this one?


Mallets Bay Shingle traditional exterior

I always thought the photographers used special lens or Photoshop to give it the extra umph.  Well, that's not where that special blue came from.

I'm so glad I'm a fan of Between Naps on the Porch.  Thanks to Susan's post on June 8, I have been introduced to the blue hour.   As she describes it, "The term, blue hour, originates from a French expression, l’heure bleue. It represents that special time occurring each morning just before the light of day, and again in the evening, shortly before complete darkness blankets the earth."

During this brief time period, the sky will appear very blue in photographs. You can't see the blue hour with your naked eye, but your camera can, so knowing the time is very helpful.

The blue hour is not a full hour.  This time of year where I live, it lasts about 38 minutes.  The blue hour changes day by day.  Luckily there's a great site - Blue Hour Site -  that can help you find out when the blue hour is where you live.

There's a bit of prep work to be done before you take blue hour photos. The flash must be turned off.  You'll want to put your camera on a tripod or a stable surface.  If you have a manual setting, this would be the perfect time to use it.  You'll want to set the exposure time to somewhere between 1 and 5 seconds.  The aperture should be around f7 to f10. 

I experimented with blue hour photos during the last couple of days.  I have a Canon PowerShot and since I am camera-lazy, I almost always have it set to auto.  For my blue hour photos, I set it to Tv, which allows me to choose my own shutter speed. I had to break down and get out the manual to see how to do this.  I could not control the aperture with this setting - my camera won't let me have total control. It apparently doesn't trust me. I set it to 4 seconds and left it there for all my experiments. 

The blue hour is almost dark.  From inside the house, you look out the windows and think it's dark.  But once outside you realize the light is there and as your eyes adjust you can see to get around just fine.  On the other hand, it's not light enough to be able to avoid stepping in dog poo!  This can be unfortunate.  I also decided it's not light enough to traipse through the woods down to the pond.  No thank you.  Therefore, all my experimental photos were taken from a limited range near my house.

In my quick experiments I learned a few things.

 I learned that a tripod is needed.  The first night I went out without one.  I just set the camera on a stationary object and shot the photo.  In the photo above my camera is perched on the deck rail.  Many of my pictures still turned out blurry and my shooting angles were very limited. The next night I had my tripod with me. I need to start using it more anyway. It's great for setting up more thoughtful shots.


I learned that even a minimal light source can overpower your shot.  In this photo, the room light was on in the brightest window.  In the other lit up windows there was very little light to the naked eye.  Most of the rooms you see through the other windows have no lights on at all.  The light source is coming through from adjoining rooms.  It really doesn't take much at all!  This knowledge really makes me appreciate that top shot.  The drama of the lit up house is as exciting as the sky.

The sky appears more blue and more dramatic when aiming away from the sun.  This was taken last night aiming towards the west where the sun was setting. The sky is a little blue but not very dramatic.  Also of note - in this shot there are no lights on upstairs.  The light is coming from the stairwell.

This morning I found that aiming towards the sun might have possibilities after all.  This was taken aiming towards the rising sun.  The sky is quite pretty - no lack of drama there.  It was slightly cloudy, which seemed to be what added the purple & pink tones.  Unfortunately, the trees are far too dark.  They would need a much longer shutter speed to show up or some sort of light source.  But at least I know not to totally discount aiming towards the rising/setting sun.

My photos are raw, which is the term the Blue Hour Site uses to describe photos that have not been retouched.  They love taking their photos to the next level on the computer. 

Finally, I have learned that my simple camera has more options that are worth exploring... one of these days.

I have linked to these parties:
It's a HodgePodge Friday at It's a HodgePodge Life
Friday Finding Beauty at Dipity Road

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