Photographing on sunset


There is a special, crisp, clean and precise light at dawn and at sunset. Every day this light is repeated with the very same exact quality and with the same amazing precision.

Cinematographers refer to this sunset light as "the magic hour", the time of the day when the sun is hiding behind the horizon but in which its light is still visible before disappearing completely and giving way to night. A light that comes from nowhere and that sculpts relief to the landscape in an extremely subtle mood as color temperature cools from the last golden hues of the sun to the intense blue and mauve shades that precede the huge deep almost black Prussian blue of the night sky.

The so called magic hour actually lasts twenty-five or thirty minutes in which everything happens very quickly and where the light and the exposure values of the scene change at a speed hard to believe. In this same hectic time interval, all the street and domestic lamps that illuminate the city start to quietly turn on, almost imperceptibly, coloring with its own and unique color temperature each and every corner of your frame that the vanishing sunlight has shadowed. 

Agbar Tower  |  Jean Nouvel  |  Barcelona

There is a real difficulty in working in a so rapidly changing situation and this is to carefully anticipate how light transforms the scene and also to be prepared and having your camera ready to get both the right balance of the elements in the frame as also the right lights and colors that illuminate them.

Creatively using the combined colors of sunset and street lamps on location gives very suggestive results that confer photographs a very attractive plasticity. If besides, colors are more freely and accurately adjusted during processing plastic results can be very surprising.

But very rigorous attention has to be payed to the light that illuminates the photographic frame when everything happens so fast because its right direction, special quality and metallic gloss only lasts an instant and will not be repeated again until a whole day has passed. If patience, rigor and anticipation are important in architectural photography, they are even more so when the photographs are shot at dawn and dusk.

Waiting for the best possible light to illuminate a photograph is not a trivial matter: nothing can compare to a well-lit photograph if you really want to portray an architecture project in all its glory or convey a captivating emotion in a fine art photograph and then achieve the fantastic momentum when images speak for themselves and viewers get definitely caught by their presence.

David Cardelús