The “Blue Hour”

Sitting between the night and the morning is a kind of twilight zone that many photographers call The Blue Hour (there’s also one in the evening but it is this very morning that I’m concerned with).  Although I have not yet found an official definition for the blue hour, the blue color spectrum is I am reliably informed by Master Wiki most prominent when the sun is between 4 and 8° below the horizon. In my experience it isn’t actually an hour, its effects are often only apparent for between 20 and 40 minutes but that’s possibly nit picking really, most photographers will know what I mean by “blue hour”.

© Dave Whenham

I enjoy the blue hour particularly when shooting in an urban environment. In towns and cities, buildings are still illuminated, Windows are lit and streetlights are often still on, making it an ideal time for urban photography. It’s also ideal for landscape photography because of the different shades of the sky and colour saturation but for me the magic lies in the urban environment.  However, I find this brief period before it comes properly light to be both frustrating and productive in equal measure.

This morning’s blue hour started for practical purposes around 7:20am here and by 7:45am was basically all over. When this period coincides with wet pavements and clear skies it can be magical. The key in my view is knowing your patch. It also helps to moderate your expectations.

© Dave Whenham

This morning after dropping the wife at work I knew I had around 15 minutes of usable blue hour available so there was not time for a leisurely stroll looking for compositions. It had been raining off and on all morning so the pavements were wet which was ideal. I decided that a shot of the Dean Clough complex from the bridge outside the leisure centre would make a good shot in these conditions and it also had the benefit of being a hundred yards from where I had dropped the wife off.

On the way in I had driven past the entrance to the Piece Hall and not d the doors were open so having secured the Dean Clough image I jumped in the car and drove across to the Hall. At that time of the morning I was able to park easily outside the entrance and as it was still pre-8am it didn’t cost a penny either. I had two compositions in mind both requiring a large depth of field but fortunately both were to be shot with the camera on the paving so there was no need to grab the tripod.

© Dave Whenham

Two locations, three images and twenty minutes later I was heading to a local cafe for a restorative black coffee… I might have had a butty too!

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