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Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 70 of 107

Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 70 of 107

Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Lesson Info

Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light

We had twilight, we had cloud light and then we have sunrise and sunset our golden hour which of course actual times may vary according to your location, this hour may be half an hour if you're down near the equator, sun rises very quickly and moves up in the sky a little bit more quickly and so that first ray of light, those last bursts of light coming through are sometimes the best because they're the lowest light levels but they have a lot of nice color to them. So they have a lot of good advantages, it's soft, it's a little bit more diffused 'cause the light's cutting through more atmosphere, lower contrast which means we can see the highlights and the details if we look at our lion here we can see some of the face is in the shadows, some parts are in the highlights, but we can see detail in both, it's not too extreme in this case. Obviously sunrise and sunset that's two we've got two opportunities per day to shoot under this, until we get to tatooine where we have two suns then it...

's still going to be a bit of a problem here. So it comes and goes obviously very quickly and it varies quite a bit from day to day and so you've got to be prepared for that. And so in these cases you want to be looking for clouds to see if you're going to be able to include them have them a part of it or not. I typically want to be in manual exposure on this, I do like working with muralist cameras because I can see the results that I'm likely to get even before I take the picture, with SLR's I typically shoot a photo, check the exposure on the back, and then proceed from there and oftentimes this is a little bit on the darker side, that's just kind of where landscapes tend to be in many of these cases and so you're often underexposing by a third or two thirds of a stop. Situations like this I'm obviously or maybe not obviously but I am using a split neutral density filter to hold back some of the brightness 'cause that's very bright on the top half and I still want you to see the bottom half as well. Getting a little bit of a starburst there waiting for that light to go through that little rock opening. Getting a little bit of cloud light in here nice blue skies as well so we're getting a good collection of colors in here. This is in Monument Valley, there had been a rainstorm just prior to this and everything was covered in clouds and the wind was blowing pretty well and it blew it out very very quickly and so things happen very very quickly so you just have to be on guard and ready to move at a moment's notice and when I was a kid I wanted to be a fireman you know it's like okay ready to go, got everything ready got the door open, I've got my bag ready to go and so you kind of have to be like that as a photographer because you never know when the light's going to be ready for the best situation. Alright so let's look at another graph of light here and so we're going to be measuring our light here again and our light quality and so this is at sunset and we do have a time lapse going in the background and so we have nice golden light which is generally a pretty good time to shoot with sunlight and once it hits sunset it starts getting darker a lot quicker and we lose a little bit of light in here but then it kind of comes back and they get the lights on and we get that blue zone right there and that's a great time to shoot in there and so there's kind of this gap between the last light and the blue zone, now we didn't get any cloud light in this time right here and then it runs into just dark and where it's nighttime photography for those who want to get out there and just shoot nighttime stuff and so we had two different moments here and I know most of the time when you shoot sunset right about here where it starts getting worse a lot of people leave, time to leave, get in the car it's getting cold and get out of here. But some of the photographers who want to get that second little peek there, there's a great time to come back right there and shoot in a scene like that. Now you can actually look up online in the newspaper on your apps as to what time is sunset and you're going to find some different categories, going to talk about these different categories of where the light is and so as the light's down below the horizon there are different levels and so there is true nighttime we all know that, but then there is astronomical twilight. And if you're wanting to look at the stars you don't want to be out during astronomical twilight 'cause there's starting to be a little bit of blue in the sky and so night is when it is pitch black and so the sun's starting to get closer to the horizon as it gets up to 12 degrees then it becomes nautical twilight. And I'm guessing that's because it's a good time to be operating a boat, you don't need light so you can see relatively easily and this is just a bit before sunrise and then we get to civil twilight and I think this is right about where a lot of the lights in cities are turned on or turned off, there's sometimes cities have regulations when it gets to a certain light level things have to turn on and off and this is nautical twilight, right in there is probably when that photographer's twilight that we've been talking about, that's about when it's at its peak when it's that much below the horizon, whether it's sunrise or sunset before we actually get to our sunrise here. And moving on to full daytime. And so you'll see these listed as what time nautical twilight begins and nautical twilight ends and this can be really important if you're going out to photograph the Milky Way for instance and it needs to be perfectly dark at this latitude on the planet, in summertime you've got to wait til about 11:30 or midnight before really all the blue in the sky is totally gone so that you can see the stars really easily and so photographs from different times of the city at the golden hour, right at sunset, when you get a nice twilight, and then when that blue zone ends and you can extend the blue zone a little bit with longer shutter speeds and so if you're getting a nice blue there's going to be a peak period and then you should start cranking it for longer and longer shutter speeds to keep a little bit of that lightness in the blue 'cause it starts getting darker and darker and darker, but at a certain point you just can't push it anymore and it's become full nighttime. And so gradient light there are three different types of days as I see it here, we have overcast days, and they're going to start off pretty dark and they're not too exciting on the sunset, if it calls for a full overcast day, you can probably sleep in, don't need to get up at the crack of dawn for that 'cause you're going to have nice even lighting, it's a good day to take the macro lens out and shoot detailed subjects. If there are no clouds at all it's going to be a totally clear day, well that's a good chance to use the blue zone, shooting with that twilight in the background shooting silhouettes for instance, and then possibly a good chance for shooting first light as well, we just don't get the cloud light in there and so you might have a nice good hour of shooting after sunrise in that particular case. Now if you have partial clouds, that's a really good time you may or may not get good blue zone 'cause clouds may be blocking the light and if the clouds are in the right position and the light hits them in the right way you could end up with really good cloud light then it kind of gets bad again and then you have some nice good first light as well. And so be prepared for these ups and downs of shooting with light and I've been talking about this mostly from a landscape travel perspective, but this can also work for portrait photography as well.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.

Taught by seasoned photographer John Greengo, the Fundamentals of Digital Photography places emphasis on quality visuals and experiential learning. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
  • How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
  • How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.

John will teach you to step back from your images and think critically about your motivations, process, and ultimate goals for your photography project. You’ll learn to analyze your vision and identify areas for growth. John will also explore the difference between the world seen by the human eye and the world seen by the camera sensor. By forming an awareness of the gap between the two, you will be able to use your equipment to its greatest potential.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Photographic Characteristics
  3. Camera Types
  4. Viewing System
  5. Lens System
  6. Shutter System
  7. Shutter Speed Basics
  8. Shutter Speed Effects
  9. Camera & Lens Stabilization
  10. Quiz: Shutter Speeds
  11. Camera Settings Overview
  12. Drive Mode & Buffer
  13. Camera Settings - Details
  14. Sensor Size: Basics
  15. Sensor Sizes: Compared
  16. The Sensor - Pixels
  17. Sensor Size - ISO
  18. Focal Length
  19. Angle of View
  20. Practicing Angle of View
  21. Quiz: Focal Length
  22. Fisheye Lens
  23. Tilt & Shift Lens
  24. Subject Zone
  25. Lens Speed
  26. Aperture
  27. Depth of Field (DOF)
  28. Quiz: Apertures
  29. Lens Quality
  30. Light Meter Basics
  31. Histogram
  32. Quiz: Histogram
  33. Dynamic Range
  34. Exposure Modes
  35. Sunny 16 Rule
  36. Exposure Bracketing
  37. Exposure Values
  38. Quiz: Exposure
  39. Focusing Basics
  40. Auto Focus (AF)
  41. Focus Points
  42. Focus Tracking
  43. Focusing Q&A
  44. Manual Focus
  45. Digital Focus Assistance
  46. Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF)
  47. Quiz: Depth of Field
  48. DOF Preview & Focusing Screens
  49. Lens Sharpness
  50. Camera Movement
  51. Advanced Techniques
  52. Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance
  53. Auto Focus Calibration
  54. Focus Stacking
  55. Quiz: Focus Problems
  56. Camera Accessories
  57. Lens Accessories
  58. Lens Adaptors & Cleaning
  59. Macro
  60. Flash & Lighting
  61. Tripods
  62. Cases
  63. Being a Photographer
  64. Natural Light: Direct Sunlight
  65. Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight
  66. Natural Light: Mixed
  67. Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  68. Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  69. Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  70. Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  71. Quiz: Lighting
  72. Light Management
  73. Flash Fundamentals
  74. Speedlights
  75. Built-In & Add-On Flash
  76. Off-Camera Flash
  77. Off-Camera Flash For Portraits
  78. Advanced Flash Techniques
  79. Editing Assessments & Goals
  80. Editing Set-Up
  81. Importing Images
  82. Organizing Your Images
  83. Culling Images
  84. Categories of Development
  85. Adjusting Exposure
  86. Remove Distractions
  87. Cropping Your Images
  88. Composition Basics
  89. Point of View
  90. Angle of View
  91. Subject Placement
  92. Framing Your Shot
  93. Foreground & Background & Scale
  94. Rule of Odds
  95. Bad Composition
  96. Multi-Shot Techniques
  97. Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction
  98. Human Vision vs The Camera
  99. Visual Perception
  100. Quiz: Visual Balance
  101. Visual Drama
  102. Elements of Design
  103. Texture & Negative Space
  104. Black & White & Color
  105. The Photographic Process
  106. Working the Shot
  107. What Makes a Great Photograph?


a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan