Known as the ‘Golden Hour’, the first hour after sunrise and last hour before sunset are generally considered by photographers to be the best times of the day for capturing outdoor images. If you’ve ever been inspired by a wonderful landscape or travel shot the chances are it was taken either early morning or late afternoon. You will notice an instant improvement in your own photos, regardless of what camera you use, just by taking your pictures at these times of day.
During Golden Hour a soft, warm light bathes the subject, and the sky takes on a deeper hue with colours that are more saturated. Why is this? Well the simple answer is that the light from the sun, which is low in the sky at these times, has to go through more dust and atmospheric haze before it reaches the scene in front of you. This filtering not only softens the light like a giant diffuser, it also scatters both the green and blue light of the visible spectrum leaving mostly the red; the part that provides that pleasing warmth.
As an added benefit this oblique sunlight produces longer and more pronounced shadows, giving photos increased texture and an impression of depth. Because the light is less harsh than at midday, these shadows won’t be as deep as those found at noon, making it easier for your camera to capture a scene without over-exposing the highlights.
The picture of The Bayon above was taken at around 7am and due to the great light that day very little post processing was needed. Personally I prefer mornings to evenings for photography, partly because there is something so magical about that first light, but also to avoid the crowds. So when travelling set your alarm clock and get an early night!