Last year around springtime my work took me to the city of Providence, Rhode Island. I always bring either my Nikon or my Canon G12 along on business trips but on this particular evening, I set out after dinner with my iPhone 4s. I wanted to take some shots solely with my iPhone so that I could post some pics on Instagram. I also wanted to play around with the waning light as I had just downloaded a new app called Magic Hour. It calculates, based on your location, when the “golden hour” or magic hour will take place. The light is perfect as there aren’t any hard shadows falling on your subject due to the diffusion of light through the Earth’s atmosphere. This time period is perfect for photography and film shoots. Many photographers and cinematographers set up for hours at a location just to shoot/film a few minutes worth of fantastic shots and footage during magic hour.
Mine aren’t so fantastic but it was the very first time that I had specifically set out to shoot during this time of the day. I walked out of the restaurant and proceeded to walk towards downtown Providence. As I walked I noticed that the street lights started to illuminate. I wondered how the street lights and the natural light would affect my shots.
In retrospect, I wish I had brought along my DSLR. There was noise on many of my shots and due to the low light as magic hour was ending, the inadequate low-light sensor on the iPhone produced some blurry shots. I was able to fix the noise issue in post-processing but it gives the photos a very soft look.
One thing to consider along with the light is the actual location and how much it changes during sunset/sunrise. The streets are empty, shops are closed, and there isn’t much traffic or activity. Or it could be the very opposite. In New York City, the day is only beginning for some as the sun sets. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Times Square looks vastly different in the wee early morning hours.
Next time I will try to shoot in the morning magic hour. The light should be identical to the sunset magic hour but I want to see what other changes (if any) occur. Although my iPhone didn’t do a bad job, next time I’ll venture out with a better camera. If you’ve never contemplated shooting in the magic/golden hour, go ahead and do so and experiment. Download Magic Hour (or any similar app – there’s plenty out there) or check your local weather for sunrise/sunset times and have fun.