Cool Photo Tool: The Golden Hour Calculator

One of our project managers stumbled across a very "Cool" Golden Hour calculator website.


For those of you who have never heard of the Golden Hour (aka Magic Hour), let me give you a quick run-down. This "Hour" is defined as the first/last hour of sunlight to illuminate your area during the day. According to Wikipedia, "Hour" is used here quite loosely. The character of the lighting is determined by the Sun's altitude, and the time for the Sun to move from the horizon to a specified altitude depends on a location's latitude and the time of year. For a location closer to the equator, the altitude is greater (or the time less), and for a location farther from the equator, the altitude is less (or the time greater). For a location significantly far from the equator, the Sun may not reach an altitude of 10°, and the golden hour lasts for the entire day if the Sun indeed rises.

Because of the angle of the Sun, light waves pass through more of our atmosphere, which reduces the light's intensity. This produces a much warmer (reddish) light as well as longer shadows due to the Sun's small angle with the horizon. This "hour" also produces less contrast, meaning shadows are less dark, and highlights are less likely to be overexposed.

Many photographers use this unusual light to capture breath taking landscapes with rich, beautiful colors. The Golden Hour calculator website helps you figure out when these golden hours will take place in your area. If you have a GPS, you can punch in your longitude/latitude, and the Golden Hour Calculator will give you the times this light will be upon your location. If not, you can use the graphical map on the site that allows you to zoom in on your location down to street level using satellite photographs; I was even able to see my house! Do be sure you change the "Showing all events in UNIVERSAL Time" to "Showing all events in LOCAL time", to ensure the golden hours are shown for your time zone. The drop down is just below the map on your left. When I first started playing with the site, I didn't catch this until after I had chosen my location. I then thought something was off as it said my sunset hour started at 00:46 (after midnight). Changing to Local time then displayed a more realistic time of 20:46. 

Below you can see an example taken from our very own Photo of the Day archives for the month of June, 2009.