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2. The period of sundown through the various stages of twilight is the one time of the day when you can truly become a magician with your camera. Shooting during these few hours is very convenient for many photographers because it is at the end of the workday, and beneficial because it’s an opportunity to relax and relieve the stress of work.
3. Schedule a few evenings a week to travel directly from work to an interesting location for this photographic escapade. Your subject matter could be nature, portraits of a co-worker or as simple as moving the family dinner to the patio, so you can take photos of the family and your children playing after dinner in the soft light of sundown and twilight.
4. Recognizing and controlling the difference in the light at sundown is the key to making magic with your camera. Sundown is when the temperature of light is at the orange/red end of the scale. This is the kind of light that you can reflect off someone’s face, as you wouldn’t do at midday, to give his or her skin a beautiful golden to coppery glow.
Turn your subject or move your camera position, so the low sun becomes a side light striking the subject from a 90-degree angle. Now, you have the opportunity to create with subtle shadows and shading that make for fantasy-like images.
Because the light of dusk isn’t strong, it can be used as a backlight. An obvious composition is to create silhouettes against the low sun. You may be able to take more compelling images if you shoot a subject with his or her back to sundown. Then, place your camera on a tripod and select a slower shutter speed, wider aperture or higher ISO setting, so some of the ambient light reflects from the person’s face and records soft details.
5. Sundown is also a perfect time to mix two sources of light for completely different looks and moods. The light of the environment (and background) is ambient light, which can be creatively balanced with the light from a flash unit, which primarily illuminates your subject. To use this technique, first set the correct exposure of the subject with your flash. As the exposure for the subject determined by the flash remains constant, you can select different apertures and shutter speeds to manipulate the ambient light in various ways to “paint” unique and artistic photos.
6. The magic doesn’t end when most of the sun has disappeared below the horizon. From that moment to a completely dark night is twilight. The sun is still lighting the environment, but very indirectly. Twilight is further divided into three periods that are important to know and understand. Early twilight is the first 30 minutes after a complete sunset. You can still shoot handheld, but the light starts to shift to a more even distribution of blue across the sky.
The next 30-minute period is middle twilight. There is very little sunlight remaining and the sky’s palette is from dark blue to almost black. This is the time to look for artificial light sources, streetlights and signs, which briefly provide an interesting balance with the last sunlight and photographs you can’t capture any other time of the day.
Late twilight then arrives for just another 30 minutes. The sky is almost totally black and just the smallest bit of sunlight is still evident. In most cases, you’ll need a flash to take any photos or a tripod with a remote shutter release for long exposures. This is when artificial lights are dominant, but a long exposure will still record the last, fleeing seconds of the light from sundown.
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Photo by PhotographyTalk Member David Zuba