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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How the Magic Hour Can Help Your Paintings

'Golden Hour Glow'        18x 24        pastel          ©Karen Margulis sold

'Blue Hour Silence'           11x14      pastel           ©Karen Margulis  $175
You know it when you see it.  It's commonly known as the Magic Hour by photographers but understanding it can help artists create more compelling paintings. Simply put the Magic Hour is the time period around sunrise and sunset when the light takes on qualities that make everything more interesting. Objects glow with color and light and shadows are more interesting.

I like to consider myself as somewhat of a photography buff so I am always aware of the Magic Hour. But I just learned something new that I want to share. There is actually a Golden Hour and and Blue Hour.  The Golden Hour is when the sun is just above the horizon such as just after sunrise and just before sunset. The light is warm and things just glow. The Blue Hour is the time just before sunrise and just after sunset. Both of these times create conditions that are ideal for taking reference photos or getting out to paint.
Photographers often wait to take photos for the Magic Hour and plein air artists often avoid painting during mid day when the light is flat and uninteresting. Whether you paint en plein air or just take photos to work from....waiting for the Magic Hour will give you much more interesting possibilities for paintings. Even a garbage can can be beautiful when glowing from a setting sun!  The problem is the Golden and Blue Hours are not precise and don't always last very long. I have an excellent tool to help!
  • I was so excited to find this tool online. It is a calculator for calculating the Golden and Blue Hour.  Simply put in your location and time of year and the calculator generates the time and duration of sunrise, sunset, Golden Hour and Blue Hour.  Now you can plan your painting or photography outings to coincide with the times of the Magic Hours!  Here is a link to the tool. I put in Moab Utah in August and these were my results.  
I am thrilled to find a calculator for the Magic Hour. Sure I always knew the times before and after sunrise and sunset were the most exciting....but it is good to know just how long these times actually last.  I hope that you will find it helpful. I encourage you to get outside at the Magic Hour and look for the light. I promise it will result in better paintings!


Lynn DeJong said...

Thanks so much for this info Karen! I have made it an icon on my iPad! I'm taking a plein air workshop next week in northern Michigan, and it will be interesting to see what the times are each day for premium light! I have printed out the table for that area so I can reference it. Also putting this on my phone, but reception is sometimes spotty in beautiful, wild areas!!


Rachel said...

What a great tool!! Thanks so much for sharing it! As always, love your blog and never fail to learn something.

Karen said...

Your welcome Lynn! I hope you have a wonderful time at the workshop!!

Karen said...

Thank you Rachel! I appreciate hearing that you are learning something from the blog. It is my pleasure to share!

jane ward said...

Brilliant tool Karen, many thanks for sharing on your blog, I'm off to French Alps on a painting trip so need to set the alarm clock for the magical times!

Lora said...

I will have to try out that tool.Thabnks for sharing!