Landscape photographers learn from day one about the “golden hours”, the first and last hours of the day where the sun is at a low angle and gives warmth and great color to a photograph. Bird photographers can also benefit from this. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to photograph a lesser goldfinch in the last hour of the day. It was a rare day this winter where the sun was shining and the lesser goldfinches were active in my yard.
I don’t understand the physics behind the phenomenon know as the golden hour but I am betting it has to do with the angle of the light on the subject. There might be more to it than that but whatever the reason the outdoor photographer of all walks of life should take advantage of this magical time of the day. I have always photographed landscapes at this time but have not often photographed lesser goldfinches, or many other birds for that matter, during the late evening hours of the day.
As you can see, the color is richer and more enhanced during this time of day. It makes for some great photographs for sure but, however, there is a bit of a trade off for the bird photographer. The trade off is light. The early and later part of the day when the light is the best there is also less of it so it makes us bird photographers often having to change some camera settings, especially if one wants to try and capture motion and needs a fast shutter speed to do this with.
I like bird portraits and quite often I look more for a nice pose in a great setting as opposed to getting a great flying shot. It’s what I like to photograph and it is quite a bit easier to do in the waning hours of the day where light is at a premium price for stopping fast motion such as birds in flight. The upside to this type of photography is trading slower shutter speeds for warm light is one can often photograph posing birds up to the last minutes of the day if one uses a tripod, such as I did with this lesser goldfinch.
Give the last hour of the day a try for bird photography or even just trying to capture a great bit of scenery. No matter what the subject, great evening and morning light can make any subject come alive and look great.