Monday, August 20 , 2018, 4:37 pm | Fair 75º


Captain’s Log: Golden Hour of Outdoors Photography

We don’t get to enjoy enough wintertime photos taken during the prime golden hour — the first hour of daylight. It makes sense because the secondary golden hour, right before dusk, is much easier to work with, being warmer and we’re already awake. But the glory of the morning golden hour is not possible at any other time.

To get a chance at that first golden hour, set your alarm clock for 5 a.m. and be out the door by 5:45 a.m. Be prepared for the bite of a January morning. Bring a jacket, a hat, gloves, and your best camera and accessories.

To take pictures with a magical quality, you must take advantage of every possible source of natural magic. In my opinion, the greatest natural magic is the soft color of light from a half-hour after first light to an hour after sun-up. The first 20 minutes after sunrise are the best. The colors captured during this golden time are soft, warm and vibrant.

I keep captain’s hours. I’m often out on the water during this golden time of morning. On some days we make a long run and enjoy panoramic sunrise views. I smile when passengers pause to appreciate the splendor of nature and click some pics. Those scenic photos help tell the full story of a day in paradise. The soft morning colors add quality to our fishing photos. I sell photos to the magazines I write for, and I have learned the added value of morning colors, which have a visual power that can’t be beat.

Ocean, island or beach vistas are often stunning, bathed in the colored light from a magnificent sunrise. Our fair city looks magical in the morning light.

Another good recommendation is to head up on the mountain. Take San Marcos Pass up and drive out either east or west Camino Cielo. Park the car and take a walk to a vista point for a wide range of opportunities. Sunrise shots from that high perspective are top notch. The colors of the sunrise will change during the next hour, so take some wide-angle shots early and again later.

At closer range, landscape shots are optimal at this time. Chaparral hillsides appear soft and appealing in the morning light. There are opportunities for wildlife shots at this early hour when critters are more active. A zoom lens will aid with detailed close-ups of critters and plants that are partway down a steep hillside where you don’t want to climb. With a big zoom lens you can count veins in a butterfly’s wings at a hundred paces.

Photography is a technical business, but it is fun to learn and practice.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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