Set That Alarm Clock: Capturing The Morning Blue Hour


They come but twice a day, the blue hour and the golden hour. The thing is though, many of us tend to shoot in the evening variants of those hours, mainly because we are already up, caffeinated and full of energy.

The benefits of shooting during these iconic hours are well documented. Today, however, I am going to focus on perhaps the most difficult of those times to shoot, the morning blue hour.

Why is it difficult? Because even if your journey to the location is short, you still have to get up at an ungodly hour to get there. 

Motivating Yourself To Get Up.

This is the hardest thing to do, however, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes to get up. The main reason for this is your inspiration will drive your motivation. As you build a collection of beautiful morning twilight images, you will realize what a special time of day it is to shoot.

For those who struggle, the best way to get into the frame of mind is to check the weather the night before you intend to shoot.

If that looks good, set yourself several alarms giving yourself plenty of time to get up and out. Personally, I have trained myself to leap out of bed at the sound of the first alarm, drink a strong coffee and take a quick but hot shower. This tends to fool the body into believing its later in the morning.

The other thing that will really help is to make sure all your equipment is fully prepared the evening before. Batteries charged, lenses selected, and all packed into your bag ready to go.

Put the camera bag near the door so you can make a quick exit.

The images you shoot should be motivation enough. By Jason Row Photography

Why The Morning Blue Hour?

There are several reasons for this. The first and most obvious is there will be very few people. If you wish to capture a beautiful cityscape or iconic building, there is unlikely to be tourists around blocking your view or even asking you to take their picture.

The double advantage of this is that you will be less stressed allowing your mind to be more creative.

Early Morning on a back street in Bruges, Belgium. By Jason Row Photography

The morning blue hour also has the advantage in that the light is increasing not fading as in the evening. This tends to take the pressure off of trying to get the shot before the light has completely gone. You know once the sun is over the horizon you still have the wonders of the golden hour in which to shoot.

Those of you that like to shoot coastal shots or lakes, the water is often much calmer in the early morning, leading to beautiful glass-like reflections and a feeling of serenity in your landscapes. 

The quiet calm before dawn. By Jason Row Photography

Weather is an important consideration in predawn blue hour shots. In the summer it will often be much cooler and less humid than its evening equivalent making it much more comfortable for the photographer.

The morning also sometimes has the added benefit of low lying mist and fog to add a sense of mystery to your shots.

Cooler, calmer and often better light in the morning Blue Hour. By Jason Row Photography

What Are The Photographic Considerations?

One of the prime things to consider when planning a pre-dawn shoot is getting to your location. You need to plan to get on site up to an hour before sunrise. If the location is remote this may mean walking along dark paths so carrying a torch is highly recommended. 

The use of a photographer ephemeris is very helpful as it will show when the civil twilight will start and where the sun will rise at the end of twilight. This will help you plan where the lightest parts of the sky will be. 

A sturdy tripod will be an essential as the low light of blue hour will require some pretty slow shutter speeds. Graduated filters can also be useful especially later in the twilight to hold back some of the beautiful hues the that the sky can have at this time of morning. 

The lens choice will be down to your personal shooting style but if you have some fast lenses, it's well worth taking them along.

After the twilight, you still have the golden hour. By Jason Row Photography

The predawn is an incredible time to shoot for a photographer. Getting up at stupid o’clock is perhaps the most difficult aspect of it.

However, as you come to realize just how beautiful the shots can be, you will increasingly find the motivation to get up early and get out shooting. Hopefully, some of the tips in this article will also contribute to your motivation.


About Author

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here.

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