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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The blue time of day

There's a time of day that professional travel photographers love. Well actually it's two times in a day. About three minutes before the sun comes up in the mornings, and about three minutes after it goes down in the evenings. The farther away you are from the equator the longer it lasts. It's called the blue time of day for obvious reasons. The colour temperature is such that it leaves a lovely blue colour on your film or digital chip.

The reason that professionals love it so much is that it's basically weather proof. Rain, hail, shine or, in the case of the photo above, snow - you still get that lovely colour. And if the blue is not quite intense enough for you you can put your digital camera on to the tungsten white balance and it will be really blue.

It's when most so called 'night' photos are taken. Before the sky goes so black that you can't see any detail in the buildings apart from the lights in the windows. It's still bright enough for the camera to record the scene, with the addition of all the lights being on and everything looks really attractive.

The only problem with living in Cairns is that it's so close to the equator that this lovely light only lasts for about ten minutes or so. So if you have a few buildings you want to photograph you have to go out on consecutive nights to get them all.

I didn't have that problem with the photo here though. This was taken on the very northern Japanese island of Hokkaido in a little port town called Otaru. About 45 minutes from Sapporo, Otaru is famous for its delicious sushi, old brick buildings and this canal. People flock from all over Japan to see this tiny little stretch of water with its gas lamps and historic buildings. It looks pretty lovely in the snow doesn't it. And it looks even nicer in that nice blue light. This was taken on Fuji Velvia film with a 200mm lens to compress the perspective and make the reflections on the water look more prominent.

I find I often use my telephoto lens in Japan because it gives me a very narrow angle of view. Usually attractive things in this crowded country are surrounded by unattractive junk that you don't want in a photo. A wide-angle lens would get too much extraneous stuff in the picture but a long lens lets you just photograph the beautiful bits.

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