There’s a time of day when the Scottish Highland landscape transforms — golden hour. It's a period shortly after sunrise and before sunset where warm, soft, and diffused light bathes everything in a radiant glow. Combine it with the warm colours of Scotland’s autumn landscape, and you have a great photo opportunity on your hands.
Let's delve into the art of capturing Scotland's autumnal sunrises and sunsets during the golden hour, explore the unique qualities of this lighting, and give you some of Jack’s top advice alongside location ideas and composition suggestions to boost your landscape photography.
The Magic of Golden Hour
Golden hour occurs when the sun is low in the sky, casting long shadows and warm light. During autumn, this light interacts with the changing landscapes, enhancing colours and building atmosphere. The softness of the light during this time adds depth and dimension to your photographs, revealing intricate textures that might go unnoticed in harsher lighting conditions. A perfect example is this photograph of Shieldaig & beyond to the Torridon mountains taken at sunset in 2020.
Jack’s Golden Hour Advice
"I love to photograph at sunset and sunrise because you can get an intense contrast between the colourful light and long deep shadows. It helps to convey the shape and depth of the landscape in a two-dimensional image.
Sometimes I think of ‘golden hour’ as just golden minutes or even seconds if I want to take advantage of the peak contrast in a scene. To ensure I capture these precious moments and have this golden light land on a particular part of the scene, I meticulously plan many aspects including the time of the year."
Location Ideas for Golden Hour Photography:
Scottish Highlands: With rolling hills, misty lochs, and rugged terrain, the Scottish Highlands offer many locations to capture the golden hour glow. There's a good reason that Jack chose to settle here and use the Highlands as his base for landscape photography!
Coastlines and Beaches: The Highlands is famed for picturesque beaches and rocky shores. During golden hour, the light dances across the water, casting reflections that elevate your compositions.
Historic Castles and Ruins: The warm light of the golden hour can add a touch of nostalgia to shots of ancient castles and ruins, making them appear as if they're frozen in time.
Forests and Woodlands: As sunlight filters through the trees, the colours of forests and woodlands transform into rich, vibrant hues. Take a look at our Faoillin Stag photo for inspiration!
Foreground Interest: Incorporate interesting elements in the foreground, such as rocks, fallen leaves, or reflections, to create a sense of depth in your photographs.
Leading Lines: Utilise natural lines in the landscape—paths, roads, or streams—to guide the viewer's eye and enhance the overall composition. Jack's image of the Bealach Na Ba road winding through the mountain pass is a great example.
Rule of Thirds: Apply the rule of thirds to place the horizon at an optimal point, either emphasising the sky or showcasing the landscape below.
Silhouettes: Experiment with silhouettes by placing subjects or objects against the sky during sunset. This can add drama and mystery to your shots.
Frame Within a Frame: Use natural elements like archways, trees, or rock formations to create a frame within your photograph, drawing attention to the main subject.
Now you're armed with the knowledge, locations, and techniques needed to photograph Scotland's autumnal golden hour, there's only one thing you need - the right weather! We can't promise if or when that will happen, but when it does, you'll be able to capture something wonderful.