eXtensions - Friday 19 May 2017

Times of Day for the Best Images: Golden Hour One for iOS (Updated and Amended_

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

Golden Hour

Perhaps the most important consideration when taking a photograph outside, after the subject itself, is light. This affects the settings for an image (Aperture. ISO), but also the quality of the picture itself, in terms of tone and sharpness. Knowing the right times for taking photographs is the type of information that a photographer needs.


There is not much that can be done about the sun (or its lack) when shots appear spontaneously: those candid or lucky shots that occur every day when we keep our eyes peeled. When planning to visit a location, however, it is helpful to know where the sun (or moon) will be so that decisions can be made on what to photograph, when, and how.

For over 4 years now, I have made use of LightTrac, which allows me to see sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset, as well as tracking the paths of those bodies, either at my current location, or anywhere else, with satellite or map view.


Many photographers regard the time just after sunrise as being the best for taking photographs because of the quality of the light at that time. This also applies (in a slightly different way) to sunset. This period is known as the Golden Hour. Just after the sun appears above the horizon (or disappears after sunset) is the Blue Hour. Light at these times adds some special qualities to any photographs, but it may require some quick work. Knowing the time limits - and the directions where the sun should be - should help considerably.

An app that has recently appeared in the App Store here is Golden Hour One. This is shown at 69 baht, but I bought it at 35 baht (18 May). I checked with two other iPhone users and the price was shown as 69 baht for one and $1.99 (she uses the US Store) for the other. I submitted a query to Apple on this apparent discrepancy (see below).

Golden Hour One adds a little refinement to the tracking information by showing information about these two times, which differ depending on the user's location.

Golden Hour One

The app opens with a 24 hour clock display, showing the respective times for Golden Hour and Blue Hour, morning and evening. Three times and three time bands are shown on the clock for morning: Blue Hour, Sunrise and Golden hour. In the evening, the order is reversed: Golden Hour, then Sunset, followed by Blue Hour.

Beneath the clock is a button that can be used to select Sunrise or Sunset. Depending on the choice, the times for each for the current day are shown just below. Pressing on the day/date display reveals a scroll wheel so that any date from 1 January 2015 up to an unforeseeable future (I stopped at 2625 CE) can be shown.

Golden Hour Golden Hour Golden Hour

A Map display shows the current location, and the direction of the sun at Sunrise or Sunset. Four icons are show on the right side of the screen: current location, Search, Favorites (pins can be dropped and remembered), and a selector to switch between Map, Satellite and hybrid views. Below the map is the same Sunrise/Sunset selector but only times for Golden Hour and Blue Hour are shown.

A slider at the bottom allows the date to be adjusted: 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017. Using this I was able to visualise sunset conditions for when I will be home in the UK later this year. The Maps data and other input require GPS and this may not be available at all times.

A Weather option shows light conditions for the selected location and shows a Sky Index and a Light Index. This only appears to be for the current week (hard to predict next month, of course). Comments were helpful: for today at my office the morning was "Broken high clouds. Poor chance to catch sunrise". Even more to the point, the Evening comment was "Overcast. Forget it."

A Reminders page had nothing scheduled and I was unable to see where in the app any such scheduling could be saved or how. More shows information about the app, including settings (Location, Notifications, Cellular Data - ON/OFF).

In Use

Even in the few minutes before the evening Golden Hour, photos taken away from the sun are crips, while those taken facing the sun (and there was some haze when I tried this) are less sharp. Foreground light levels are also affected.

Golden Hour Golden Hour

Photos away from (left) and into the sun (18:01 and 18:02)

As the time progresses (18:08-18:52) so the colours change, providing some spectacular evening sunsets here if the clouds are nicely positioned.

Example of Sunset from October 2016

With the benefit of this app, I watched through to the Blue Hour, which here is actually only 8 minutes (18:52-19:00), and noted how the light faded. In the UK where I will be in August, this time (or Twilight) can extend considerably making photography possible (with the right aperture and ISO settings) until quite late. The images here were only adjusted for alignment.


Photographs taken at 18:35 (top) and 18:58

About halfway through the Golden Hour time, the light is fading, but with the cloud concealing the sunset (18:35) - towards the North-West at this time of year - this becomes a secondary projector which can last for a while and in some cases can be quite beautiful (if you like sunsets). The buildings in the foreground begin to become darker, while the view away from the sun which earlier was sharp (South-West) is quite dark.


Photographs taken at 19:01 (top) and 19:02


The use of Golden Hour One itself adds nothing to the photographs I took, but that is not its purpose. By using this, and other apps, like LightTrac, I am better able to make use of the position of the sun (and moon) so that I am aware of light conditions beforehand, allowing me to prepare for a specific location, or making sure that I am ready to take photographs at the best time.

Amended information re pricing: I contacted Apple over the pricing differences and it was suggested I contact the developer, Hana Kusova. A quick reply told me that the actual price is higher ($4) and at the time I bought it she was experimenting with an optimum lower offer and that the pricing has now returned to the normal level ($4 or 135 baht). It seems I was lucky.

If I were so inclined (and I am not a morning person), I could use the information from Golden Hour One to set my alarm clock and leave home in time for those cracking early morning shots that others are able to take. As such this app is of value to those who need this type of information and is recommended as it is sound for the purpose.

Of course, all bets are off on certain days (like today) during the rainy season

iPhone 7 Plus Image, edited in Photos on the Mac using Tonality

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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