The assignment was to post photos taken during the “blue hour” – the time just after sunset when the sky is not yet completely dark, when backgrounds turn out a nice, deep, gorgeous royal blue.
The obvious local landmark for a blue hour photo is the university clock tower. Since it was so obvious – and since I’m not the only local person who participates in these challenges – I tried my best to avoid choosing it. But what started out as a lesson in natural light became a lesson in composition.
I was so pleased when I came up with the idea of using another building at the university, the art museum (often described as a sewing machine) where they project old artsy films on the outside wall after sunset. I set out to capture this masterpiece last night, when we finally had a clear evening after several days of rain. But even through the little viewfinder, I could see that the result would be just plain dull.
So I did the inevitable: I started walking towards the clock tower. Unsure of the amount of time I’d have before things went completely dark, I took the first shot that was presented to me. Unfortunately, the composition made the result equally dull.
For I don’t know what reason, I chose to talk around behind the building – possibly because it would give me a little more space to work with, so that I wouldn’t have to look straight up at the tower. The third perspective turned out to be my favorite. It’s probably not a coincidence that it meets the Rule of Thirds: the tower lines up right at the 1/3 line, and the clock itself edges up against the bottom left 1/3 corner.
I took one more set of shots, this time with the wide-angle lens in order to include the whole building. In the field, I thought it was more interesting; but on the computer, the building seemed bloated, and it de-emphasized the main subject.
Lesson learned: stay out of the middle. Go for the thirds. And simplify, simplify, simplify.
To round out the blue hour theme, this time with a purple hue, I’ll include one more shot here. This is another Rule of Thirds example, taken in February during our weird non-winter.
With sunrise at 5:40, sunset at 8:30, and the equinox still a month away, I probably won’t be doing a lot of golden hour / blue light shots for a while. But that’s OK, I’ll take the warmer weather instead!