How to take the best golden hour photos when you travel


Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

The “golden hour” for photography is the last hour before sunset and the first hour after sunrise. This is when you can capture the perfect lighting for your images, as the sun’s rays come in at an angle and diffuse the light. It’s a short window of opportunity that is often gone in a few minutes, so it’s wise to shoot lots of photos from various vantage points during that period of time.

Budapest, Parliament BuildingPhoto courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Budapest, Hungarian Parliament

Sometimes you can get away with stretching out the “golden hour,” especially if the image you are photographing is fully lit. This was the case while photographing the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest from a Danube River tour excursion.

Kauai, Napali CoastPhoto courtesy of Tony DiBona

Kauai’s magical Na Pali coast

There’s no denying that Hawaii’s island of Kauai is a photographer’s dream. For views – and stunning photos – of the magnificent Na Pali coast, book a sunset cruise out of Port Allen the next time you visit the island.

Zabriske Point, Death ValleyPhoto courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley

There’s no denying Death Valley National Park is a photographer’s dream, especially in the winter months when cloudless skies and “golden” lighting conditions help create stunning views. Early risers often have the leading edge when it comes to photographing landscapes. This sunrise view over Zabriskie Point was well worth the 4 a.m. wake up call.

View of the midnight sunPhoto courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Cruise in Norway

If you have a chance to explore the fjords of Norway on a cruise ship, do it! This is an unforgettable view from a Viking Cruise, taken at 2 a.m., as the ship crossed the Arctic Circle and the midnight sun lit up the northern sky in glorious hues.

Tuscan sunflowersPhoto courtesy of Tony DiBona

Tuscany, Italy

You’ll never know what lies around the corner on a road trip, so keep your eye out for photo opportunities. These sunflowers covered the hills on a drive through Tuscany and were in full bloom as they caught the sun’s low afternoon rays.

Temple of Segesta in SicilyPhoto courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Temple of Segesta, Sicily

The magnificent Greek Temple of Segesta, nestled in the hills near the Sicilian town of Castellammare del Golfo, takes on a surreal glow when photographed at sunset.

Moon over Newport Beach, Rhode IslandPhoto courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Newport Beach, Rhode Island

Despite all your planning, there are times when a photo op just pops up in front of you. This happened in Newport Beach, Rhode Island, when a huge autumn moon rose above us as we sailed through the bay on a harbor cruise.

Arches National ParkPhoto courtesy of Tony DiBona

Arches National Park, Utah

You’ll think you’ve entered another world when you first view the amazing rock formations in Arches National Park. Both “golden hour” time frames can be used in the park, depending on the location. The morning sun works its magic on the formations as you enter the park through the southern Moab entrance.

Whale shark off Baja CaliforniaPhoto courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Baja California, Mexico

The sun was just setting when we spied this gentle whale shark gliding past our boat in Baja California’s Bahia de los Angeles, resulting in this stunning photo. This is another example of being in the right place at the right time.

Pinnacle Rock in the Galapagos IslandsPhoto courtesy of Tony DiBona

Pinnacle Rock, Galapagos Islands

There’s no question that “getting your best shot” can be challenging. There are 388 steep steps to reach the view over Pinnacle Rock in the Galapagos Islands, but if you time it right, you’ll be rewarded with a postcard-perfect view.

Mt. Fuji as seen from a planePhoto courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Mt. Fuji, Japan

Don’t underestimate the photos you can capture from the window seat of a plane. On a flight home from Japan, Mt. Fuji appeared outside my window, illuminated by the golden light of sunset.

Whale fluke, Canada's Haro StraitPhoto courtesy of Tony DiBona

Haro Strait, British Columbia

In the glow of the setting sun, a whale fluke in British Columbia’s Haro Strait delights passengers on a whale watching tour. If you have a choice, late afternoon whale watching excursions provide excellent opportunities to capture the whales in the best light.

Zebra at San Diego ZooPhoto courtesy of Joanne DiBona

San Diego Zoo, California

The world-famous San Diego Zoo is definitely a must-see if you visit the city. If it works with your schedule, visit the zoo in the afternoon and take advantage of the lower light conditions that will give your photos a golden glow, especially when photographing a subject such as this magnificent zebra.

Hearst CastlePhoto courtesy of Tony DiBona

Hearst Castle, California

If you visit California’s iconic Hearst Castle, plan your stay to include some late afternoon hours. Position yourself at dusk on the castle’s South Terrace for a magical view of the sunset over California’s Central Coast.

Pompeii ForumPhoto courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Pompeii, Italy

We visited the ruins of Pompeii on an overcast and rainy afternoon in December and gave up all hope of ever getting any photos in this atmosphere. As we stood in front of the Pompeii Forum in pounding rain, the skies suddenly opened up for just a minute, allowing us a brief moment to capture a rainbow over this ancient site. 

Rim of the World Scenic Byway in CaliforniaPhoto courtesy of Tony DiBona

Rim of the World Scenic Byway, California

If you’re taking a road trip, plan to schedule your drive to reach the most scenic areas during the morning or evening golden hours.  This image was captured as a warm sunset bathed the Southern California San Bernardino Valley below.

Stormy sky in Mykonos, GreecePhoto courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Mykonos, Greece

Late afternoon storms are often a photographer’s best friend. In Mykonos Greece, an approaching storm brought in just the right lighting conditions to create a dramatic view of the harbor.

Manhattan moon and sunPhoto courtesy of Tony DiBona

Manhattan, New York

What a surprise to see the moon high in the sky as the sun rose over Manhattan on a cold winter day – all from the comfort of our hotel room.

San Diego cloud formationPhoto courtesy of Joanne DiBona

San Diego, California

Photo opportunities can appear where you least expect them. This magnificent cloud formation made its appearance at sunset on a clear winter day in San Diego – right outside our front door.


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