What to do when the “golden hour” doesn’t exist
The “golden hour” is that time of the day when the sun is warmest in terms of color. It is about 30 minutes in the early morning while the sun is rising and about 30 minutes in the late evening while the sun is setting. It is a great time to take landscape and building pictures.
Even though San Diego has over 300 days of sunshine, it’s important to define “days of sunshine.” Several years ago I read the definition by the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, and it’s not what I would have thought. A “day of sunshine” requires in some cases a mere one hour of sunshine during the 24-hour day.
Many places in San Diego County have to put up with low-level gray clouds each day even though we get only 11 inches of rain on average each year. It’s called the marine layer, and it looks like this:
The marine layer can roll in off the Pacific Ocean as early as 2:00 p.m. on cool winter days, and it can take until as late as 1:00 p.m. to burn off, to dissipate, the next day. That leaves — tada! — one hour of sunshine!
So what is one to do when the “golden hour” basically doesn’t exist? Photoshop!
A couple of months ago I went to Santa Catalina Island for my birthday. The landscape panoramas were awesome, but not if you believe the pictures I took, like this one:
Notice the dull, gray sky? That’s the marine layer casting its pall over the island, and it didn’t burn off until about 1:00 in the afternoon. I knew I could easily solve the washed out color by increasing the contrast. It was the sky that would cause me greater problems. For some reason, a dull, gray sky just doesn’t look good.
Tonight I successfully played with layers and masks in Photoshop CS6 Beta and got this:
Hard to believe it’s the same picture. Remember, what comes out of the camera is just the basics to start with.