Published Apr 27. 2006 - 17 years ago
Updated or edited Oct 28. 2021

Glorious light

Another round of good advice for getting better fishing pictures. This time about the few moments during the day where the light is particularly exhillarating—namely around sunrise and sunset. This article tells you how to get the most from these often few minutes of great light.

Always different

No cheating

The term Glorious Light is not mine but photographer Ken Rockwell's. His articles are always worth reading, and I can fully agree with him on the fact that good light is only really present a few minutes every day. Many anglers refer to this period as the golden hour or the magic hour, praising the great light just around sunrise and sunset. The "hour" in the name reveals that it might be more than just a few minutes, which are magic.

Minutes or not, the phenomenon usually occurs just around sunset and sunrise. This is particularly the case if you take pictures close to the equator where the sun rises and sets more vertically. Further north and south, like in Scandinavia, Iceland, Canada, Alaska, South America and many more places we have a sun that moves in a lower path across the sky much of the year, so we often have more chances for some non-vertical light. And we see more clouds than around equator. And clouds create dynamic skies and often great landscape images.

Be it sunrise or sunset, the sun passing behind a cloud, a sudden outburst of rain or snow—the moment arises and passes in an instant, and you have to be ready when it's there.

Rockwell is sure that most photographers sleep through these magic moments, which may be true for the average photographer, but we anglers know better than to sleep through sunup and leave before the sun disappears under the horizon!
That is because we know that fishing is also best in the magic hour just around sunrise and sunset. Fish seem to prefer Glorious light too.

Symmetry - The symmetry of the sky and the reflection in the water can always e used to add even more drama to a rosy sky like this.
What a color! - This is the result of zooming in on a distant angler during sunrise on a very misty morning. When the sun cleared the horizon is blazed this extremely orange light through the mist and created this fantastic scene where sky and ocean blends so smoothly.
Slow shutter - This picture was done late at in the light Scandinavian night. Using a rock for support and a shutter speed of 10 seconds I was able to get the light and the drama of the clouds. The long shutter opening meant that the clouds moved while exposed, which is why they are blurred.
Same morning, different picture - Notice the angler in the distant background on this picture. He is the same angler who occurs on the very orange image taken in the mist. This picture is taken within minutes of the other one but yet it\'s very different. And the whole scene was gone in less than 10 minutes.
Let there be light
Martin Joergensen
Grey matter - Great light is not only experienced around sunrise and sunset. This picture was taken in the middle of a bland and grey day where the sun suddenly burst through and created quite a magic light.
Grey matter
Martin Joergensen
Low sun, low stance

So always have your camera ready when you witness sunrises or sunsets. Brace yourself with patience and make sure you get ready before the dish of the sun shows, and wait until the sun is fully gone, because oftentimes the best sceneries will be just before and just after. Once the sun is on the sky, the light is usually bright and the magic is gone.

Be particularly aware of clouds. If you have clouds forming on the horizon or over your head while in these magic minutes, there's a highly increased chance of seeing and photographing something spectacular.

Use the water to get reflections of the sky. The symmetry can be stunning. You can even consider mainly having the sky reflected in the surface of the water and not having the sky itself in the viewfinder. Isolating silhouettes of anglers in this way can create some beautiful effects. You may want to disobey the general rule of a low stance, and find somewhere high to get the anglers profile clear against the water behind him or her.

Boat in BC in B/W

Minutes after

Since the fish often bite in the golden hour, there might even be a chance that you can get a strike, a fight and a fish in that nice light or with that excellent backdrop. Use the low light as a source to light your subject and not only as a background. Remember to use a fill flash if you shoot into the sun or the bright horizon and underexpose a bit to get more saturation and avoid burned-out parts of the picture.

Get more - Always shoot a row of images when you're exposed to glorious light. Vary the orientation, the zoom and the exposure to get as many different aspects of the magic.
Martin Joergensen

As always you should take plenty pictures. In these digital days there is no reason not to shoot dozens and do a lot of experimentation with exposure.

These images below demonstrate why pressing the shutter release again and again is important. Get as many views of the situation as you can and sort when you get home. The six images below are selected from about 30 shots fired between 5:28 and 5:33pm into a November sunset. Notice the difference between top row and bottom row. There is less than a minute between the two rows.

Basic waterscape


Vertical, full reflection

Horizontal and low



You can also visit, which has much more on photography.


Soft-hackle's picture

Super photos. The a...

Super photos. The atmosphere of them makes them very special and captures the essence of the moment.

Nice shots. I have a...

Nice shots. I have a number of my own at , in the Outdoor Stuff section, most of which are from fishing trips. Keep up your good work.

Sigred Olsen, noted ...

Sigred Olsen, noted Minnesota author and explorer of Canadian canoe lands, called the last 5 minutes Ross Light, after a famous photographer/painter friend of his.


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