XDrive Photography Learning 18 – Golden Hour

Here is my submission for Raj’s Golden Hour lesson.  I travelled with my camera all week to take some new pictures but the sun comes up and is sheltered by the clouds so I dug through my archives for these…


1/800 sec, f5.6, ISO 3200, 267mm

Let’s start with this one. I would really appreciate your feedback on it. When I took it, I could not resist the bokeh in the background. (Could you?)This old tree stump has a bit of a hollow in it that I fill up with bird seed. The bokeh effect is from the sunset seeping through the pine trees that line my yard. At ISO  3200, it is extremely noisy. I did what I could in post to tone it down without leaching too much detail from the bird. But I don’t think it was enough. I think this would have been one of those moments where I could have “taken advantage of fill flash.” But I am also reluctant to use a flash on birds without a large diffuser. And I am still having an internal debate whether I would do that either. I deemed it “too noisy to post” but couldn’t resist putting it in here. At this size, it might not appear all that bad? Do creative efforts trump technical correctness?


Here’s a better one.

1/2000 sec, f8, ISO 1600, 516mm


I love the colours in this one (the word saturated comes to mind). I also really appreciate that with the sun going down, there aren’t any bright white highlights on the water. And even though this was shot at ISO 1600, it was well exposed and the noise was a lot more manageable.

And lastly this one. We had already been on that lake for a few hours, but it wasn’t until the sun was going down that I noticed the colors in the reeds and the trees.


1/400 sec, f6, ISO 800, 150mm

It was a lot of fun going through some pictures this last week. Thanks Raj for the opportunity. And thanks to all of the contributors too. I have learned a lot from all of you.



36 thoughts on “XDrive Photography Learning 18 – Golden Hour

  1. Beautiful photos, Kelly. I don’t know what software you use for editing. Have you heard of “Nik Collection”? It does a pretty good job for noise reduction. And it’s free 😉 You can google it.
    Have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the pelican photo. Awesome! On the little bird. I like this one a lot too.I don’t mind the gold lights in the back. Although it’s bright, being blurred mitigates against drawing the eye too much — and it serves as nice contrast to the bird, bringing the bird out. Being brown and white it would be easy for the bird to disappear in a normal background, I like that you caught the bird with a seed in its beak.

    I agree with you on the no flash — a flash would startle the bird. If you’re on a tripod — one stop up and one stop down for 3 pics total can give you layers to work with in photoshop — even if the bird moves, you put the best bird pic on top, and then you can erase to show the one stop lighter pic for the log or erase to the one stop darker for the background as the log and lights are unmoving. You don’t have to cutout the bird–just erase what you don’t like with a softedge erasers so it blends the edges a little as you get closer to the parts (bird) you keep. As long as the tripod isn’t moved, you can create an image with a completely blown out lights or totally out of focus lights and layer beneath the primary photo and erase to it. Just an idea because you sounded frustrated with the lights. However I liked what you did with the blurred golds as background for the bird. So to me what you did was great. Also on the little bird, you could crop off a little off the top, and just a tad off the bottom to make it stronger — that tiny bit of cropping would make it a perfect fit in the narrow header space of a lot of blogs or brochures given that those are almost a 1(height) : 2(length) ratio.

    On the last one — were the reeds really that blue? Sometimes sunrise or sunset seem to dye the land but I’ve never seen that blue. I like that blue. I like the colors on that one. I don’t like the lines cutting straight across the middle but that is personal taste. The pelican is the WOW photo for me: blue, golds, great detailing in the feathers and you caught him looking directly at the camera.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Mary. I really appreciate your thoughts! I have a very old version of PS and have never learned how to use it 😊 I am definitely going to try to crop it 1:2 and see if that works.I was struggling with what to do with it so I left it as I took it.
      If I remember correctly, the reeds did appear bluish green. We never ventured to that side of the lake as it was too shallow. And I didn’t do anything in post to alter any colors, just increased the vibrance a bit.
      We were at the perfect distance for those Pelicans. There were 3 that watched us as we watched them. Calmly. Good times 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful photos. The golden light brings out the yellow in the pelican’s beak and makes the water glimmer. I’ve always liked the photo of the reeds, such stunning colour contrasts. As for the little bird, I think it might be rather boring without the soft orange in the background. Technique is important but it’s the creativity that imbues with wonder. Jacqueline Du Pre was renowned for giving her own interpretation of the music. I understand that this was quite a challenge for the orchestra accompanying her. But there is absolutely no doubt that her performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto is one of the most sublime pieces of music I’ve ever heard. Keep being creative I say. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good evening Shutterbug. Sorry for the late reply. These days very little time I get on WordPress.

    Pic 1: First thought, beautiful picture of a bird having its lunch hour, the perfect soft glow of the sunset. The bokeh light in the background perfectly complements the image. It would merge the bird with the background without it. The focus seems to be precise on the beak. Yes, its challenging to get a perfect exposure especially on the zoom lens and low light. Even the flash also not going to work unless you plant a remote flash in advance. Ultimately you chose the right settings given the conditions. Regarding the composition, though I feel bird is placed bit awkward position. It could have been in the right half of the frame. Maybe portrait mode? Also, I noted some pinkish tint on the bird and tree stump, looks like the white balance issue. This happens in higher ISOs. Probably golden tint would have worked better because it would compliment the bokeh colour.

    Pic 2: Perfect shot with magic light. Very sharply focused shot for a zoom lens. Really like the silky feathers and the reflection on the wings. Great shot!

    Pic 3: Trademark golden hour shot. See that light and shadows on the trees? You get such lighting only when the sun is in at its extreme position. Trees come out from the frame. I wished the water was standing still for the perfect reflection. I notice you have cut off the top of the trees and there might be something unwanted. But with the treetops and a little bit of sky that would have been an epic shot.
    This feedback is part of XDrive’s photography learning sessions. Thanks shutterbug for your marvellous contribution.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No worries Raj. I had such trouble with the first picture. I couldn’t predict where and when it was going to land. I just stood and waited. I am also really really bad at remembering to ever use portrait mode. Thanks for the suggestion 😊 and pic #3 was taken with my sigma. It was as low as I could go as it was the only lens I had at the time.
      I appreciate your feedback Raj. It’s easy to pick out pictures in my archives that fit the challenge. I feel like I have cheated a bit but it’s just too chilly here. But I have learned what a difference it makes. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not cheating at all. Basically, we want to learn about the topic that’s all. As long as you are able to pick the right image for the topic that’s all matters. 🙂 Cheers to you.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting series, this XDrive and learning.
    Do you find it informative and helpful?
    As far as shooting pix at high ISO, and the graininess and noise: don’t hesitate to use hi ISO numbers when necessary (when necessary!).
    It’s better than no shot at all.
    Some photo artists even use noise and graininess as part of the composition.
    Journalistic photography and documentary photography should be concerned with the highest quality photos possible, accurately depicting the subject.
    Art photography, of course, is about an image, whether accurate, interpreted or even abstract.
    Use all the brushes in your easel!
    That’s why those high ISO numbers and crazy slow shutter speeds are available to you!
    Flash? “Tooey” (spitting on ground) Never!
    Unless I’m using it to produce a lighting effect. Never for routine illumination. (IMHO)

    Seek peace,


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Paz. Your thoughts made me smile today 😊 And yes, I have learned a few things from Raj as well as the contributors to his lessons. There are gems everywhere here 😊 Like you and that wonderful poem you left for whippet. Pleasure to meet you. Have a fabulous day!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks Raj.
        No doubt the rule “more gain is more grain” should be acknowledged.
        If Warhol can be famous for a soup can, there must be a broad range of acceptable in the artists’s eye!


        Liked by 2 people

  6. Despite not being technically perfect, the focus seems to be on the tree stump, my favorite is the first image because it shows a story of a bird picking up his food.
    Congrats on the last image, not a lot of people shoot landscapes at 150mm. I think you tried to capture the reflection of the trees in the water. What I like about this image is the colors and those colors could only be achieved at golden hour. Great work! Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

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