27 Sep 2017


WORDS & PHOTOS x Tristan Tinn

For me getting out in the #goldenhour offers some of the best times, on or off the bike. It also makes me wonder – why do our brains love it so?

The appreciation of this ethereal light is woven into the very fabric that makes us human. I find it difficult to believe that there is an able-sighted person on the planet, whose mind doesn’t evoke emotion on witnessing a colourful golden hour. Whether they choose to display this emotion is a different matter.

Golden hour drives thoughts of awe and wonderment; it makes me appreciate the world we too often overlook. Emotionally, once I look past any potential frustration of not having a camera to hand, golden hour evokes both excitement and tranquillity.

I’m going to focus specifically on sunrise, although the reverse of what I say could be applied to sunset. While there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ golden hour it can typically be broken down into phases of colour:

Dawn is the presence of weak sunlight, while the sun remains below the horizon. Typically dawn presents pastel colours in the sky, with strong pinks developing on cloud cover as time progresses. Blue is the most dominant colour as dawn begins; the so-called ‘blue hour’. Blue is said to produce feelings of peace and tranquillity, and it has the ability to reduce heart rate and body temperature. These feelings are thought to be driven by the psychological connection to a calm, peaceful day associated with blue skies.

As time develops the hues warm and pinks become more apparent. Pink is nurturing and physically soothing. Red can occasionally be present, with its physical effect on us to raise our pulse and boost our metabolism.

Once the sun breaks the horizon, given that it is unobstructed, orange light appears in abundance. Orange is another stimulating colour, offering energy and has association with warmth.

As the sun climbs the light shifts through the spectrum back to the white light we experience during the day. The final tones of the golden hour give us yellows; these tones extend throughout the hour, hence the name. Yellow is emotionally stimulating. Psychologically it’s believed to be the strongest colour, providing confidence and optimism.

Rayleigh scattering can explain the tones of golden hour – it provides us with a blue sky, as the white light passes through the atmosphere the short wavelength blue light is scattered by particles in all directions. During the ends of the day when the sun sits low in the sky, light must pass through signifantly more atmosphere. As a result the cooler colours undergo greater scattering. The longer wavelengths of the warmer tones are less prone to scattering, which allows them to reach our eyes. The colours of sunrise can vary considerably; they are dependant on the number, size, type and colour of particles in the atmosphere.

It’s important to note that the emotions and effects of the colours are only a guide. Our own interpretation of the golden hour also depends on environmental, social and cultural variables.

The only way you’ll know for sure how it makes you feel is to get out and experience it for yourself 🙂