Mining for the diamonds of dawn

All photographers know about the enchantment of the golden hour. All of us have at least once forced ourselves to wake from the deepest, sweetest dreams of the early morning, to go on a game drive as the sun rises – anything not to miss this beautiful hour.

The golden hour is a wonderful time to photograph. Yet lately I have found myself yearning for the 15 minutes before the sun rises. There is no name for this kind of lighting, but it could well be called the ‘diamond dawn’, because the light in those few minutes before the sun rises, is arguably the best light there is for wildlife photographers. The reason for this is that the sky is not yet blue – it is almost grey, which means that the reflection off the subject and the subtle lighting on it is pure, warm and soft. The part of the sky where the sun is about to rise glows with a beautiful golden-red colour that acts as the light source and often reflects beautifully in the eyes of animals. It takes trial and error to get it right, but when it comes together, the diamonds sparkle.

Until now we could not really take advantage of the diamond dawn, because only now do we have cameras with good high-ISO capabilities that can shoot in really low light. This has revealed an exiting new world for wildlife photographers.

But sadly this means the end of even sweeter dreams. Because the deep dreams in the hour just before the diamond dawn are often even more beautiful than the jewellery of dawn itself.


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