Colorado Sunset + Sunrise
Fact. Sunset and Sunrise in Colorado Varies by Topography
The above statement seems rather straight forward but the interpretation will be broad. If you are trying to figure out the sunset in the mountains or are questioning the time we provided for photos up against sunset then this post is for you. What we have been noticing in the photography industry is that people come with a lot of different ideas about what is sunset. Not as many have opinions on sunrise because they would rather be in bed than care about getting photos taken at that wonderful time of morning. With lighting and weather in Colorado sunrise is likely the best ‘golden hour’ but that most would need a caffeine IV to function at that time so not everyone will agree with the word wonderful. For that reason we will focus in mainly on sunset in this post and just note that at sunrise will look a little different on the weather end and would have less people which may be ideal for your situation.
What is Sunset?
Feels a little crazy to have to start with definitions but you would be amazed at how many people confuse sunset with dusk and twilight. The noun is defined as ‘the apparent descent of the sun below the horizon‘. This means when that bright round thing is no longer visible the sun has set. Seems really straight forward but you would be surprised at how often people come to us with the expectation that sunset is after sunset. By saying after sunset we are actually referencing the official sunset time if we were on flat land with no mountains. This is not just a Colorado Mountain thing as illustrated by a quick search of sunset on Google looking at the images will show that about half of the photos labeled sunset are after the sunset time. While we agree that they are gorgeous we would also want to comment that almost all of them we saw in that search showed they were off a beach or on flat land. If you ask anyone about what makes Colorado unique they would say something related to the mountains.
Why Sunset is Getting Redefined in Photography
What this means is there are a lot of photographers out there who struggle to shoot at the actual sunset due to the brightness of the sun. Rather than use a powerful off camera flash (which barely anyone has cause many photographers struggle to buy the needed lenses) they end up shooting after the sun has dropped on the horizon. This gives the needed balance of light as the background and the couple are at similar light intensities. What they happens is over time this dusk period is then understood as ‘sunset’ and it becomes the cultural norm. If it is on the internet it is true – right?
Ignorance and Trends
To illustrate let us say you have a coordinator and they are used to photographers wanting to do sunset long after the sun is done and twilight is almost gone. It would only make sense to go with what someone else says because they are the schedule master – right? Well they are not the photographer who may have a different style. Trends come and go and are often weaknesses portrayed as strengths. For example, a ‘natural light photographer’ is someone often boasting in not knowing how to use flash photography. The main idea is here you take an industry limitation and ignorantly project it on another photographer to misguide expectations.
People come up alongside us when we are taking this gorgeous sunset and they try to get a few on their iPhone and the couple is black in the photo. While some smart phones are getting better they are not designed to overpower the sunlight in photos. Many people know they cannot get it so when the sun goes down and things look kinda flat but the twilight has those few moments of lighting up the clouds or distant mountains people rush out there for selfies. Everyone is a photographer these days and the technology they use will limit them to certain times of day so people will rave that this is the best time for sunset photos because for them it is the best time.
What About Twilight Photography?
If you get to this point and you think we are anti twilight photos then you are mistaken. We actually think that there can be a lot of color but the caveat is that it is not for most people. In Colorado because of the mountains the twilight window is more limited. After the sun has set you have this not so epic looking period of time that could be 30-60 minutes before the sun gets to the ideal angle to light up any clouds in the sky. This means that in most scenarios you have this less ideal looking chunk of time. This also means that the ideal 5 minutes of shooting comes and goes quickly. When it comes to shoots what we do want to note is that we are all about balancing photography with other things. Hope you can agree that your wedding day it not about photography but that photography is a part of capturing what is happening between you both celebrated with your guests. When it comes to a wedding then to hit a 5 minute window 30-60 minutes after the official sunset often means you are skipping out on dinner or toasts to go do more photos. We are certainly open but most are starving or wanting to be with their guests. There also might not be anything special so we always like to encourage it as a ‘possible’ thing. If you are doing an engagement shoot twilight does not really fit unless you are doing a unique kind of shoot. Really you will lose a lot of shooting time with images that do not look as good. For proposals we would note that you need flash to do things right in all these lighting scenarios so increase your risk of low quality if you do not do photos in the daylight. If you want to read more about Night Photography we include the link.
What Should Be the Take Away?
We recommend the best time to get how we stylistically shoot by default at what we call the functional sunset or functional sunrise. This time makes for unique photos rich and vibrant in colors. It is difficult to shoot in these conditions without proper lighting but it makes for higher quality of images as you have more light to work with in images. We can adapt to whatever you would prefer as our couple. Our goal is to just be clear on the perks and drawbacks of a given time.