Dusk in the Tropics – An Architectural Photographer’s Favorite Time

What is it about the “magic hour” that’s so engaging to the photographer of architecture and interiors? That special time just after the sun has set when the sky starts gathering those velvet tones of deep purple and indigo and the sharp edges of exterior architectural features become muted. The eye no longer sees surface details as they had appeared before in the bright tropical sunlight. But now, elements within a structure become visible; the eye’s not blinded by the intensity of sunlight which makes any interior view impossibly dark and invisible. “What’s going on inside that space”, one wonders? And slowly, bit-by-bit as the sky darkens, a balance is achieved, and you’re answered. You can see both the exterior and interior with almost equal clarity.

The effect is dramatic. Especially now, the tonality of the two areas, the exterior and interior is radically different. That’s natural. The cool tone (high color temperature) of the exterior which is lighted by the purple/indigo sky sets itself apart from the interior which in days past was lighted by “warm” incandescent fixtures. Note: today’s LED sources can mimic that “incandescent” inviting warm tone. The warm (low color temperature) light that emanates from the interior is dramatically different from the cool exterior light. Except for that color difference, the light intensity of the two areas gradually becomes equal. That now allows us to see detail in both realms. But the tension, the dramatic effect between the two areas is the product of the great difference in color temperature between them. That’s what the photographer captures in creating this dramatic scene.

In my title to this blog, I called our favored time “dusk”. But it can as easily be pre-dawn. The same conditions prevail. You just have to get set up early enough to be there when it happens. So basically the photographer gets two chances in each day to take advantage of that special light. In the typical shoot schedule, especially in the tropical summer when days are long and nights short, the shoot day can end late with an 8:30PM sunset; and can start early with a 6:30AM sunrise. It can make a photographer’s day very long indeed with very little sleep (especially if he’s got some night shots planned).

But it’s well worth it. The resulting views are inimitable and cannot be done any other way. Here are a few examples of that kind of shot.

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