How America’s Most Popular Destinations Looking During Golden Hour
What is golden hour?
The last hour before sunset and the first hour after sunrise are the precious moments coveted by photographers.
These are the times when there is perfect light to capture stunning photos.
Miami Beach: December sunrises in Miami are around 7:15 am, and December sunsets tend to be around 5:30 pm.
When visiting Miami Beach during golden hour, travelers can expect the art deco architecture to become more vibrant and the palm trees to cast interesting shadows across the scene.
When reimagining Miami Beach during golden hour, the travel experts at Viator utilized the Kelvin scale to adjust temperatures and hues in Photoshop—namely to depict the shift from daylight with clear skies (5000–6500k) to sunrise/sunset (3000–4000k).
Central Park, New York: December sunrises in New York City are around 7:15 am, and December sunsets tend to be around 4:30 pm.
Nestled amidst the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan, Central Park has racked up more than 8.5 million hashtags on Instagram (8,642,890), making it a popular location for travel photography.
At both sunrise and sunset, the Manhattan skyline casts deep, long shadows across the lawn during golden hour, making it a great spot for a bike ride or impromptu photoshoot.
The Bow Bridge is a romantic meeting-up point in Central Park and the perfect spot for a wedding proposal or a first date kiss. This location is even dreamier during golden hour, due to the sun’s rays casting a glow over the bridge.
When reimagining Central Park during golden hour, the travel experts at Viator utilized the Kelvin scale—where golden light tends to be around 3500k—to adjust the levels in Photoshop. We also tried to match the coloring to what you’d typically see in the evening when the sun is between 6º and -4º above the horizon. This lines up with the beginning of the civil twilight, which is when people can expect to see purple and blue clouds floating over Central Park.
The Grand Canyon: December sunrises in Las Vegas are around 6:40 am, and December sunsets tend to be around 4:40 pm.
The Grand Canyon’s colors become even more vibrant at both sunrise and sunset. Sunset typically brings more dramatic colors and shadows that add complexity to the canyon’s landscape.
Sunrise, however, draws out much fewer crowds—a major bonus if you want completely unobstructed photos of the canyon.
Venice Beach, Los Angeles: December sunrises in Venice Beach are around 7:10 am, and December sunsets tend to be around 6:40 pm.
Venice Beach has more than 4.5 million hashtags on Instagram (4
This coastal LA neighborhood is a photographer’s dream during golden hour,
especially if you can capture shots of the warm colors reflecting on the ocean.
It’s also the perfect place to use a technique known as backlighting, achieved when the light source (aka the sun) is behind the subject of your photo—something that happens every day at sunset on the West Coast.
How to take perfect golden hour photos with a smartphone
We travel experts at Viator have provided tips on how to capture the ultimate golden hour photo on your smartphone.
- Timing is key: Make sure to be ready about 30 minutes before sunrise or 30 minutes before sunset, when the sun is low on the horizon. This will ensure you don’t miss a single second of the soft, warm, and diffused light of the golden hour.
- Play with directional light: Pay attention to how the light falls on the subject. While side lighting can emphasize texture and create long, dramatic shadows, backlighting can produce beautiful silhouettes. Experiment to see what works best.
- Experiment with angles: Try shooting from different angles. The sun’s colors during golden hour can change quickly, so be ready to adjust your position as the light evolves.
- Use “Burst” mode: When capturing a unique fast-moving activity such as birds flying, use “Burst” mode by pressing and holding the shutter button. This will give a series of shots to choose from.
- Tap to focus, and hold the phone steady: Not many know this simple hack when taking photos: Simply tap on the smartphone’s screen to set the focus point for the shot. This helps ensure that the main subject is sharp and well-focused—just make sure to hold the phone as steady as possible.