Published Apr 27. 2006 - 15 years ago
Updated or edited Oct 28. 2021

Glorious light

Another round of good advice for getting better fishing pictures. This time about the few moments during the day where the light is particularly exhillarating—namely around sunrise and sunset. This article tells you how to get the most from these often few minutes of great light.

Always different

No cheating

The term Glorious Light is not mine but photographer Ken Rockwell's. His articles are always worth reading, and I can fully agree with him on the fact that good light is only really present a few minutes every day. Many anglers refer to this period as the golden hour or the magic hour, praising the great light just around sunrise and sunset. The "hour" in the name reveals that it might be more than just a few minutes, which are magic.

Minutes or not, the phenomenon usually occurs just around sunset and sunrise. This is particularly the case if you take pictures close to the equator where the sun rises and sets more vertically. Further north and south, like in Scandinavia, Iceland, Canada, Alaska, South America and many more places we have a sun that moves in a lower path across the sky much of the year, so we often have more chances for some non-vertical light. And we see more clouds than around equator. And clouds create dynamic skies and often great landscape images.

Be it sunrise or sunset, the sun passing behind a cloud, a sudden outburst of rain or snow—the moment arises and passes in an instant, and you have to be ready when it's there.

Rockwell is sure that most photographers sleep through these magic moments, which may be true for the average photographer, but we anglers know better than to sleep through sunup and leave before the sun disappears under the horizon!
That is because we know that fishing is also best in the magic hour just around sunrise and sunset. Fish seem to prefer Glorious light too.

Let there be light
Martin Joergensen
Grey matter
Martin Joergensen
Low sun, low stance

So always have your camera ready when you witness sunrises or sunsets. Brace yourself with patience and make sure you get ready before the dish of the sun shows, and wait until the sun is fully gone, because oftentimes the best sceneries will be just before and just after. Once the sun is on the sky, the light is usually bright and the magic is gone.

Be particularly aware of clouds. If you have clouds forming on the horizon or over your head while in these magic minutes, there's a highly increased chance of seeing and photographing something spectacular.

Use the water to get reflections of the sky. The symmetry can be stunning. You can even consider mainly having the sky reflected in the surface of the water and not having the sky itself in the viewfinder. Isolating silhouettes of anglers in this way can create some beautiful effects. You may want to disobey the general rule of a low stance, and find somewhere high to get the anglers profile clear against the water behind him or her.

Boat in BC in B/W

Minutes after

Since the fish often bite in the golden hour, there might even be a chance that you can get a strike, a fight and a fish in that nice light or with that excellent backdrop. Use the low light as a source to light your subject and not only as a background. Remember to use a fill flash if you shoot into the sun or the bright horizon and underexpose a bit to get more saturation and avoid burned-out parts of the picture.

Martin Joergensen

As always you should take plenty pictures. In these digital days there is no reason not to shoot dozens and do a lot of experimentation with exposure.

These images below demonstrate why pressing the shutter release again and again is important. Get as many views of the situation as you can and sort when you get home. The six images below are selected from about 30 shots fired between 5:28 and 5:33pm into a November sunset. Notice the difference between top row and bottom row. There is less than a minute between the two rows.

Basic waterscape


Vertical, full reflection

Horizontal and low



You can also visit, which has much more on photography.


Soft-hackle's picture

Super photos. The a...

Super photos. The atmosphere of them makes them very special and captures the essence of the moment.

Nice shots. I have a...

Nice shots. I have a number of my own at , in the Outdoor Stuff section, most of which are from fishing trips. Keep up your good work.

Sigred Olsen, noted ...

Sigred Olsen, noted Minnesota author and explorer of Canadian canoe lands, called the last 5 minutes Ross Light, after a famous photographer/painter friend of his.


Log in or register to pre-fill name on comments, add videos, user pictures and more.
Read more about why you should register.

Since you got this far …

The GFF money box

… I have a small favor to ask.

Long story short

Support the Global FlyFisher through several different channels, including PayPal.

Long story longer

The Global FlyFisher has been online since the mid-90's and has been free to access for everybody since day one – and will stay free for as long as I run it.
But that doesn't mean that it's free to run.
It costs money to drive a large site like this.

See more details about what you can do to help in this blog post.