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Trio of Mute Swans on the RIver Stour by Mark Rowley

Ever since I brought my first DSLR back in 2017, I’ve spent many hours reading photographic blogs and articles to improve my knowledge and understanding of the subject. One of the topic I came across again and again was ‘golden hour‘ (the period just after sunrise or just before sunset)  and why it was the perfect time for taking photographs. Now I understood the theory behind golden hour and why it was such a great time to get out and shoot. When the sun is near the horizon, its light has to pass through more of the earths atmosphere. That atmosphere acts as a giant diffuser which softens the intensity of direct sunlight. The problem I had was I never really felt I’d experienced or noticed the effects of golden hour when out with my camera. Looking back, perhaps this wasn’t that suprising as I was still very new to photography and still had an awful lot to learn!

I’ve seen the light!

This all changed one evening in August 2017.

Back in 2017 my main interest was wildlife photography, mainly birds so I’d often visit some of the local rivers and costal locations close to my home in North Essex

On that August evening in 2017 we were walking along the River Stour at Mistley, Essex hoping to catch a few wading birds on the river. It was a beautiful still evening with almost no breeze and the water was like a mill pond. A small group of Mute Swans were drifting along on the slow current and as I move down closer to the bank to take a few shots it suddenly struck me how clear and blue the water was and how clear refelections of the swans were on the water.

Mute Swan on the River Stour, Mistley, by Mark Rowley

I still remember taking this shot above and a few others and thinking to myself:


“Now I understand why golden hour is the best time of day for photography”


It really did feel like a light bulb had just switched on in my head. Apologies for the shocking pun there!

Once I had loaded the images into Lighttoom and viewed them full size, I was delighted with the results. Although at the time I was very inexperienced and the compositions were not great, these are still some of my favourite wildlife images.

Final Thoughts

Since I took the very first first photo with my entry level DSLR (a Nikon D5300), there have been numerous occasions when I have tried a new technique or experienced something for the first time, but this still one of the most memorable moments I’ve had and helped me understand that I had to really look at a ‘look’ at a scene from every perspective.

Have you had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments during your photographic journey? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.