Jim Salge Photography Blog

Images of New England captured in dramatic light and atmosphere

The Allure of Alpenglow

One of the things that I’ve set as a goal this year is to work on my control of midday light. It’s a style of photography that many have found success in, and I can’t seem to come away from with great results.  The only time I really am struck by one of my midday shots is when other unique conditions exist.  The good news with this goal is that I can use any midday shots to supplement my bread and butter, the golden hour shots that I work so hard to get.

Frigid Bridge

Frigid Bridge - A Midday Shot that Works Due To Heavy Hoar Frost!

The golden hour is great for photography as the intensity of light is less, and therefore local contrasts are greatly reduced. The light is also warmer; whereas midday light is a cool, blue color that many characterize as uninviting, golden hour light has hues of pink and orange that bring wholly different emotional responses to images. Golden hour light is a commodity, it’s rare, and it’s cherished. I’m sure everyone has had a moment where they were completely blown away by a sunrise or sunset that stops them in their tracks.

When photographing light during the magic hour, there is a strong tendency to shoot the sun itself. Unless I can incorporate the sun as a dynamic piece of the landscape, I tend to compose off of the sun, and sometimes even directly away. This technique is most successful when there are mountains to capture the longest of rays, sometimes when the sun is still below the horizon in the valleys. This Alpenglow can make the harshest mountain landscape seem inviting.

Shooting alpenglow can be challenging. The intensity of the light is low, but the color is high. Additionally, the land below the alpenglow is often incredibly dark, almost requiring split neutral density filters to balance out the scene. In winter, two stops tend to do it. If you don’t have split ND filters, good strategy when shooting for alpenglow in digital photography is to overexpose, or shoot to the right. As long as you don’t clip the highlights, you can dial down back to a normal exposure in photoshop, and have a much wider range of quality tones in the final image.

This past weekend, I caught two great displays of alpenglow from overlooks in Conway and Jackson, overlooking Mount Washington. With the now near blank slopes of snow, the light was fantastic. I hope to explore overlooks that require a bit more effort this winter, like Mount Adams, Mount Hight/Carter Dome, and Jackson/Pierce, whenever the forecast looks clear…but this weekend is just forecast to be too cold. Safety has to be considered, and shooting in twenty to thirty below temperatures miles from a road with a planned hike in the dark is just not prudent. Patience…

Here’s some alpenshots from the weekend…

Predawn Glow From Conway

Predawn Glow From Conway - No light on the Mountain!

Strong Glow over Conway Lake

Strong Glow over Conway Lake

Early Glow From Jackson, NH

Early Glow From Jackson, NH

Later Golden Light From Jackson, NH

Later Golden Light From Jackson, NH

One Response to “The Allure of Alpenglow”

  1. Barbara says:

    I think you photos make this frigid white part on New England beauty beyond words. Thank you for the gorgeous photos.

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