How I Got the Shot: Peter Tellone on Capturing a Canyon Tree


The Golden Hour is one of the most wonderful times to shoot photos using only natural light. But there is quite a bit that goes into photos than just lighting: there is composition, exposure, and having an overall vision that you want for your end result.

The photo above was shot during the Blue Hour: the period of time right after the Golden Hour, and also known as, "Dusk." Peter Tellone shot this photo. Here's how:

Gear Used

- Canon 20D

- Canon 17-40mm f4 L

- Manfrotto Tripod

- Remote shutter release

How Peter Shot the Photo

On the even of his 50th birthday, Peter decided to abandon everything else in his life and pursue photography as a profession instead of a passion.

He was standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon “watching” the sunset. There were probably around 50 photographers, tripods set up toe to toe and lots of shutters being released was almost deafening. They happily fired away until the last glimpse of sun set below the rim. Then…silence.

"That silence was broken by the clang of tripod legs as everyone collapsed their gear and headed back to their cars and the warmth of the lodge on this cold winter evening. I stood there alone, save for one other soul. We made eye contact, chuckled, gave each other the wink and the nod because we knew…NOW was the time to shoot," said Tellone.

Peter's Plan

Peter says that once the sun sets: stop, wait, shoot. You may be very pleased with your results. Whether you are shooting the mountains and canyons of our national parks, or using long exposures at the coasts there is more great light than just Golden, think Blue.

Beyond this, he didn't really have a plan. "I never pre-conceptualize an image. In the two times that I have because I was told I had to, I've come home with  two CF cards full of deleteable junk. I never tell the subject what I want to shoot, it tells me and there is not a conscious thought process involved. That's a left brain activity and this for me is not. It's akin to thinking that the "Rule of thirds" was invented, it wasn't."

"That's me, that's how my brain works, for others it's something different. Their image represents "man's inner struggle to find one's self  within."..mine is just a stupid tree at the Grand Canyon." says Peter.


If this was shot 15 minutes earlier, this image would have had a totally different look.

Peter shoots a lot of photos during the Golden Hour, but once that hour is over you do not need to stop shooting.

That's when the Blue Hour starts. The Blue Hour or “Dusk”, as it is commonly called; is the period between sunset and last light or first light and sunrise. It is another opportunity to capture beauty in your environment but in a different way.

While the Golden Hour has beautiful warm light, it is often “textural light”. It is often higher in contrast and depending on the direction you are shooting, higher in dynamic range.

After sunset that all changes. The light becomes “Tonal.” It is more delicate, subtle, and nuanced. Where Golden Light brings out the detail in objects, Blue Hour brings out the subtle differences in tones amongst color or shades if you are shooting black and white.

The sky becomes a beautiful gradient of pink to purple. Clouds may have a better glow now than they did during the Golden hour as they are  still at an angle to the sun that the foreground may be well past. Half Dome in Yosemite NP shot from Glacier Point is actually very famous for a secondary glow past the civil sunset.

With all that said, this photo would have been significantly warmer if shot earlier.


Here's what Peter had to say about processing:

"The dynamic range is low and much easier to capture. Light wraps objects like a giant softbox, filling in shadows that you may have wanted for drama earlier but instead fills them with shades of color or tone. (Don’t be too tempted to take out the blue with white balance adjustments in post. White isn’t always white, sometimes it is golden or blue even to our eye. One of my pet peeves)"

"Since then I have added thousands of images to my portfolio, many of them shot during the Blue Hour. This may not be my best work or even the best example of the Blue Hour. But it is something special to me because it represents the ends of a beautiful day and the start of a beautiful new life.:

To see more of his work visit his website and blog.

Peter also has a new article coming out in the May/June edition of Photo Technique Magazine if you're interested in more of his shooting techniques.

Discussion 2

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That advice, of staying after sunset, has given me wonderful shots for my clients and my portfolio too. Here in the caribbean, you may get around 30 minutes of beatiful magenta, gold, orange, purple and blue tones after sunset, that make perfect and silhouetted backgrounds for wedding photographs or couples in love. I recommended it too: stay after sunset.

This is the difference between a photographer and an artist

Great article