Surreal twilight photographs
Twilight photographs commonly conjure images of red skies and golden sunsets during what is popularly called "the magic hour" or "the golden hour". And these, in turn, conjure landscape type images, showing plenty of sky and clouds with, of course, the setting sun.
Those are cliché.
What I like to share here is a different type of twilight time photography, where the images are surreal. I call them surreal twilight photographs.
Sometimes, as in this twilight image of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore's Chinatown, the picture looks downright artificial, as if the photographer had been overly enthusiastic in Photoshop adjustments.
But you should have seen the twilight sky that evening, 8 December 2007. Let me assure you that the colors here are accurate and totally natural.
I had not gone to the temple specifically to take surreal twilight photographs that evening. I was simply on my way to Chinatown, of all reasons, to buy very good quality, European style multi-grain bread from a store there. I happend to have my Fuji S5 Pro with me. I make it a habit to carry it with me wherever and whenever I can, ever since I bought the camera and a small, handy camera bag.
As I got down the bus, I saw this totally unreal, fantasy-like image before me. It was about 7:25 pm and the twilight sky was simply incredible. I had never seen a sky like this before. Equally surreal, to the point of looking artificial, was the newly built temple, all lighted up.
I was stunned. In fact, I was so stunned that I did not fully realise the golden opportunity to capture these ready-made, surreal twilight photographs. All I did was said to my friend, "Look at the sky!” It was only when he said "Quick, take picture" that I finally reached out for my camera.
Alas, in the excitement, a lot of my shots had camera shake while some of the other compositions -- for example, with a traffic light in the foreground -- did not work out. So I only have one to show. And when I showed it to some of my photography buddies, they all thought the picture looks fake. Yes it does. Except that reality sometimes looks fake too.
After that evening, I try to make it a point to have my camera with me if I go out at around "the magic hour" of twilight. It does not really last an hour -- merely five or 10 minutes.
A few days later, I was fully prepared with my camera and waiting, at Bussorah Street near the Sultan Mosque where my friend and I often go to drink ginger tea and relax for the evening. I was thinking to myself, no golden hour today...
But there still was. The twilight sky wasn't as surreal, just a very dark blue, almost turning black. But the camera, when set at normal exposure, would brighten it somewhat, giving me this:
Four minutes later, the sky had already darkened further and I got this, still with a surreal twilight feel:
Another two minutes later, the twilight photograph I took looked more like a night photograph, although there was still a hint of the deep blue sky.
I went in search of twilight photographs about a week later, but this time had not been lucky. It had been raining, the sky was too dark and the photograph in the end was nothing to shout about.
It is not always easy to find surreal twilight images. For that matter it is not easy to find even clickéd red skies and golden sunsets. So when such images present themselves, make sure you seize the moment!