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The Golden Hour is loosely defined as the first hour after sunrise and the last hour prior to sunset. It is during these periods, when shadows are longer and the light is warm and soft, that some of the best photographic opportunities occur. However, the Golden Hour is more accurately defined as the period when the elevation of the geometric centre of the Sun lies between six degrees below the horizon and six degrees above the horizon. This more formal definition therefore incorporates a significant period prior to sunrise that begins at Civil Dawn, a time that can be calculated for a particular date and location using the Blue Hour Calculator.

Golden hour diagram

The precise local times for the beginning and end of the so-called Golden Hour, which rarely has a duration of precisely 60 minutes, vary with latitude, longitude, season, local terrain and elevation above sea level. At high latitudes the Sun rises and sets more slowly because the transit of the solar disk is not perpendicular to the horizon. The Sun rises at a shallow angle to the horizon and will hence take much longer to reach the nominal six degrees elevation. However, near the equator, the Sun's path is much closer to the perpendicular and the six-degree elevation will be achieved in a much shorter period.

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