For most of my professional life I have lived on the equator. Singapore, my home for over 20 years, was always hot and humid but more importantly, it doesn’t have seasons and the sun sets at almost the same time ever day of the year. And even more predictably the magic hour, the holy grail of all photographers when the outside daylight is balanced with interior lighting, lasts a mere 7 minutes there. That’s 7 minutes to capture the exquisite golden light that makes everything look beautiful. 7 minutes for skylines with lights on, interiors looking both inside and out and for capturing the delicate balance between say fading sunlight and a 60 watt bulb. That’s 7 minutes of fantastic light that I had to be in place and ready for. That 7 minutes didn’t allow for multiple locations, technical failure or too many long time exposures. I had to nail the shot quickly and then call it a day.
Last year that all changed when I crossed the Arctic Circle and landed in Tromso Norway at the height of summer. I was vaguely aware that the sun wouldn’t set but I hadn’t anticipated that my 7 minutes of golden light would extend for hours, every day without fail. My hotel room came with a spectacular view looking out over a harbour that the explorer Raold Amudsen had used as a base for his Arctic expeditions.
I was eager and prepared and awoke one morning to a fantastic dawn, with still water and boats reflected in a golden sunrise. My watch said 6:30am so I hopped out of bed, grabbed my cameras and left my still sleeping wife as quietly as I could. Outside it was photographic heaven and I spent an hour shooting snow covered mountains, fishing boats, and a striking modern cathedral all covered in an amazing golden light. An hour later I returned to my still sleeping wife happy and hungry for breakfast. When I tried to rouse her she grumpily informed me that it was 1:30am! I had read my watch upside down mistaking 12:30am for 6:30am. I closed our black-out curtains and crawled back into bed thinking that my 7 minutes of magic light in Singapore was nothing compared to this.