In Evening Light

Leaves of the smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria)
Leaves of the smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) have a fiery glow in the last of the evening light.

After a busy day, getting out into the garden for a while is wonderfully calming and restorative. The garden can look its best in the evening light too, when the low-angled light creates long shadows and shows up the textures of the plants. Colours come alive in this light, especially where the sun passes through flowers and leaves. (Just like sun coming through a stained-glass window.)

If I can, I like to spend some time in the garden at this time of day. Maybe I’ll do a bit of weeding or simply sit for a while. What I prefer to do, though, is to take my camera for a wander around the garden.

Yellow broom (Cytisus) flowers
Yellow broom (Cytisus) flowers gleam in the sun.

Late in the day, the light is warmer and yellower. (More of the blue in the light is absorbed by the atmosphere when it’s at this low angle.) It warms and intensifies the colours of flowers. Quite ordinary looking flowers like the broom above become much more appealing photographic subjects when the strong side-lighting shines through their petals and makes them glow.

In the apple blossom photograph below, you can see that the evening light has an attractive warming effect on the petals of the flowers. This brings associations of pleasant evenings spent outside and can conjure up thoughts of the summer to come, or past memories of time in the garden. Just with the difference of the colour in the light, you can give a photograph a little suggestion of emotion and make it a bit more than a straightforward record of the flower.

Blossom on a Braeburn apple tree.
Blossom on our Braeburn apple tree.

Because evening light creates excellent side-lighting that picks out the texture in petals and leaves, it makes them appear more 3-D. (Like the rather crinkly surface of the apple blossom petals and the hairy calyx behind them.) The shapes of flowers and details such as the stamens are also highlighted and the whole flower can be ‘spotlit’ in a way that helps to bring it out from its background.

Early morning light has the same beautiful low-angle effects as evening light but there’s rarely time to take an unhurried stroll around the garden at that time of day. (Not here anyway – there’s cats to be fed, humans to be fed and other distractions!) And as the dawn becomes earlier and summer approaches, it’s less likely that I’ll be out of bed to catch that very early light. (But doesn’t it feel quite heavenly to be up really, really early, when no-one else is around but the birds, and you have the whole world to yourself? I love it if I can manage it! Sadly, that’s not very often.)

So evening time is, for me, a time I look forward to with anticipation on clear days. And when I’m gardening, I try to place plants that are especially colourful, or that have delicate structures, where the late sun can make the most of them. That smoke bush in the top photograph was planted where the setting sun could shine through its deep red leaves. It makes the shrub seem as if it’s alight. It’s amazing what a little bit of evening sunlight can do!

Camassia leichtlinii
This Camassia is in the last area to catch the sun and for a little while the colours become richer.

20 thoughts on “In Evening Light

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Ali! 🙂 I had never noticed the little red lines on the broom flower before…interesting how looking through a camera lens changes what you see!

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      1. Thank you Jill! I’ll be trying to get up in time to take early morning photos throughout the summer, but we’ll see how well I get on with that! (Mmm, hehe!) Over the winter, I’m afraid I became a bit of a night owl – need to change that.

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  1. Your evening pictures are lovely. I’m not an early riser either by nature but I love dawn light, especially over a rose garden. My mother and I are off to visit a garden soon – it’s a lovely, sunny day but that won’t make it easy to take pictures.

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    1. Thank you! I love to look out our upstairs windows early in the morning – the dawn light creates beautiful shadows from the trees in the fields nearby. Hope you have a lovely garden visit – great thing to be able to share with your mother! 🙂

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  2. Beautiful flowers images as always! The colors really make this blog – I would love to have them all in my garden. I am not an early riser so I miss a lot of nice light here but my neighbors are always out at the crack of dawn. Not sure how they do it?

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    1. Thanks Syd! The colours are all thanks to the amazing light! I’d love to get up early more often but at the moment have got into the habit of late nights. (Sitting up late writing my blog doesn’t help, hehe!) I shall keep trying to get up early though, because the early morning light lights up a different set of plants.

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    1. I’m glad that you enjoyed it and thanks for commenting. 🙂 It is a great time of day to be able to be outside – that beautiful light really lifts the spirits. And it makes photography so much better!

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