The Blue Half Hour

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Buddhist novices walk past a gray wall during the predawn "blue hour" in Mae Sot.
Buddhist novices walk past a gray wall during the predawn “blue hour” in Mae Sot.

Photographers usually “chase the light.” We’re famous (or infamous if you’re a non photographer traveling with a photographer) for getting up while it’s still dark out so we can be making pictures just as the sun comes up.

When I get up at 0 Dark 30 in Bangkok to make pictures it’s usually because I want to be in a market photographing when it’s busiest. Whether I’m going to Klong Toei or Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s markets are best seen when the rest of the city is still asleep.

Upcountry I get up early so I can chase the light.

This picture was made on a morning I got up early to photograph a Buddhist holy day. I left my Mae Sot guest house before dawn – I saw the novices coming before I was even on the street. I made a few frames (less than 10) of them walking by me and they were gone. According to my Golden Hour calendar, the “Blue Hour” (which is really only about 30 minutes before sunrise at these latitudes) ended at 5.48AM and the EXIF data on the file shows the photo was made at 5.41AM. The wall the novices are in front of is white/gray. The blue color is completely caused by the time of day and the camera’s preset color balance (daylight). The same scene at 8AM would be completely different and at noon even more different.

It’s luck that I made this picture. If I had gone out either two minutes earlier or later I would have missed the novices walking by and if I had gone out when “normal” people get rolling I would have missed the novices and the light.