Forecast the Alpenglow

Learn to forecast the Alpenglow as a landscape photographer! Which mountain to choose and how to plan the weather.

The golden glow of the mountains

Alpenglow refers to the orange glow of the mountain peaks during twilight. To forecast the alpenglow, you need to consider the following:

  • Cloud-free horizon
  • Cloudless mountain
  • Right side of the mountain
  • Time
  • Season

The alpenglow occurs after sunset and before sunrise during the blue hour. The alpenglow can be caused by direct sunlight, but also by indirect sunlight.

In the case of direct sunlight, the light from the sun, which is just below the horizon, hits the mountain peaks that are higher relative to the observer. While for the observer the sun has already set, the sunlight reaches the still much higher mountain top.

The second variation of alpenglow is caused by atmospheric scattered light during twilight. Where the sun is below the horizon line, an orange glow can often be observed in the sky. This scattered light from the earth’s atmosphere can fall on the side of the mountain facing the glow and thus illuminate the peaks.

thats how you forecast the alpenglow

Use topographic map

To photograph and foreact the alpenglow, you have to choose a mountain that is higher than all the other mountains in the vicinity, otherwise it will be in the shade and won’t get any light. In VIEWFINDR you can estimate the height of mountains with the background map “Outdoor”. Look at the numerical values on the contour lines. If the mountain is higher than the mountains in the direction of the sun, the light can fall unhindered on the top of the mountain.

With the help of the sun position tool you can see from which direction the sunlight falls on the peak. The tool adapts to the time of year and latitude, so you can forecast the alpenglow no matter what region you are in. The tool also shows you from which side you should look at the mountain, always 180° offset from the direction in which the sun rises or sets.

alpenglow with a topographic map

Viewing direction at the photo spot

If you have found a photo spot with a high mountain in VIEWFINDR, you can forecast the alpenglow by first looking in which direction the photo was taken. If this compass direction is currently in line with the direction of the sunrise or sunset, then you have found a motif!

The final question is when can there be an alpenglow? To forecast the alpenglow, the sky must be clear of clouds all around your subject. In addition, the horizon must also be free of clouds. In VIEWFINDR we calculate the position of the sun depending on the season and latitude.

We use an algorithm that calculates the clouds in the vicinity of the photo spot in three dimensions and can thus forecast an alpenglow. For this purpose, you use the parameter “blue hour”. This guarantees a twilight without clouds, so that the light of the sun can create the alpenglow on your motif.

view direction for the alpenglow
weather forecast for photo spots

When does the alpenglow occur?

To forecast the alpenglow it can be divided into two phases: Firstly, the direct sunlight of the sun just below the horizon and secondly, the orange glow of the mountain peaks caused by the scattered light of twilight. The alpenglow caused by the scattered light of twilight occurs some time before sunrise and some time after sunset.

Therefore, we recommend to be at the photo spot already at the beginning of the Blue Hour. The blue hour times can be found in the VIEWFINDR app in the bar at the top of the map. Make sure that you still have a certain amount of travel time and hiking time to your photo spot in the mountains.

After sunset, you should wait for the end of the blue hour before leaving the photo spot. Depending on the time of year and latitude, the blue hour can last a very long time! Take something to eat and make sure you don’t get cold while waiting.

blaue stunde und alpenglühen