At any given hour, someone around the world has stopped and noticed the change in light around them as the sun begins its approach into the western horizon. It is the moment when sunlight softens in intensity, bathing the sky and everything around with warmer tones of oranges, yellows, and reds.
According to John Baxter’s The Most Beautiful Walk in the World, the golden hued hours between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. in France (as similarly in Italy and Spain) are referred to as “entre chine et loup”, or “between dog and wolf”, the time when lovers meet between work and home. Here in the United States, the same time marking the end of the day into the beginning of night is often referred to as “happy hour”, a time often spent socializing with friends, enjoying a snack with a beverage, ideally accompanied with the warm glow of a sunset.
Friends working in cinematography and photography often refer to the fleeting moment two hour span as the “magic hour” or “golden hours”. The beautiful phenomena is attributed to the less direct and oblique angle of daylight as the sun descends ever downward into the horizon, resulting in a desirable and flattering luminescence. Calvin Abe, a prolific photographer, also explains photographers love this time because, “…the dynamic range of cameras can handle it, the light tends to be softer, and for whatever reason, it is more pleasing.”
We are so often disconnected from the landscape and its processes during our everyday lives, oblivious to the numerous changes happening all around us. But the ephemeral phenomena of the golden hours offers an opportunity for all of us to stop and notice how the plants in the backyard, the trail across a hike, or even the landscape within a local park appear different while bathed in the warmer tones of a sunset – a stunningly beautiful moment that happens nearly every day here in sunny Southern California.