I have taken to retiring on our deck in these summer evenings, just before dusk, and reading an enjoyable book. Perched on a slight hill in Cedar, I mostly have views of rolling hills. And the orientation of our house is slightly to the south, so the sun hangs low in the sky to the west, purposefully avoiding the horizon during the Golden Hour. It is quiet. I can’t actually hear the grass grow, but I believe I am on the verge. Off in the distance, I can hear the distinct, deep-throated squawk coming from our neighbor’s field. I have come to learn this is the voice of sandhill cranes. These tall, brown cranes (which frankly look like they belong in the everglades and not Leelanau County) are most punctual. I don’t know where they spend the daylight hours, but they return each evening to this field. I can only hear them, but it reminds me that we only have about an hour more of daylight.
As many of you may know, I am also an amateur photographer. I adopted this art form in high school and love it as a way to share and express how I see the world. I shoot mostly landscapes, and our area provides so many amazing opportunities for wonderful photography. One exception to my landscape photography is shooting my family in the act of being themselves. I try to take them candidly doing what it is that they do; but I digress.
I will share a secret with you. A powerful secret of photography, one that can distinguish a great shot from a good one, is lighting. Dramatic or subtle, lighting is the difference between a memorable photo and a forgettable one. Two people can take pictures of the same subject, and the one taken with interesting light will make all of the difference. In the Golden Hour, that enchanting hour or so just after sunrise and again just before sunset, the light is soft and diffuses any atmospheric particles, making them refract in interesting and beautiful ways. Shadows lengthen and provide contrast, while the direct light provides deep clarity on the subject.
But this blog is less about how to take a great picture and more about the Golden Hour. Those long summer hours are our opportunity to pack in all the things we had dreamed about doing as we waited out the dark days of winter. Somehow eating dinner at 8:30 pm seems reasonable when it is light until 10:00 pm. But this same hour seems absurd in the middle of December. If I am not in my jammies in front of the woodstove by that time, something is wrong. In summer, though, I may be just heading out for a paddle on Lake Michigan. (See my previous blog on SUP.)
While on the deck, with my book, I become keenly aware of the rhythms of nature. The sky turns a brilliant orange illuminating the trees around me with dazzling light, the cranes take their positions and go through the ritual winding down, the crickets are getting into place to join the chorus, and the frogs croak wildly not wanting to be forgotten of their role in this nightly ritual. Occasionally I hear the laughter of children as their boundless energy knows no Golden Hour. For them, all of the hours are golden. I am vaguely aware of all of these things as I escape in the solitude of my book. Sometimes Joan joins me with that day’s Wall Street Journal crossword. But it wasn’t until tonight that I was able to piece it all together and take pleasure in the knowledge and joy of this special time of day. I hope you find joy in it this evening as well.