how to experience the magic hour every hour

Posted: July 12, 2016 in Observations and Commentary, Photography, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Of all the hours in a day, the Magic Hour is the one to savor. It is the hour preceding dawn, before your part of the world fully stirs and gets on with business. Streets are empty, traffic light, neighboring houses dark and snug. The sky is a curious mixture of night and day. Just enough darkness to keep life’s difficulties in the shadows and just enough light to feed optimism’s hypnotic allure. The only sounds probably come from within your home – a curious pet in search of an early breakfast, your soft steps padding across the floor, freshly brewed coffee dripping into a carafe. Even the birds are quiet. Know the feeling when the first real day of spring weather arrives, when the buds are budding, the robins are chirping, and the cool morning air has made that subtle change which assures winter is now behind you? When everything seems bright and possible? The Magic Hour offers that delightful prospect every day.

But who wants to wake up an hour before sunrise on the off chance you may experience what a pessimist would politely call an illusion of peace? They would point out that once daylight hits and real life starts churning that blissful feeling will disappear so fast you will forget it ever existed. Why put yourself through that frustration 365 times a year? Are you that masochistic?

That is one of many reasons I am thankful I am not a pessimist.

But I am a realist and have no desire to wake an hour before dawn even one day a year, much less 365 of them, just for the possibility to feel some kind of Zen-like experience. The logical course is to sleep in and seek it elsewhere. Which is why I love going to the beach off-season.

When I walk along the deserted coastline with only the rhythmic sound of the ocean and the occasional squawk of seagulls something shifts inside me – physically, emotionally, mentally. I become calm and rejuvenated. I watch the waves gather momentum and follow their journey until they reach the shore, only to begin their retreat. I see ships on the far far horizon, mostly likely cargo freighters headed to anyplace I imagine, and they seem motionless. I know they are moving, but the distance makes their movement imperceptible. It is like watching snails race. Occasionally other people pass by. We smile and nod. This is also therapeutic because I know a kinship exists between us beyond social politeness. Why else would they be at the beach at this time of year? It certainly is not to get a suntan.

The photos scattered throughout this piece were taken on the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina this past March. OBX is a fine summer destination if you want hot sand, ocean, crowds, parties, and non-stop activity. However, if you want to experience the power of the Magic Hour for many consecutive hours, but lack the conviction to wake early, consider OBX in the early spring. You won’t be disappointed.



  1. That kindred spirit passing you on the beach? Me! Mid to late October is my preferred time to visit Cape May. The beach transforms from touristy to unspoiled seascape and it’s a great time to see Monarchs and birds migrating as we enjoy the nature trails in the area. I even set out once, bundled up warmly, at the magic hour to photograph the sunrise. Everything feels right with the world at that time of day; simple and comforting. Oh! And not having to purchase a beach pass for the privilege of standing on the sand? That’s very zen! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • John says:

      Which is why we are noodling around the possibility of a late October/early November trek to that very location!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Late October, early November is perfect! In addition to enjoying nature, the houses are decorated in Halloween and autumn themes, so they’re also fun to photograph. The Judson Bennett House at 835 Washington Street goes all out. Enjoy!


  2. rangewriter says:

    I love this: “The sky is a curious mixture of night and day. Just enough darkness to keep life’s difficulties in the shadows and just enough light to feed optimism’s hypnotic allure.” The best verbal description of Magic Hour I’ve seen. I agree that there are 2 magic hours, but certainly the first of the day is the most peaceful and the one I love most.

    I think any “touristy” place is best visited off season. Yellowstone and the Tetons are never grander than they are in late September/early October.

    One of these days, I hope to make it to the OBX. Great shots. I like your processing choices.


    • John says:

      I completely agree. Going to any “touristy” destination in season is such a turn-off. And thanks for you kind comment about that magic hour description.


  3. Rick says:

    Dusk is my Magic Hour.


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