Alberta's Magic Hour

Filmmakers and artists are obsessed with Alberta’s natural light


| May-June 2010


To witness Alberta’s magical light in film trailers, visit  utne.com/MagicHour . 

I recall that morning as if it were yesterday. I awoke, startled, the way you do when your instincts sense something unfamiliar in your midst. A shimmering, raspberry-colored light—unlike anything I’d ever witnessed—was creeping through the tall, narrow windows of my new Calgary apartment.

Everything this light touched exploded with newfound color. Turquoise walls became organic and lush. An antique quilt from Montreal glittered in a red, pink, and blue kaleidoscope. Tired hardwood floors erupted into liquid gold.

That was 15 years ago. I had just moved to Alberta from British Columbia to launch a new life in the province. Truthfully, I was completely unprepared for the marvel that is southern Alberta light. “Visual opium” is how American writer Diane Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses) once described this kind of phenomenon—when natural light and color collide and tackle our senses “like a blow from a stun gun.”



I was stunned by the colors that roused me on that fateful morning. I say fateful because, ever since, I’ve spent my life on guard, searching for similar moments. Moments that only seem to come when I’m in this part of the world.

A longtime West Coast girl, I was more accustomed to the soft, comforting light that accompanies a humid climate. A Vancouver sunset, Canadian writer Max Wyman once told me, offers up the cityscape as if it is being viewed through “a glass of sweet white wine.” Vancouver light is exquisitely subtle. Alberta light, by contrast, is harsh, electric, extreme, and brittle with the potential to “smash, explode, and transform space,” local architect Jeremy Sturgess tells me.















Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!




Facebook Instagram Twitter flipboard


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265