The Golden Hour and Leadership


Leadership, just like good photography, has to take advantage of the “Golden Hour” 

Sunset on Mauna Kea Hawaii

Sunset on Mauna Kea Hawaii: Photo by John Tanner

Photographers are acquainted with the term “the golden hour”. It refers to the timing related to where the sun is when you take photographs.  The golden hour is that time just around sunrise and sunset and it usually is no longer than an hour.  Colors and shadows are unique and vibrant, and you can take advantage of the angles of natural light. To catch the golden hour takes time and effort. I took the above photo during this golden hour in 2014 on the Island of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea.

To get to this 13,796 foot summit does require some effort.  To get there when you can take a sunset picture with snow covered craters takes timing and forethought.  Traveling from the beach and then along Highway 190 from Kailua, we traveled through rainy weather. You have already risen 200o feet from sea level at this point, and on this day you cannot see the summit because of rain clouds.

Highway 190  the way to Mauna Kea

Highway 190 the way to Mauna Kea

You travel up the “new” Saddle road” now Hwy. 200.  This used to be a goat trail with warnings that if you took your rental car here your insurance was void.

Saddle Road Hwy 200

Saddle Road Hwy 200

A quick left at the summit of Saddle road and you make a right turn up the to Keck Observatory. You stop to acclimate at the visitors center to avoid altitude sickness, which I did not need, since I live at 5000 ft at home, and you make the last drive up a bumpy road through clouds one more time to the summit.

Road to the Summit 9300 + Ft. and the last layer of clouds

Road to the Summit 9300 + Ft. and the last layer of clouds

Once there you setup and then wait for the golden hour and to take the bucket list photo you’ve been dreaming of.  Even though the wind is grueling cold at this altitude you have a rush of excitement as the final moments of beauty start to express themselves through light and color.  Perfectly timed photos of unique beauty create not just memories, but memories laced with a special feeling.

Keck Observatory Mauna Kea Hawaii

Keck Observatory Mauna Kea Hawaii: Photo by John Tanner

I have to admit I stopped taking photos and adjusting my bracketing and exposures just to simply drink in the experience of the sunset. I wanted to fully be in that very moment and feel where I was.  You might say I stopped to take a picture with my heart.

So it is with People

I have been in technology for all my life, but I have come to realize that its the feelings of people that make the color and light of technology really matter and not the buttons and dials. Timing with people is much more important than technology, but when the two come together, as in the above photos, it is a rich and rewarding experience. Some of the photos I used in this article are informational, but not necessarily beautiful.  They add to the narrative.  They add context and therefore value to the final photos from the summit taken in the golden hour,  they lose their place in the story and have little or no meaning.

We create context in our relationships, but without taking advantage of the golden hour,  the context may end up meaningless or even destructive. In our culture the timing of certain messages may even be more important than the message’s contents.

Simply being or doing something at the right time is critical to success and successful relationships.  Just as photography has a golden hour , so do relationships. You have some type of a relationship with everyone. You build these, or tear them down one at a time. Answering that email quickly during its “golden hour” can tell someone their important and you value what they bring to your efforts.  Answering it late may come across dark and uncaring, just like taking the above photo after the sun has gone.  It would be a dark and nearly colorless photo.  Returning a phone call has a golden hour, so does a report and even a rain check.  Recognizing the golden hours of life makes your efforts much more effective and meaningful, and consequently more productive and beautiful.

Character Builds Relationships on Auto Pilot

Doing this with everyone is an act of character. I know a man named Chris who when he gets an email will answer it within 30 minutes, if he is at his computer. There is a bit of comfort knowing that Chris is there and responsive. He sees this as an act of common courtesy and respect, and this says a lot about his character.

Not over scheduling your life, so that you can still remain prompt and responsive; tells people that you care; that your managing your time will; and that they are valuable. Just as the above photos required forethought, effort, skill, and timing, so do relationships, and relationships are the foundation of  all leadership. Recognizing when the golden hours occur in relationships is the key to making your efforts in leadership the most effective.

Its about the people!

John Tanner

5 thoughts on “The Golden Hour and Leadership

  1. It is great that there are people out there with experience that take the time to blog about something that can both educate and inspire.
    Great pics. Thanks John


  2. Hi John, These really are some beautiful pics. I was able to catch the “golden hour” a few weeks back while photographing Delicate Arch, photos really turned out well. There is a lunar eclipse April 15 in the early AM, you may want to get some pictures of this event as well.
    Regards, CC


    • Thanks Chris, it was really cool to be there. It was extremely cold with a stiff wind. They had just plowed the road the day before and I should have got some pictures of the snow drifts on the way up. Thanks for commenting.


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