The circadian system regulates 24-hour biological rhythms and seasonal rhythms, such as flowering. Long-day flowering plants like Arabidopsis thaliana, measure day length with a rhythm that is not reset at lights-off, whereas short-day plants measure night length on the basis of circadian rhythm of light sensitivity that is set from dusk, early flowering 3 (elf3) mutants of Arabidopsis are aphotoperiodic and exhibit light-conditional arrhythmias. Here we show that the elf3-7 mutant retains oscillator function in the light but blunts circadian gating of CAB gene activation, indicating that deregulated phototransduction may mask rhythmicity. Furthermore, elf3 mutations confer the resetting pattern of short-day photoperiodism, indicating that gating of phototransduction may control resetting. Temperature entrainment can bypass the requirement for normal ELF3 function for the oscillator and partially restore rhythmic CAB expression. Therefore, ELF3 specifically affects light input to the oscillator, similar to its function in gating CAB activation, allowing oscillator progression past a light-sensitive phase in the subjective evening. ELF3 provides experimental demonstration of the zeitnehmer ('time-taker') concept.