Behavioral responsiveness to external stimulation is shaped by context. We studied how sensory information can be contextualized, by examining light-evoked locomotor responsiveness of Drosophila relative to time of day. We found that light elicits an acute increase in locomotion (startle) that is modulated in a time-of-day-dependent manner: Startle is potentiated during the nighttime, when light is unexpected, but is suppressed during the daytime. The internal daytime-nighttime context is generated by two interconnected and functionally opposing populations of circadian neurons-LNvs generating the daytime state and DN1as generating the nighttime state. Switching between the two states requires daily remodeling of LNv and DN1a axons such that the maximum presynaptic area in one population coincides with the minimum in the other. We propose that a dynamic model of environmental light resides in the shifting connectivities of the LNv-DN1a circuit, which helps animals evaluate ongoing conditions and choose a behavioral response.