The grey, subdued light illuminated the landscape. Gravel and hard rocks underfoot, the crunching of footsteps was almost eerie in the still morning. The grassy incline flowed down into an alien landscape, sharp cliffs of stone jutting straight up, as if giving civilisation the middle finger. Like blood dripping onto parchment, a beautiful red glow penetrated the grey sky, and he knew it was starting. The long journey was at an end.
It was not the first time I’ve been to this particular spot for sunrise, and it definitely won’t be my last. It has a certain charm and addiction for me. It requires dedication, waking up in the early hours of the morning, where only truckers are seen on the road. It requires effort and time to drive on a few hours of sleep. It requires mother nature and luck to provide you that special shot.
With the number of times I’ve been there, you’d think it would become mundane. For me, I have a special connection to it. It was the first spot that I’ve successfully done a tasteful daybreak bracketed exposure. Not only that, for such a small area, there seems to be endless amount angles and compositions to experiment with. The best part? High and low tides change the landscape completely.
Here’s an idea. Some people are obsessed with having the perfect camera, and mastering the single lens. You see articles/reviews all the time with someone shooting only with one lens for a year. What about applying that to a location?
Imagine going to a single spot, night and day, rain or shine, to discover as many interesting compositions as possible. The first time you go there, you head straight for the main attraction. Maybe the second and third time as well. However, by the fourth time, it’s plain boring, so you go and find something else to shoot. People in Sydney don’t go take photos of the Harbour Bridge every week, they find the little nooks and crannies where interesting architecture or cafes live. (Or whatever takes your fancy.)
Certainly the second time I went back to that same sunrise spot, I was not content with merely reshooting what I had already taken a great photo of. The search began. Some mornings, after 3 hours of travel and rolling out of bed at 3am, I got jack all. Not even a photo worthy enough to keep.
One day I did my usual trip along the coast, and happened upon the once familiar terrain, flooded. Believe it or not, I’ve never seen the area in high tide. A boring grey swath of gravel, turned into a shallow lake reflecting the beautiful golden and pink sky. A small gap in a stony sea wall turned into a violent skirmish of water and cliff. The sea spray leapt several metres into the sky, capturing the shard of light as the sun rose from its slumber.
I had never seen something so beautiful and raw before. I stood in the cold water firing shot after shot trying to capture the sea spray. Then moved onto the lake and tried to get a reflection. As the water level rose, I continued to capture the changing radiance of the sun. It was freezing but I was determined. It didn’t actually end in a shot that reflected the intense, emotional image in my head, but it was the best experience I’ve had there.
If you find yourself in a slump or photography block. If you want to try something new. Even if you just need something to do. Pick a location or route, and shoot that as much as you can. Soon you’ll get bored and go in search of what secrets the location holds. Maybe you’ll get something, maybe you won’t, but that’s part of the fun.