One of my favourite things to do is get out of the house before dawn, drive to a beach or river and set up for a sunrise photo shoot.
It was an activity that I used to do semi-regularly, but with work and family commitments it had been a long time since I’d had the opportunity. A couple of days ago, however, the timing was right. I had a late start to work, but I also had to be out of the house before Hannah woke up, so that I didn’t interfere with her usual ‘grandparents day’ routine.
I threw my photography gear into the car and headed for a special spot that I’d had in mind for some time now. It’s a place that I had first noticed over a year ago, when we had gone for a walk with Hannah in the bassinet (how quickly things change).
The Intended Subject
The thing that had caught my eye on that walk was a disused and semi-deconstructed pier. It must have fairly recently fallen into disrepair, as I actually have recollections of visiting the same spot as a kid, and watching small fish from the end of the pier. So it was surreal to see it now, disconnected, abandoned and slowly being swallowed by a sea of sand.
I arrived ten minutes before the advertised sunrise time. The pre-dawn glow told me that sunrise was imminent and so I set about finding the best place to shoot. However, immediately I had a problem. A sign informed me that the beach area was closed for maintenance. Normally such a sign wouldn’t bother me, but this sign was also accompanied by a great big digger in full swing. Also nearby was a worker in fluorescent gear, whose sole job appeared to be making sure people like me didn’t get too close.
I cursed my bad luck. The photo that I had in mind relied on access to the beach. I had hoped to capture the sun rising behind the dilapidated pier. I quickly scouted the area for a new point of view. I didn’t have much time and I sure wasn’t about to waste a rare opportunity to capture a sunrise.
A Different Point of View
From up on the walkway I found a spot that looked directly down the pier. Interesting clouds had formed over Towra Point, on the other side of Botany Bay, and a hint of pink could already be seen. I set up my tripod and set about taking a few long exposure shots in the final moments before sunrise.
Already slightly pessimistic from the limited access to my subject, I was further disheartened by the thickness of the cloud cover. Sunrise came and went, and all I had to show for it was some muted pinks and purples in the otherwise grey sky. I didn’t mind too much as it all worked together to make a grungy, apocalyptic-feeling picture. It wasn’t what I had set out to capture, but that’s the nature of photography sometimes.
A Brilliant Sunrise Through a Telephoto Lens
After taking the photos I switched to my zoom lens. I was sure that I had captured the best of the sunrise and the colours in the sky had begun to fade. I decided to go for a little walk and see what details I could capture. A couple of ibis birds walked past, and I took a couple of snaps of the Bin Chickens.
All of a sudden, a sharp ray of sunshine poked out from behind the clouds over Port Botany. In the blink of an eye, the whole scene changed. Golden light flooded into the bay and across the beach. The sunlight reflecting off the water was blinding, and everything in that direction suddenly became silhouetted against the brilliant sky.
I was stuck with my Telephoto lens. I was unsure of how long the glorious moment would last, plus by now I had thrown caution to the wind and jumped down onto the beach. I didn’t want to risk missing everything or damaging my equipment, so I set to making the most of the situation and shooting the scene in front of me.
On reflection, the 55-300 mm lens that I was using worked quite well. Port Botany is a fair few kilometres away from where I was standing, and this lens enabled me to capture some interesting perspectives. I took a couple of shots to stitch together as well, in order to try and capture some of the wider view.
All things considered, I was pretty happy with my morning. I witnessed a spectacular sunrise and I captured some decent photos. I really should make the effort to see the sunrise more often.