The Greatest Sunrise

As a landscape photographer, every now and then you'll experience a sunrise or sunset so incredible, that it makes you wonder just how many other amazing shots you've missed because you weren't in the right place at the right time, or decided to sleep in just this once. This was one of those days.

It was maybe mid-way through my two-week trip, and I was already feeling pretty exhausted. I'd climbed Roys Peak a couple of days earlier, hit up the Tiki Trail in Queenstown, and done a ridiculous 24-36 hours of driving to Milford Sound during the day, to Nugget Point that night for sunrise, and back to Mt. Cook the next day. I was completely wrecked and had still chosen to do a sunset/night time shoot at Tasman Glacier that night. All signs pointed to a well-earned sleep-in the following morning.

However! I was in New Zealand, I was near glaciers and icebergs for the first time, and I was keen to shoot another sunrise. It's at this point I should say that I had met up with another photographer named Jess, who was also traveling around New Zealand shooting landscapes. We'd met up in Queenstown a couple of days prior, and shot the road out toward Glenorchy and a town called Paradise. We'd parted ways while I went off to shoot Milford Sound and Nugget Point, and met up again that afternoon at the Mt. Cook/Aoraki YHA. While I was talking a bit talk about getting up to shoot Tasman Glacier that morning, Jess was skeptical but told me to message her in the morning if I ended up getting up. If she was awake and up to it she'd come - if not, I'd go it alone!

Morning rolled around and I managed to wake myself up. Despite booking a room at the YHA so I could chill out, charge my devices and cook some food, I'd slept in my van to make it easier to wake up and shoot off in the morning. It'd be awkward getting up at 5am in a shared dorm of five other people, and my van was super comfortable so it proved to be the best option. I messaged Jess and waited 10 minutes, but with no response (or maybe she said she was too tired?) I hurried to the start of the Tasman Glacier walk and set off.

Despite having walked the track the previous night, and despite having figured out which of the 3 or 4 tracks was the best for photos, I managed to get myself turned around, all while the sky was beginning to light up with pinks and blues. I was freaking out that I was going to miss and incredible sunrise, and managed to arrive at the shoot location to find this view.

1sec @ f11 | ISO100 - Canon 6D + 17-40mm

Absolutely spectacular. Despite the other photographers (some quite accomplished and popular photographers on Insta it turned out) having a bit of a go at me for arriving too late - I maintain I arrived just in time. I snapped a few shots from the ridge above, before joining the rest of them at the waters edge. This is one of those instances where I was glad to have tried a few different compositions while I had the time.  My favourite style of photography is the type that blends several of the same compositions over a prolonged period of time, into the one shot. Most of my planned shoots involve this type of photography, and although the results can often be spectacular, it does tend to leave you with a very small number of photos (sometimes only one) at the end of the shoot. I learned a lot about being in the right place at the right time on this shoot, but if there's one other thing I could take away, it's that if you get an incredible cloud formation like this - shoot. from. everywhere.

After moving down to the waters edge I really only had about 10 minutes before the colour drained from this incredible lenticular cloud formation, but it was enough to get one of my favourite shots from the whole trip. Sure if I'd had my run of the whole area and arrived in time to try a heap of compositions I might have shot from somewhere else, and I wouldn't have put the cloud reflection right on top of that tiny iceberg, but sometimes a scene is just so good that even a flawed composition can still yield amazing photos, and be one of your favourite shoots of your career.

When I started writing this I wanted to tell a brief cautionary tale about never passing up an opportunity to shoot. I get a little into describing my whole experience, but here's the crux of the story - sometimes it's best to listen to that voice that's telling you you'll regret not going out. Sometimes the fear of missing out is strong for a reason, and sometimes it's best to just push through the pain or sleep deprivation because the alternative might be missing out on that one incredible moment you'll see plastered all over your instagram for the next couple of years.


30sec @ f11 | ISO500 - Canon 6D + 17-40mm

30sec @ f11 | ISO500 - Canon 6D + 17-40mm




Phil KittComment