The importance of a flexible plan.
It's been a very long time coming! Each morning starts with a search of the skies over the Pacific Ocean, around our coastline. A coastline that has a unique factor that presents a constant and frustrating challenge for photographers. It's called the Oceanic Shelf.
The Shelf, is an underwater cliff that plunges to the depths of the Pacific. Along the shelf, cold waters are driven to the surface by East Australian, oceanic currents. The cold waters in turn, cool the air and water vapour above them, creating clouds. A natural phenomenon. It's the proximity to our particular piece of coastline, that causes the frustration. The cloud bank sits directly over the horizon.
Some days it is a relatively insignificant strip but enough to desaturate the rising sun. On others, it is a towering bank of storm clouds, that provide their own unique photographic opportunities. It is however, a very rare occasion to have no cloud at all, sitting on the horizon.
In planning for a shoot in such circumstances the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) is a great place to start. Learning about weather systems, tidal movements, lunar cycles, water temperatures and how they all interrelate. The trick here was to catch a day when the sea and air temperatures were almost the same. Reducing the chance of cloud. As your set up is also in the dark, it is also important to know your location; particularly access and tides. It also helps to know your camera. Using torches is possible but if others are around. Turn it off. They are hugely annoying to other photographers. Know exactly what you want to capture. The perfect moment can often only last seconds.
It has been over six months, since the last time a cloud free horizon, was witnessed. Conditions were now close to perfect. Leaving home, a clear sky was filled with stars, down to an unblemished horizon. A weather front was expected later. Nearing the chosen beach, sketchy clouds started to form. The stars started to flicker out. Despite the approaching dawn, it got darker. The weather front was early. Surely not again!
Walking the beach, dawn was beginning to colour the horizon. Then it would disappear. It wasn't looking good. The cloud was building rapidly. Now this is not always a bad thing. With the right timing, sunrise and an incoming front can be explosive, producing spectacular colour. With a little luck ..... could this be the day?
After setting up, measuring levels and a few test shots, it became a waiting game. A wait, that became more and more, like a wait in vain, as clouds filled the night sky. Not willing to leave until the sun broke the horizon.... 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 and then it happened. A single minute before the sun breached the horizon.
Light burst over the clouds, yellows, oranges, reds, magentas, blues, purples and a clear horizon! The colour was everywhere. And that prompted a split second modification of the plan. Instead of capturing just the chosen view, now the aim was to capture the whole horizon in one panoramic shot. It seemed appropriate given the brilliant display that Mother Nature had suddenly turned on.
One shot turned into seven, blended together, to illustrate the magic that happens when a Plan Patience, Determination and Mother Nature all come together.
Image: Sunrise Panorama, Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia
© Robert Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography Travel and Events Photography