Two weeks in a row.
That's right. Two weeks in a row.
“Two weeks in a row of what?”, I hear you ask.
Finishing my working week on a Thursday. That's what. To make it even better, I was having Monday off as well. FOUR DAY WEEKEND!!!! WOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!!
We headed off to New Brighton in Northern NSW for a little beach break. Myself, my wife Marianne, and my two dogs Siska and Ernie.
Normally a 90 minute drive from home, became 2 hours due to peak hour traffic, which then became three hours due to daylight savings. Who cares? We were at the beach. Four nights and four days here we come!!
After a quick bite to eat and an unloading of our clothes and food, it was time to head to the beach to check out the stars. You see, I had planned this little getaway around the new moon and the lower levels of light pollution in this region, as the centre of the Milky Way has returned from its Summer hiatus. Marianne and I grabbed a drink, a camera and a tripod each and walked the 50 metres to the beach. I set the cameras up, then we sat down and chilled out for a bit watching the stars. It really is amazing just how many stars we lose due to the light pollution of a large city :(
After a little while, Marianne got a bit sleepy, so we headed back to the house for me to refill my supplies and head back out, and for Marianne to hit the sack.
It was an awesome night out with barely any breeze, no clouds and the stars shining brightly. It had been a few months since I had sat by myself under a cloudless night sky and boy had I missed it. After war the galactic core rise around midnight, I stayed on the beach shooting until just after 2am. The tide played its part too, with the wet sand of low tide reflecting the stars just beautifully, but now it was time for bed.
Friday morning started with a trip to the beach in the hope of an awesome sunrise....this wasn't to be, so I quickly packed up and went back to the house to get my dogs for a walk on the beach. Halfway through, I was joined by Marianne. A quick swim before breakfast was then on the menu. The water was beautiful! Crystal clear and not in the slightest bit cold. Just perfect and the dogs thought so too!
The rest of the day was spent doing one of three things: walking on the beach, swimming at the beach or taking photos at the beach.
I've got a little GoPro that I've had for a few years now, and I have always wanted to take it in the surf and have a play with it and try to get a few wave shots. Today was the day. I fashioned a tether strap out of an old shoe lace, strapped it to my wrist and hit the water. My strike rate wasn't very good, but I was pretty happy with a couple that I got.
Friday was also the actual night of the new moon. Originally I had planned on going for a drive further South to Byron Bay, and specifically out to the light house. Unfortunately, a bit of weather came through in the afternoon, and with it a lot of cloud cover. So, I decided to give up on the idea of getting some more star shots and to watch the footy and have a beer or two instead. Towards the end of the game, I thought that I would go for a quick walk down to the beach to check on the conditions. Firstly, it was blowing an absolute gale. Secondly, the gale had blown a lot of the clouds away, and what was haging around was moving very quickly. Cool. Just perfect for some time lapse footage. I love clear skies for my stars, but I also like a bit of cloud when I'm shooting time lapse. It adds a bit more drama to it.
When I'm shooting the Milky Way, I usually end up at some time or another in front of my camera taking a couple of 'selfies'. This night was no exception.
At just after 2am, it was time to head for the comfort of my bed once again. After a big day of walking and swimming, the only 3 hours sleep from the night before had finally caught up with me.
After the patchy cloud from the night before, I woke early hoping for the same for sunrise. It was not meant to be. The cloud had become heavier and lower, and apart from a slight orange glow on the horizon, the sunrise was virtually non-existent.
Plan W for 'Walking the Dogs' came in to play a bit earlier than what I had hoped for. The pups were pretty happy that sunrise was a no-show! The rest of the morning, and day for that matter pretty much followed the same recipe as the day before. Walk. Swim. Breakfast. Swim. Walk. Swim etc etc.
Around mid-afternoon a few showers and storms were moving around the region, with more expected later in to the evening. I headed to the beach armed with my camera hoping to get some nice cloud formations. There wasn't a great deal on offer, but at times the sun managed to break through the clouds and create some nice contrast with the darker clouds above.
Being low tide down on the beach, there were some pretty cool patterns starting to appear in the sand. Little crabs, worms and the receding water line were all making their mark. After admiring a lot of abstract aerial landscapes over the years of the upper reaches of creeks and rivers, with their little branches and tributaries going off in all directions, I settled on trying out the poor man's version: my camera mounted on my tripod parallel to the sand and facing directly down and focusing on the abstract and graphic nature of the patterns caused by the outgoing tide as the water drained off the sand flats.
More storms continued through the night, so the chance of any more star shots faded as quickly as the afternoon light.
I didn't hold out much hope for sunrise on the Sunday, as I had been awoken by another storm at about 3.30am. My alarm was set so I got up anyway. On my first inspection down at the beach (in pretty much total darkness!), I could tell that there was a lot of cloud around. I could also tell that there was a lighter section pretty much exactly where the sun was due to rise. Could this be my day??? I went back in to the house and grabbed my camera and tripod. In the five minutes I had been off the beach, that lighter area had started to glow. I broke in to a run to get to my desired location – a couple of isolated rocks down near the waterline. The heavier cloud overhead started to break up, and the colours continued to get more and more intense. Definitely worth getting out of bed early for! No sooner had I started getting a couple of shots, my batteries gave up the ghost. I had forgotten to swap over to fresh batteries before heading out the door!! $HIT!!! I couldn't let this sunrise get away. I packed up the tripod, threw it over my shoulder and sprinted back to the house, swapped the batteries over, then sprinted back to my spot. I checked my clock – 5 minute turnaround. Thankfully, the colour really hung on, allowing me to shoot a couple of different compositions of the rocks. Disaster averted!
After sunrise, the dogs got walked, we had a swim and a big feed of bacon and eggs. More swimming was had before we headed in to Brunswick Heads for lunch. The weather turned sour again, with more rain and storms skipping across the bay until into the evening. I ventured back down the beach just after the largest storm had passed over us, and not surprisingly, the beach was almost empty. The sun was peaking through, illuminating the ocean against the heavy storm clouds, making it almost glow.
The storms stuck around all night, but it was my last day at the beach. I beat my alarm, grabbed my two raincoats (one for me and one for my camera) and headed to the beach. Not only had the storms stuck around all night, but they were still all around me for 'sunrise'. I eventually got rained off the beach but not before getting a couple of nice long exposures. Then it was time to pack up the house before heading back to Brisbane.
Until next time New Brighton. We'll be back.