Cloudy With A Chance Of Radiance

If my recent experience at Moeraki Boulders wasn’t enough, I got another lesson in taking a chance again at New Brighton Pier in Christchurch. My friends Nick, Jorg, and I had agreed on a 5am start from town. When we started off, it was drizzling quite steadily with a completely overcast sky (or as much as we could see under still-dark skies). We kept our expectations low, but still hoped for something, as we drove the hour and 15 minutes through sometimes torrential rain to New Brighton.

New Brighton is a suburb of Christchurch, situated on the east coast. A 300-meter pier on the beach is one of the attractions, and that was our destination. After navigating some detours (due to post-earthquake reconstruction), we arrived at New Brighton Pier a little after 6am. We were met with a little sprinkling of rain and a cold wind, but the eastern sky was looking hopefully light. We set up our gear and waited, hoping for something to make it worth the early morning start.

Waiting for the sun [16mm, f/16, blend of 2sec + 1sec + 0.5sec, ISO100]
The weather was fickle. One minute it seemed as if the clouds would part, only to close up the next. The light was at least making the different layers of clouds stand out quite nicely. Then, for a short 1-minute window, we got a quick dash of beautiful colour shooting through different parts of the sky.

Golden light [16mm, f/16, blend of 0.8sec + 0.4sec + 0.2sec, ISO100]
The clouds closed up again very quickly, and we thought we were done as there was no hint of clearing. I walked under the pier, looking to see if I could find something else of interest on the beach, to take attention away from the drab sky. And then it happened. The clouds parted low over the horizon and brilliant shafts radiated out. Beautiful light filled the vista. We fought the shifting sands to keep our tripods steady long enough to capture the gorgeous light.

Chance radiance [35mm, f/16, blend of 3.2sec + 1.6sec + 0.8sec, ISO100]
That one moment made it all worthwhile – getting up early in the morning, making the long drive, putting up with the rain and the cold. All for that one fleeting moment. With the weather we were facing when we set out, we could have easily ended up with nothing. Perhaps nine times out of ten we would have ended up with nothing. But it’s that magical view on the tenth time that makes you still get out there. Just on the possibility that today might be your lucky day.

The brilliant shafts of light lingered, but the colours faded. So we explored the pier itself.

The light at the end [85mm, f/2, 1/3200, ISO100]
To our astonishment, we saw several surfers out there braving the cold weather. But who am I complain? Perhaps they were also out there hoping to get lucky with the waves like we did with the light and colours.

Looking for that wave [200mm, f/4, 1/400, ISO100]
Young man and the sea [50mm, f/8, 1/60, ISO100]
Surfers in the sea [50mm, f/2, 1/1250, ISO100]
We saw a local boating club practice their launches — it was quite impressive to see them heave the boat across the big waves crashing down.

Boating club practice [190mm, f/4, 1/400, ISO100]
By this time, most of the good light and colours had gone. The sky turned a leaden grey, and that was our signal to head home. All in all, it was a great outing. We started off expecting nothing, but were rewarded with a few minutes of great light and colour. Taking that chance at 5am, the chance that conditions might change despite the rain and overcast sky, worked out for us. Maybe the next time it won’t. But if you don’t take the chance, you’ll never find out.

I have to give a shout-out to my two partners-in-crime for getting up so early that morning, driving out so far, and braving the rain and cold temps. Many people would have stayed in bed (including me on many other mornings!), but thankfully, on that particular morning, we did not.

Nick
Jorg

 

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