It’s 5am, my alarm’s gone off – but it’s the weekend, why am I getting up this early? It’s time to go out and shoot sunrise, that’s why. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gotten out of my nice cosy bed in order to try and capture some nice photos at sunrise. And more than half those times, I return empty-handed. Nothing. Nada. Not a single photo to show for my efforts. And when that happens, I ask myself why I do this thing called landscape photography.
I started getting into photography back in 2007. I bought a second-hand DSLR (a Canon EOS 350D) just out of curiosity more than anything. I knew nothing about photography or cameras at the time, but I’ve always been into cool gadgets and I’d never had a DSLR before. A few months of playing with the camera didn’t result in much – I took a few snapshots here and there but nothing that would suggest I had any photography skills. I joined Flickr and uploaded photos of flowers, insects, cats, and landscapes. Surprisingly I got a few nice comments from other users (which I reciprocated) and I started to feel like part of a small online community. I was mildly hooked.
Then somewhere on the internet I started reading about long exposures. Normally when you take a photo, the camera’s shutter opens and closes very quickly – within a fraction of a second. A long exposure is when you leave the shutter open for several seconds or even minutes, creating some interesting effects. I decided to give it a go myself, and headed out to a spot in the city to capture Auckland’s Sky Tower with cars in the foreground leaving funky light trails, resulting in the following shot.
I was pretty happy with the result. I uploaded the photo to Flickr along with a few other photo-sharing sites including InterfaceLift, a popular desktop wallpaper site back then. Getting a photo accepted on InterfaceLift was an achievement in itself as only top-quality images were approved, so I was over the moon when my photo was accepted. I got some nice feedback for it as well and my photo was downloaded by thousands of people around the world. It was also very popular on Flickr, receiving lots of nice comments.
And that was it, I was fully hooked. It was such a buzz knowing that my photo was not only seen by lots of people, but people actually liked it!
I knew that I would have to keep taking decent-quality photos if this positive feedback was to continue, so I read more about landscape photography and learnt that one of the most important things in landscape photography is taking photos during the best light, which usually happened around sunrise and sunset (the ‘golden hours’). For the next few years, I took every opportunity I could to visit beaches and other scenic spots around Auckland at sunrise and sunset, and while not all of my early photos have survived the test of time, there are still some that I consider portfolio-worthy.
So the buzz from receiving positive feedback on social media had gotten me hooked, and for many years it fueled my desire to take more photos. But after a while, that adrenaline rush faded and with more and more photographers appearing on the social media scene, I began to get jaded with photography and stopped taking photos altogether. Thankfully it didn’t take long for me to rekindle my passion for landscape photography but I no longer rely on the feedback from social media for that enjoyment. I take photos because I love capturing New Zealand’s beautiful landscapes in the best light, and when it all comes together, that 5am wake-up is definitely worth it.