There are many places around New Zealand which are known to be photogenic, to be frank it's a beautiful country. But often when going to these locations, people say it can be harder to make an image because of the images that have been created there before. I'm not too sure I buy into this myth, as James Stephens says “Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself” or in other words spend some time thinking about the scene in front of you, shoot what interests you, and don't just go for the obvious shot.
“Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself” James Stephens
In the case of this image I had seen a few images from this location before, which is one of the reason's I wanted to go and visit it. It looked like a location that would suit a nice long exposure, so my plan was to photograph there in the early evening light, my favorite light. The location had been on my list of locations to visit for probably around 6 months by this point, but when Kelly and I talked about going to the emergency services display in Wellington last week, I thought there was a good chance the conditions might be right for the shot I saw.
Together with Owen we had a great time walking around Wellington, photographing the emergency services display and the architecture. The weather was warmer than forecast, so much so that it felt more like spring. But as the sun sank down in the sky and the chill of a winters night descended my thoughts turned to Point Halswell. The Mirimar Peninsula looks a great place to explore, we must make more time to come back.
By the time we got out to the point, there was a wedding shoot happening there and another photographer was waiting so the popularity of the location was certainly not a myth. But patience is one of those things you have to learn to love with landscape photography. The weather, the busyness of life and so many other things have a way of causing delays. So I have learned to use these times where possible to my advantage. Sometimes I use words to name things I see or I listen to what others talk about. I am not sure why but this seems to help feed the story writing part of my brain which I can then use in composing the image.
Positives, the sky... there were no clouds, the lack of drama would give a very peaceful to the image. A lowish tide meant the rocks and pathway foundations were nicely exposed which would add a nice texture. The strong line formed by the path had lots of interesting textures on it and therefore would add visual interest to the shot.
Negatives, the wave action was pretty minimal, which doesn't tend to look that good in long exposures. Considering this I noticed that as the boats and ships passed the point, their wakes could make up for this. This was made particularly obvious about 3 or 4 minutes after one of the big Interislander ferries went past. The funny thing about this is I hadn't really considered the ferries going past until now, but now I was thinking 'I wish that ship had come past after the sun had set'.
The final composition I settled on was to have the path out to the lighthouse coming out of the bottom left hand corner of the frame, the lighthouse on the top and right hand third lines with the lights of Lower Hut to the far right. The rocks and path would add an interesting foreground and texture to the image, and the strong line of the path would help draw the eye through the image. The colors of twilight (which had some nice pinks, purples and salmons as well as blue) and the lack of clouds provided a sense of peace and tranquility. I liked how the composition had came together and how the elements worked together, but to quote an old TVNZ advert, 'I felt like I needed something more'.
That was the moment when all of the preparation, thought and planning came together. I was looking to see if any boats or ships were coming so I would be able to capture the wake interacting with the rocks in the beautiful twilight, when I saw the second ferry coming around the point. I made several exposures over the next 5 - 10 minutes. The first few exposures being the normal bracketed images to make sure I had the right exposures I needed to blend in later. Another exposure was a nice longer exposure to capture the sea as the wake rolled ashore. The final exposure was of the ferry's lights as it moved through the top left third line against the darker tones of the hills. I reviewed the images on the camera's screen and was thankful that the image looked like it would come together.
In review if the sea hadn't been so calm I am not sure I would have thought too much about the ferries, which means the final composition may not have included it. It's funny how something which looks like a negative can turn out to be a positive. But this is the joy of photography, we have our plans, our ideas and these get jumbled in with reality and our thoughts to create the final images. You can see the final result below, I am pretty happy with how it came out and the story in the image.