Leaving the comfort of a warm bed at 5am can be a bit of a shock to the system, especially if you're on top of a mountain in the Victorian Alps. But there I was, rugged up against the bitterly cold wind, just for a photo.
As the Currawongs heralded the start to a new day, a faint glow appeared on the horizon to the east. When I thought it was nearly time, I took my camera out from beneath my coat and attached it to the tripod I'd set up earlier. I kept the camera hidden inside my coat because cold conditions can affect the performance of its batteries.
On the end of the lens was an 81a filter to add some much needed warmth to the scene, and a grey graduate to boost the colour in the sky. I was careful not to breathe on the lens or the filters as I wanted sharp images, not those that look as if a soft focus filter had been used.
I was on a lookout on Mount Buffalo attempting to get a photo of the highest unbroken cliff face in Victoria, the North Wall, which faces east and only receives the morning sun.
The sun’s rays first made contact with the most distant ranges then slowly travelled across the undulating landscape. As they hit the Wall opposite I began shooting as many different vertical and horizontal photos as I could before the batteries in the camera complained about the cold and gave up. It always pays to keep an extra packet of batteries in a warm pocket in these situations to replace those in the camera if they get too cold.
That afternoon I moved to Mount Buffalo's highest point, called The Horn. Because there were no clouds to the west I knew that the sunset itself wouldn't be all that spectacular, so I concentrated on the landscape away from the sunset.
The granite peaks which rose out of the mountain plateau received the last rays of light as the valleys became dark, providing interesting contrasts.
The light of the sunset was somewhat warmer than that of the sunrise due to the atmospheric haze which had built up during the day. This increased the photogenic qualities of the landscape tenfold. You can get really dramatic photos by shooting the landscape just to one side of the sun. Remember though to shield the lens from the sun with your hand or camera bag, or lens flare will be a real problem. Also, never look at the sun directly through your lens, as you can damage your eyes.
A week earlier I'd experienced much more comfortable conditions photographing a sunset in Victoria's Wilsons Promontory National Park. During the day I walked along the beaches north of Tidal River, scouting for locations. This is something you should always do, especially when visiting and area for the first time. It saves a lot of running around when the time comes to start taking photographs.
Having found what I considered a good location I returned around an hour before sunset and set up the camera. There were scattered clouds coming in from the north-east, which would make a spectacular sight as the setting sun hit them. My only concern was that they wouldn't allow the golden light, just before the sunset, to hit the nearby rocks I was focusing on.
I had positioned the rocks to the right of the frame, and breaking waves moving in from the left. If all went well I would have a great photo of golden rocks with a giant wave bursting into the sky next to them.
Then, only minutes before sunset, the sun disappeared behind the clouds leaving a dull scene in front of me. But there was hope, a thin line of clear sky, just above the clouds covering the horizon. I waited patiently until the sun slowly emerged from behind the clouds and illuminated the rocks. Then, for whatever reason, the sea decided to remain relatively calm the entire five minutes that the sun was out. Only when the sun had disappeared behind the next group of clouds did the big waves return. Oh well, you can't have everything, at least the clouds provided some colour in the sky after sunset.
With the right amount of planning sunrises and sunsets can be simple to take. But, even with the most thorough planning, Mother Nature still has her surprises.