I had been longing to play with my new Singh-Ray Mor-Slo 10-stop filter, so when the stars finally aligned and the conditions were perfect, I packed my car and headed out to Beach No. 16 in Rye – the location of this amazing beauty of nature; Dragon’s Head Rock.
Setting out at 3:30am, I was a little unprepared for the thick blanket of fog that reduced visibility on the freeway to barely a metre ahead. This slowed me down considerably, though I still managed to make it to Rye before the sun came up. Finding the beach was a little more difficult, given that it was not signposted and I had not scouted previously during daylight hours. Although I backtracked several times, I finally located a small area where I was able to park the car.
I had arrived with about 5 minutes of astronomical twilight left to spare. After strapping my Black Diamond headlamp onto my forehead and securing my f-stop gear Sukha containing all of my equipment onto my back, I hiked out onto the sand. The walk along the beach was initially quite precarious given the level of darkness compounded by the rocky, wet and slippery terrain. Thankfully, nautical twilight soon set in and my vision adjusted enough for me to be able to avoid clearly dangerous traps, such as falling unexpectedly into rockpools.
Although I had planned for this shoot to be at low tide, I remained cautious throughout, as rogue waves can often catch one by surprise. Furthermore, Dragon’s Head Rock sits quite a way out into the water so if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself trapped on the rocks and at risk of being washed away if the tide comes in quickly.
There are not many compositions to be had at Dragon’s Head Rock – really, all that can vary is your distance from it, whether you use a wide-angle or a telephoto, and whether you get down low or stretch as high as you can go. If you don’t mind getting wet, then it can be quite fun to stand in the water with the current swirling about your knees as each incoming wave adds to the cascades pouring from the structure itself. You can also get creative with long exposures if you’re there at sunrise or sunset, or if the conditions are particularly interesting.
Unfortunately, on the day that I went, the sunrise was uneventful, characterised by low cloud with little colour. At about 7am, I gave up on waiting for beams of light and decided I would go for an ethereal, dreamlike effect instead. The sun was coming in at about 120° to my left as I stood facing southeast towards the rock. Given the brightness of the clouds, I used a Galen Rowell GND 3-stop filter to balance out the sky and to make the transition between the clouds and water at the horizon seem somewhat intangible, almost as though the Dragon’s Head could be floating in the air itself. To achieve the soft, atmospheric mood in the rushing water, I used the Singh-Ray Mor Slo 10-stop stacked with the LEE Circular Landscape Polariser to blur the reflected light during the long exposure. The final result was shot at 35mm, ISO 100, f/9 with a shutterspeed of 180 sec.
Meanwhile, the tide began to rise and the waves became more rough as the wind picked up speed. I did not leave Dragon’s Head without a proper drenching but thankfully, I was covered head to toe in waterproof gear and ready for anything that the sea, or nature, could throw at me.