However, when Andris and Lynne had picked Les Walkling and me up from Hokitika airport the night before, it was raining cats and dogs! It's roughly a two hour drive from Hokitika to Okarito, especially in the rain. We couldn't see much at 8 pm when we arrived. In winter the sun sets shortly after 5.00 pm and doesn't rise until around 8.00 am, which makes landscape photography very civilised.
Of course, the downside is it's pretty cold, especially with towering alpine peaks and glaciers just a few kilometres away. So when we hit the sack, I didn't expect to get up until after sunrise, but Andris had other plans.
Andris and Lynne's bedroom looks out over the beach and lagoon, with the mountains in the background. Andris laughs that he often goes to bed with the camera set up on his tripod ready for the morning light.
At around 7.00 am, there's a knock on the gallery door. I have a mattress on the ground behind the sofa and the gallery is closed for the winter. All around me are Andris's amazing landscape prints and it's pretty clear why he is regarded as New Zealand's best landscape photographer. Not only is his technique exquisite, his choice of location, light and timing are amazing. We will talk a lot about this in the days to come.
"There's a break on the horizon", Andris says. "I'll wake up Les."
I grab at my clothes and madly put my camera gear together. Feet and head onto the tripod head, battery and card into the digital back, format the card and rush up stairs.
The dawn is still half an hour away and I can see why Andris has woken us. The vista is striking, even though most of it remains in dark formless shadow. The lagoon is reflecting the sky where the sun will soon rise and it looks like the low clouds could erupt in colour.
I pulled out my camera to take a few shots and then looked out to sea. There was a strong swell pushing through and the offshore breeze was throwing plumes of spray off the backs of the breaking waves. Yet while I have watched sunrise over the ocean all my life, I wasn't expecting the light show that happened when the sun finally rose. The sun lit the waves and a long, low cloud of sea spray, while the crescent of the beach produced a beautiful curve on which to base a nice composition.
There will be an article on Andris in the next issue of Better Photography magazine (out in September), plus I will be posting a few more images here as they are processed. And we got some good ones!