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  • Writer's pictureMatt Smith

The Land That Time Forgot - Part 2

5am and looking straight up from the car, not a cloud, just a vast expanse of ink black interpersed with  pin points of light just about everywhere you look.  A hazy strip stretches from one end of the horizon to the other, the Milky Way.  It’s majestic beyond measure, but part of me can’t help but feel a little disappointed, a repeat of yesterdays bland blue sky...?

While two days ago it was quite exciting, with its weather and heaving seas (see: The Land that Time Forgot part1), yesterday, dawned clear as a bell.  Featureless, blue skies just don’t cut it for dramatic photography, that’s what my preconceiving mind was telling me though, which of course is not always the case.  Waking up yesterday more exhausted than when I went to bed, due mostly to noisy neighbours, doesn’t help the creative processes either.  Not to mention: three suicidal kangaroos that I managed to somehow miss on the drive here; the entanglement in a spiders web, complete with what felt like an enormous spider, both of us frantically trying to get out of each other’s way; and not thinking that the foot prints one makes while walking in the sand, might just be right where you want to photograph!  While the camera eventually found its way onto the tripod, the images lacked a certain something, maybe my headspace then was still back in that warm bed.  I sat down on one of those ancient rocks and watched the sun rise, giving up on photography and trying just to be content with where I was; which in all reality wasn’t too hard to do.  

Today though, although the same cloudless sky, felt different.  Maybe a good nights sleep has its merits; but it was certainly colder, much colder, with the needle just hovering over the freezing mark.  With not a kamikaze Roo in sight I’d made it here in one piece.   But something wasn’t right.  In pitch blackness I’d walked the same trail as yesterday.  No spider, no problems whatsoever; yet when I reached the beach the view, well what one would expect to see or not see in the dark, was not the same as yesterday.  The horizon appeared higher, and is moving. That ever so faint strip of horizontal difference between night black ocean and satin black sky was a good two metres above its normal place of residence, wafting up and down like some freak wave.  I stay a few minutes, continuing to watch from the tree line, not really comprehending what’s going on.  Half asleep maybe?  Shining my torch at the ocean only returns fleeting apparitions of salt spray, not a good thing to do when ones mind is already unsettled.  Nevertheless, nothing ventured nothing gained, I press on.

On the beach I find the wind; or I should say, it finds me.  Coming from the West, it’s not overly strong, but certainly noticeable.  it’s icy touch preferring to dig through my supposedly wind proof layers rather than go around.  A lazy wind as they say.  I walk to the tide line and it suddenly dawns on me.  The rolling horizon isn’t some figment of my imagination, but a sea fog, obscuring any vestige of dividing line with its opaque floating presence.  I quietly chuckle, the dark plays tricks with the mind, but now my interest is well and truely piqued.  When one embarks to photograph, there is always a certain excitement tinged with anticipation of the serendip.  The excitement for me right now, just scaled up a few notches.

As I walk along the beach, subtle hues of violet give way to rich blue, as the false dawn signals begins.  The fog, it’s more mist like really, clearly visible; blending ocean with sky in a swirling mass of light blue grey.   I better stop making footprints, and walk closer to the tidal edge, at least with an incoming tide, any will be erased.  Nearing the same rocky headland as yesterday,  I climb the same cliff edged buttress of rock, dump my gear and plunge my near freezing hands into the cozy warmth of my trouser pockets.  At least here, it’s sheltered from that icy breeze.

I setup the tripod and look behind me.  Wow!  The North horizon is bleeding orange as the sun comes closer to its appointed time.  The mystery of the mist clearly evident now.  Generating off the cold waters of the lake behind me, pushed East by that wind,  it greets the humid warm (well, 16’c is warmer than just above freezing yeah?) salty air drifting in from the surf.  Mingling into a wafting wave of opaqueness that wanders along the shoreline, as if there is an invisible wall at the waters edge stopping any wafting up the beach.  I’m in the wrong spot!

Racing the sun, I grab my gear and scramble down the cliff, making a lot of footprints along the way.  I play chicken with the ever rising tide as it surges in and out, scrambling from rock to rock, so as not to disturb the freshly washed sand, eventually climbing a vertical, knife edged slab running parallel to the cliff face, with a rock stack positioned just so to my left and just behind.

Why is it when your balancing precariously on a rock, with waves frequently trying to upset that balance, that just one tripod leg decides to be cantankerous, and refuses to extend to where you want it to go?  After a frustrating minute, it sorts itself out and extends.  A wave comes in, collides with my rock and sends spray up and over.  In a split second, jacket over my head and covering the camera, my bare back takes the brunt of what feels like a bucket of ice cold water.  If I wasn’t awake before, I certainly am now.  Freak wave.  Got to watch for those.  Cameras bone dry thank goodness, but the salt water, following the the rule of gravity, has rolls down my back and inside my trousers.  Not a pleasant feeling, but hey what do you do?

Ignoring the sticky wet feeling, I tune the composition, while keeping one eye on the ocean.  Looking down the beach, the mist encroaches, wafting around the tangled jumbles of rock formations.  Waves roll in out of the mist; you can’t see them but you hear the muted roar as they break, the foaming mass only visible as it slows on the shoreline before receding back to the wafting opaqueness.  The Earths shadow, that line of blue under a soft dusky pink, is creeping towards the horizon, floating on the mist like a sailing boat at sea.  A sure sign the sun is due to arrive soon over my shoulder.  It feels so other worldly, I can’t help but imagine that I’m at the beginning of creation, in a land that time forgot again.  No photography will ever display what I’m experiencing, but I try nonetheless.

Time appears non existent here, yet minutes pass.  I look over my shoulder.  The sun has breached the horizon, it’s orange glow haloed by the mist.  The sea stack, floating in and out of mist, a dark pyramid shape. I turn around, hop from rock to rock, back to the cliff edge, one side a sheer wall, the other, the ocean waves as they pound that island rock.  The tide has come in, and is now encroaching around the sea stack.  Each wave slams against the cliff, unfurling along its edge and behind the stack, leaving a new palette of wet reflective sand each time.

I haven’t long so I work compositions, and focal lengths, and then the sun breaches the mist, the contrast now too strong.  I scramble a little higher and watch, enthralled at the scene before me.

The golden light eventually turns to a bright white, and it’s time to depart the theatre.  Already wet, I throw caution to the wind, wait, judge the moment, climb down and splash my way to drier sand at the cliffs end.  I look back, the moments gone but it’s still beautiful nonetheless.  On a whim I decide to have a look at the lake behind the headland, and squelch the fifty metres to the cold blue waters edge.

The wind has completely gone now.  There is a hint of mist just hovering above the lakes surface at the far end, opaque writhing tendrils catch the suns rays as they skim along the surface.  So crisp and still is the air,  the reflection of sky and tree Lined shore is rich in colour and detail.  It’s only metres from where I was facing the ocean moments before and yet, how sublimely different it is here.  Hardly a sound.  just a little bird song, with the faint murmur every now and then of an ocean wave rolling in.  It’s so breathtakingly still.  I want to absorb every part, every detail.  The fragrance of ocean is still in the air, yet it mingles with the freshness coming from the far forest. Time feels slower, almost nonexistent.  I find a rock near the shore, sit and soak up the moment, I don’t wish to leave.

Before long, my watch tells me I’ve been here 15 minutes.  Reluctantly, I drag myself away and dawdle the long half hour, back along the beach; humming hymns and spiritual songs, for this morning I’ve been with God.

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