The northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island is windy, very windy. And sandy, very sandy. This combination leads to the formation of sand dunes, which over the eons become sandstone. Because sandstone is soft it is easily eroded. And at Wharariki Beach -where I spent the last three days- the sandstone has eroded to create two of the most beautiful offshore islands I’ve ever seen.
Their proper name is the Archway Islands, a moniker that couldn’t be better chosen. Three hundred foot towers of sandstone shot through with massive arches. It’s hard to say exactly how big the arches are but the western one looks like you could play a game of soccer inside it. Although you can drive most of the way to Wharariki Beach, the final approach is a 20-minute trek through farm paddocks and coastal forest, an effort that seems fitting to reach a place of such extraordinary beauty.
I saw a picture of the Archway Islands a few years ago and put it high on my must-visit list for this trip. As a person I wanted to experience the place. As a photographer (and in particular a seascape photographer) I knew this was a spot I was going to linger until I got perfect conditions. The funny thing about seascapes is that they are often beautiful, but rarely iconic. Coastal scenes frequently lack that obvious sense of place that make them instantly recognizable. There are a few exceptions to the rule and Wharariki is one of the best of them.
The challenge I faced was capturing such a spectacular place with spectacular light, a feat which is easier said than done when your photography trip has a time limit. I was prepared to wait up to 5 days at Wharariki for the right light. When an amazing sunset exploded on my second night there my serotonin levels skyrocketed and I couldn’t keep myself from laughing like a maniac. This was a highlight among highlights of the trip so far.
(FYI, I’m keeping a lid on my top-shelf pics from this trip because I want to edit them on a color-calibrated monitor when I get back home. So if you’re wondering where my shot from the amazing sunset I described here is, you’ll just have to wait a bit to see it!)