Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Sunrise at the Clay Cliffs


As mentioned in the previous post on the Omarama Clay Cliffs I was hoping to visit the cliffs at sunrise as well. They're not exactly facing due east, more south-east but I thought the pale whites, creams and yellows of the clay would turn to some lovely golds during the golden hour just after sunrise.

I can tell you it takes a lot of will power to haul yourself out of a warm and cosy bed at 4:30am on a cold and dark morning just to see some clay cliffs (which I'd already seen the afternoon before). But in the end, I managed to convince myself that it was a good idea and as is often the case, once you're up and about, you feel much better about the decision. I gathered my gear together, grabbed a banana for breakfast and loaded my gear into the ute.  David stayed put, grumbling from under the covers that I was rocking the boat- I assured him I was creeping about as I looked for a couple of forgotten items. "Really?"  "Yes really!"

I drove out to the access road, opened the farm gate and drove along the gravel road disturbing hundreds of rabbits along the way. I made my way up to the second car park, half expecting to see another photographer or two there ahead of me. But I had the place to myself, it was a little spooky while it was still dark but as the pre-dawn gloom started to lighten the land I felt a little better. I knew there was nobody around, it was more about what was rustling about in the scrub around me!

By 5:30am the sun was rising over the back of the cliffs, the streaks of cloud turning a soft pink. It wasn't a spectacular sunrise but it wasn't this show I had come to see, it was the one over my shoulder.

The sun's glow slowly creapt down the cliffs turning them a beautiful golden colour.

A photo-bombing sheep made an appearance and it then dawned on me what had been rustling about in the undergrowth.

 As the sun rose higher, the intensity of the gold soon disappeared and the cliffs turned a more mellow gold.

I walked up the track, taking my tripod and wide angle lens with me. A small group of sheep followed along behind. Whenever I stopped they'd race off into the scrub, returning to the track once I moved on. Here are the cliffs through my wide-angle lens, I've still got a bit of work to do with my ND filter (neutral density) which, should've helped soften the deep blue of the sky- if I'd set it right!

I made my way through the entrance into the cavern to be met by an amazing sight; so this is why I wanted sunrise (not that I knew it), the sun reaches right inside the cavern lighting up the pinnacles and pillars. 

And this is why I wanted to shoot with my wide angle lens- so I could get a nearly 360 degree shot of the inside walls. Shot at 11mm, f/16, 1/1000, ISO100, for those that know settings. 

And here are few more to enjoy...

At the entrance, looking out over the Ahuriri River... 

...towards the Ewe Range behind.

One more from my wide lens; this takes in the Ahuriri River and the Wether Range on it's way towards the Lindis Pass.

And one more of the 'lesser' cliffs near the carpark.   

I'm so glad I kicked myself in the butt and got 'Out There'. What an amazing experience soaking up the peace and quite, enjoying the solitude surrounded by a stunningly beautiful landscape. I had the cliffs all to myself for well over two hours(if you don't count the silly sheep). I didn't see another person until I arrived home and David greeted me at the door with bacon & eggs for breakfast!

Which were a little cold after I'd called to say I was on my way......I just had to stop and capture these lupins on the side of a creek near the river on the way home.


  1. Such amazing photos - we appreciate you getting out of bed so early to share these images with your readers.

    Robin and Jenny, Romany Rambler

    1. I'm glad someone appreciates the efforts I go to, to get the perfect shot! :) I'll thing of you guys the next time I have to drag myself out of bed, I'll even dedicate the special shot to you....who knows what it's going to be though. Many thanks.

  2. Stunning! Also love the last picture of lupins by the creek.

    1. Thanks offstone, the lupins were amazing in that patch. I wish I had longer to wander in amongst them.

  3. Hi Shellie,
    Just the place I was thinking about checking out when I met up with you in Tekapo last year! I visited the Clay Cliffs a few years ago but in the middle of the afternoon, as you have shown the best time is sunrise.
    It's still on my to do list for this year, maybe closer to winter when the sunrise isn't so early!

    1. Hi there Lisa, I kept thinking of you all the time I was there shooting the sunrise. It was a pity we didn't meet here as I'm sure we would have got better shots than we did on our blustery day in Tekapo! Yes, but in winter you don't have to rise so early but it sure would be cold! I think I'll take the early rise :)

  4. Most impressive...I was travelling past the above mentioned cliffs last week...the last low raking light was striking those the time I pulled over the shot had gone...once again your efforts are "above and beyond"
    Ps I still owe you a Moro bar!

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