11 July 2014

Moody skies at Castlepoint

When I mentioned to people that we were going to Castlepoint for the night, I had some very mixed reactions. From 'oh you'll love the scenery of that coastline, I can't wait to see your photos' to 'who or what's at Castlepoint?'. It's a relatively well known holiday spot amongst people in the southern part of the North Island, but it can also be easily confused with another lighthouse at Cape Palliser that's also in the Wairarapa but on the south rather than east coast.

We'd planned this trip a month or so back to coincide with a weekend that we didn't have anything else on -  that in itself is a complete rarity around these parts. For us, it was an opportunity to explore a new-to-us place in New Zealand, and one that was within fairly easy reach as it's only a 2.5 hour drive from Wellington so compared to some of the much longer road trips we take up the country to visit our family, it was a breeze to get there and certainly do-able even just for a one night stay.

I had, in my usual fashion, been checking the weather forecast all week. Early on it had looked pretty rubbish, then it looked good and then somewhat patchy again. So we really didn't know what we were in for in terms of the weather, but I (of course) had high hopes for some photo opportunities during the trip.


We drove under sunny skies on the way there although after getting over the Rimutaka hills there was one ginormous ominous shower cloud hovering near the coast and I complained to Mark that I thought it looked like it was going to be right over Castlepoint. The closer we got the more I was convinced. But I found myself revising my opinion of whether stormy clouds were a good thing or not a mere hour or so later.


I'd booked a self-contained unit at the Castlepoint Holiday Park - it was nothing fancy and we took our own sheets and towels but it served our purpose given we spent a pretty short amount of time there in the end - it was literally a place to sit and eat our takeaway dinner, sleep the night away and slurp some breakfast watching the World Cup quarterfinal and then we were on our way again.

After we arrived, we headed straight up to the lighthouse to catch the last hour of sunlight for the day. I had in my arsenal a couple of new photographic toys I wanted to try out - a circular polariser filter and a 10-stop neutral density filter. I might explain a little more about what they do another day for anyone who's vaguely interested!

There are days where the planets align (or in this case the light is just right) and every shot you make has you doing an internal fist pump. I quickly saw how much the circular polariser was helping cut out on glare from the sky and reducing reflections, and found myself wondering why on earth I hadn't started using one years ago - you live and learn I guess!

The skies all around were moody and menacing and I found myself with goose bumps taking shot after shot - and not from the cold - although it was pretty bracing up near the lighthouse with strong westerly winds whipping up all around us.

The climb up to the lighthouse only takes a few minutes, and from there you can climb higher again up a wooden staircase to the top of the point with panoramic 360 degree views towards land and out to sea.

From here, you can climb down the wooden staircase onto the rocks which is safe on a day where sand and sea spray aren't billowing around, safe enough for us that afternoon but it wouldn't have been the next morning with a southerly swell churning up the water good and proper.

The skies  at this point were utterly incredible as I think you can see.

I really haven't touched up those colours I promise - they really are as shot!

When it came time to climb back up to the lighthouse I was in total awe of this cloud formation.

Makes you realise how small you really are up against the forces of nature.

The sun is still setting at its earliest at this time of the year (before 5pm) and with the clouds all around, the light disappeared fairly quickly, leaving behind a glow in the sky that just begged to be captured.


I was against both the clock and the weather trying to get some shots on the beach with the glow reflected in the wet sand as the localised showers that had been threatening the whole time decided right at that moment to try and pelt us. I reluctantly gave up on more camera shots after getting a few spots of rain on the lens and resorted back to my phone for the last few shots of the day.

Mental note to self, I will NOT be complaining about the skies being too cloudy or stormy as the moodiness added an incredible element of atmosphere into all these photos that I wouldn't have changed for a moment.

As the night drew in, we drove a few kilometres up the road to the local Whakataki hotel to get takeaways for dinner - the boys happily amused themselves with the ping pong table and darts until the food arrived - and it was surprisingly good considered we were out in the wop wops and it was your typical local yokel hotel!

After the boys were in bed, there was enough time for a glass of red wine and chocolate munching while watching an old school Midsomer Murders on TV1. But an early night was called for, we had a date with the dawn the next morning.

to be continued......


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