And I never really gave the contents of the sky much credit either - in particular the fact that amazing cloud formations in the sky can take a photo to a whole new level. I definitely didn't appreciate until recently how mind-blowing the two are when they collide - great light and great skies. It's the stuff that photographic dreams are made of.
So when I experience a moment that combines great light and a great sky, there's only one thing that could make it even better - the fact I was never meant to be there in that exact moment to begin with. I like to think of it as serendipity, but before I confuse you completely let me explain:
Over Christmas we spent two nights in New Plymouth visiting my gran, or Gee Gee as she's known to us. The first evening we'd set aside to take the boys out to see the annual Festival of Lights display at Pukekura Park but we had to pull the plug at the last minute.
We'd been threatening the boys around dinnertime with cancelling our plans if their behaviour didn't improve - it was nothing major just the usual kid-type niggles - not doing things when we'd asked them to and bickering with each other. So when we'd given them a last warning and there was still no improvement, we really felt we had to follow through on our threat not to go. Eeek! The boys were devastated (and hopefully learnt an important lesson) but luckily they redeemed themselves the next day and we did end up going the next night.
However, that left me with a big dilemma - what to do with the suddenly free evening we found ourselves with as time was marching on - it was past 7.30pm and I hadn't even given any thought to potentially going out to take photos.
I could see that the clouds were looking quite promising for a good sunset so Mark and I jumped in the car and I drove across New Plymouth towards the sinking sun - not with any real plan of where we'd end up but the more I drove, the more I became convinced that we should head for the beach where the Sugarloaf Islands meet the sea known as Back Beach.
I'm almost embarrassed to say that Back Beach is another location that I've never actually been to despite visiting Taranaki 2-3 times a year for practically my whole life - we're talking in excess of 50 visits I'm guessing! I've looked down on the beach from above a fair few times - the last time when we climbed Paritutu back in October. There are some very impressive steep sand dunes that you can hoon down to get to the beach - which I decided I wouldn't try with camera in hand - or you can take the more sedate route and walk down a very steep staircase to get there, much more sensible with a heavy backpack and tripod in tow.
I knew the minute we arrived that the night showed promise.
When we got down to the beach my heart started racing with the potential I could see in the clouds and the sky as the day started to die. And the night didn't fail to deliver one bit.
The reflections in the wet sand were almost better than the sky itself.
The little islands just offshore and out of reach were a beautiful accompanying instrument in an orchestra where the sun was the lead soloist.
The seagulls circling overhead and playing in the shallows were the percussion and rhythm to the show.
If the eyes are the windows on the soul, then being rewarded with views like these must surely be like opening a window and gazing directly into Heaven.
This night is by far the most incredible sunset I have had the opportunity to witness and capture on camera. It was an incredible thrill and a moment I am not going to forget - even better was the fact I got to share the experience with my patient hubby who carried my backpack and waited patiently for me the whole time I was there!