Cape Campbell lies at the southernmost point of the Cook Strait – the infamous stretch of water separating New Zealand’s North and South Islands. Many New Zealanders and tourists alike would probably have a story to share of ferry crossings in rough seas (including this photographer) and many know of the strong winds, especially those from the south, that funnel through the strait. Cape Campbell is a small headland that extends out into the Strait and is well-exposed to the full force of nature. I’d flown above it many times on my way towards Wellington yet it was only in recent years that I decided it was a place I wanted to explore at ground-level. We planned a visit coinciding with the end of Summer 2020, looking forward to a weekend of relaxation and photography, whatever the weather, on this remote corner of the South Island. The first night of our stay in the former lighthouse keeper’s huts met our expectations with high winds whistling around us and magnificent stretches of lenticular clouds forming in the skies above. Yet it was the second night that took us by surprise with virtually calm conditions taking over from sunset and extending throughout the night. The night skies were dark and clear and so many hours were spent photographing the lighthouse with the stars twinkling above.
As dawn approached, I returned to a viewpoint that I’d found earlier in the trip. From this vantage point, I had a magnificent view of the lighthouse rising above the rugged and exposed headland dotted with grasses and low-lying vegetation – clearly nothing taller could grow in an area dominated by the southerly winds. From the lighthouse, the gentle slope of the land sweeps down towards the reef that extends out from the headland towards the ocean beyond. With the Sun still below the horizon, the clear skies above were a gorgeous display of soft colours that seamlessly transitioned from purples and mauves into a warm yellow glow that indicated where the Sun would shortly rise. I was surrounded by a landscape that reflected the beautiful colour palette of the dawn sky above.
A calm, clear sunrise certainly wasn’t expected during a weekend stay on the edge of the Cook Strait, but it was certainly a treasured moment and a reminder that you just never know what you’re going to find when you set out to explore.
“Cape Campbell Dawn” achieved a bronze award in the Landscape / Nature Category of the 2020 EPSON International Pano Awards as well as achieving a bronze medal in the 2020 North Shore Salon of Photography.
- Camera: Canon EOS 6D
- Lens: Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L at 24mm
- Exposures: f/11, 1/4s – 1s, ISO 200
- HDR blend & Panoramic stitch made with a total of 27 frames.
- Aspect Ratio: 2:1