Australia, Beach & Coastal Walking
Comments 10

Psychedelic Sandgate

Hey, folks. Just a warning before we get started: Better don your best protective goggles before proceeding. Wouldn’t want to be responsible for any burnt retinas or other eye damage.

Please keep in mind I actually de-saturated many of these pictures as I dislike overly intense sunrise/sunset shots. But Mother Nature doesn’t always obey the laws of good taste and moderation. Sometimes she just likes to let loose with her full special-effects arsenal…


The Brighton waterfront at 6:03am on Saturday, the tide having just reached the seawall.

Things have been going well lately and my recently restored enthusiasm for walking and picture-making continues, boosted with my latest camera gear (not used for these shots, which were taken pre-purchase with my reliable old Sony NEX 5N and its beautiful 24mm 1.8 lens, plus a few using an older, way more beat-up 5N and a cheap 16mm wide-angle).

I’ve been having sleep problems again that I’m learning to live with. Vivid, entertaining dreams (nightmares are actually welcome as for years I never dreamed at all) from which I’ll suddenly bust free, startled, into wide-awakeness at, say, 1:30, 2:00 or 3:00.

If I’m feeling sensible — it happens — I’ll attempt to read and re-enter the void if possible, but if it’s 3:00 or later, I may be tempted to just surrender, climb out from under the blanket and start suiting up for a ridiculously early stroll.

Last weekend I did it twice, the Saturday at least un-planned. In the dark it was still and windless and silent, crisp with an early-winter chill that for many in the Northern Hemisphere would be little cooler than an autumn morning. I knew sunrise coincided with a high tide, a lure that’s always hard to resist.

With all that extra time to fill, I turned left once I hit the waterfront and headed north towards Brighton and the Redcliffe bridges. I had the whole walking/cycling path to myself; the weekend leisure jam wouldn’t kick off for an hour at least.

I thought I’d do the few miles to the Redcliffe bridges for some sunrise shots, but there’s this picnic shelter on a little artificial peninsula just over halfway along…


..that I sometimes use for a feature in shots when I’m up there, and for such a prosaic structure it sure radiated an elegance and presence against that dramatic backdrop.

When I first got back from America last year I’d sometimes pull in there to eat some bakery treats (I could smell the nearby bakery that morning; I felt like a wharf cat getting high on the aroma of fresh fish) or photograph kite-surfers riding the twilight breeze.

As I approached, a lone cyclist pulled in to take a shot of the eastern horizon where promising technicolor coals were smouldering beyond Moreton Island:


Paying homage to the dawn with Redcliffe Peninsula in the distance.

I stalked him, invisible in the dark with my tripod, and within a few minutes those crepuscular embers had burst into brilliant flame:


6:18 & the cyclist mounts up as the sky starts to get interesting.

The race was on! I leapt up onto the wall and out to the shelter — I did a lot of leaping that weekend — for my own look-see:


A 0.6-second exposure. Hold that pose! That’s a telescope to my right.

And that was as far as I got on Saturday. The best part of the day had just about gone wherever it is mornings go. The sea was so marvellously flat and glassy, absolutely unruffled by even a hint of breeze. It was the embodiment of peacefulness and calm.

Butcher birds and magpies were paying their own melodious tribute to the dawn when I turned for home, briefly diverted by these photogenic grass-heads:



Three younger dawn-worshippers were perched on the seawall with beer, rolling cigarettes, obviously at the tail end of a long and excessive night. As I passed with my tripod in hand, one turned blearily and asked, “Did you catch anything? Oh…sorry…I thought that was a fishing rod.”

“Yeah, actually I caught some beauties.” I gestured at the eastern sky. He wished me a good day and I strode on, into a rising torrent of morning walkers, their heads turned oceanward, equally transfixed.

A stand-up paddle-boarder took to the water and slid effortlessly over the crystalline surface of Bramble Bay:


I aimed at Sandgate, coffee, a few pages of my book and, eventually, a nap. I’m sure other stuff happened that day but I don’t recall any of it.

That night I set my alarm but didn’t really need it. I got going a little earlier, hoping for another hit of morning glory. Approaching the shelter, a little gang of pelicans glided past, just visible, utterly silent. Not the first time I was overcome with a pang of envy for the wondrously straightforward life of birds.

The sky was still black when I took my first shots…


5:44am, Brighton.

..the tide a little later, the surface this time just slightly less placid:


The Houghton Highway, 5:48am.

Somewhere out there my parents, sister and nephew were heading towards Mud Island for some fishing in the new boat my father built recently (I don’t fish). The same bank of purple cloud crowned distant Moreton, and the sunrise if anything was even more explosive:




There was time to reach the ranks of groynes prodding the bay just south of the bridges…


..and time also, with the absence of any other humanoid subjects, for a little game of Set the Timer & Run:


10 seconds to run, leap onto the rocks, run to the end, freeze and feign natural. It’s an art form in itself.


Looking back towards Sandgate.



Dawn Prawn.

Once again I ran out of glory before I made the bridges — this fisherman was so dramatically positioned, I actually asked his permission to shoot him (if you know what I mean):


We discussed the morning’s perfection, and he remarked “And people travel all over the world when we’ve got all this right here,” (a common sentiment in Australia — can’t we have both?).



Three kayak-fishers bobbed almost stationary right where they’d bobbed yesterday…

mmm I stowed my gear to turn homeward, grabbing the camera twice more for two iconic residents of this stretch of waterfront, the bold white-faced heron I shot once before


..and my friend Rick Thomson-Jones, a local identity and lovely bloke known for his assemblages of driftwood, seashells, dolls and other props, erected on the shore to mark public holidays and special occasions:


Rick had been there since midnight, constructing his latest sculpture for Aboriginal Reconciliation Week.

I’ve been planning a post about Rick for a while. Right then I think we were both ready for some sleep. It had been a spectacular and rewarding morning for us both.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. A lovely post, as ever. Rick sounds like an interesting bloke. I look forward to reading your post about him.

  2. So much color and presence in and around you, silhouetted by the eastern sea in early winter at sunrise, and so much to be said for waking up before dawn and taking a walk and meeting up with kindred spirits.

  3. Sunrise is certainly a beautiful time to be walking along the shore before the masses arrive. Once again you’ve given us an atmospheric set of pictures and interesting thoughts. Thank you. I’m sure a post about Rick would be enjoyed. I’m quite a fan of driftwood and other beach-combing treasures.

    • Cheers. He’s had to put up with a bit of resistance from one or two well-heeled residents who seem to resent the temporary “untidiness” afflicting their ocean views. But most passersby seem to love his creations.

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