Since my first attempt, I have twice wanted to wake up for a Botany Bay sunrise. Both times, I was too tired to wipe the sleep from my eyes; the will to wake up for the magic of sunrise apparently lessens with age. Not wanting to lose a third time, I set my mind to making the hourlong trip. Judging from the colors in the sky, it seemed the results wouldn’t be so different from those of the first shoot: like last time, it began with a muted blue-grey sky; turbulent Atlantic waves; a dash of yellow and orange on the horizon; and the grim, stoic trees that withstand this ebb and flow 365 days a year.
Historically, I’ve only looked at the weather forecast and cloud cover to decide if a sunrise shoot might be colorfully productive. I certainly haven’t found a good way to anticipate the “right” clouds being available, but this morning the cloud cover forecast from NOAA suggested that I’d have a decent chance of catching some good light. This forecast I read correctly enough.
After getting my feet soaked in 2012, I added the tide chart to my original two criteria; it didn’t take long to realize that sometimes the moon sets its will against getting to a desired location by filling the gap with ocean. The two times I slept in both had a good cloud forecast and a sunrise occurring near low tide, but this time sunrise was two hours before high tide. Or was supposed to be.
When I arrived at the beach, the sixty feet of beach I roamed the first trip had shrunk to twenty, and by the time I started to pack up and leave, the water level was less than ten feet from dry refuge. Given that a fair number of trees poke into the ocean, rendering the ten feet completely moot, I considered myself lucky to have stayed dry. Until the very end of the voyage back, anyhow. I had ridden my bike to shorten the travel time from the parking lot to the beachhead, and with the limited beach real estate on the return, I decided to duck under a branch instead of going around a sunken tree. My head made it under but my tripod snagged, and losing balance I put my foot down… in the Atlantic. (My foot got wet.) When I left the park, I checked the information board: apparently high tide was one hour after sunrise, not two. Whoops. Next time — or the third next time, I suppose — I’ll consider the the tide predictions more conservatively.
Nevertheless, it was a wonder and a delight to see a sunrise again. The sand on Charleston beaches is no match for Hawaii or the Bahamas or Mexico or Miami, but there’s a particular allure to waking up before the rest of the world to see (and today feel) the forces of nature create a masterpiece of light and color. The crashing of the waves somehow fades into silence as the sky flashes shades of blue, red, and orange; this is a spectacle worth seeing and experiencing again and again… no matter how soaked I get in the process.