In August 2011 I went to Hamilton’s Gap with friends from the Manukau Photographic Society. It’s a particularly rugged and wild west coast beach that brought to mind the phrase “magnificent desolation”. I couldn’t find any useful information before I went so here’s a few tips for you:
- Take absolutely everything you need: the only facilities are toilets. Taking a torch is a good idea.
- Be prepared to wade an ankle-deep stream: gumboots are very practical.
- There is 4WD access to the beach.
- The area that gives access to the beach changes over time so be prepared for surprises.
- If you have a self contained campervan there is parking with sea views.
- There are no lifeguards so swimming is suicidal. People have drowned at west coast beaches because they stood at the edge of the water and were taken out by a large wave.
- The beach is completely covered by the incoming tide so if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time you’ll be faced with climbing very steep, very crumbly hills. It’s probably more accurate to describe these hills as cliffs so getting trapped is a bad idea.
- By about 2.5 hours after low tide the beach was inaccessible and we were shooting from an area of raised rocks adjacent to the car park: the marker on the map shows the exact spot. As the tide rises higher the path between these rocks and the car park will be covered in water.
- On the day I went sunset was three hours after low tide and this worked very well because the water came up the foot of the rocks we were shooting from (see photo below).
- As always, the best light is found an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. You can also find good light before sunrise and and after sunset. The west coast is great for photographers who don’t like early mornings :-).
- If you like street photography you will probably find few people to photograph at Hamilton’s Gap. However, it’s good to try something different from time to time and thus avoid a creative rut.
- The prevailing wind blows from the sea to the beach so there is a lot of fine, salty spray. This isn’t good for cameras, especially when changing lenses.
- It’s a probably a spectacular location during westerly storms, as well as a potentially dangerous one.
If you like beaches that have a wild edge and few people then Hamilton’s Gap is well worth a visit.
Click on the photo below to see more shots from Hamilton’s Gap
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