The Purakaunui Falls are an extremely popular waterfall located in The Catlins in the southern South Island of New Zealand. I usually try to avoid locations that have been shot to death by photographers but some places deserve a visit no matter what, even just to enjoy the experience.

Driving through the Catlins, it is hard to believe there are several waterfalls and forests that grace the area. The region is quite a wide open area with not too many trees in sight. I almost began to doubt myself, thinking that perhaps I had taken a wrong turn and my trusty GPS had failed me.

However, less than a few hundred meters from where we were meant to stop, the road took a slight dip and suddenly we were in between a luscious forest that seemingly emerged from nowhere. GPS wins again.

Greeted by a busload of seniors eating their sandwiches, I threw on my trusty gumboots (best purchase ever) and Renee and I headed off into a scene I really was not expecting.

Sunlight breaking through the forest and illuminating green leaves deep in the Catlins forest New Zealand.

Green everywhere! From the floor to the top of the trees, beautiful soft moss had crawled its away across almost every surface of the forest. As we weaved our way along the track I found myself wandering off the path, like a moth to a flame, the sunlight was spreading its radiance and drawing me in.

As we reached our destination, Purakaunui falls, many other tourists had made themselves comfortable at the viewing platform. I admired the view of the fall for a few seconds and then began to wonder how I could photograph the scene perhaps a little differently to the thousands gone before me. How would I capture this place in a light that accurately portrayed my thoughts and experience of such a paradise.

Then it hit me, literally, right in the face. Sunlight! The glorious sun had made it’s way to a small break amongst the trees above the waterfall. No way! For so long I have wanted to combine my love for waterfalls and the golden sun, capturing the two together in a single shot. All the locations I have visited back home are too deep in the valley to receive sunlight, rendering this shot impossible to get without traveling.  To find a waterfall that geographically lines up with the sun and is still shaded enough to allow for a long exposure is asking for quite a bit. Then knowing what time of day to arrive and also having clear sky . . . I might as well try photograph a pig flying. Yet here I was, unplanned at the exact right moment.

As I began walking through the water across the rocks, I noticed all the other tourists had disappeared. Nothing but the sound of running water filled my ears. I set up and made sure not to let the sun flare streak across the lens and overexpose the scene. The trick with flares is to compose your shot with the sun behind an object such as a tree or branch, then very slowly move your composition until you see the sunlight begin to break or flare around the object. You can see the flare with your bare eyes and a decent lens will render it as a nice star. Adjust your shutter speed in order to increase or decrease the size of the star. If the star is too big and bright you might have to re-compose and make the sun hide further behind your object.

I always say that ‘light is everything’ and I feel that this shot testifies to that. The sun moved after a few minutes and it was not longer possible to see the flare as the branches became too thick. I am grateful for this experience and believe it was nothing other than a gift from above.

I can’t help but think about the light that we bear inside all of us and how it can also go a long way, especially when cast upon those in times of darkness.

Thanks for reading I hope you like ‘The star of absolution”.

Spread the light. WP

A lush rainforest with a waterfall and the sun breaking through the trees.