Stone, Saltwater, Surf and Seagulls

I shouldn’t be out here this early in the morning.

No.  I should return to bed and sleep a few more hours.

But I can’t.  I’m right near the ocean, and I want to photograph an ocean sunrise.

And every time I’ve tried to capture an ocean sunrise, I’ve been thwarted.  I tried it in 2010 at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia and almost fell off the rocks and into the water.  I tried it in 2012 (and 2013) at Saints’ Rest Beach in Saint John, New Brunswick – only to run for my life when the five-foot-high tides of the Bay of Fundy rose around me.  And last year in Florida, the sun couldn’t cut through the cloudy morning to provide me with a decent sunrise shot.

So here I am in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  I’ve just finished my trivia tournament, and now it’s photo time.  Personal Chuck Photo Time.  I want a sunrise shot off the ocean water.  The weather report said the morning would be partly cloudy – that’s great, I should be able to incorporate some sunlit crepuscular rays into the photograph.

A quick check of my solar positioning app on my phone (it’s an app that tells me when and where the sun will rise and set on a particular day) alerted me that I would not see the sunrise off the ocean beach across from my hotel – apparently that part of the beach faces south.


However, if I want to walk up the Atlantic City Boardwalk a few thousand feet, there’s a point where the shore juts out to the ocean – and I should be able to capture the sunrise from that point.

5:00 a.m.  The sun should rise at 6:00 a.m.  I have one hour to get to that spot.

I’m on my way.  Nikon Df camera already loaded with my brand new Irix 15mm f/2.4 super-ultra-wide lens.  Sunshine, here I come.

I walked along the Boardwalk.  The churning shore to my right.  Mega-structures like the Taj Mahal and the Showboat to my left.

Keep walking.  The salty morning spray is stinging my eyes.  But I must keep going.  Truly, if I can go out and back on this trip, it will be a dry run for Adirondack summer photography.

5:30 a.m.  There’s a plastic barrier on the Boardwalk.  This is where the touristy area ends and the municipal area begins.  There are no souvenir stands or benches or the like.  It’s barren and cold.

Even the beach areas seem desolate this early in the morning.  Well, it’s not like I should expect to see any morning surfers or clamdiggers or whatnot.

I reached the end of the boardwalk.  In the distance was a stone seawall or jetty.  The sun should be rising over that jetty.  No dice.  And the weather report about “partly cloudy skies” was full of beans.   There was so much fog in the area, it arrived with its own manservant Passepartout.

I kept walking.  If I can’t get the sunrise … maybe I can get something else.

I was still at low tide.  The jetty wall looked somewhat accessible, all I would need to do is leave the boardwalk, walk down to the sandy part of the beach, and find a spot where I could climb up the wall to the jetty.

In case you’re wondering, yes.  It is official.  I am crazy.

Crazy enough to do this.

I looked around.  Nobody nearby.  No police to shoo me away.  But by the same token … there were no souls who could rescue me if I fall into the ocean and drown.

Screw it.  Atlantic City is built on gambling.  I’ll gamble with my life.  Not like I haven’t done that before.

I reach the sandy shore.  There’s a spot on the jetty wall – if I could climb up two different rock faces, I should be able to reach the top of the jetty.  There’s sand on the soles of my shoes, so I grip the rocks carefully and slowly pull my way up, taking care to anchor my feet in cracks and crevasses and not on the slippery, wet black rockface.

Why am I doing this?  Why am I risking everything for this?  What is wrong with me?

And somewhere back in upstate New York, at least three blog commenters are quickly crafting a list of answers to “What is wrong with Chuck” to post on this blog.  Hey guys, I was being rhetorical, I didn’t write that as a personal challenge to you…

Somehow … despite all logic and common sense that screams at me not to do this …

I reach the top of the stone seawall jetty.

Damn.  I did it.  6:00 a.m.

A few shots with the camera.  This is good.  I can get a nice perspective shot from here … the jetty extends to the horizon, I’ve got calm shores to my left, churning waves to my right, and angry foggy skies in the distance.

Snap.  Snap.  Snap.

Oh, here comes a seagull.  Okay, so as long as this guy doesn’t drop some seagull poop on me, I’m okay.  No, he’s just flying into the middle of my shot.  Dang it.  Just what I don’t need.  A freakin’ seagull in the middle of my photo, and now he’s gliding right into my camera frame …

In the middle of my camera frame –

“Begin by knowing that you have already arrived.”

Words so wise, Richard Bach put them in a book about a seagull…

And in that instant, I pressed my shutter button.

Stone, Saltwater, Surf and Seagulls. Nikon Df camera, Irix 15mm f/2.4 lens. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Yow.  That seagull is lined up perfectly with the jetty seawall – with the breaking sunlight through the fog in the distance.

This is awesome.  I may not have snagged the shot that I wanted …

But I sure as hell got the shot that mattered.

And now I need to get off this jetty before the tide rolls in or the Atlantic City Police roll in.  Move it, Miller.  Anybody who’s nearing the age of 54 and still hasn’t learned how to swim shouldn’t be standing on seawalls – and last time I looked, my ancestral lineage does not include Prince Namor.  Capiche?

Back to the beach.

Back to the Boardwalk.

Back to the touristy part of Atlantic City.

And back to my hotel room for another hour or two of slumber.

For a moment – for one sweet, splendid moment – I thought my morning was still part of my late slumber.

It wasn’t until I returned home and checked the memory card in my camera … that not only was this NOT a dream …

It was a dream fulfilled.