The Happy Christmas Tree Photo Shoot

Photographing a Christmas tree at the beach

If at first you don’t succeed, give up and go home! Well, at least that is how I felt when this photo shoot just refused to come together. The idea was initially to place a Christmas tree, fully lit at the end of an abandoned wharf around Auckland. Preferably with Rangitoto Island  in the background. For those of you who are not in New Zealand, Rangitoto is a dormant volcanic island which is very distinctive in the Auckland Harbour. It is a bit of a famous local landmark.

I located the perfect wharf that seemed to fit the requirements for the Professional Photos shoot from looking at maps of the Auckland coastline. Rather than pack my car full of gear and then arrive only to find out the location was not ideal, I decided to scout it out. Just as well I did because when I got there, I found out that the wharf has been damaged by heavy seas and is currently closed. The perfect setting and location, was not so perfect.


I decided that photographing from another location on Auckland’s North Shore would be the best option. I have photographed from this location before and I was pretty sure that I could get what I was after there.

The next evening I started the drive there, only to get caught up in a traffic jam. This was less than ideal as I knew that I would have a limited set up time as the light was fading quite quickly. It was much more cloudy than I expected. Finally I made it to the location only to find the tide was fully out. I have no idea why I did not check the tide times because at this particular spot, rocks and mud are exposed at low tide and stretch out for around 100 metres.

Not deterred, I hauled a Christmas tree, my camera gear and lights out of my car and started off over the rocks under the curious gaze of many beach goers. By the time I had set up the tree with the lights I had drawn a crowd. I guess you must be doing something right if you can draw a crowd with a possibly crazy idea.


I started to photograph the Christmas tree but I was not really happy with the location. It just didn’t seem to be working as I was hoping it would. To make things worse, I was now fighting a crowd of people who had walked out over the rocks and were now gathered around, taking photos of the Christmas tree with their cameras and phones. This was not really a problem but I did have to shoo people out of the shot and people were wanting to take photos of each other with the tree, so essentially I abandoned the shoot and let people have fun. I even took photos of a few people with the tree too.

That was two failed attempts at the same concept. So, when in doubt, go with what you know. This involved me driving out to a more remote location where I hoped I wouldn’t draw a crowd. I turned up to the beach and had to walk across some rocks to get to another, more private beach. I pulled the tree and the photographic gear out of the car and once again people looked at me with curiosity and a little disbelief.


Once at the beach, I started to set up the scenario and it was all looking very good. A deserted beach, the weather was co-operating and I had good light. I set the tree up in the right spot and then started to set up my camera. The tree then decided to fall over so I had to relocate the tree to a less watery spot and place a sand bag at the base. It took me a good 15 minutes to reset the tree and get all of the wet sand off it. It seemed this photographic idea was just not meant to happen. Finally, I was ready to photograph and as soon as I took the first photo, I knew I was in the right place, at the right time. I ended up taking a great selection of photographs I am so relieved that this little Christmas Mission finally came together.


Enjoy the results. The photo is available for Stock Art type use. Contact me for rates if you wish to use the photograph. Overall this was a frustrating photoshoot and it goes to prove that sometimes things just do not go right. A little persistence can really pay off in the long run. So, if you have a photography idea and you don’t fully nail it the first time – stop. Think about what went wrong and how you can fix it. Then try again.

Merry Christmas


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