The midnight fireworks display in Sydney harbour is one of the most popular New Year's Eve celebrations on the planet with over one million Sydney residents watching the amazing event in person and over one billion viewing it around the world. It is a truly global spectacle and something you should experience at least once in your lifetime.
I was super keen to capture some images of this highly anticipated event as I had never tried my hand at firework photography so I was pumped to give it a nudge. I had recently aquired the Sony Alpha A7RIII and the Sony Zeiss 55mm F1.8 lens so I was frothing to see what they were capable of what better place to do it than the beautiful Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve. Due to the events immense popularity prime viewing points are in hot demand and often many will camp overnight to ensure that they secure the best view possible. Let's just say things can get a little crazy this time of year. I wasn’t overly keen to fight the hordes for a decent view but I had sneaky plan on the cards to secure a prime viewing spot with minimal fuss.
So how did I manage to secure a great vantage point? Well here is the breakdown. Finishing work at 8pm I drove twenty minutes to the closest suburb with a view of the Sydney harbour and I parked in a spot I knew would have a quick exit point. After a quick coffee and bite to eat I walked a mere 25 minutes to this highly popular vantage point. On arrival I was greeted by hordes of people packing the prime viewing spots on the grass areas in the park. So I decided to try my luck at accessing a secret viewing point nearby (more about this later) but to no avail. Fortunately luck was still on my side and knowing that it was a low tide
I fought my way through the hordes of frothing new years eve revelers to the edge of the park. I then proceeded to scramble down a small bank to access the slippery rocks exposed by the low tide. After a short scramble across the rocks and I proudly claimed my viewing spot on a large rock directly on the water edge gaining this amazing view of the Sydney Harbour. It was a shame that the Sydney Harbour bridge was obscured by Milson’s point but overall I was very happy with the images I managed to capture. It was a true challenge to capture such a fast moving phenomenon from different angles while also attempting to gain the best composition possible but I feel that I managed to pull a few rabbits out of the hat here.
I headed home quickly after the fantastic fireworks display and was in bed by 1am. Local knowledge can come in handy sometimes huh? But what about this secret viewing spot I here you ask?
Well I had actually scouted out this secret location many months before and I knew that it would be a prime location for the Sydney fireworks display as it gave amazing panoramic views of the Sydney harbour framing both the iconic structures of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. To gain access to this spot I had to walk through a narrow goat trail through a dense bushland area and then scramble down a steep rock bank all in the dark while lugging my heavy camera equipment on my back, I had done it in the day time without a problem but in the dark it was a little sketchy to say the least.
When I finally arrived at my secret spot I took a couple of test shots and although the view was pretty good I was a little unhappy with how the boats were drawing much of the focus of the scene and also how the two Sydney icons were not so prominent. I figured that if I walked around the rocks exposed by the low tide just a little further I might find a more elevated location that would give me the perfectly framed view I desired.
So I proceeded to nervously scramble over slippery barnacle encrusted rocks for close to twenty minutes until I found the perfect elevated viewpoint I desired. As I begun unpacking my equipment and started setting up my tripod I was blinded by a bright light shining aggressively into my eyes. “You can’t be here! ” a loud intimidating voice boomed “leave immediately or you will be arrested”. F@%k me it was the Po Po, my cover had been blown. I knew the spot was hard to get to but I didn’t realise I wouldn’t be allowed to be there…. whoops my bad. I intermediately tucked tail frustratingly leaving this prime viewing spot behind. The Police had me scared for a second but they were actually fine about it when I explained I had been there many times before and I was there to take photos and they explained it was just stricter NYE policing policies.
In the end I was fortunate to find a decent spot but it had nothing on the spot I found. Even the spot where I had taken the test shot was better and if I hadn’t pushed for a better spot I most likely could of stayed there without problems. The moral of this story is that the grass isn’t always greener. Oh well, there is always next year.
Overall it was a fun and eventful night topped off by an amazing fireworks display. It was great to try my hand at capturing a live fireworks and I look forward to returning again one day with a bit more experience behind me to capture better images and hopefully next time I will find a clearer shot of the Sydney harbour and it’s famous iconic buildings. I hope you enjoyed my tale and the photos.