Ikigai is a Japanese word which means the reason for being, the purpose of life. It’s the thing which gets you out of bed in the morning.
I’m lucky as I seem to have plenty of ikigai. It’s a very rare day when I don’t spring out of bed to face the new day with enthusiasm, even at a very early hour. And I had a double helping of ikigai last week when I was up in one of my favourite places, Blueys Beach, on the Mid Coast of New South Wales, Australia.
Now, regular and long-term readers of Macfilos may be familiar with Blueys Beach since I have featured it in several previous stories, most recently in April 2018 and September 2018. But to recap, Blueys has the benefit of being both beautiful and relatively isolated. It is over a three-hour-plus drive north of Sydney, which makes it just a little too far for many people to have weekenders.
Madding crowd absent
Another deterrent to the madding crowd is that there is coverage from only one mobile network provider and it’s not mine. For many, being off the network for even a day — let alone a whole weekend or longer — would be unthinkable. It does not bother me as my iPhone and I have merely a platonic relationship.
Wednesday, October 31 dawned a beautiful day. It was already warm; the sky was blue with just a hint of cloud in the distance. And Blueys Beach was quiet. Quiet, that is, apart from the surf breaking and seagulls screeching.
My host was still fast asleep — perhaps suffering from a low dose of ikigai. I quickly dressed. Well, I threw on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, no shoes needed, picked up my Leica X1 and headed the very short distance down onto the beach.
Blueys is a beautiful surf beach, and it is unspoilt — so far. There is no surf club, no multi-storey apartments nor beachside bars. Even the steps down to the beach are pretty basic. Behind the dunes lining the beach there are weekenders and holiday homes, but for now, they are restrained. No gin palaces as yet.
On the beach were two couples were walking their dogs, a solitary beach fisherman and me. I walked the length of the strand, just taking in the glorious vista and, in particular, the blue sky and the turquoise sea. I certainly felt fortunate to be there, and I was wondering if a mere straight photo could do it justice. Now it’s not as if I have not photographed Blueys before, but on each visit, I’m striving for the magical image which shouts “don’t you wish you were here?”
A panorama shot sounds as if it would have worked — the grand vista — but I did not have my Q which takes panoramas by stitching together the frames. In any case, panorama mode does not work with moving objects, particularly not with surf which ends up as a messy mush as a result of confusion of the stitching software. I considered making a faux panorama by cropping the frame top and bottom but finally decided that what I really should do was take a well executed and composed straight shot without any cropping. And that’s what you can see above. For me it works, it’s evocative.
Later, after breakfast when my friend was fully awake and bright eyed and bushy tailed, ikigai recharged maybe, we headed off in my car just a couple of kilometres down the road to Cilleto Beach at a location called Sandbar, to the south of Blueys. Now, this spectacular beach was featured in Macfilos on the 24 December 2017, and as nothing has changed, I will quote from that story.
To access Cellito you turn off the main road and drive about 3km down a rough dirt road to a dusty car park surrounded by tropical rainforest. Fifty years ago it could easily have featured in an early surfing film, with Holden station wagons and battered VW Kombis parked there. Last week all it displayed were a few dusty SUVs.
You reach the beach via a boardwalk from the car park to the top of dunes and there in front of you is the stunning surf beach. Pure white sand stretching to the distance and barely a person on it — just a few surfers bobbing about in the ocean waiting to catch a wave. And in the distance is the headland of Seal Rocks with its lighthouse and more pristine empty beaches.
When we arrived this time, there were no other vehicles in the car park. There was just a Toyota 4WD parked further up the beach, with two people beach fishing, and there was us. Then two surfers arrived. The surf was pretty ordinary, but having made the trip they were determined to catch a wave or two, so they surfed the small waves very close to the rocks at the northern end of the beach.
Until the arrival of the two surfers, I had given up on capturing a good photo of Cilleto Beach to go with my earlier morning effort at Blueys. Their arrival gave me the idea of a surfing vista — a straight shot, taking in the three elements of sky, sea and beach and with the surfers — ideally one, but hopefully both — riding in.
As it turned out, hoping for both the surfers to be standing up on their feet at the same time was expecting way too much. It took a few attempts to get one shot with just one surfer in precisely the right position, but I am delighted with the final photo. Again it’s the full frame with no cropping. A surfing action shot with a Leica X1. Sacré bleu.
If you are reading this in the northern hemisphere, in a place where the days are getting shorter, and winter is rapidly closing in, I hope that the two photos are a reminder what beautiful summer days are like.
You can find more from John Shingleton at The Rolling Road and on Instagram at therollingroad.