You know the mosquitoes are big when they are wearing saddles.
It was a balmy early summer night in December 2016 and this editor and Illawarra Mercury photographer Robert Peet were at the Mount Keira Summit Park just on dusk.
Out to sea electrical storms were shooting lights rapid fire into the ocean as if they were the strobe lights of some meteorological dance party.
We stood on the mountain, constantly slapping at the grotesquely overgrown bloodsuckers flying around us, awaiting His arrival. It was then Santa arrived.
It was a moment that will live long in the memory.
We’d asked Santa to be at Mount Keira to capture a photograph for our Christmas eve front page of the Illawarra Mercury. We wanted to photograph Santa overlooking Wollongong on night fall, the lights of the city shining below.
Luckily, Robert had Santa’s mobile number and was able to get him to free five minutes of his hectic pre-Christmas schedule to be available for the shoot.
The fading light, not Santa’s schedule, meant we literally we only had a matter of minutes to capture the perfect image.
Santa had to stand perfectly still as the dim light meant Robert had to overexpose the image to allow in every possible speck of brightness.
The result was breathtaking and made for a front page that will live long in the memory.
The image was untouched. The flash of light in the middle of the picture? That was one of the lightning bolts piercing the cloud cover.
Santa said his farewells and we descended the mountain in search of an ointment to put on the welts that had arisen on every exposed inch of our skin.
Our Christmas front pages have become something of an Illawarra Mercury tradition as have our messages from Santa which accompany them, telling the kids of the region on Christmas Eve to go to bed. Well, we can report Santa has cleared some time in his schedule for us again this year.
Keep your eye our for our Christmas Eve edition and watch our social media channels on Christmas Eve night for Santa’s special message.
Julian O’Brien is the editor of the Illawarra Mercury.