It all started out as a scenic way to lose weight. Andrew Royston lived near Fort Lauderdale Beach and figured an early morning beach walk before work would be good for his health. Royston would bring his iPhone with him and couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of the sunrise. Then he’d quickly share them on social media.
That was in 2009— almost seven years ago. Royston, now 55, has gone to the shore every morning since then, starting at about 20 minutes before sunrise, and taken photos, rain or shine. Immediately, he posts all photos onto his FtLauderdaleSun site and accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and now even Snapchat. He has nearly 50,000 followers from all over the world and has become one of the city's most endearing figures.
“Here in Fort Lauderdale, the closest wilderness we have is the ocean," he says. "There are no crazy waves and what you get is a really beautiful look at the eastern sky,” Royston says. “I don’t travel for work anymore, so I’ve done over 500 consecutive sunrises now — it’s actually closer to 600.
Royston is from the north of England and studied graphic design and advertising at Manchester University. He went on to work in London for 20 years, most notably with BBC News. Then, 15 years ago, Royston visited some friends in Fort Lauderdale. A position opened up for a creative director at a small design agency. He moved.
Now he posts his images online while still on the beach, using apps on his phone. Like an artist painting with a model in front of him, Royston edits his photos on his iPhone 6 while looking directly at what he just shot. “That way I can actually see what I’m representing. I’ve developed this art form, which is to create fresh photography to document the mood of the morning as close as possible.”
He jokes: “I think to some people, I’m the weather forecast.”
In the past, Royston has been accused of using stock photos. But Royston just laughs off the haters and says the pics are all his.
Each day, Royston strolls around the beach looking for new ways to capture the moment, which is more difficult than it sounds considering Royston has posted over 11,000 photos of the same subject. The northern reaches of Fort Lauderdale Beach are his favorite because they are secluded and natural. He’ll capture silhouettes of the palm trees, raindrops on his camera, and wide shots of the sunrise.
Royston says he has seen everything from headless goats to the mounting heap of litter the morning after July 4th. But Royston isn’t interested in photographing that. “I focus on the nature and rarely put manmade stuff in my photographs,” he says. Instead he keeps his eyes tuned to witness how the seasons change slightly throughout the year — noticing more seabirds in winter, fish in autumn, and the different angles of the sun. “You get a sense of the ebb and flow of nature through the seasons here," he says.
Royston says he makes no money from the photographs and that it’s simply a hobby. A dozen of his photos have been printed onto canvas and are currently on exhibit at the North Beach Village Gallery.
“There are also people who see my photos as an inspiration,” Royston says. “There’s a difference between a sunrise and a sunset. A sunrise is a new start, a new beginning.”
Article first published Wednesday, March 2, 2016