Passion project turns sunrise photos into stunning printed calendar

An early morning routine and passion for sunrise photography have turned into a popular annual calendar project for Coolum resident, Dr Karen Sutherland.

The University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) senior lecturer in PR and social media visits Coolum Beach at sunrise every Saturday and Sunday for meditation and maybe some yoga or a swim. After moving to the Sunshine Coast from Melbourne in 2015, heading to the beach at sun-up fast became a weekly ritual, a way of making the most of the Queensland lifestyle.

Karen began taking spectacular sunrise photos on her phone and posting them to Facebook to show off our stunning region to family and friends interstate. She eventually built a following, with people regularly checking in to check out her photos.

“The photos are mostly sunrises, always shot from around the same section of beach. That’s what I love about it, you don’t know what it will be like until you get there,” she said.

“Some mornings are full of colours, others are a bit dull. It’s ever-changing and infinitely interesting. I love just going down there and taking shots of whatever is there at the time. The tricky thing is working out which ones to share!”

Crowd funding campaign takes off

Several years ago, someone suggested Karen turn her images into a calendar. Unsure if the idea would convert to orders, she launched a social media crowd funding campaign for people to order and pay in advance.

With Express Print & Mail on board to design and print the calendar, 80 copies were produced in the first year. Demand continues to increase annually, with repeat customers keen to purchase the latest edition online. Demand was so strong for the 2021 calendar that Karen had to reprint it to secure a copy for herself! The 2022 calendar themed "Paradise Lives" is selling fast.

“The calendar has been well received and there are some lovely stories around how people are using it. There’s a lady who usually comes to the Sunshine Coast for Christmas but couldn’t make it this year. Her daughter gave her a calendar as compensation for not being able to visit. Someone from the UK bought one as her and her husband married on Coolum Beach. I’ve had orders from Russia, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States,” Karen said.

Facebook fans are engaged in the process by voting on the photos featured in the calendar. Each image is accompanied by a quote or words of inspiration aligned with the time of year.

Designed and printed by Express Print & Mail

Karen has been thrilled with the various calendar designs created by Express Print & Mail graphic designer, Lindsay and the overall experience of working with EPM.

“I wanted an easy process and that’s what EPM gave me. I work in communications and sometimes going back and forth with designers is very painful. Lindsay is just so easy to work with and the same with Dave from customer service. They’re friendly, nothing is ever a drama and they keep me in the loop with everything,” she said.

“The end product is good quality too. Some printed calendars look really dodgy. I didn’t even know what to ask for initially but Dave guided through the process. It was clear he knew what would look the best within my price range and he really delivered on that.”

Showcasing the beauty of the Sunshine Coast

The calendar pays homage to the place Karen has decided to call home.

“When I moved here initially to house sit, I was only planning to stay for two years. Within two weeks, I thought ‘I’m not going anywhere’. It’s so naturally beautiful yet still a pretty quiet place. I get to the beach before sunrise and there’s barely anyone there. It’s friendly and welcoming as well. We really do live in paradise,” she said.

The project is a fun reprieve from the demands of academia and Karen’s other work as a social media specialist at Dharana Digital which offers digital marketing solutions for corporate wellness coaches.

“Working in academia can be quite dry sometimes, even though I work in a fun space. The calendar is my creative outlet. I believe we all need something like this where we can be balanced and creative. Everyone has a different way of doing it, some do it through music and others through writing. This is my outlet and pleasure project.”

There are only a handful of 2022 calendars left. Get yours by contacting Karen through Facebook or Instagram or purchase direct on Etsy.