Recently, I had an old friend from Alaska come out to visit me on Kauai. She had not been actively shooting for a several years, so she hired me to teach her a private photography course in order to help her refresh her skills. It was a lot of fun and I am happy that I had the opportunity to work with her. While I have been traveling quite a bit this year, I continue to photograph Kauai as much as possible. Still, it is difficult to get up super early all the time, so her visit gave me the incentive to photograph sunrise every morning for a week. Since I moved here one year ago, I have seen a lot of rainbows, but not had a lot of success photographing them in a dramatic landscape setting. Fortunately, this spectacular rainbow appeared during one of our early morning shoots and persisted for 15 minutes. The lighting situation was ideal with me in the shade and the sunlight and rain across the valley so that my camera gear did not get hosed. Keeping my lens and filters dry during a downpour is the difference between creating an image and missing the shot. Aloha.
I recently returned from an adventure that I had been dreaming about and attempting to do for over a decade. Years ago when I first started photographing lava, I learned about the Yasur Volcano located on remote Tanna Island in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. It is not the easiest place to get to and the amenities won’t meet most people’s requirements, but it is an incredibly accessible and rewarding location to shoot. I spent a week working with a local chief which allowed me and my frequent travel partner Steve Levi special access to the volcano.
The first time we approached the crater rim via the relatively short but steep hike from the parking area, the deafening explosions and sulfur filled air overwhelmed my already excited senses. When I finally observed my first strombolian eruption, I began to question my sanity. I had heard stories about lava flying through the air and impacting way too close for comfort. Of course, one of the two times this happened to me was during my very first visit to the caldera. It was one of the most brief and horrifying moments of my life, but fortunately the lava landed safely to my left. At least I had gotten that experience out of the way.
Over the course of my week long exploration, I visited the volcano 9 times. Sometimes it was cloudy, sometimes it was clear. There were even a few times where it was raining so hard, that there was no point in even trying. I had a lot of 4am and 4pm starts with all of my best images created during the 30 minutes before the sun rose or after the sun set during the beautiful twilight light. The volcano exploded about every 5 minutes on average. I can not adequately describe the incredible experience of glimpsing and then being blasted with the shock wave while standing in this location with my camera set up on my tripod. I pushed my camera’s shutter button on every explosion, but it was the extraordinary large ones like this that allowed me to create my best images.
Since moving to Kauai last year, I have been trying to allocate my time by doing only things that I like doing while spending time with people I enjoy being around. Seems pretty simple, right? So, when your oldest photo buddy starts pumping you for information about photographing wildflowers in Anza Borrego Desert State Park after a very wet winter, why not jump on a plane back to the mainland and join him? That is exactly what I did 2 weeks ago. I had been aware that California had a very wet winter and started reading about the predicted super bloom. Apparently, so did every one else, because even though we were only there for 3 days in the middle of the week, Borrego Springs was totally crazy packed with visitors. Fortunately, most other photographers aspire for the “best” light around noon time, which meant that the parking before sunrise was not a problem for us. I photographed this beautiful display of wildflowers near the visitor center on the one morning there were clouds in the sky.
This past January, I visited the Big Island of Hawaii in order to photograph lava from the ongoing eruption of Kilauea Volcano. I had intended to fly over there since I moved to Kauai last summer, but settling into my new island life kept getting in the way. Fortunately, I waited until until the right time and was rewarded with several days of incredible viewing of the dramatic “firehose” at the Kamokuna ocean entry. I hiked out to the main lava viewing area with some fellow photographers several days in a row, but on my final day decided to try the famous lava boat and shoot from the water. I had always poo-pooed the boat with its 50 passengers, but am glad that my buddy insisted that we try it. This is one of my favorite images because the lava can clearly be seen dramatically pouring out of the cliff while the steam cloud glows orange in the pre-dawn light. It was the experience of a lifetime.
It has been a year since I last shared any of my new images online. So many changes have taken place since my last post, but most importantly my family moved to Kauai. It has been a wonderful adventure, but not as simple as one might imagine. I won’t go into all the details, so let me just dive in with this delicious sunset from beautiful Lumahai Beach here on the north shore. I photographed this scene a few weeks ago after a long day of cleaning my office. As I often do, I kept checking the visible satellite view all afternoon and finally decided at the last minute to jump in my truck and chase the light. I had not been down to Lumahai for a few months, mostly because the sun sets too far to the south during the winter to shoot. However, now that the sun is setting more northerly again, I thought I would give it a try. I was running late, but have been to this beach many time over the years, so I knew exactly where to set up my tripod just as the light became amazing. This is the big advantage I now have of shooting in my “backyard” and waiting for ideal conditions. I love how the orange clouds lit up beneath the darker high clouds as the ocean waves boiled in the channel in front of me. Aloha.
This past November, I traveled to Costa Rica for the first time. My main ambition was to explore a few different locations in order to photograph wildlife, but I also brought along one of my drones to shoot aerials. One of my first stops was the wild and remote Osa Peninsula which is home to Corcovado National Park. Often labeled one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, its wildlife includes scarlet macaws, tapirs, jaguars and squirrel monkeys. I saw a lot of amazing wildlife, but I only nibbled at the edge of the park. I rented a place close to Puerto Jimenz, but drove all the way to the end of the dirt road to Carate Beach one afternoon. This quiet and isolated setting had the Pacific Ocean on one side and impenetrable jungle on the other. The only way to really photograph it was from the air. I created this image while flying my Sony a5000 camera and Sony 16mm f2.8 lens on my custom-built 550 quadcopter. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
I have been fortunate to photograph the dramatic mountains of Patagonia, the rugged fjords of Alaska and Svalbard, and the incredible scenery of South Georgia Island, but these places are all far off and cost a lot to visit. Closer to my home, yet with equally world-class scenery is Bugaboo Glacier Provincial Park in British Columbia. I tried to climb some of the easier routes back in the 90’s and only visited once with a camera in the very early days of my photography career. I had wanted to return for many years and finally did this past September. My buddy and I drove the long, windy dirt road from the Columbia Valley up to the parking area, and then hiked the short, but steep trail up to the Kain Hut. This image is from the first morning of our visit from a tarn located above Applebee Dome. It required a 45 minute hike uphill in the pre-dawn light to reach. The conditions were much more wintery than I was anticipating, but as the clouds parted with the early morning light illuminating the spires, the wind died down allowing for an almost perfect reflection. I created this image using my 36MP Sony a7R camera body with a Metabones Canon EF Lens to Sony NEX lens adapter, Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS lens, and Singh-Ray 4-stop Soft Graduated Neutral Density filter. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom 6 and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.