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.
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 December, I attempted to photograph this spectacular location on the north shore of Kauai a half dozen times at sunrise. Most of the mornings that I visited the weather was uncooperative with pouring rain and strong winds. Fortunately, my best image which came from my first sunrise. Powerful storm waves crashed onto the rugged shoreline and washed over the lava rocks into the boiling surge cauldron as the sun illuminated the underside of the dramatic clouds. There was a ton of spray in the air, so I spent a lot of time just keeping my lens and grad filter dry. I would also like to point out to anyone that might ever consider visiting this spot that it is a very dicey location to photograph when the waves are big. I was vigilant against the larger wave sets and careful not to get knocked over by the surging waters as they completed my composition.
Last summer, I flew my drone above Polihale Beach on Kauai but did not create the image that I was hoping for. When I returned in December to try again, I was pleased to experience the ideal conditions which lead to this photograph. Late in the afternoon, the wind was non-existent and the clouds boiled over the rugged cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. I prepared my hexacopter for its initial flight and was ready for takeoff when the sunlight began to penetrate beneath the clouds on the horizon. Though I flew as far as 300m offshore and as high as 100m in the air, this photo was created at about half that distance and elevation during my reconnaissance of the scene.
My regular readers are probably aware that over the past year I have been building and flying remote controlled hexacopters in order to create dramatic aerial photos. In this month’s issue of Outdoor Photographer, I share some of my advice from the lessons I have learned from flying a drone capable of lifting a larger camera. The opening images showcase one of my aerial images of Lumahai Beach on Kauai, as well as my previous Canon EOS M camera mounted on my gimbal beneath my Tarot 690S hexacopter. After my crash in early May, I rebuilt using a Tarot 680Pro frame and am now flying a Sony NEX 5 camera body. I hope that readers will enjoy my latest article and find inspiration from what I have have been doing.
It is difficult to adequately describe what it is like to visit the Kalalau Valley on Kauai. Most tourists only see this spectacular location from a boat or a helicopter, but they miss out on the authentic Kalalau experience by not camping on the beach or in the valley. I have been fortunate to be able to visit the Kalalau five times over the last 14 years, including four nights a little over a week ago. I tried to photograph this composition during my previous visit in May, but was thwarted by the afternoon clouds which obscured the ridges and blocked the sunlight. By returning again so soon, I was rewarded with the necessary conditions to create this dramatic image. I hope that viewers of this photo will take a few moments to appreciate the serene energy that is the Kalalau.
I am often asked what is my favorite location that I have photographed. This is a difficult question to answer, but one of the places that I would consider to be towards the top of my list would be the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. This otherworldly landscape with its 4000′ jagged ridges emerging from the tropical Pacific is simply breathtaking to behold. During my recent visit, I returned to the top of the island for the first time in almost a decade with my friends Patrick and Marcus. We set out to hike Kalepa Ridge before sunset. I would like to point out that this is not a trail for anyone who is afraid of heights, since much of the trail hugs the knife edged ridge which drops straight down into the Kalalau Valley. Towards the end of the trail, I discovered this ethereal composition and set up my camera to shoot sunset. For my effort, I was rewarded with golden light, dramatic clouds, and a deep sense of satisfaction to be able to spend time in such an amazing place.
I have just returned from a five week journey to Hawaii and Kauai. My priority during this trip was to spend time with my family rather than a photography adventure, but of course I did get out to do some shooting whenever possible. There were a variety of locations that I had always wanted to photograph during the summer months, including this dramatic waterfall at sunset near Queen’s Bath in Princeville. The sun only sets far enough to the north to backlight this waterfall as it plunges into the ocean at sunset for a few weeks each year. Around the summer solstice, the sun also sets behind the lava shoreline on the right side, thus eliminating any overpowering lens flare. I visited this location several days in a row before my efforts were rewarded with this dramatic combination of dark clouds and golden light. I should also point out that the ocean was incredibly calm, so it was safe for me to climb down into this alcove. This is not a location to spend time during much of the year.
I first visited Polihale Beach on the remote west side of Kauai in 2000 and last photographed it using my medium format Pentax 67 camera in 2003. It is a lovely beach on the dry side of the island, though, it is often overrun by 4wd vehicles. This makes it challenging to compose an image to say the least. During my recent visit, I was fortunate that it was the low season for tourism, so there were not that many people out there. Still, I had to get down very close to this sand berm in order to eliminate my fellow tourists and a few vehicles from my composition. I visited the beach two days in a row and on my second visit photographed this dramatic light against the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast with clouds billowing in the sky above.
I flew my hexacopter almost every day during my recent trip to Kauai, including at Kee Beach my last two sunsets. I have previously photographed the Na Pali Coast from the shoreline rocks on the far right of this image, but this time I flew my copter from the flat heiau hidden just above. Not only was this a perfect landing zone, but I had it all to myself. I find that it is much too distracting and dangerous to fly around people. I lucked out that there was almost no wind and the sun kept poking through the clouds to illuminate the scene. Dappled light underneath dark clouds is my favorite landscape photography situation. I digitally removed the tiny dots of people on the beach and snorkeling in the water, but also kept the original for my editorial clients.