The island of Taumako is another one of the incredibly remote islands that I was fortunate to visit during my 2019 Secrets of Melanesia expedition. Located in the remote eastern part of the Solomon Islands, it is the largest of the Duff Islands and home to a population of less than 500 Polynesian people. In order to come ashore, we had to navigate through a treacherous reef with large breaking waves. Once on shore, the local people welcomed us with their traditional singing and dancing. Some of the unique features of their society include ancient Polynesian seafaring techniques and building the artificial island of Tahua. This islet is situated opposite of the main village and home to roughly 100 people. Towards the end of our visit, I knew that I had to fly my drone in order to create an aerial image of this amazing landscape. I was only able to do one short flight, but the clouds parted right as I took off. This allowed the late afternoon golden light to perfectly spotlight the island.
In December 2019, I went on an adventure to another one of the destinations that I had a life-long desire to visit. The Republic of Palau is an isolated island nation located in the South Pacific north of New Guinea and to the east of the Philippines. During World War II, the United States captured Palau from Japan after the costly Battle of Peleliu in 1944. Today, it is renowned for its stunning scenery, epic scuba diving, and lakes filled with stingless jellyfish. I was fortunate to be able to spend several weeks photographing all of these amazing subjects. At the top of my list was an aerial photo of the famous Ngerukewid which is a series of uninhabited limestone islands surrounded by coral reefs and sandy shallows. This is one of my favorite images from my trip. I love how the tiny tropical islands look like a jumble of puzzle pieces poking above the the surface of the brilliant turquoise and blue ocean.
Prior to my trip the Solomon Islands, I had researched satellite views of Marovo Lagoon and knew that I had to find a way to photograph the Mindeminde Islands with my drone. This beautiful location featured mangrove covered islands surrounded by interconnected reefs and shallow water. My first logistical challenge was that I needed a boat in order to visit the islands. They were located over an hour away from the dive lodge where I was based, but closer to the airstrip where I had landed. Eventually, some new guests were arriving by plane, so I took advantage of the opportunity to use the boat before they landed. My ideal photography conditions for an aerial image like this are when the sun is directly overhead and there aren’t any clouds casting dark shadows on the vibrant landscape. When I was finally ready to fly, there was one massive cloud causing me some trouble. Fortunately, after a few flights where I explored for compositions, the cloud dissipated and I was rewarded with this brilliant image.
Last July, my daughter & I visited the Big Island of Hawaii for our annual scuba diving trip. The previous years, we had traveled to Indonesia, but clearly that was not happening last summer. She had never done any Kona diving, so it was a delight to share with her the famous manta ray dive (which we had all to ourselves), a blackwater night dive, and some beautiful shore dives. It was a lovely trip that created great memories for both of us. I also snuck in a few landscape photography jaunts to my favorite blowholes along the shoreline near the airport. I always enjoy the thrill of the bigger sets rolling in and then playing chicken with the exploding waves by not moving my camera in order to create an image like this. It also helps when the sky explodes with dramatic sunset colors.
My favorite yoga teacher and dear friend is camping in the Kalalau Valley the next few days to celebrate her birthday. This reminded me to share my dramatic sunset image I created the last time I backpacked in there in September 2019. I’ve been fortunate to visit this magnificent setting a half-dozen times over the past 20+ years. The Kalalau is a special, some would argue sacred, place located on the north shore of Kauai. In order to visit, I had to hike 12 miles along the rugged Na Pali Coast. It’s up and down, hot as heck, and in some spots quite treacherous. The trail can be intimidating, but I’ve never found the exposure to be a problem since I used to climb frozen waterfalls for fun. My photographer friend Stephen Matera flew out from Seattle to join me on this excursion. After camping for 4 days, this was my favorite image. I love how the sky briefly exploded with color as the sun sank below the horizon.
It has been awhile since I posted to my blog or shared my photography on social media. I did a lot of traveling in 2019 and have wanted to share my new images, but the timing just did not feel right until now. This past March, I traveled to Alaska to photograph the aurora borealis. I flew from Honolulu to Anchorage and connected up to Fairbanks. My best friend who is a non-photographer joined me. He and I can have a blast simply driving to the dump together, so we had a lot of fun. We rented a pickup truck to drive up the Dalton Highway to Wiseman where we rented a cabin for the week. I had not been in any winter conditions since moving to Kauai 5 years ago, but was pleased with how quickly I adapted to -15° Fahrenheit at night. I felt comfortable in my down expedition parka and pants that have been stored in hanging garment bags in my closet. I timed my trip to coincide with the spring equinox for statistically optimum northern lights viewing, as well as the full moon. As it goes on any landscape photography adventure, the sky was cloudy or the aurora was barely visible most of the nights. Luckily, I found some clear skies and incredible aurora activity a few days before the full moon. As beautiful as this image is, it does not fully convey the intensity of what I experienced with the aurora erupting into strange twists and colorful shapes. For a less than 3 minutes, we howled with delight at the sky all alone in the Brooks Range.
I love revisiting locations that I have previously photographed. My camera technology and image processing abilities have come a long way since my “early days” of shooting film. (I wonder how many photographers reading this have ever even shot a roll of film?) Anyway, this beautiful image is from my recent visit to the Sol Duc Valley in Olympic National Park. This iconic rainforest stream next to the trail is always a joy to experience. The thick moss covered rocks, flowing water, and old-growth trees showcase the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula without human influence.
Last month, I flew back to the mainland for some meetings in Los Angeles and a visit to Seattle. During my trip, I also spent two days revisiting Olympic National Park. When I began my photography career almost 20 years ago, I used to drive out to the coast fairly regularly. However, as my travel ambitions expanded and I took on other projects, I had not been out there for nearly a decade. Fortunately, my good friend and fellow photographer Stephen Matera was up for a mid-week mission and joined me for the trip. The skies were unusually clear, so we decided to drive to Rialto Beach and hike up to Hole-In-The-Wall. We lucked out with an outgoing tide and beautiful golden sunlight at this iconic location. This was Steve’s first time here and for me it had been nearly 17 years.
Recently, my best buddy Tom visited me on Kauai. This was his third trip to the island and I wanted to show him some locations that he had not previously visited. One afternoon, we hopped in my truck and drove around to the other side of the island in order to go hiking in Kokee State Park. On the drive up, Waimea Canyon was pretty socked in with clouds. We continued on to the Kalalau Lookout and glimpsed dramatic views of the valley below as the clouds swirled around us. Deciding to take our chances, we grabbed our gear and hiked down the trail to my favorite viewpoint which is not for people who have a fear of heights. As the sun lowered towards the horizon, the clouds cleared out and this spectacular scene was revealed. I had photographed this same composition years ago and still love how it frames the landscape. Also, my five previous attempts to photograph the valley in 2019 were all thwarted by thick clouds, so I am happy that we got to experience this magical sunset together.
During my expedition to the Subantarctic, my primary ambition was to photograph penguins for my ongoing South Pacific project. Still, I also created dramatic landscape images whenever the opportunities arose. I photographed this scene on remote Auckland Island during a short hike up to the site of an old WWII coast watcher’s position. I can not imagine the hardships that these young men had to endure for years at a time. Clearly, it was incredibly windy when I created this image. I like the movement of the blowing grasses in the gale force winds with the dark clouds in the background. I think that it perfectly captures the extreme isolation of this wilderness landscape.