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.
This past December, I continued my explorations of the South Pacific by traveling to New Zealand where I joined an expedition to the Subantarctic. The 13-day voyage allowed me to visit remote Auckland Island, Campbell Island, and Macquarie Island. During the trip, I photographed wilderness landscapes, comical penguins, friendly elephant seals, and majestic albatross. I was prepared for rough ocean crossings, especially after what I experienced sailing to South Georgia Island in 2012. However, instead of the roaring forties and furious fifties, the seas were calm and the weather unusually benign. The highlight of my trip was photographing king penguins, royal penguins, and elephant seals at Sandy Bay.
This is my favorite image of king penguins. They were totally unafraid of me sitting nearby. With the sun shining below puffy clouds, the stunning island landscape provided a perfect background. This image far exceeded what I had hoped to create, especially considering there was no guarantee that I would even be able to get ashore.
Sadly, Macquarie Island set record high temperatures prior to and during my visit. While this allowed me to create some beautiful images, it bodes poorly for wildlife that depend on cool weather.
I have been intending to share this exciting news for a while. My photo of the Na Pali Coast at sunset is featured on the cover of the 2019 Sierra Club Wilderness calendar! This is the second time in 9 years that one of my images was chosen for the cover. I photographed this dramatic sunset during the first winter after I moved to Kauai. I have been photographing this location for almost 20 years and it is one of my favorites on the island. Unfortunately, due to the extraordinary rain and floods this past April, it is currently impossible for visitors to experience this stunning view until the road is repaired. I hope that when it eventually reopens that there will be some significant changes to the parking situation and limits on the number of daily visitors.
My most recent trip was returning to Seattle in early October. The purpose of this visit was that one of my Kauai friends wanted to go to a Seattle Seahawks football game for his birthday, plus my dad was also turning 80 the following weekend and I wanted to celebrate it with him. It had been several years since I had experienced fall, so I also planned on visiting the North Cascades. I drove up to the Methow Valley with my buddy Tom and we spent 2 nights in a friend’s beautiful cabin near Mazama. The weather was ideal with clear blue skies and crisp autumn air. One afternoon, I decided to revisit a location where I had photographed one of my favorite abstract images almost 20 years ago. I found this fallen leaf tranquilly marooned along the river’s shore and maneuvered my camera into position to include the contrasting yellow-orange trees and blue sky reflection. I especially like the water ripples in the reflection that add another dimension to this beautiful composition.
I spent most of September visiting the Kingdom of Tonga. This was my second trip to this exotic South Pacific island nation. My first was in 2012 as part of a photo tour that I co-lead with Tony Wu. My primary purpose was to join a private whale watching expedition with 2 of my closest photography friends, Doug Perrine and Ken Howard. However, since I have been focused on documenting the South Pacific the past few years, I decided to devote an additional week before my friends arrived to landscape photography. While planning this adventure, I did some online photo reconnaissance and decided to attempt to photograph the numerous blowholes along the south shore of the main island of Tonga’tapu. The winter weather ended up being incredibly rainy most of that week, but my persistence eventually paid off. This image was created after too many early morning drives to Keleti Beach which featured captivating terraces and unusual structures like this blowhole pedestal. As the incoming waves crashed into the shoreline, the force of the water would erupt several seconds later. I experimented with different shutter speeds, but eventually preferred a fast shutter to freeze the action. I was fortunate that the early morning light was exquisite and the wind blew the geyser away from my precarious camera placement.
This summer, I also visited Seattle after flying back and forth to Juneau. I enjoy being back in my old stomping grounds during the increasingly warm summers. Unfortunately, the downside to that nice weather is dry conditions in the Cascades that lead to forest fires and lots of smoke. I eventually pulled myself away from my prolonged SeaFair boating lifestyle to visit Mount Rainier National Park. Stephen Matera invited me to join him on a day trip and we decided to hike up to Spray Park to photograph wildflowers. Neither of us had been up there to shoot for who knows how long, so we thought it would be a great location to revisit. As we hiked up into the alpine meadows, we grew increasingly concerned that something was off. In places where we would normally anticipate seeing lush fields of wildflowers, we saw only brown, dried up plants. We scouted a number of locations and still could not find any significant displays to photograph. We discussed how this time of year should be the peak bloom, but only saw the odd signs of lupine, asters, and paintbrush hiding in the shade of trees. One particular meadow that in previous years had been remarkably productive for photos was just a tangle of nothing. I was resigned to not even take my camera out of my backpack, but kept scrambling around searching for anything to photograph. Eventually, I found this small display of avalanche lilies that made a strong foreground as the sunset illuminated Rainier’s icy summit. I had always wanted to create an image with these typically early season wildflowers and was lucky that there was almost no wind to move them around during my longish exposure.
While helping my friends in Leilani Estates on the Big Island, I experienced physical and emotional stress. Still, my own discomfort was insignificant compared to what the residents of Puna have to deal with as this tragedy unfolds. As the land is rendered uninhabitable, homes are being destroyed and lives are being upended. Only Pele knows what she wants to accomplish. Until seen from above, the scale of the destruction is impossible to fully comprehend. So, on my third and final afternoon, I hired a small plane to fly over the eruption. As we approached, I asked my pilot to concentrate on the most active lava fissures. I believe the USGS is currently naming these fissures 8 and 24. As we coordinated lining up this image, I had to pop open my window, ask my pilot to dip the aircraft’s wing, point my telephoto lens, and hope that what I photographed was in focus. Oh, and we both agreed that we would refrain from ever getting caught in the thermal updraft again.