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.
During my recent visit to Maui to photograph humpback whales, I also put some effort into shooting landscapes. The weather was clear, blue sky for most of my trip, which is great for tourists, but not for landscape photos. I finally got lucky with some epic conditions the night that I took my buddy Patrick Kelley to this beautiful location. I have been to this spot, known as Secret Beach, many times over the years and several times this trip. It is located south of Makena and is a small and popular beach, especially for weddings, so it is always hard to get everyone out of the composition. (I digitally removed a couple that were sitting behind the rocks on the left.) The beautiful sunset light was brief, but dramatic, and I especially like the reflected light in the wet sand.
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.
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.
Banff National Park in Canada is one of my all-time favorite travel destinations. I was only 15 years old the first time I visited and its relative proximity was one of the main reasons that I moved to Seattle over 20 years ago. I try to return as often as I can, but it had been several years until my recent visit in September. My buddy and I started off our week-long trip by getting snowed on at Bow Summit and hiking in Bugaboo Glacier Provincial Park. On our return to Calgary, we photographed this incredible sunrise over Mount Rundle from the Vermillion Lakes near the town of Banff. We’d both been here many times before, so we knew where to place our tripods, but we literally jumped out of the car and started shooting just as this spectacular light show unfolded. While cars and trucks whizzed by on the Trans-Canada above and behind me, a solitary bull elk was bugling just to my right. It was a beautiful morning to be out in nature.
I photographed this dramatic seastack known as Hvítserkur on Iceland‘s north coast this past June. Tony Wu and I had experienced several days of horrendous weather before we finally read a forecast that looked promising up north, so off we drove with this destination in mind. Hvítserkur is an old basalt lava plug that has withstood the erosion by the sea. Legend has it that the rock was a troll who forgot to retreat from the light and was turned to stone at sunrise. It is one of Iceland’s iconic landscapes, so we were surprised to have it all to ourselves the one night that we photographed it. Nothing all that memorable was happening in the sky until this cloud suddenly burst into flame. We were also very fortunate to unintentionally arrive during a low tide, so I was able to compose this wide-angle image with sand patterns in the foreground.
This past June, I traveled to Iceland for the third time in my photography career. Tony Wu, my good friend and photo tour business partner, joined me for two weeks of driving around in a van, sleeping in obscure locations, eating whatever happened to be left in our non-functioning refrigerator, and chasing photographic opportunities. We had a great time together before co-leading our first sailing expedition in Norway’s Svalbard. I’ll share more about that incredible trip soon.
The weather in Iceland is always extreme, but I found it to be especially difficult during this trip. Before leaving home, I vowed not to drive from one end of Iceland to the other as I had done during my previous visits because the distances and roads often require 6-10 hours to drive between locations. However, once the weather continued to be uncooperative, I spent a lot of time checking the forecast for various parts of the island and adjusted our plans to chase the light no matter how much driving was involved.
One of the locations that we abruptly made a decision to drive to was the iconic Kirkjufellfoss waterfall located across from the witch-hat summit of Kirkjufell mountain. I was vaguely familiar with photos of this beautiful setting and only knew that it was located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Since I was driving around in the middle of the night with limited internet access, we initially drove to the end of the peninsula thinking that the famous name-sake volcano must be the the correct location before realizing that we had to turn around and drive back in the opposite direction.
Fortunately, the light this far north and lack of tourists on the road at 1am made it easy for us to find it, park, and stroll up to the falls in plenty of time to set up for this dramatic sunrise. I had expected to have to scrum with other tripod-toters to shoot this composition, but was pleasantly surprised to have this beautiful setting all to ourselves. As the colors in the sky started to explode, I coached Tony on how to use his filters and in general how to photograph a landscape, since he is usually underwater when he pushes the shutter release button. I have been intentionally avoiding photo “hot-spots” the last few years, but I am pleased that I allowed myself to indulge in photographing this graceful scene.
I have previously shared a number of sunrise images of Puu Pehe located on Lanai‘s south shore, but photographing this iconic location during a dramatic sunset has eluded me. The weather in this part of Hawaii tends to be some of the sunniest and driest of the entire state. This is great for tourists who come to enjoy beautiful Hulopoe Beach, but not so much for impressive landscape photography conditions. After dozens of attempts over many years of visiting Lanai, I was finally rewarded with this stunning image. Not only did the golden sunlight illuminate the rugged lava shoreline, but the sky was full of puffy, glowing clouds. I am also enamored with the beautiful, warm colors reflected on the wet sand.