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. I created this image using my 36MP Sony a7R camera body with a Metabones Canon EF Lens to Sony lens adapter, Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS lens, and Singh-Ray 2-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
Last week, I returned from my annual pilgrimage to Hawaii to photograph humpback whales. I spent 10 days chartering a boat with my good friends Robin & Stuart Westmorland and our buddy Ken Howard. We have been photographing whales together for over a decade from Hawaii to California up to British Columbia and Alaska. We call ourselves the F***ing Whale Crew. Anyone who has ever spent time around whales can probably appreciate how often we curse them for being uncooperative and unpredictable, thus the name of our small fellowship. Anyway, the wind and the whales were working against us most of this trip, however, we were rewarded with this impressive breach close to the boat on our last day. My buddy Patrick Kelley flew over from Kauai to join us that morning. It was his very first visit to Maui. He had basically been on Maui for about 2 hours before joining us to go out for our final day. After departing the Kihei boat ramp, we encountered a group of whales within 20 minutes. I have been fooled enough times over the years by whales who suddenly breach without my camera being ready, so I advised everyone to get their cameras out. I am pretty fast when I need to be, so my camera was out in a flash, but I am pretty sure that I heard Patrick’s lens click onto his camera body about 1/2 second before this whale suddenly flung itself out of the water. Talk about beginner’s luck. You are welcome PK! Once we calmed down from hooting and hollering at what we had just experienced, we realized how fortunate that we all were able to photograph this breathtaking moment. I created this image using my new Canon 7DmkII and Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II lens. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
My recent visits to Lanai to photograph humpback whales breaching were among my most productive trips ever. I have dozens of new photos of this awe-inspiring behavior. This stunning moment of an adult whale almost completely out of the water was photographed in January on an especially calm day, as can be seen by the reflection of the whale on the surface of the ocean. I worked especially hard to keep my boat in position in order to line up the whale with the West Maui Mountains in the background. Normally, I prefer breaches at their apex, but my auto-focus was slightly off for the 2 frames before this one because I was zooming in tighter as it transpired. This behavior is so fleeting that it is always disappointing to lose any photos because they are soft. Fortunately, this one is razor sharp. It is also not that common to see an adult whale almost totally out of the water. I created this image using my new Canon 7DmkII and Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II lens. I processed the RAW file using Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC 2014.
I have been back home from my most recent trip to Lanai for a few weeks now and finally made some time to edit my photos. Over the years, I have witnessed double breaching humpback whales on the horizon, but never gotten close enough to justify pulling out my camera. So, when these two whales started repetitively breaching close by I became focused like a laser on creating this image. For about 30 minutes, these whales timed their dives together before spectacularly erupting above the waves in perfect choreography. It was incredibly windy and the waves were beating me up in my small inflatable boat, but I was not going to allow anything to stop me from photographing this amazing behavior. I was also able to line up the West Maui Mountains in the background, because why not make an already dramatic scene even more stunning? I created this image using my new Canon 7DmkII and Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II lens. I processed the RAW file using Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC 2014.
Last year, I resolved to learn to build and fly remote controlled multirotor copters in order to create dramatic landscape images from a unique angle. It took me a little while longer than I had expected, but I am very happy with the types of photos that I am now creating. This aerial view of Makena Beach on Maui is a beautiful example of what is possible by merging this astonishing technology with my creative vision. Sure, I’ve seen aerial images of Makena over the years that were photographed from a small plane, but what is exciting to me is that I did both the flying and the photography myself. My hexacopter was hovering about 300m out and 100m up from where I took off when the setting sun briefly shined underneath the clouds to illuminate the entire scene. This is also my edited version of this photo, because I digitally removed the tiny dots of naked people on Little Beach. I created this image by flying my Canon EOS M camera, Canon 11-22mm lens, and Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer, on my Tarot 690S hexacopter using XAircraft’s SuperX flight controller. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CC, plus Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
I’ve been back home for a few weeks now and barely flown my hexacopter. The one day that I did fly, I was amazed at how much the cooler weather shortened my battery life, and thus flight times. When I flew over La Perouse Bay on Maui a few weeks ago, I was conservatively reaching 10 minutes each flight. This beautiful lava shoreline and reef image was created by flying over 400m out and 50m up from the parking lot at the end of the road. It takes my hexacopter less than a minute to reach this distance and altitude. I then hover it in place and move it around to experiment with different compositions. I was especially drawn to the X shape of the shoreline surrounded by the turquoise water. I created this image by flying my Canon EOS M camera, Canon 11-22mm lens, and Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer, on my Tarot 690S hexacopter using XAircraft’s SuperX flight controller. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CC, plus Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
During my recent trip to Maui, I visited beautiful Poolenalena Beach at sunset and created this dramatic image. Over the years, I have tried to photograph this location several times, so it was especially rewarding to finally see all the necessary elements come together, including the dramatic clouds and golden light. I don’t often have an audience around me when I am working this hard, but there was a small wedding going on just to the left of this scene. Hopefully, I was not too distracting for their ceremony as I constantly shifted my tripod with the incoming waves in order to photograph the reflection of the coconut palms on the wet sand. Several times, a larger wave washed over me. When this happened, I had to run back to my camera bag so that I could dry off my lens and filters and then immediately run back into the surf to continue shooting. I’ve got several variations of this image with varying light and colors, but this is my favorite. I created this image using my new 36MP Sony a7R camera body with a Metabones Canon lens adapter, Canon 17-40mm f4 lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer, and Singh-Ray 4-stop Soft Graduated Neutral Density filter. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3, Photoshop CC, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
I have visited this iconic beach located south of Makena on Maui several times over the years. Last January, I got lucky with this dramatic light during one of the mornings that I photographed it. There was a lot of rain the night before, which meant that there were still a lot of clouds in the sky at sunrise. As the sun rose in the east, this spectacular lightshow briefly lasted for only a few minutes as it stretched across the horizon over Kahoolawe. Anyone who has ever visited this picturesque spot knows that at sunset it is usually overrun by wedding photographers, but thankfully, I had the beach all to myself so I did not have to digitally remove a wedding party from the scene. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkIII, Canon 17-40mm f4 lens, and Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer & 4-stop Soft Graduated Neutral Density filter. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6, plus Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s white balance filter.
Since I am flying back to the Big Island of Hawaii tomorrow morning, I decided to share one of my new Maui images from my last visit to the islands in December. Most of my recent trips have been dedicated to wildlife, but that does not mean that I have forsaken landscapes. I photographed this dramatic sunset from a quiet beach just south of Wailea. I wasn’t confident that the sun would shine through this hole in the clouds on the horizon until the last possible second, but fortunately it did. I also timed my exposures to record the gentle wash of the waves over the lava rocks in the foreground. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkIII, Carl Zeiss 28mm f2 ZE lens, and Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer with a 3-stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density filter. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3, Photoshop CS6, and applied Nik’s Dfine 2.0 filter to eliminate noise in the sky.
Since I am flying back to Hawaii next week, I thought that I would share this image. I created it while visiting Hana with my family last month. This rugged lava coastline could be anywhere in Hawaii, but this location is near Kaihalulu (Red Sand) Beach. I was captivated by this small waterfall cascading off of the lava ledge, so I returned a few mornings in a row searching for dramatic light. After several failed attempts, I was finally able to photograph the dynamic scene that I had envisioned. I had to be set up early and confident in my skills, because this light only lasted for a fleeting moment before vanishing. I don’t normally like to shoot into the sun due to lens flare, but the sun was so low on the horizon that the wave actually blocked part of it. I also had to be willing to get my camera wet, which my recent $900 repair bill from Canon will attest to. I also like how the wave is rearing up and about to crash against the shore. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 28mm f2 ZE lens, and 3-stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required a minimal amount of processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.