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.
During my most recent visit to Kauai, I was rewarded with this incredible sunset the very first night that I was on the island. I was especially lucky since this was the first time that I had ever tried to photograph Shipwreck Beach. Every once in a while I experience beginner’s luck, but more often I have to return to a location multiple times before I photograph a sky this colorful. During the summer months, the southern swell erodes the sand on the beach and reveals the lava rocks underneath, which I used as my foreground along with the wave action against the shore. As the sun sank beneath the western horizon, I anticipated that these clouds would not only light up, but also perfectly frame my overall composition. I was not disappointed.
Over the years, I have photographed a few epic sunsets while on our family vacations, which in some instances have paid for the entire trip. I do occasionally get some push back from my girls for getting up too early or disappearing in the afternoon, but it’s the price I pay for being a husband and father that makes his living by selling pretty pictures. During our recent trip to Kauai, I returned to Kee Beach seven days in a row to shoot sunset. Wouldn’t you know it, but my best image was photographed on my first attempt. I guess I should have stayed at the beach more with my girls. Oh, well. While setting up for this dramatic scene, I got hit by a few waves and right at the critical moment as the sun was touching the horizon a large wave washed completely over me and almost swept me out to sea. Yikes!
My regular readers, fans, and friends are probably already familiar with my remote control aerial photography ambitions of the last 1/2 year. I’ve had some ups and downs, but if someone would have told me when I started this endeavour that it would require $15,000 and 1000 hours of my time, I would have told them that it was nuts! However, that is exactly what flying has required. At this point, I am fairly confident that my equipment is reliable, so I’ve been flying a lot over the water and treacherous terrain, as this aerial image of Wailua Falls on Kauai can attest. I knew that if I could get my hexacopter up and over to the other side from the tourist viewpoint, that I would be able to photograph this rainbow in the mist at the base of the falls. This was also among the first uses of my new camera gimbal. This still blows my mind every time that I fly my copter and watch how stable my camera’s live view feed is on my video monitor.
I photographed this dramatic rainbow over Tunnels Beach during my family vacation to Kauai in July. This amazing light only lasted for a minute, during which it was pouring rain. Of course, I forgot to bring an umbrella, but was fortunate that a nice local that I had befriended the previous day just happened to be out for her morning beach walk and had an one with her. I asked her if she would assist me in keeping my camera dry and she happily obliged. While she held her umbrella over me, I quickly set up my tripod, pulled my camera out of my Fstop backpack, and carefully placed my filter on the lens. I only managed a few images before this ephemeral rainbow disappeared. Also, it’s worth noting the overall amount of time required to create this image. I was staying with my family in Poipu which is located on the south shore of Kauai, but Tunnels is located on the north shore. So, in order to be at the beach at sunrise, I had to wake up at 4 am and drive 1.5 hours in the dark. I did this 5 mornings in a row before finally being rewarded with this image. By the time I returned to my family, it was late morning and they were just rolling out of bed. I invested over 30 hours of my time to create this image, but only experienced this magical light for less than 60 seconds. I hope that you will agree with me that it was worth my effort.