I just got back from another exciting week of photographing humpback whales on Maui with my whale watching friends. We had some fantastic encounters with the whales, but also a few days of stormy weather that forced us to return to the boat ramp early or skip boating all together. The upside is that I took advantage of the ugly conditions to do some landscape photography. I have been attempting to photograph this scene for at least 5 years, if not longer. It was a reward to finally have everything come together for this image. I love the dramatic sunset light in the clouds and on the water’s surface as the waves gently wash over the foreground rocks.
I just got back from another epic South Pacific photo adventure. I created this image while visiting Christmas Island, which is spelled Kiritimati in the local Gilbertese language. It is a remote Micronesian island that is part of the Republic of Kiribati. I first learned about Christmas Island on my way back from American Samoa in 2010. It is very highly regarded among salt water fly fisherman due to its shallow lagoons and scrappy bonefish. The purpose of my trip was to fly my DJI Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian quadcopter over its surreal landscape in order to photograph abstract patterns. WOW! The photos that I had envisioned with Google Maps paled in comparison to those that I was able to achieve with my drone. I especially love the strange submerged sand islands and bold colors of the water in this scene.
I photographed this scene while visiting exotic Bora Bora in French Polynesia‘s Society Islands this past December. I have never experienced water that was as turquoise as this. I created this image by flying my new DJI Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian drone over the atoll’s outer reef and waiting for the perfect balance of direct sunlight and clouds. The reason that I was visiting Bora Bora was that I had chartered a sailboat with some friends and my father. I grew up sailing with my family on the Great Lakes, so it was special that my dad was able to join me. I especially like the dappled sunlight below the ocean’s surface and the gentle waves washing over the top of the reef. Ahh, paradise.
While the main purpose of my travel to Mataiva in French Polynesia‘s Tuamotus was to photograph the unique lagoon structure using my drone, I could not resist also photographing more traditional landscapes. This beautiful tropical lagoon is one of the five channels between the motus on the south side of the atoll. I love how the coconut palm leaves lean out over the shoreline and cast shadows on the sand and rocks below. Most of the photos that I am creating in the South Pacific that include stunning turquoise water require me to shoot around mid-day when the sun is high in the sky. This isn’t the time of day that I normally photograph landscapes, but I am learning to appreciate the results.
In December, I photographed French Polynesia for the first time. All I can say is, “WOW!” I have always dreamed of visiting remote islands in the South Pacific and have recently focused my photography ambitions on this area of the world. I began my adventure by flying to Tahiti and then up to the remote atoll of Mataiva in the Tuamotus. My main ambition was to fly my new DJI Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian over the incredible lagoon landscape that I had envisioned using Google Maps. Mataiva’s interior lagoon is composed of decaying coral morphed into linear rocky structures. Some of these coral structures peak above the surface, forming about 70 basins. The varying depths of these basins and the clear water gives the lagoon a blue and green tesselated appearance when viewed from above. I thought that it looked like a landscape photographer’s abstract fantasy. The challenges that I had to overcome to create this image were the strong winds and waiting for clear blue sky, because even the smallest clouds left dark shadows traversing across the scene. Mauruuru and enjoy.
Wow! What an incredible sunrise. These are the famous moai at Ahu Tongariki on Easter Island, also know as Rapa Nui by the original inhabitants or Isla de Pascua in Spanish. I only had to travel 12,000 miles via 4 flights around the eastern Pacific Ocean and then wake up 8 mornings in a row before being rewarded with this dramatic image. Shortly before the first light on the horizon, a cloudburst fell out of the sky which caused most of the tourists to flee back to the parking lot and some even drove back to town. Great! Now I had the statues more to myself. Unlike the delicate tourists, I was prepared with my rain jacket and travel umbrella as the next downpour approached with the intense color illuminating the sky. I kept my camera protected by my umbrella, but would briefly raise it to fire off a few frames before lowering it to wipe off the rain drops and then repeat my process.
Since I first visited Hawaii 17 years ago, I have dreamed about focusing my photography ambitions on the South Pacific. Now that I have settled in on Kauai, I am planning most of my adventures though out this area. I have many remote islands that I plan to visit and eventually publish as a photography book. This trip to Easter Island covers about as far east as I intend to travel. Already this year, I have visited Vanuatu and Fiji, and my past travels have taken me to American Samoa and Tonga. Next up is my first trip to French Polynesia later this month and potentially a trip to Micronesia in early 2018. Wish me luck and please enjoy the images that I am creating along the way.
Recently, I had an old friend from Alaska come out to visit me on Kauai. She had not been actively shooting for a several years, so she hired me to teach her a private photography course in order to help her refresh her skills. It was a lot of fun and I am happy that I had the opportunity to work with her. While I have been traveling quite a bit this year, I continue to photograph Kauai as much as possible. Still, it is difficult to get up super early all the time, so her visit gave me the incentive to photograph sunrise every morning for a week. Since I moved here one year ago, I have seen a lot of rainbows, but not had a lot of success photographing them in a dramatic landscape setting. Fortunately, this spectacular rainbow appeared during one of our early morning shoots and persisted for 15 minutes. The lighting situation was ideal with me in the shade and the sunlight and rain across the valley so that my camera gear did not get hosed. Keeping my lens and filters dry during a downpour is the difference between creating an image and missing the shot. Aloha.
I recently returned from an adventure that I had been dreaming about and attempting to do for over a decade. Years ago when I first started photographing lava, I learned about the Yasur Volcano located on remote Tanna Island in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. It is not the easiest place to get to and the amenities won’t meet most people’s requirements, but it is an incredibly accessible and rewarding location to shoot. I spent a week working with a local chief which allowed me and my frequent travel partner Steve Levi special access to the volcano.
The first time we approached the crater rim via the relatively short but steep hike from the parking area, the deafening explosions and sulfur filled air overwhelmed my already excited senses. When I finally observed my first strombolian eruption, I began to question my sanity. I had heard stories about lava flying through the air and impacting way too close for comfort. Of course, one of the two times this happened to me was during my very first visit to the caldera. It was one of the most brief and horrifying moments of my life, but fortunately the lava landed safely to my left. At least I had gotten that experience out of the way.
Over the course of my week long exploration, I visited the volcano 9 times. Sometimes it was cloudy, sometimes it was clear. There were even a few times where it was raining so hard, that there was no point in even trying. I had a lot of 4am and 4pm starts with all of my best images created during the 30 minutes before the sun rose or after the sun set during the beautiful twilight light. The volcano exploded about every 5 minutes on average. I can not adequately describe the incredible experience of glimpsing and then being blasted with the shock wave while standing in this location with my camera set up on my tripod. I pushed my camera’s shutter button on every explosion, but it was the extraordinary large ones like this that allowed me to create my best images.
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.