With the cold snap of the past week, I found myself thinking about warmer climes. Hawai’i is usually at the top of the list for me and I pulled this 2012 image out of my library as a nice reminder of one of our favourite places in Kaua’i. This photo is from the top of the Koke’e State Park near the Kalalau Valley overlook. The tree is silhouetted against the clouds rising up from the coast far below this mountain ridge just before sunset.
When I was on a catamaran sailing along the Na Pali Coast we had a close encounter with a small pod of dolphins where they swam alongside for several minutes. I loved watching the deceptive power in their movements. The cat was under full sail and the dolphins seemed to expend little effort to speed past the bow and slip in and out of the waves.
On the return trip to the harbour, close to the first visit, a couple more dolphins (different I think as they seemed to be gray coloured versus the blue bodies of the first ones – although that could be a change in the light) came by and this time had a couple of humpback whales with them. The dolphins get very excited when the whales return for the winter and the two species are often found playing together and generally hanging out together until the whales head off around the globe again. The whales did not make any spectacular breaches but I felt no disappointment as just seeing them in their waters was magical.
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Ke’e Beach is further up the coast on the north shore. The waves were big and came in haphazard sets with some breaks sending waves slamming into other ones. I did not expect to see anyone surfing there but on one of the days we spent on the beach, watching the coastline and keeping an eye out for seals, I saw one fellow sitting on a surfboard watching the waves. He watched for quite a while and then headed out, presumably having found the right spot and the right way to get out to it.
I kept an eye on his progress and when he started catching waves it was awesome. He knew what he was doing and it was great to watch him navigate through the chaos, pick a wave and then grab a good ride.
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Nukoli’i Beach seems to be an unpredictable surfing location in the winter. The waves moving west were great the first few days on this eastern beach that we were in Kaua’i at the beginning of December. However after one huge storm that raged across the island, they remained choppy and were not frequented by any surfers or bodyboarders for the rest of our stay. Those first few days I did get out twice to photograph some of the bodyboarders. The waves were breaking pretty far out but a long lens helped to make a few images.
This trip to Hawai’i I spent my time in the ocean photographing underwater and that squeezed out any time that I might have gone bodyboarding or surfing. I’ll make up for that on the next visit. It was really fun to watch these guys ripping along the waves. I can’t wait to join in!
Having been able to see a Green sea turtle swimming gracefully but using a lot of energy hunting in the reef, it is nice when they can have time to rest undisturbed. At Poipu beach the lifeguards put up a rope with a fair amount of space around this turtle which had come up on the sand. It slept for the most part but I had a chance to get a couple of photographs with its eyes open when one of the sounds of a busy beach reached through the slumber. Very beautiful animals.
I love the way light diffracts, focuses and reflects under water. During my swims with an underwater camera I had a lot of fun playing near the shore. This beach near Kapa’a is called Baby Beach as it has a nice reef that breaks the waves creating a safe place for kids to swim. These silvery fish are curious and they did a nice job filling in the middle of this photograph.
I went on a sailing trip up the Na Pali coast yesterday. The morning was clear and we had a great trip with visits from a couple of separate pods of dolphins and a few humpback whales. After turning around at the Kalalau Valley, the captain found us a calm cove and we had an hour to snorkel. Halfway through the swim, I found a Green sea turtle fishing down in the coral.
I was about 30′ above it and just floated along watching it swim and explore. After a few minutes, it surfaced and when it turned to me, I had a second to photograph it swimming. Soon after with lungs full of fresh air, it descended again and soon disappeared into the blue.
We had a lovely sunset a couple of nights ago. The western of Wailua, where I am staying, has a few mountain ridges and valleys blocking the view to the ocean directly but the on this night the sky was beautiful. A stand of palm trees in the courtyard made a great silhouette to anchor the pastel lines.
One of my favourite places on Earth is Ke’e Beach at the end of the road on Kaua’i’s north shore. The road ends at the beach and from there the Na Pali coast begins. The beach has been a great location for swims with my kids, snorkelling with my parents, a visit with a beautiful monk seal while the wild coastline has always provided a spectacular background to it all as well as wonderful times spent hiking and sailing with my wife.
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Last year, I photographed the coastline in the late evening with the waves crashing onto the first cliff face. One of the images from that time on the rocks was one of my favourite landscapes in 2011 and was well-regarded in a National Geographic photo contest. Whenever I’m at Ke’e, I keep an eye towards the sets of cliffs that stretch westward. There is usually something good happening visually – and sometimes it is magnificent.
A couple of days ago, I was knee-deep in the water on the east side of the beach having a great time photographing two very different subjects. One was a large seal that lounged through the day and as the afternoon waned, there was a half hour where it bounded through the shallow water, playfully rolling, swimming and slowly making its way across the submerged rocks out to the reef and the open water. The second was the Na Pali cliffs which were thrown into progressively darker silhouettes down the coastline with the sea spray hanging like textured mist in the air from the endless pounding of the waves into the rocks. The greens and blues in the water reminded me of gemstones while the muted greens hazed by the mist seemed to suggest the breathing of the rain forest. Really great individual details to pull together.
The sunset came and went without much excitement as a low cloud bank out at sea swallowed up the sun before any color came into the sky. I was not disappointed though as the afternoon performance was pretty incredible. Coupled with the seal made for another memorable visit to Ke’e.
This Manini (Acanthurus triostegus) was one of many swimming in the sheltered cove at the Lydgate Beach Park when I was snorkelling there yesterday. The fish has a great nickname, the Convict Tang, owing to the stripes resembling those of a prisoner’s uniform of old. When this one moved into an area of the rocks and coral where rainbows were shimmering, I swung my camera that way.
A good friend loaned me a waterproof casing for one of my cameras and it has been fun to play around with during time on the water. It’s a different game shooting underwater and I am really having fun learning a bit of the how tos required to get a good image. A very (very) long ways to go to approach the likes of Brian Skerry though!
I went further up island to the north shore for sunrise this morning. I went to Kalihiwai Bay which lies between Kilauea and Hanalei and opens its arms to the Pacific due North. I went along the western side towards Anini Beach so that I would see the colors in the sky and the sun rising out of the east across the bay. It proved to be a very nice location to photograph daybreak from.
The sunrise was beautiful this morning. Ahead of the sun coming over the horizon, I got out into the water and used the silhouetted rocks to anchor the foreground. In this photograph, I made these rocks the main subject as I waited for the sun.
Pele is one of the Hawaiian deities and is often associated with the volcanic activities on the islands. She also holds dominion over lightning, wind and fire. One evening, I watched her play with lightning, throwing it over the ridges that rise up from the Hanalei Valley on Kaua’i’s north shore. For almost three hours, beginning at dusk, the clouds lit up with strikes that branched across the sky.
I watched the storm from the Hanalei outlook in Princeville. That put me at almost the same elevation as the strikes which hammered the far side of the valley. With each flash, the taro field ponds lit up as well. The deep blue sky early in the evening tempered the color in the sky. When the valley was totally dark, each flash illuminated the scene in wild shades of purple. It was incredible to see the changes in the color, the clouds and the storm through the night.
Pele became more ferocious as the night deepened. Gradual at first, with the wind picking up slowly but steadily and the lightning coming every couple of minutes. Then increasing quickly along with drops of rain that turned into a downpour after just a few minutes. I retreated to shelter with the rain drenching me and the lightning tracing arcs directly above me. It was raw power and I enjoyed watching the goddess at work – by the end there was a determined nature to the storm that made it feel like play had been joined by purpose.
Along with offering a beautiful shoreline for framing the sunrise, Nukoli’i Beach has many other appealing features and details. The latest one I discovered was the small sand crabs that own the beachfront just above the tide mark. They are only a couple of inches across and dig down into little holes.
They ball the sand up downhole, bring it out and then fling it across the beach. When a rogue wave washes over their entrance, they dig out and start the excavation all over again. Sitting still near a few of these holes, it only took a couple of minutes until the crabs came out and resumed their activities.
Ahead of a stormy sunrise, people were moving along the beach, talking with others and taking photographs. I used a 20 second exposure (with f/16 at ISO 200) with the intent to blur the water and the clouds. When I saw how the people took on an ethereal quality in varying amounts, dependent on how long they stayed in place during the exposure, I played with that idea for a while.
I photographed a pair of Pacific Golden Plover, called Kolea in Hawaiian, in the grasses near our hotel this morning. They scuttled about the grass in the same fashion as I had observed them skip over rocks along the shoreline last year on a beach further north here in Kaua’i. In the photograph above, I panned the camera while one of the birds ran nearby.
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The first sunrise of this visit to Kaua’i was spectacular. I watched the clouds retreat towards the horizon under the moonlight before dawn and when the day started to come, they were a heavy veil stretching up from the ocean. A few minutes after sunrise, the sun shone red through a thin spot in the clouds. For the next twenty minutes the sun broke free here and there while the waves kept crashing in and the sky steadily brightened. Nukoli’i Beach is a long stretch of sand along Kaua’i’s eastern shore. At this time of the year, the sun rises directly off the beach. When the clouds cooperate, the mornings can be exceedingly beautiful. This morning was exactly that.
The kids traveled super well yesterday and before the sun had set on the day, we were in Kaua’i. Starting another photographic journey this morning, we are perched on our deck overlooking the ocean facing east and waiting for the morning to arrive. We made half the adjustment to the time change so Kian and Kezia were up at 5. That helps to make sure I don’t miss the sunrise.
This Hibiscus was the first chance I had to pick up the camera – while Bobbi was getting our keys.
I was able to enjoy three consecutive sunrises down on the eastern shore of Kaua’i in the last days of our trip in December. I went to a couple of different spots between Kealia and Kapa’a and each offered a different perspective of the coastline. Here are a few of the photographs I liked from these mornings on the water with the rising sun.
A defiant shelf of rock juts out into the surf while the sun drives through a set of breaking clouds. Before dawn, these clouds were knitted together and lashed the coast south of Kealia with a heavy rain. I was happy they had the good graces to separate and catch the early morning light.
A break between waves allow the water resting in these small tidal pools to reflect the color in the sky along the shore just north of Kapa’a.
Spray from the waves hitting the rocks was a challenge and demanded frequent spot cleanings. In this image above, I found the water spots on my lens were diffracting the sunlight in the middle of the image which added to the motion in the water and drew my eye up to the sun. I liked these rocks grouped just off shore and enjoyed trying to show the movement of the waves and sunlight in that time just after sunrise there.
The color lasts for only a couple of minutes this close to the equator as the sun seems to jump into the sky very quickly. This large cloud bank was in good position to catch the pink light as the sun pulled clear of a distant storm on the edge of the horizon.
The sun halo I could create here stole the show from the foreground rocks so I centered on it and eliminated any strong elements that would distract from this interesting optical illusion.
On two separate evenings, I photographed the sunset from a viewpoint overlooking Hanalei Bay. It is the wet, stormy season on Kaua’i’s north coast which was still warm and pretty sunny. It does help to create amazing clouds and when the sun was long gone I was still shooting the clouds, the moon and the afterglow. The picture below was from a few minutes earlier when the glow up the coast was at its strongest point.
This time of year the northern coast of Kaua’i receives the heavy swells that hit the shoreline unchecked from the open water of the Pacific. I was waiting for the sun to rise and the low light of dawn allowed me to use a shutter speed of four seconds. This long exposure blurred the rows of spiky waves softening them into a supporting role, allowing this dramatic chunk of rock standing apart from the shore to be the dominant subject in the image.
We went up highway 550 in the southern part of Kauai which takes you from the ocean’s edge up to and along the Waimea Canyon. It is a beautiful drive with great views of canyon and over the Pacific Ocean. The drive up rewarded us with two different rainbows over the canyon which we could stop and photograph both times. We went up in the afternoon so that we would be in nice, warm evening light by the time we were at the top of the canyon. That worked out really well and Bobbi and I both took some lovely images on the way up. After weathering a heavy rainstorm while we were looking over the Kalalau Valley we headed back down and as the clouds cleared we found the sun was falling fast and we stopped at a bend in the road in the Koke’e State Park.
The sunlight on the clouds started out these incredible yellows and golds. Within a couple of minutes, oranges and then purples entered the scene. It was beautiful light and the silhouettes of the trees against these colors were really interesting. It turned out to be an unusual and wonderful place to watch a Hawaiian sunset.