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!
That went by quick. Seems like things are speeding up and 2012 went by in a flash. I reviewed a large set of landscapes from the past year and it was fun to recall those moments. But, I was a little surprised that a year has gone by since I pulled together a list of my favourites from 2011. I suppose I have little control over how quickly time rolls – I will just continue to try to stuff as much into it as we go. Before I move with my camera forward into 2013, here are some images of mine that stood out for me from 2012.
The mountains in the Albertan parts of the Rockies pulled me close many times over the year. I really enjoyed photographing Mount Kidd from a new location in the fall. Above, the reflecting pools along Highway 40 just past Wedge Pond were a new place for me. And I enjoyed a couple of mornings down along the shoreline of Wedge Pond with the image below resulting from one beautiful morning.
I also was pleased with the images I put together from Banff, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Jasper as well. The photograph of Lake Louise’s canoe cabin is subtle and is a vein of imagery that I am continuing to work in.
The view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks from the top of the rock moraine at the near side of Moraine Lake is spectacular – particularly the alpen glow in the morning. This summer I went up in the evening and was rewarded with a different, and equally beautiful, look at sunset.
This hoar-frost on branches stretching out of a small pool in the marsh west of one of the Vermilion Lakes in Banff provided for a nice abstract composition.
I spend a fair amount of time photographing wildlife and landscapes on the prairie. The storms in the summer can be incredible but the clouds this winter have been really inspiring. In the photograph below I watched a dragon form and stretch towards the east to meet the sun. Beautiful colours and great to let imagination have the reins.
Before the snow flew, I was working to photograph the warm autumn sunrises on the fields. When I had these horses approach as the sun cleared the horizon, the image really came together.
The sunrise photography extended west in Bragg Creek and the image below was made along the Cowboy Trail (Highway 22X) just east of the town.
In the summer I joined Bobbi on a journey to Sedona in Arizona. It was my first visit and is a place I was excited to return to as soon as I had returned home. The variety of landscapes in the Coconino National Forest and the time to hike into a few places were great luxuries I enjoyed on the trip.
Cathedral Rock is an iconic subject and it deserves its high standing with artists. Our first day in Sedona we walked along the river to the base of the rock and watched the shadows climb up the red rock. On a hot afternoon, I escaped to the West Fork Trail which meanders up the Oak Creek Canyon. The calm water, lush forest and red rock made many bends in the creek picture worthy and this was my favourite from a productive hike. And there were wonderful butterflies flitting around in one meadow of flowers too.
One of the evenings, I went out to the top of a mesa and photographed the night sky. It was a bit remote so I had the trees, the stars and a few strange sounds in the desert night all to myself. That was another side to Sedona that I was very happy to have experienced.
There were a few other nightscape photo outings through the year but the highlight was photographing the Northern Lights in October. I had missed several good Aurora nights through the summer so I was excited when I got to watch them rolling down from the north for almost two hours.
Later in October I was in Jasper on a wildlife photography trip. The animals were the focus of the week spent driving and hiking along the Icefields Parkway and around Jasper but this gentle scene where snow had just blanketed the valley along the Athabasca River demanded to be photographed (despite some good-natured heckling from my companions).
And in late November our family headed to Kaua’i the northernmost of the populated Hawaiian islands. Time dripped by and we had a great vacation. I had almost too much fun photographing creatures above, on and under the water and those are the images that first came to mind when I was looking back at our visit. However, once I worked through the catalog over the Christmas break, I realized that the landscape images from this year’s trip to the island were solid additions to my Hawaii portfolio.
We stayed a stone’s throw from Nukoli’i Beach on the east shore so the sun rose directly in front of us each morning. I spent a few mornings down on the beach photographing what the ocean delivered with morning sun.
The warm light following the sunrise provided beautiful illumination on the beach and through the waves. One of those places that is easy to spend a whole day shooting, painting or playing at.
We covered a lot of ground during our time in Kaua’i and one of the favourite places for seals, snorkelling, swimming, waves to watch and coastline views was Ke’e Beach on the northern edge of the Na Pali Coast. The last night in Kaua’i we spent at Ke’e and at one point there was a rainbow over the beach when I looked to the east and the mists and violent waves of the Na Pali in winter to the southwest.
A couple of days earlier, the spray kicked up from the waves hitting the rocks rolled up the forested mountainsides to create another magical scene.
An amazing lightning storm over the Hanalei Valley provided the last image for this collection. The rain held off for almost three hours before forcing me into my car and back to the apartment.
A dolphin slices through the waves of the Northern Swell off Kaua’i, Hawai’i. I was on a catamaran and the dolphin had no trouble keeping up
There is a nice spot to snorkel just off of Ke’e Beach on Kaua’i’s north shore. The fish school in decent numbers and there is often a chance of seeing sea turtles. Before returning to Canada we went up to Ke’e for one last afternoon on the beach and an evening photographing the sunset down the Na Pali.
The water was choppy from high surf coming over the reef which usually breaks down the waves. This made swimming with the kids a more involved process than normal and shortened any snorkelling. I still went out and photographed along the calm side of the coral reef for sometime close to an hour.
The fish were more scarce on the day, maybe due to the turbulence, but it was still pretty busy down below. I had fun photographing individual fish within their environment.
From down below, even looking up was beautiful.
I love the ocean, I suppose many people do. I grew up on Kootenay Lake in southeastern British Columbia and there could be rough water but nothing like on the ocean. Whenever I am on a coast, I enjoy watching the waves. In December, the waves off of Ke’e Beach at the northern edge of Kaua’i’s Na Pali coast are tall and heavy. They can be spectacular to watch.
The last day that we went to Ke’e, the waves were not disappointing.
With the sun falling low, a few waves even tried to take a bite. It was a good day.
Being new to underwater photography there is a steep learning curve to realizing the images that I have in my mind. Along that journey, there has been some frustration but so many new things to enjoy. Probably the most fun I have had is exploring light underwater. Particularly the way it refracts and distorts at the surface and then strikes subjects below. When this Hawaiian Chub (Kyphosus hawaiiensis) swam through lines of distorted sunlight near the surface, these wonderful patterns rippled across its silvery body. It makes me think we should move ocean side somewhere in the world sooner than later…
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.
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Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua – that’s what the Hawaiian Monk Seal (Monachus schauinslandi) is called in the Hawaiian language. Literally, it means dog that runs in rough water. We were watching a sea turtle that had pulled up on a beach in Po’ipu when a friendly fellow who was chatting with Bobbi, told her about a Monk seal he had just seen on a nearby, although fairly remote, beach a little while earlier. So, we packed up, drove down an old dirt road, hiked over forested sand dune and about half an hour later, we were watching a seal that had hauled itself well up onto the beach.
The kids had fallen asleep between beaches, so Bobbi and I alternated a couple of visits to the seal. The ropes had been set up so passersby did not stray (or walk intently) too close to these critically endangered animals. Most people respected the boundaries. When the seal slid out of the area that had been cordoned off to provide some space, it rubbed up against one of the poles which was curious – maybe just an opportunity for a scratch or it was checking out the scent left behind by the person who placed it.
A few minutes afterwards, the seal had settled a couple of yards above the water line. It remained there for almost an hour. People continued to stay back even without an updated perimeter with only two exceptions – nothing that seemed to impact the seal but a local fellow nearby set the clueless observers straight. The image below was not one of the too close encounters.
I had the benefit of my long lenses and was able to keep well away from the seal and its path back to the ocean. It dozed for most of the time we were there and not much interrupted its rest. When it was back down at the surf, even waves that reached up and covered its face, most only a little, rarely even opened an eye.
Kian and Kezia woke up after an hour and made the trek down to the beach with us. It was great to watch the seal together and they were really interested in this beautiful animal, how big it was (7′ long I would guess) and why it was sleeping so much!
Nearing sunset and following one good wave in the face, the eyes opened and the seal made short work of the rest of the beach between it and the open water. It undulated forward, sliding across the sand and slipped into the water.
There it was transformed from the ungainly land mammal to a graceful sea creature. It was great to watch it swim for the first hundred yards or so before it went underwater.
This was the last glimpse I had as it headed out to sea. We lingered for another hour as there was some family sand castle building required. One of the best days we’ve had in Hawai’i.
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.