Photographing Hawaiian Islands

It has been about two months now since I went to the Hawaiian islands. I wasn’t there for a photography trip, but I did manage to capture a handful of images while I was there. 

The first island I was on was Maui. Flying in on a Monday evening with my then soon to be wife, I got my first taste of how hot and humid almost the entire stay would be. The atmosphere hit everyone like a wall when leaving the climate controlled airplane. Note that there was not a comfortable terminal of an airport in-between. They don’t have much air conditioning at all! 

tree in ocean sunset

Ignoring the weather, it is paradise! The scenery is absolutely incredible with palm trees and steep green slopes of mountains on either side of the airport. The view was everything I could have hoped for.

The majority of the first week in Hawaii was spent preparing for our wedding. I did manage a sunset during the chaos at a beach with a wonderful tree overhanging the beach. This also happened to be where I realized that my tripod had somehow lost a screw meant for securing the camera to the ball-head. This is now the second time I have had to deal with an issue with this ball-head being able to keep the camera attached! (the last time this occurred, I lost a Nikon D800 in a glacial stream)

I did notice before placing the camera in any compromising position, and made it work by being very careful and making a wedge to keep the camera somewhat stable atop the tripod. The sunset wasn’t too crazy, but I was just happy to finally capture something on the trip! The sunsets happen incredibly fast near the equator, and I learned that you really do need to have the location and composition planned out well in advance.

foamy ocean beach wave

The wedding was perfect! It was at sunset on a beach in Maui, so it could not have been more beautiful. We were lucky to have Alex Shinder take the images and he did a great job! After getting “Maui’d”, we went to the island of Kauai for about five days. The first night on the new island was spent with a sunset on the beach where I captured some images of waves and we also had a great dinner with Mai Tai’s. I was really excited about the next day because we had booked a catamaran trip for a sunset cruise around the island with a prepared dinner as well!

sunset napalm coast cliffs
rainbow napalm coast kauai
jagged cliffs napalm coast

The yacht set sail from the opposite side of the island in the late afternoon, and we left with enough time to get a nice lunch and for some stops along the way. We had rented the ultimate photography trip car on accident which made the trip even more enjoyable. A Ford Mustang GT is by far the best choice because even if the photography destination is a disappointment for any reason you are still having a blast while commuting!

The seas had a bit of a chop to them and we spent the time going out trying to stay somewhat dry and avoiding those who had gotten sick. Seeing the island from offshore really helps with understanding the geography. The cliffs of the NaPali coast used to have waterfalls all along it, but when the sugar business came in they redirected the water away from the coast. This allowed the coastal waters to clean up because they no longer have the constant flow of silty waterfalls, and they have coral reefs and more fish life in the area. The waterfalls are coming back though as the sugar business closed down around 10 years ago, but it just goes to show how much impact humans can have on the land and just how much time it takes to go back to what is natural.

Capturing images of the coastline from a boat in a choppy ocean is not an easy task. I had my 70-200 attached and even when waiting for the right moment along with vibration reduction it would still result in many unsharp images. I had my shutter speed set to 1/600th or higher and managed a couple of interesting abstract compositions of the jagged ridges with last rays of light streaking across.

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Hawaii (online)-7.jpg

The next day, it began raining for about 2 days straight. I didn’t get much photography done because conditions were so bad when we had time. When it did finally start to lighten up a bit, I made a trip to the rainbow eucalyptus trees which were bizarre. Unfortunately, tourism has caused some people to decide it would be a good idea to carve into the trees. The graffiti was unpleasant and unwelcome.

rainbow eucalyptus tree

Kauai is were part of Jurassic Park was filmed in the 90’s, and it is where the iconic gate to the park was filmed and once existed. You can actually go to the place where it was (all that is left today is two tall posts) if you are willing to hike a ways or have a 4x4. Needless to say, our mustang was not going to make this trip, but I did find a neat scene in the area that reminded me of the movie with the canopy trees and misty mountain in the background.

jurassic kauai mountains trees landscape

We skipped sunset that night because it had been cloudy and there was no indication that there would be anything lighting up, but this was actually the only time there was any light the entire trip! We made it to Waimea Canyon and the NaPali coast from above at over 5000 feet. This is especially bizarre being this high above the ocean standing on the ground and looking straight down at the beach. I have been on top of more than a handful of mountains and this one ‘takes the cake’ as the sharpest falloff! 

In-all, the trip was a success. I got married, had a nice honeymoon with my wife, and checked the Hawaiian islands off as a trip! There wasn’t a big focus on doing photography, and I still came home with a nice bunch of quality images.