Friday, May 28, 2010

The Island of Maui

The Island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at 727.2 square miles. Maui is probably the most popular island in the Hawaiian chain of islands. Although I was going to spend five days here I did not get in all the sights that Maui has to offer. I had worn my wife down with all my running around and she was wanting a little R & R on the beach, but I did manage to get her out for a whale watching tour.

                     Humpback Whales Swiming Toward our Boat

The Hmpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a baleen whale. Adults range in length from (39–52 ft and weigh approximately 80,000 lbs. The Humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the water. Males produce a complex whale song, which lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and is repeated for hours at a time.

Baby Humpback Whale Breaching

Many of the whale watching tour boats are pretty good size and can handle a lot of people per cruise. I opted for a much smaller Zodiac sized boat so I could right at water level. When a couple whales swam right up to and then just under the boat, You held your breath because they were much bigger than the boat itself.
Since I only had a wide angle zoom, I was pretty frustrated and did not get any really good photos on this trip.

         Baby Humpback Keeping Pace With Our Boat

Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometres each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. The species' diet consists mostly of krill and small fish.

Lahaina Harbor

Sunset from the Waterfront of Lahaina

Sunset view from Front St. Lahaina

So for the next few days I just relaxed on the beach with a lot of swimming, snorkling, and sunset photography. I will be going back to see many of the sights I missed. It is a shame it is just so far away! 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kahalu'u Beach

When I was researching hotels to stay at while I was on the Kona side of Hawaii, I found this hotel that was built partially out over a tidal pool. This is very unique in Hawaii, and the only hotel I am aware of that was built like this. So I had to have an ocean front room so I could sit out on my balcony and watch the amazing sunsets and look down and see the colorful fish and turtles swimming directly underneath me.  I cannot remember the name of this hotel off the top of my head, but the second best feature was that is was located right next to Kahalu'u Beach Park.

At Low Tide Exploring Was Amazing

Kahaluu is one of the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island. Many of the tourist brochures and maps simply refer to this place as "Snorkel Beach". Fed by a fresh water spring, up to 10 million gallons per day. These waters are almost always calm, with colorful corals, rock formations, and 100+ species of fish. Swim with huge schools of colorful fish and green sea turtles in these protected waters; don't forget your underwater camera! The north end of the beach is where the waves break and is best for body boarding and surfing.

                            Green Sea Turtle Resting In The Shallow Tidal Pool

The Green Sea Turtles that I saw while snorkling here were enormous. You are not allowed to touch them, but they would swim right up to you. It was uite an experince to swim in open water with these gentle giants.
Sadly I again had to cram in as many things as possible in a very short time, so I hopped over to the Island of Maui after my stay on Hawaii.

A Rainbow in the West Maui Mountains

After a brief tropical rain while driving to my hotel, this rainbow was pretty spectacular. The difficult part was finding a safe place to pull over to try and photograph it. Every tourist had the same idea, and there were several near wrecks from everyone rubber necking and stopping in the road. It reminded me of how people react to seeing a bear in Yellowstone National Park. I found a spot and then walked around until I found a composition with no man made objects in it and snapped a few frames.

                                                 My view from the Sheraton Hotel Ka'anapali  Beach

Ka'anapali Beach has been rated one of the top ten beaches in the world on the travel channel. I would now have to agree with that. Paradise probably sums it up best if you can only use one word. I absolutely fell in love with this place. So much so, that I actually bought a time share at the Westin. Now time shares are not a real smart investment, but with starwood Properties the trade value and high end resorts they own sold me. So I can now brag that I own a miniscule sliver of real estate here.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Black Sand Beaches

Approaching Storm Along The Southern Coast

After leaving Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, my next planned stop was one of Hawaii's most famous black sand beaches. The problem was there was a pretty big storm brewing up and the weather was going to turn nasty. Yes, even in paradise they have crappy weather once in a while.  
                                              Punalu'u Beach

Punaluʻu Beach (also called Black Sand Beach) is a beach between Pāhala and Nāʻālehu on the Big Island of the U.S. state of Hawaii. The beach has black sand made of basalt and created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools. This volcanic activity is in the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Punaluʻu is frequented by endangered Hawksbill and Green turtles, which can often be seen basking on the black sand.

After A Rain Shower

While I did not have good weather for my time at Punalu'u Beach, it was still an amazing experience to see and feel that black lava under your feet on the beach. This had been my first and only time on a black sand beach. I did see a few turtles in the bay swimming around, but none had crawled out onto the beach while we were there. No sun to bask in!   I still had a few hours of travel time before getting to my next stop, so I sadly left this amazing place to try and make it to my hotel along the Kahalu'u - Kona Coast before dark.

                                     Tiki Torch Sunset

Rolled into my next stop along the Kahalu'u-Kona Coast. I arrived just in time to catch this stunning sunset over the offshore reef.

Hammocks By Moonlight

I woke up about 5:00am to the sound of the surf over the reef from my open window. I took this 20 second exposure very early in the morning while I was wandering around looking for a good composition. This turned out to be one of my favorite photos from my Hawaii trip.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

When I left Oahu and headed to the The Big Island. One of the places I had wanted to visit the most was Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. A visit to this National Park was like no other National Park I had ever experienced. This place lets you see and feel the power of nature in a very unique way. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, established in 1916, is a United States National Park located in the U.S. State of Hawaii on the island of Hawaii. It displays the results of hundreds of thousands of years of volcanism, migration, and evolution.

                    The Caldera of the Kilauea Volcano
Kilauea and its caldera were traditionally considered the sacred home of the volcano goddess Pele, and Hawaiians visited the crater to offer gifts to the goddess. The park includes 505.3 square miles of land.
Over half of the park is designated the Hawaii Volcanoes Wilderness area and provides unusual hiking and camping opportunities

A seperate Caldera on the slope of Kilauea

I had never been to an active volcano before, so this was something very special for me. Active eruptive sites include the main caldera of Kīlauea and a more active but remote vent called Puʻu ʻŌʻō. The Chain of Craters Road, as the name implies, leads past several craters from historic eruptions to the coast. It used to continue to another entrance to the park near the town of Kalapana, but that portion is now covered by a lava flow.

      What Used To Be A Road At The Edge Of The Ocean

The view for miles in all directions is barren lava, but the amazing thing is seeing the plants starting to take root and grow in the lava. It will take time, but you see first hand how the Hawaiian Islands changed from molten lava rock to lush tropical forests.

Recent Lava Flow

Hiking out in the Lava fields is not recommended, but they do not try to stop you. They recommend sun screen, a hat, and plenty of water. I had none of these as I decided to hike out to try and get photos of the lava flowing out of the ground. That was one long, hot, and exhausting hike through that extremely rough ankle twisting terrain. It felt like I was on another planet at times.

                                  New Oceanfront Land From Fresh Lava Flows

It took me about 2 hours to get to an area where ther was some slow moving lava flowing up on top of the ground. Since I only had a wide angle zoom lens I had to get extremely close to the molten lava to create the composition of the next photograph. This was where I was really wishing I had opted for the telephoto zoom instead of the wide angle. But having ghiked that far out, and knowing it would be worse going back, I was determined to get some good shots. So I squated down as close as I possibly could and got off several frames. Molten lava is around 2300 degrees liquid form. I actually burned/melted off most of the hair on my legs and the soles of my hiking boots were also starting to melt. But I got the shot I wanted!

     Molten Lava Flowing Onto The Surface Of The Ground

Here is a link to the park from theNational Park Service. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The sights of Oahu

Hanauma (pronounced "ha-na-OO-mah", in Hawaiian) is a marine embayment formed within a volcanic cone that collasped and allowed the ocean waters into its shallow base. Located along the southeast coast of the Island of Oahu, Hanauma is both a Nature Preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District. If you plan a trip here get there early! This is an extremely popular place and they limit the amount of visitors to protect the environment. If it gets full, you will get turned away. Some of the best snorkling and swimming to be found in the Hawaiian Islands. 

                                           Hanauma Bay   

Waimānalo Beach (the town) lies along the eastern half of Waimānalo Beach (the beach), with an overall length of nearly 5.5 miles the longest stretch of sandy shoreline on Oahu. The drive along the East coast really gives you a sense of how Hawaii was years ago. There is much less development here and the scenery is amazing for mile after mile. The waters along many of these beaches are very calm due protection from offshore reefs. This allows for great swimming and snorkling in the calmer waters.

Waimanalo Beach

Oahu’s North Shore is home to the world famous Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay. Oahu’s rustic North Shore is famed for big wave surfing during the winter months but offers calm, swimming beaches in the summer and beginners can learn more about surfing by taking a class at a North Shore surf school. 

North Shore Canoe Club

I visited the North Shore on a beautiful sunny calm day in the month of February. By all apperances the surf at first seemed calm and peaceful. Then my ears picked up the sound of bigger surf and when I looked further out the waves coming over the reef were about 8 feet high on a calm day. There are beaches along the North shore that a more protected and calm, and there are some where you should not go unless you are a very strong swimmer.

         Smaller Waves Hitting Lava Rocks Along The Beach 

Big storms far out in the Pacific Ocean generate the giant surf that reaches the North Shore of Oahu in the winter. So even on a nice day, the surf can be enormous, and very dangerous.  

                    Big Waves Reaching The Beach

I waded out a few places but soon realized that the undertow and surf was far to strong for my average swimming skills. If the waves throw you into the coral it will shred you like a cheesegrader. so I was content to say on the beach and just get marvel at the power of the big surf.

                     Big Waves Hittng A Wall of  Lava Rocks 

The Island of Oahu has an amazing amount of attractions to visit and natural beauty to experience. I could simply not get them all in with only spending three days on this island. Being the beach person that I am, that is where I choose to spend the majority of my time. My next stop was the Big Island (Hawaii). Here is a good link for more information on the Island of Oahu.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Waikiki Beach

When I planned my trip to Hawaii, I flew in and out of Honolulu, which is located on the Island of Oahu. Honolulu is a city of about 400,000 people, but it feels much bigger since much of it is packed along the famous Waikiki Beach. Oahu, an island occupying 597 square miles, is the second oldest island in the Hawaiian chain of visitable islands. She lies between her sister islands Kauai and Maui.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, HI.

With its calm waters, the beaches of Waikiki offer a great place for swimming as well as your very first surf lesson.  Waikiki is known in Hawaiian as “sprouting waters”. The water is very calm and a great beach to relax on and people watch. It will get pretty crowded though with the urban population so densley packed around it. I really enjoyed the sunsets from the beachfront area though.  The sunsets  I experienced in Hawaii were pretty amazing. Pull up a beach chair and have a cooler with some relaxing adult beverages and watch the show.

                             Sunset from Waikiki Beach

The weather on Oahu is ideal, and tempreatures range between 75-88 degrees F.  With moderate humidity and constant ocean breezes, even the hottest months are very comfortable. There are many great attractions, and resturants in the Honolulu area. I knew that Hawaii was going to be expensive, but the sticker shock to my conservative (cheap) mid-western values was painful. It is very easy to bust your budget trying to see and do all the tourist things you want to do while you are there.  I only had three days to spend on Oahu, so I rushed around to see as much as I could fit in and afford. At least the sunsets were free.

          The Sun Sinks Slowly Into The Pacific Ocean  

I think this photograph is a good representation of the Honolulu area. Beautiful but somewhat crowded. You see a commercial air plane, cruise ships, sailboats,and swimmers and surfers in the water. Although I prefer my beaches to be less crowded, Waikiki is a very cool place to hang out.

                           The Honolulu Pier after Sunset

This was my favorite photograph of my numerous attempts at long exposure shots and sunsets. The sun had dipped below the horizion and left the orange after glow in the sky. I took numerous exposures to try and capture people when they were not moving much so they would retain their forms. This was my best shot of the bunch.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Diamond Head Volcano

Diamond Head is one of the most famous landmarks on Oahu and the entire state of Hawaii. It has once been an active volcano, but hasn’t spewed any ashes for more than 150,000 years. The extinct crater and lookout point at the peak of it is a popular hiking destination for many. In fact, Diamond Head is one of the most photographed and painted spots on Oahu, adorning many wall calendars and postcards. So I naturally had to do the classic postcard shot as the sun set into the Pacific Ocean behind me.  
Looking East toward Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach

Located at the eastern end of Waikiki and right on the ocean, Diamond Head has already made an impression to early sailors. In 1825, British sailors noticed small sparkling calcite crystals in the beach sand nearby the crater and named the mountain Diamond Hill. This name was later changed to Diamond Head. This is how the crater got its English name.The Hawaiian name for Diamond Head is Le‘ahi, a contraction of lae, meaning point of land and ‘ahi, meaning yellowfin tuna. So Le‘ahi means “point (of the) ahi fish.” From a distance, the mountain looks like the dorsal fin of the ahi fish, hence its Hawaiian name Le‘ahi.

Honolulu from the summit of Diamond Head

I thought it would be great to hike up to the top of Diamond Head and take some beautiful sunrise photos and night scenes of the city of Honolulu. There was only one problem, it is a state park, and it does not open that early. ( I think 06:30 Hrs.) Soooooooooo I had to find another way in and made the hike up in total darkness. Diamond Head Crater measures 3,520 feet across and 760 feet in height. A hiking trail leads from the crater up to a lookout point. But be prepared to climb some stairs. In fact, there are two stairs, one has 99 steps and a second one has 76 steps. There’s also a 225-foot hardly lit tunnel through which you’ll have to go. The tunnel is a remnant of the former military use of the crater. So you should be in good physical condition to do the hike.(Which I am not, so I was pretty gassed) But it’s definitely worth the effort once you reach the top.

As usual, Murphy's Law kicked in for me on this hike. I had not attached my tripod plate to my camera yet and had left it attached to the tripod. Well somewhere along the route of sneaking in and hiking in total darkness, my camera plate fell out of my tripod on the way up. So when I finally caught my breath and started to set up my camera I noticed the missing plate. This rendered my tripod useless. So I had to prop my camera on a concrete ledge of the lookout platform at the top and use my self-timer on the camera.

           Sunrise looking East from the top of Diamond Head

There are many things to see do while you are visiting the Island of Oahu, but if you are physically able, you will want to make the hike to the top. Amazing views that go on forever to the curve of the earth. As for my now useless tripod, I had to go buy another new tripod since no camera store could get me the correct plate for mine. I then shipped my useless tripod home in the new tripod box. Let me tell you that shipping stuff from Hawaii is expensive. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pearl Harbor


When my wife and I finally decided to plan a trip to the Hawaiian Islands I was really excited for all the amazing wonders I knew that I was finally going to get to see with my own eyes. But before I could go see all the natural beauty and amazing scenery that the islands have to offer, I had to first go the place I wanted to visit more than any other, Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial.

Pearl Harbor as my plane is on final approach to Honolulu Airport

December 7th, 1941, "A date that will live in infamy" - President Franklin D. Roosevelt.That phase has been burned into my memory since I was a small child studying history. I had always wanted to visit and pay my respects to those brave soldiers, airmen, and seamen that lost their lives  during that horrible sneak attack that drew the United States of America into World War II.

Entrance to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
If you plan to visit the Arizona Memorial  while you are on the Island of Oahu, I recommend getting to the memorial as soon as they open. The crowds that come to visit and tour the memorial are massive. I arrived early and the lines to get in were extremely long. No matter, I would have waited all day.   

The memorial that is attached to the sunken battleship Arizona

The USS Arizona (BB-39) was a Pennsylvania-class battleship of the United States Navy. Shortly after 08:00, a bomb dropped by a high-altitude Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bomber from the Japanese carrier Kaga hit the side of the #4 turret and glanced off into the deck below, starting a small fire but causing minimal damage.At 08:06, a bomb from a Hiryū "Kate" hit between and to port of Turrets #1 & 2. The subsequent explosion — which destroyed the forward part of Arizona — was due to the detonation of the ammunition magazine, located in an armored section under the deck. The massive explosion ripped through the forward part of the ship.

                                The names of the 1,177 crew killed in the attack

Due to large crowds that are moved through the memorial, I did not get to spend nearly enough time there as I would have liked. It is a very moving experience, and it is one of the few places I have been where everyone was quiet and respectful.                                                                                
#3 Gun Turrent USS Arizona

The Arizona continues to leak fuel oil into the harbor causing a slight oily film to be observed on the water.
Anchored nerby is the USS Missouri, site of the Japanese Surrender. It is also open to tours, but I did not get to that as the lines were just to long. Hopefully on my next trip. I would love to stand on the deck next to the spot where that surrender was signed. 

                        USS Missouri ( BB-63)

On the launch pulling away from the memorial

Ths is my favorite photograph from my trip to Pearl Harbor. As the launch pulled away and headed back. I stepped to the rear of the boat and framed in the waving flag from the back of the boat. Although I did some more sight seeing later in the day, it was not nearly as enjoyable as it could have been. I just kept thinking of what happened that day Pearl Harbor was attacked, and how so many of the men killed there had no chance to even fight back. I am so grateful for all the men and women that serve our country!

Have a great weekend...............

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sunrise At 10,000 Feet

In February of 2005 I was finally able to make a trip to the Hawaiian Islands. I spent 10 days trying to see as much as I possibly could fit in on three of the islands. The islands are truly a paradise. I had just purchased my first digital SLR, a Canon 20D. I knew I would not be happy with the kit lens so I dug into the piggy bank and also bought a Canon 16-35mm f2.8 L wide angle zoom. Being able to only afford one good lens, I opted for the wide angle since I figured I would be doing mostly landscape photography there. For the most part this ended up being a good choice, but there were times it was very limiting.

Sunrise from the summit of Haleakala Volcano

I had watched a special on the travel channel of the things you must do when you visit the Hawaiian Islands, and high on the list was traveling to the summit of the Haleakala Volcano to watch the sunrise. Haleakala National Park is located on the Island of Maui, near the costal town of Lahaina. So I set the alarm for 4:30am and made the 2 hour drive to the summit at just over 10,000 feet. When I left my hotel at sea level it was about 75 degrees, and at the summit it was about 30 degrees with a strong 30+ mph wind. This sent the wind cill factor to single digits. I have watched many beautiful and inspirational sunrises in my lifetime, but I will admit that watching the sun come up above the clouds at 10,000 feet gave me goose bumps and had me completely awe struck. I was so riveted watching the light come up that almost forgot to take photographs.
Haleakala in Hawaiian means "House of the Sun". I cannot think of a more fitting name.

                Inside the crater of Haleakala Volcano

From the summit you look down into a massive depression some 7 miles across, 2 miles wide, and nearly 2,600 feet deep. The surrounding walls are steep and the interior mostly barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones. The potentially active volcano has produced numerous eruptions in the last 30,000 years, including in the last 500 years.

 Silver Sword

One of the most fascinating members of the sunflower family is the infamous silver sword that grows in the cinders of Haleakala Crater on the island of Maui. The rosettes of sword-shaped leaves are covered with silvery hairs that reflect light and heat and provide insulation against the intense solar radiation and extreme aridity of this 10,000 foot volcanic mountain. In addition, the leaves contain air spaces filled with a gelatinous substance that absorbs and stores large quantities of water during the intervels between rains. This stored water is especially important when the plant blooms, because the fast-growing flower stalk requires a lot of moisture as it develops into a massive inflorescence. Another subspecies of silver sword grows on the upper slopes of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. Pretty amazing to stand and look at a plant that only grows in the small area of the summit of the volcano. 

If you ever make a trip to the Hawaiian Islands, this is a must see place to visit.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Saint Louis Zoo

When I have a desire to shoot the more exotic wildlife of the world, I again consult my checkbook and figure out that an African safari is out of the question and still only a dream. So I do the next best thing and I visit the Saint Louis Zoo. Now if you are from the St. Louis area and have visited the zoo, you appreciate how really great it is. The Saint Louis Zoo is consistently rated as one of the top zoo's in the country. The best part is it is free. Now let me repeat that. No admission, It is free!

                                  Amur Tiger

I really enjoy visiting  zoos, and do so whenever I travel to a destination that has one. I cannot recall ever getting into any other zoo free. They all have an admission charge of some type. Many are way over priced for what they offer, but I understand that it is very costly to run a zoo. So I am happy to pay the entrance fee to help support that institution. 

                                Polar Bear

The Saint Louis Zoo is celebrating it's 100th anniversary this year. They continue upgrade and expand the facilities there. The animal exhibits are designed to resemble their natural habitat and give the animals as much space as they can. The zoo is a world class facility, and I am lucky to get to visit as often as I do. 


As a photographer the Saint Louis Zoo is a great place to visit and create some amazing photographs. My goal on each visit is to come away with great photographs of the animals and the viewer not be able to say that is a zoo shot. I can't always accomplish that, but I will work extra hard to find a background or odd shooting angle to make the scene look as natural as I possibly can. Many times it will be a very tightly cropped shot, or carefully selected DOF to blur the background .

          Crested Screamer - South America

Not only do I enjoy creating a good photograph, but I also enjoy learning as much about the animals as I can. I doubt I may ever see many of the animals I  photograph at the various zoos in the wild. I am not here to debate the whole issue of  keeping perfectly healthy animals in zoos, or the whole other issue of shooting captive verses wild animals. My personal opnion is zoos are vital for education and research into protecting and saving many species.  

                Chinese Water Dragon

There are many factors that work against you as a photographer shooting at a zoo such as bars, wires, horrible lighting and backgrounds. But the good thing is the animals are accessible and not bothered by your presence. This allows you to take your time and figure out how to create the best possible shot. In the wild you may only have a few seconds to get a few frames off before the animal dissapears.

                        Grizzley Bear

I took Wednesday off  last week since the weather was going to be perfect. Although the zoo does not offically open until 9:00am, I walked in at 7:00am and found plenty to shoot and had the place to myself except for the keepers working in their areas. All was going well until every grade school in the metropolitian St. Louis area showed up at 9:00am for their field day at the zoo. WOW! It would have been safer to climb into the bear pits to avoid the mobs, but I beat a hasty retreat and got out before I was trampled by thousands of out of control children. So if you live in the Saint Louis area, you ought to visit the zoo again just to realize how lucky you are to have a world class zoo so close to you. If you are ever visiting St. Louis, put this place on your must see list.  Here is a link to the offical zoo website:

I hope you found this useful. Let me know if you think they look like zoo shots, or something a cut above that.