Posted by: kerryl29 | December 16, 2019

Hawaii Day 6: Productivity? Not So Much

This was, photographically speaking, the least productive full day of my entire two-week trip to Hawaii.  Weather, as I’ll detail, is part of the explanation, as is a temporary malaise that had kind of set in.  I mentioned in my previous daily chronicle that I’d felt that I’d kind of run out of subject matter on Kauai and wondered, rather stupidly it turns out, if I’d scheduled too much time on the island.  I hadn’t, but I didn’t fully realize it until Day 7 (which will be the subject of a future piece).  Hawaii is the kind of a place where sloth seems to naturally occur,  as it sort of had for me the previous day and it essentially carried over into Day 6, at least for part of the morning.

The day started with a would-be sunrise shoot at Waipouli Beach, which was becoming something of a crutch for me, since it eliminated the need to get up extremely early to potentially catch first light.  Sunrise during my time in Hawaii was before 6:30 AM, but I like to be on location and set up at least 30 minutes prior and if there’s travel involved…you can easily see how this can lead to some very early mornings.  Being able to get to my destination in less than two minutes was a bit of a luxury and I’d fallen prey to it, at least somewhat.

It turned out to be a good call on this morning.  When I got out to the beach, with the light just coming up, it wasn’t looking very promising.  There was a lot of cloud cover and not much hope of anything particularly impressive.  In fact, right about the time that the sun was supposed to come up, it was actually getting darker as heavy clouds rolled in.  I anticipated the rain and managed to get myself, and my gear, below the hotel’s canopy before disaster struck.  Good thing because it poured.  This was, by far, the heaviest rainfall I saw during my time in Hawaii and it lasted awhile–a good 30 minutes or so, I’d estimate.  Water was pooling all over the place on the hotel grounds, but I stayed dry in my location and waited it out.  In fact, while I was standing there, waiting for the rain to stop–or even slow down, I noticed what I considered to be a nice composition and interesting light, obtainable right there from my spot under the canopy.  So I set up and made the below image.

Waipouli Beach at Daybreak, Kauai, Hawaii

That was the sum total of my “sunrise” shoot.  Eventually the rain stopped and, very quickly, it became sunny.  In fact, within minutes, the sky had almost totally cleared.  People talk about changeable weather all the time, and it’s certainly something that can happen in Hawaii.  The topography/geography, especially in specific locations, lends itself to rapidly changing conditions.

Before I left the beach area I saw another composition that intrigued me.  It was now, as I mentioned, sunny, but the sun was still quite low in the sky.

Morning Palm, Waipouli Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

This image was made with my 80-400 mm lens and required a focus bracket, though only a two-shot stack was needed.  The cloud bank you see at the horizon was drifting away and the rest of the sky was nearly totally clear at this point and that’s what almost all of the rest of the day would be like.  The day started with a deluge of rain and ended up being almost devoid of clouds for the remaining daylight hours.  It was also quite breezy.

I poked around parts of the eastern part of Kauai for part of the morning, doing some soft scouting, but no photographing.  At some point it occurred to me that I’d read, in a guidebook, about the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), located near the Poipu area.  The guidebook had a positive review of the place, though it noted that reservations were needed to visit.  I checked out their website and saw that they opened at 9, so I had to wait to call to see if I could make a reservation.  But while perusing the website, I saw that they were part of the reciprocal garden program that exists throughout the United States.  A membership at one affiliate often leads to discounted–or free–admission to other partners.  You have to check to find out specifics, but given that the base price for visiting the MacBryde Garden (one of two gardens located near Poipu–the other, the Allerton Garden, requires a guided tour, which I figured wouldn’t lend itself to photography) is $30, it was definitely worth inquiring. The MacBryde Garden is accessible via a self-guided tour.  (I am a member of the Morton Arboretum, located in DuPage County, Illinois, which is a reciprocal garden program affiliate.)

I called the NTBG shortly after 9 AM and found out that there were available reservation spots pretty much all day–roughly every hour on the half-hour.  The garden closes at 5 PM so the last tour leaves at 3:30 PM, which gives you about an hour to tour.  I was told that, if I went on the 2:30 tour I could stay until about 4:30, or roughly two hours.  That sounded pretty good to me, since the light would be improving later in the afternoon (and it would only be getting worse for the duration of the morning and early afternoon).  So I reserved the 2:30 time, then asked about the affiliate arrangement.  I was told that, as a member of the Morton Arboretum, I would be admitted for free.  That sounded even better.

So, I now had my afternoon planned.  It would take about 30 minutes to get to the garden’s visitors center.  I decided that I would go back to Poipu Beach after the tour was over, as I’d be less than five minutes away and it had proven to be a fine sunset location when I visited on Day 3.

What to do before mid-afternoon?  I spent a bit more time kicking around the eastern shore of Kauai, then returned to the hotel to pick some things up and, very late in the morning, just said the heck with it and drove down to Poipu.  I figured I’d kill a bit more time at the Spouting Horn Park, located right across the street from the NTBG visitors center.  So, that’s what I did.  I arrived there around noon, about two hours before I needed to be at the NTBG (they recommended showing up 30 minutes before the formal reservation time).

I’d photographed at Spouting Horn on Day 3, later in the afternoon than my arrival on this day.  The blowhole, while active, was a bit less impressive than it had been three days earlier, almost certainly because the tide was somewhat lower.  The surf appeared to be just as strong.

While I was there, I spotted some green sea turtles swimming in the cove just to the west of the lava shelf that contains the blowhole, so I spent some time trying to photograph them.  You will note that no sea turtle images appear here.  That’s because, candidly, none of them are any good.  Oh, you can tell, when viewing some of what I didn’t simply delete right off the card, that you’re looking at a sea turtle, but that’s about as good as it gets.  I did take a bit of time to photograph some of the numerous feral chickens that are always ubiquitous at this location (and just about everywhere else on Kauai, as I noted in an earlier post).

While I was at the Spouting Horn overlook people were coming and going, as they always do at this location, but at some point a tour bus showed up and disgorged a slew of Australian tourists who, collectively, turned out to be my afternoon’s entertainment.  I remember thinking, after I left, what a miserable experience it would have been to be part of that tour.  Most–but not all–of the participants were retirement age.  One of them came up to me, while I was trying to photograph the turtles–which required me to rack the lens all the way out to 400 mm, given the distance involved–and said, in a very thick Australian accent, “That’s a big lens.  You could see the fuzz on a peach from 500 miles away with that.”  Uh huh.  I explained that I was trying to photograph green sea turtles.  Without skipping a beat he said: “Sharks like them.”  And walked away.

My position was to the side of the main viewing area, since I wasn’t trying to photograph the Spouting Horn itself.  Good thing, that.  Dozens of people, almost all of them from the bus, had crammed themselves along the guardrail that provides the best vantage point to view the blowhole.  Remember, the blowhole only does its thing a few times a minute, when a wave with sufficient oomph crashes into the lava shelf.  Frequently, particularly when the tide isn’t at its highest and the surf isn’t monstrous, not much happens.  You may have to wait for awhile to see good action.  And, after you’ve seen it once, there’s a tendency to want to hang around and see if you can see it again…or something even better.

As I said, I was off to the side, not in anyone’s way.  But the folks from the bus were getting in one another’s way quite a bit.  Many people wanted to photograph the Spouting Horn in action–with their cellphone cameras.  And since this requires a bit of good timing–which takes a little while to figure out–and some halfway decent command of the cellphone camera’s controls, which many of these people didn’t have, there was a tendency for these folks to loiter in place, even longer than many visitors.  After all, given the press of the crowd at this point, if you left your spot you weren’t getting it back any time soon.  And, since this was a tour, these people weren’t going to have the opportunity to hang around the overlook all afternoon.

At some point, after this noisy group had been in place for some time, one of the younger tour members–I’d guess she was in her mid-20s–seeing that no one was going to move, just kind of slipped her way to the front, saying, pleasantly, “Can I slip, in there?  Thanks, thanks.”  No one was moving much, but she was determined and somehow made her way to the rail.  She was there for several minutes–I’m not sure exactly how long this went on, as I really was trying to concentrate on the turtles.  But, when she’d gotten the image she apparently wanted, she said “Thanks very much” and navigated herself away from the rail and out of the crowd.  Once she made it to the periphery, one of the older male tour members said, very loudly:  “‘Bout time!  You just pushed your way in there!”  To which she replied:  “I’m sorry!  I did say ‘excuse me.'”  This was done in a tone of…how should I put this…politeness, because it was very clear that she wasn’t sorry.  The older gentlemen just grumbled something inaudible and things settled back into a dull roar.  But I couldn’t help but think what fun that tour would be.  Tour buses aren’t my thing to begin with and I overheard one of the participants comment on the fact that this was the first full day of the tour and that it would be going on for at least another week.  First day and it was already a gripe fest.  What would the seventh day be like?  These people might kill one another before they returned to Australia.

I spent as much time at Spouting Horn Park as I could stand but by 1:30 or so I’d had enough and made my way over to the NTBG visitors center.  The drive took about a minute.  I was at least 30 minutes earlier than I needed to be and had nearly an hour to kill before the tour itself so I spent some time browsing in the gift shop and examined some of the trees and flowering plants near the building.  The NTBG itself requires a shuttle bus ride from the visitors center; it takes about 15 minutes to get there.  There were only two other people–who were together–who were part of my tour group.  The bus driver, a musician who had moved to Kauai 15 years earlier, had an excellent sense of humor, and provided us with an entertaining narrative, giving us some background about the garden, some of the plants we’d see and so forth, as we drove to MacBryde over a bumpy, unpaved road.  When we got to our destination, we were told that he’d be back in an hour with the last tour group, if we were ready to head back, or in about two hours if we wanted to stay on until the day’s last pickup.  I knew I’d be in that second group.

When we got to the drop off spot, I headed one way, the other two people headed another way, and I never saw another soul until an hour had gone by when I spotted three people–again, all together–who made up the entirety of the final tour of the day.  I never saw the other two people who came in on the bus with me; the driver told me later that they’d gone back on his earlier circuit.

The weather was, to put it bluntly, awful for my purposes.  It was full on sun and breezy; just about perfectly imperfect for the kind of photography I wanted to do.  For a general walking tour of the garden, it was just about ideal, as the breeze made the standard Hawaiian heat and humidity quite tolerable.  The garden itself was quite beautiful; two hours isn’t nearly enough to see everything if you’re trying to photograph, as I was.  I saw maybe half of it.  If it had been cloudy and calm, I doubt I’d have seen 1/10 of it in two hours, I would have spent so much time photographing.  Weather notwithstanding this made a nice diversion from most of the photography I’d been doing since arriving on Kauai.

Banana Leaf Closeup, MacBryde Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauai, Hawaii

I didn’t have my macro lens with me–I couldn’t justify trying to bring it on the trip, given all of the issues with size and weight on the airplane/luggage hold–so I relied on my 80-400 and 24-70 for the closeup work that I did.

Palm Trunk Lichen, MacBryde Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauai, Hawaii

There were plenty of subjects, despite the far less than ideal conditions, that caught my eye and I did what I could to eliminate hot spots from my compositions.

Tree Roots Black & White, MacBryde Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauai, Hawaii

Ficus Tree Closeup Black & White, MacBryde Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauai, Hawaii

In good weather conditions, to the extent they ever really exist at this location, I could have happily spent all day in the garden…though I’m not sure that’s allowed.

Fallen Frond Abstract, MacBryde Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauai, Hawaii

Thatch Palm Closeup Black & White, MacBryde Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauai, Hawaii

Before it was time to depart, I did something different and pulled out my 14-24 mm ultra wide zoom (the relevance of this will become apparent in a future post) to produce a skyward image of a majestic tree that captivated me.  It was a completely different approach compared to everything else I did while I was at MacBryde.

MacBryde Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauai, Hawaii

It was just a bit before 5 PM when the last bus of the day returned me and the three people who had been on the 3:30 incoming tour back to the visitors center.  As I had planned, I made my way over to Poipu Beach Park from this point; the trip took less than 10 minutes and I had a bit more than an hour’s time before sunset.  I’d given this beach area–which still had quite a few visitors late on this Sunday afternoon–a good scout three days earlier and so on this occasion, perhaps inspired by my time at the NTBG, I decided to try and photograph some of the flowering bushes I came across.

It was a bit of an exercise in frustration because I was getting slow shutter speeds and there was still a persistent breeze to deal with, but I eventually persevered.

Frangipani, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Before heading down to beach level I produced a couple of images of the park’s palm trees, as I am wont to do given my affinity for palms.

Evening Palms, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Evening Palms, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

The sunset this evening didn’t hold a candle to the spectacular event I’d witnessed and captured on Day 3.  But the innate subtlety of the scene was quite attractive to my eyes.

Poipu Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Poipu Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Poipu Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Poipu Beach at Dusk, Kauai, Hawaii

Poipu Beach at Dusk, Kauai, Hawaii

And with that, another day of photography came to a conclusion.  The next day, Day 7, would be unexpectedly rewarding and served as a good reminder that there are always locations worthy of exploration and revelation.



  1. Australian culture is much more confrontational and outspoken than most of the USA and is very much a “sorry, not sorry” culture. From your description, I think they were just being normal… 🙂

    • This hasn’t been my experience with the Australians I’ve met over the years, but I have to acknowledge that my experience has been with isolated individuals (and not in Australia), so is very likely not a representative sample.

      I do have to say, if that’s normal, it’s a a normal I’d have a lot of trouble adapting to. 🙂

  2. […] each of the past two chronological entries (Day 5 and Day 6) I mentioned that I’d fallen into a bit of a malaise.  I kind of felt as though I’d […]

  3. […] blog post.   I couldn’t understand what was wrong as I had used the lens without incident a few days prior, when I was at the National Botanical Garden on Kauai.  It literally hadn’t been out of my […]

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