Posted by: kerryl29 | March 23, 2020

Hawaii Day 13, Part I: Papawai Point at Daybreak

Many thanks to everyone who commented on yesterday’s post.  Since the response was unanimous in favor of continuing, that’s what I’ll do for the foreseeable future.  I sincerely hope that reading these accounts and viewing the accompanying images serves as a distraction, albeit brief and inadequate, from the seemingly relentlessly bad read world news we’re all experiencing every day.


[If you’re wondering why I’m detailing photographic experiences on this blog as if a pandemic wasn’t ravaging the planet, click here.  Be sure to read the comments.]



This was the second to last full day of my Hawaii trip and I was determined to make the most of it.  I covered a lot of ground with far too much material to include in a single post so I’m going to break up the chronology into a series of entries–three or four in total; the exact number is still to be determined.  I started the day off with a return to Papawai Point for sunrise; then it was off to Iao Valley State Park, where I spent several hours; my next stop was Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge; and I ended the day with an exploration of south Maui.

This post covers my time at Papawai Point, a spot I originally visited on Day 11.  The sunrise fizzled that morning, but the location’s potential was beyond doubt.  If only conditions would cooperate.  Fortunately, on Day 13, they did.

There was a very interesting, and extensive, cloud formation spanning the eastern and southern skies when I arrived, shortly before the onset of civil twilight.  The views from Papawai Point–an easily accessed overlook right off the Honoapi’ilani Highway (HI-30), best known for whale spotting during the winter months when humpbacks are in the area–are extensive, covering roughly 180 degrees.  As you stand on the point, south Maui–dominated by the hulking presence of Haleakala–unfolds to the left.  Straight ahead lies the southern tip of south Maui, fringed by Molokini, a tiny crescent-shaped island designated as a marine sanctuary.  Continuing the sweeping view to the right, the uninhabited island of Kaho’olawe (the smallest of the eight major Hawaiian Islands, Kaho’olawe has no permanent population and is officially designated as a reserve) is next and, following a wide sweep of ocean, Lanai completes the vista, lying far to the right of one’s gaze.

The cloud formation began to take on color not long after the start of civil twilight and the show unfolded in stages from there.

{To assist those of you interested in the geography, I’ll make brief italicized comments about physical features below some of the images.)

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

The bump you see at the end of the south Maui mainland, near the bottom-center of the frame above, is known as Pu’u Ola’i, a vestige of a centuries-old volcanic eruption.  The little indentation just above the horizon line near the bottom-right part of the frame is Molokini.

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

From left to right, you can again see Pu’u Ola’i and Molokini.  The island in the right-hand corner at the bottom of the frame is Kaho’olawe.

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

The southwest slope of Haleakala undulates to the sea.

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

The color in the upper cloud cover faded to nothing.  Was the sunrise show over?  Hardly.

West Maui Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

That dome in the background is Haleakala.  They surely had a sunrise up there this morning.

The rising sun lit up the clouds over South Maui and the upper strata gradually came to light for the second time that morning.

West Maui Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

The show was in the sky.  I included a minimal amount of sea and land to anchor the compositions and placed the overwhelming emphasis on the part of the scene that was…well, overwhelming.

West Maui Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

West Maui Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

As you can by the changing colors of the clouds, by the time the image above was made, the sun had just crested Haleakala, to the southeast.  I turned my gaze–and camera–to the west.

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

That’s the lightly inhabited island of Lanai–home to the former Dole pineapple plantation–in the background at the right-center of the frame.

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

Morning, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

I mentioned the 180-degree views from Papawai Point.  But on this day, photographic interest was extended to 360 degrees.  Across the highway from the point is a rocky bluff, covered by chaotic grasses and dotted with trees.  It’s generally of no particular interest and typically ignored.  But as I was looking around that morning I noticed the sky above this bluff and had to capture the scene.

Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

Sunrise Black & White, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

The sun was climbing in the eastern sky by now–though partially blocked at times by clouds–and I turned back toward south Maui for a parting shot or two.

Morning, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

Morning, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

And with that, it was time to make my way to Iao Valley State Park.  I figured to arrive just about the time the gate opened at 7 AM.  There was a bit of a hiccup upon entry, but it wasn’t long before I began my several hour stay.  I’ll detail that experience in the next post.


  1. Wow, wow, and more wow! The clouds definitely made for a spectacular sunrise.

  2. Thank you – seeing lovely big skies was a brilliant way to spend my tea break 🙂

    • Thanks very much!

  3. Keep doing what you do, Kerry, it helps all of us. And yes, one good sunrise deserves another!

  4. I love when the light hits the clouds like that, and am wowed by the brilliant yellow in the sunrise.

    • Thanks very much, Jane!

  5. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos. I am sorry I have been busy other things so I have not looked at your blog recently. Your photos inspire me.

    • Thanks, Roland.

      There’s absolutely no need to apologize for anything.

  6. […] I finished my early morning shoot at Papawai Point I hastily made the 20-odd-minute drive to Iao Valley State Park.  The park is located just west of […]

  7. Stunning work, Kerry – some of those vertical sunrise clouds are jaw dropping, especially the West Maui Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii. The banana yellow color is surprising in some of the images – do you think some of the color comes from the reflected water? It has a tropical look to it somehow. I used to live in Virginia Beach and started to get serious about my photography there – the light was so different there because of the large bodies of water, lots of artists and photographers settled there.

    • Thanks very much, Lynn.

      I’m not sure what to say about the color; it could very well be nothing more than a combination of a color space conversion when prepping this image for online posting and a display calibration issue.

      That said, there was something different about the quality of light at the edges of the day that was different than what I’m used to seeing. Was it the latitude? The omnipresence of a huge body of water? Both? Something else entirely? I’m not sure, but there was definitely something…

      • It didn’t look like a processing issue, Kerry more like a true difference in the quality of the light. The last time I spent a week in VA Beach and got accustomed to the light and predominant colors there, I was shocked at the lush green of W PA when I returned home – it couldn’t have been more different. But then, you are Lightscapes, so you know about that already 🙂

  8. […] last year’s trip to Hawaii–and the last day of photography, period–began as the previous day, had:  at Papawai Point.  It was my third daybreak at the point, but good early morning spots are […]

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