Posted by: kerryl29 | December 9, 2019

Thematic Interruption: THAT’S Hawaii?

I alluded to this in an earlier post:  I came across very, very few other people during my time in Hawaii whose primary reason for visiting was photography and I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out why this was the case.  I think that the principal reasons are that 1) Hawaii is an expensive place to go and, 2) perhaps more importantly, there’s a kind of stereotype that Hawaii is essentially beaches and palm trees and little else.  Couple them together and…it’s pretty easy, I think, to conclude that there are cheaper places to photograph beaches and palm trees…so if you want to photograph beaches and palm trees…well, you get the idea.

The problem I have with this thinking is that half of the stereotype about Hawaii is dead wrong.  Yes, Hawaii is expensive; but there’s much, much more to photograph than beaches and palm trees (though it is, in fact, a great place to photograph beaches and palm trees}.  Like most stereotypes, there’s an element of truth embedded within.

Since I’ve returned and completed the post processing of the images I made while in Hawaii, I’ve shown the odd photograph to people I know and I’ve been struck by the frequency with which I’ve been greeted with the statement (or some variation thereof):  “I never would have guessed that’s Hawaii.”  Here’s a sampling of those images presented without further comment…other than to note that nary a beach nor a palm tree appears in any of these photographs.

Ukumahame Beach Black & White, Maui, Hawaii

Haleakala Crater, Keonehe’ehe’e Trail, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Black Swan, Kaanapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Banyan Tree Black & White, Pipiwai Trail, Kipahulu District, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Feral Goat, Hoapili Trail, Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Area Reserve, Maui, Hawaii

Rooster, Waimea Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Iao Stream, Iao Valley State Park, Maui, Hawaii

Pali, Awa’awapuhi Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Haleakala Crater from Kalahaku Lookout, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Sunrise, Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Mushroom Rock, Maui, Hawaii

Moluccan Albizia Meadow Black & White, Upcountry Kauai, Hawaii

Acid War Zone Black & White, Maui, Hawaii

Moluccan Albizia Forest, Wailua Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

Haleakala Mountain, Maui, Hawaii

Cook Pines Black & White, Prince Edward Park, Kauai, Hawaii

MacBryde Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauai, Hawaii

I’ll move on to Day 6 in my next post, when beaches and palm trees will undoubtedly make return appearances.

Posted by: kerryl29 | December 2, 2019

Hawaii Day 5: Plugging Gaps

Weather considerations and reservation limitations had caused me to do my two longest planned hikes on the second and third full days on Kauai.  But I still had three full days–and the morning of a fourth–left on the island and I didn’t have all that many planned locations left to visit.  I was beginning to wonder, somewhat absurdly, if I’d scheduled too much time on the island.  I’d already visited Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Parks twice; I’d used up my reservations at Ha’ena State Park.  I’d visited the area around Poipu Beach and been treated to a phenomenal sunset on Day 3.  Visiting Polihale State Park had been ruled out based on my experience on Day 4.  The only specific places left on the docket were three waterfalls, two of which were the overlook type that wouldn’t take much time.  My plan was to knock off all three of these on Day 5.  What would I do the two days after that?

I started with sunrise–not a great one, as it turned out–at my “home” beach.  I’d become somewhat spoiled with the ability to more or less roll out of bed and be on Waipouli Beach in less than a minute.  It was a lot easier than getting up an hour or two earlier and driving to some remote spot.

Waipouli Beach at Sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

Waipouli Beach at Sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

From there I got in the car and made the 10-15 minute drive to Ho’opi Falls, reached via a trailhead abutting a residential area.  Here, Kapa’a Stream cuts through a gorge and spills over two waterfalls, both of which lie on public land and are accessible.  There’s some disagreement over which of these is technically Ho’opi Falls; some say it’s the upper tier while others favor the lower cataract.  Neither side appears to feel that the unfavored falls is deserving of a name.  Being solutions-oriented, I decided to split the difference by referring to them as Upper and Lower Ho’opi Falls.

I have concluded that this area–the gorge that Kapa’a Stream flows through, including both sets of Ho’opi Falls, is the most humid place on the planet.  It certainly was that the morning I visited.

During my time in Hawaii, I was extremely cognizant of the condensation problem created when photo equipment is taken from a cool, dry place (read:  a hotel room) into a warm, moist place (i.e. anywhere outdoors in the State of Hawaii).  My hotel room on Kauai had a balcony, inaccessible to anyone without going through my room.  I took to leaving my photo backpack, with all of its key contents, on that balcony overnight so I wouldn’t have to deal with the inevitable condensation on the glass of any of my lenses when exposing them to the elements each day.  I dutifully did that on this day and, as you can see above, made some images first thing that morning without succumbing to any issues.  I then transported my gear, in the backpack, to my vehicle, put the backpack in the non-climate-controlled trunk, and made the relatively short drive to Ho’opi Falls.

When I got to the location and discovered, with little difficulty, the somewhat obscured trailhead, I found everything absolutely drenched with dew.  It had not rained in the area since some time the previous day.  (It rains for part of just about every day on the east side of Kauai.)  The trail, which descended gently, was slick as all get out, significantly worse than the Kalalau Trail had been two days prior.  Just walking down this trail, which was plenty wide, was a dubious proposition.  The trail followed Kapa’a Stream downriver and gradually descended to near water level.  Negotiating a modestly sloping bank to get down from the trail to rapids well above the still unseen Upper Ho’opi Falls was a dicey proposition, but I managed to make it.  I then climbed back up to the trail itself, with less difficulty.  The falls were now audible and, after a bend in the stream, they came into sight–about 25 feet below the trail itself.  Worn areas on the embankment showed the way down–there were several paths–but it was steep and, again, extremely slick.  I very carefully negotiated the worst parts and managed to reach a point where I could walk down to the stony area abutting the falls.  This area was slicker still than anything I’d seen to this point.  It was extremely warm and I was now drenched with sweat–a now recurring theme on this trip.  In an ominous sign, my eyeglasses kept fogging over.  The humidity was so thick it could have been sliced with a butter knife.

I set my backpack and tripod down in a safe spot on a wide, protruding rock and proceeded to check the immediate area out, sometimes by literally sliding on the rock surface.  I found all kinds of interesting angles and, again with great care, took hold of my camera and tripod and began the photo process.  I removed the lens cap and the front element of the camera immediately fogged up with condensation.  I wiped it off with a cloth and it fogged up again.  I was simply going to have wait for the acclimation process to mature and, given how humid it was, that took some time but eventually I was able to begin photographing.

Upper Ho’opi Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

Upper Ho’opi Falls Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

Moving into some of these positions to photograph the falls required great care.  My stone platform was plenty wide, but to achieve the perspectives I wanted I had to get fairly close to the edge.  Upper Ho’opi Falls is roughly a 30-foot drop into a narrow, rocky gorge, with rapidly flowing water.  The stone platform I was on sloped gently toward the gorge and was beyond-description slippery.  There were a few spots I would have liked to check out but didn’t dare, even without my gear, as falling into the gorge would have been a very bad scene and a very real possibility.

Kapa’a Stream, Kauai, Hawaii

Kapa’a Stream Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

Kapa’a Stream immediately above the falls was itself quite interesting and much more easily investigated safely, as there was no drop-off to speak of.

Upper Ho’opi Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

Upper Ho’opi Falls Intimate Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

I got to the stream as early in the day as possible both in an attempt to beat the inevitable crowds (this was a Saturday, so things would be even worse than normal) and to give myself the best chance to make images while the light was still even.  Sure enough, while I was working on the upper falls, sunlight started to encroach on parts of the scene.  I worked in some areas that remained tight, in open shade, and in other cases waited for a cloud to drift in front of the sun.

Upper Ho’opi Falls Intimate, Kauai, Hawaii

Upper Ho’opi Falls Intimate Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

Upper Ho’opi Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

White Lady Intimate, Kapa’a Stream, Kauai, Hawaii

Upper Ho’opi Falls Intimate, Kauai, Hawaii

When I finished at this spot–perhaps more accurately, when the sun became enough of an annoyance to finish me–I decided to follow the overgrown trail downstream nearly half a mile to Lower Ho’opi Falls.  In a sense, the lower falls are more impressive than the upper falls, but less photogenic in a way.  While it’s impossible to get into a position to photograph the upper falls from below–there’s literally nowhere to stand to do so–the lower falls, which drops roughly 40 feet, can be rendered from both above and below…though getting down to the “below” spot requires some effort.  By the time I got to the upper falls, the sun was out full blast and other people had shown up.  After investigating what it would take to get down to water level, I decided to stay up top.  Had the light been consistently even, I would have gone down to the lower location and poked around but that felt like a needless waste of time and effort under the circumstances.  I found a composition I liked from above, set up and waited for a cloud.  That wait lasted a solid half an hour, if not more.  But eventually, the scene was bathed in even light; that lasted about 20 seconds before the sun reappeared.

Lower Ho’opi Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

Having obtained the image, I retreated to the blessed cool of my vehicle.  It was now late morning.

With the sun fully out now–it was as close to fully clear at this stage as at any point since I’d been in Hawaii–and with other waterfalls the only other things directly on my agenda, I wasn’t sure what to do, so I retreated back to the hotel.  The sky was virtually clear, the light was awful, there was no specific place that I wanted to scout and so I did something that I basically never do:  I hung out on the beach for about 90 minutes.  The place I was staying had some lounge chairs out under the shade trees on the beach; I sat down in one and inertia took over for awhile.  Once it reached early afternoon I noticed that some clouds were blowing in and I arose, hoping that it would cloud over enough to make it possible to photograph the other waterfalls on my list.  It did so and I was on my way.

My first stop was the overlook for Opaeka’a Falls, only about 15 minutes from the hotel.

Opaeka’a Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

This is a bit of one trick pony; the only way to photograph the falls is from the overlook.  There are some compositional choices, however, partly because the overlook walkway wraps around the edge of a cliff for about 500 feet and partly because there’s always the option to include or exclude certain elements.

Opaeka’a Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

Opaeka’a Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

Opaeka’a Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

Opaeka’a Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

Literally across the street from the Opaeka’a Falls parking lot is the Wailua River overlook, which has an attractive scene of its own to reveal.

Wailua River, Wailua State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

When I was done at this location it was on to Wailua Falls, about 10 minutes further into the interior part of Kauai.  While it’s possible to photograph this waterfall from below, there’s no official trail or uncomplicated way of getting down to river level.  I satisfied myself with the lookout point above.

Wailua Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

Wailua Falls Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

As attractive as Wailua Falls is, I was almost as intrigued by some of the trees in the thick forest surrounding the river.

Moluccan Albizia Forest, Wailua Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

Moluccan Albizia Forest, Wailua Falls, Kauai, Hawaii

Though these Moluccan Albizia trees aren’t native to Hawaii–they were imported from Indonesia–I found them fascinating, particularly when observable in isolation.  On my way out of the Wailua Falls area, I passed an open pasture that included some mature specimens of this species and I stopped to make an image that caught my eye, though the light wasn’t ideal.

Moluccan Albizia Meadow Black & White, Upcountry Kauai, Hawaii

It was now early evening.  One of the things about Kauai is that finding good sunset locations is a bit of a challenge when located on the eastern side of the island.  There are some decent locations far to the north–in the neighborhood of Princeville, Hanalei and all the way up to the end of the road at Ke’e Beach, where I’d ended my first full day on the island.  And, all the way down at Poipu, and points further west on the southern shore, also make potentially good end of day locations.  Unfortunately, I was nowhere near any of these places and really didn’t have time to get there before the appointed hour.  So I decided to make my way to Secret Beach, north of my location on the east coast, where the Kilauea Point Lighthouse could be seen from water level.  I hadn’t visited this spot yet but had read about it.  I figured I had about enough time to get there with 30 minutes to spare before sunset.

The thing about Secret Beach–and presumably the reason it got its name–is that it’s a pretty decent walk down there from the parking area.  This is not one of those fall-out-of-your-car-onto-the-beach locations.  There’s about a quarter of a mile hike, on a steep path, down to the sand and the beach is quite deep, so it’s a decent walk from the point one reaches the beach until one nears the surf.  Still, I got down there roughly when I expected–about 30 minutes before sunset.  There weren’t that many people on the beach when I arrived and more were leaving with each passing minute as the daylight dwindled.

I found a rocky area and set up shop.  The lighthouse (it’s hard to see in some of these images due to the size) is in the background, on the cliff near the upper right-hand part of the frame.

Secret Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Secret Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Secret Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

The sun was setting more or less directly behind my position and there was really nothing particularly compelling, photographically speaking, in that direction, so I simply continued to focus my attention on the lighthouse as the light got better and better.

Secret Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Secret Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Kilauea Point Lighthouse from Secret Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Kilauea Point Lighthouse from Secret Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

And with that, the light was gone.  By the time I reached the trail at the back of the beach it was almost completely dark and the steep path through the thick woods was absolutely pitch black.  Good thing I had my headlamp.

Posted by: kerryl29 | November 25, 2019

Hawaii Day 4: The 12-Mile (at least) Hike

When I think of Day 4 of my trip to Hawaii this past September I’m invariably reminded of dialogue from an episode (“Chief Surgeon Who?”) broadcast during the first season of the television series M*A*S*H.  In that episode, a visiting general has some choice words for Frank Burns:

Gen. Barker:  Can I make a suggestion about Major Burns?  Give him a high colonic and send him on a 10-mile hike.

Hawkeye:  With full pack.

Gen. Barker:  Nice touch.

While I skipped the high colonic, I did go on a ten-mile–and then some–hike…yes, with full pack.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I had planned this hike for one day–without being specific about exactly which day–during my time on Kauai.  It was the weather forecast, and the weather on previous days, that forced my hand.  This very long day hike, along a pair of ridges penetrating the Na Pali Coast in Koke’e State Park, was a purported ten miles in length with thousands of feet of elevation loss, and then gain.  It required dry weather, not only for the day of the hike, but preferably for several days prior to the hike.  Why?  Avoidance of mud.  I detailed what the Kalalau Trail was like when wet, but that trail involved relatively little elevation gain/loss.  Those kinds of conditions on this hike would make it nearly impossible to carry out.

The weather had been try for several days in the Koke’e area, but the forecast going forward was for a significant chance of rain for the next…well, for as many days as remained in the forecast, spanning the duration of my time on Kauai and then some.  And,  this significant chance of rain was supposed to begin by early afternoon of the day I was going to carry out the hike, i.e. Day 4.  If I was going to do this hike, I was going to have to do it on this day and start as early as possible.  This meant breaking in my new pair of hiking boots on an all-day hike–not an ideal set of circumstances, but I really had no choice (other than to forego the hike entirely.

What was the alleged payoff?  Spectacular, essentially otherwise unattainable views of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast.  This was something I didn’t want to miss.

So, with all of that in mind, I decided to go to Waimea Canyon for sunrise, then make the relatively short (about 10 minutes) drive to the trailhead in Koke’e State Park and begin this lengthy hike as early as possible.

I had been to Waimea Canyon on Day 2, so I had the benefit of knowing how early I would have to arise to make it to the Waimea Canyon Lookout on time for dawn.  (Answer:  about 4:15 AM.)  I ended up arriving just as the light was coming up in the sky–a bit later than I would have liked, but, as it turned out, in plenty of time to catch dawn and the ensuing sunrise.  There was one other photographer at the lookout in the chilly, and somewhat windy, morning conditions when I arrived but we stayed entirely out of one another’s way as he favored a spot that I found utterly unappealing.  (He presumably had the same thoughts about my chosen location.)

Sunrise, Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Sunrise, Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Sunrise, Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii.

Sunrise, Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Sunrise, Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

When the sun crested the canyon rim, I quickly gathered up my things and made a beeline to the trailhead parking area for the Nualolo Trail.

The hike I had planned actually included three trails, that taken together make a kind of a loop.  It’s not technically a loop because you end up at the trailhead of the third trail and have to walk roughly two miles on the Koke’e park road to get back to your vehicle.  The hike starts with the Nualolo Trail, which runs approximately four miles from the trailhead out to what is known as Lolo Vista, a cliffside point with views of the Nualolo Valley and a major chunk of the Na Pali Coast.  The trail drops approximately 1700 feet in elevation, and while it descends fairly steadily it’s not particularly steep until the hiker reaches a segment in the final mile.  About a mile from the end, the trail intersects with the Nualolo Cliffs Trail which serves as a connector with the Awa’awapuhi Trail to the northeast, which has it’s own vista point, about one half mile below the intersection with the Cliffs Trail.  The Awa’awapuhi Trail is a bit more than three miles in length with more than 1600 feet of elevation change.  It is relentless in its ascent and descent, though it’s never particularly steep.

For a variety of reasons, it’s recommended to do the loop in a clockwise direction, that is, starting with Nualolo, then the Cliffs connector, then down to the Awa’awapuhi overlook, then back up the full length of the Awa’awapuhi Trail, then, the park road back to the Nualolo parking area.  I’ve seen all kinds of vague estimates of the total distance of this hike, assuming one does it in the manner just described and goes down to both lookout points.  I have calculated the distance as roughly 12.6 miles.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

So, I got to the Nualolo parking area, which was deserted, naturally enough, about 30 minutes after sunrise.  I quickly applied sunscreen and took a liter-sized bottle of water, a few things to eat, pared my photo backpack down to one (!) camera body and two lenses (24-70 and 80-400) and hit the trail.  Why the paring down?  Did I mention the 12.6 mile hike?  The large bottle of water?  The combined elevation change on the three trails of roughly 4000 feet?  Yes?  Well, that’s why.

I saw no one on the Nualolo Trail, at any point.  I was told that the trail could be overgrown in spots and, sure enough, it was.  My bare legs (too warm for long plants/long sleeves, I decided–and, was I ever right about that) ended up getting somewhat cut up by some of the overgrowth, but it was nothing serious.  The trail down, for almost all of the first three miles, is through a series of ecosystems, including thick forest, grassy areas, what almost resembled high desert, and three or four other types of landscape.  Quite interesting, but not particularly photogenic, in my opinion.  Besides, it was sunny this entire time, and the light was far from ideal considering the growth I was going through.  Since the trail was almost entirely downhill, I didn’t stop until I was near the end and made very good time.

After reaching the junction with the Nualolo Cliffs Trail, just under one mile from Lolo Vista, the trail gets steeper and opens up with views of the valleys on both sides of the ridge.  You realize, almost instantly, what a narrow spine you’re traversing at this point.  Eventually, you’re perched on a ribbon of dirt, peering down into the Nualolo Valley to your right, and you begin to catch a glimpse of some excellent views of the mysterious Na Pali Coast.  Moving on to Lolo Vista itself–there’s a sign, essentially telling you that you’re there–you’re treated to the promised views:  the reason why you went to all of this trouble in the first place.

Na Paii Coast from Lolo Vista, Nu’alolo Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Paii Coast from Lolo Vista, Nu’alolo Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Paii Coast from Lolo Vista, Nu’alolo Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Paii Coast from Lolo Vista, Nu’alolo Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

This was also a good spot to pick out abstracts of the fascinating pali (i.e. cliffs) that give the Na Pali Coast its name.  I made considerable use of my telephoto lens at this point.

Pali Shadows, Na Paii Coast from Lolo Vista, Nu’alolo Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Pali Shadows Black & White, Na Paii Coast from Lolo Vista, Nu’alolo Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Pali Shadows, Na Paii Coast from Lolo Vista, Nu’alolo Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Pali, Nu’alolo Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Pali Black & White, Nu’alolo Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Valley Shadows, Nu’alolo Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

After admiring the views from the area around Lolo Vista for some time, I retraced my steps on this steep section of the Nualolo Trail to the point where the Nualolo Cliffs Trail junctions.  This pathway is one of the most overgrown trails I’ve ever hiked.  I counted 11 downed tree trunks across the trail (which runs two miles), all of which I was able to clear, with varying difficulty.  This trail isn’t particularly steep, but it can, in spots, be extremely difficult to follow.  Nualolo Cliffs traverses some extremely lush areas, as the below photo demonstrates.  It was as I was nearing the end of the Cliffs Trail that I encountered my first hikers of the day–a couple that was doing the loop in the opposite direction.  We chatted briefly and I was then on my way.

Nu’alolo Cliffs Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

I reached the Awa’awapuhi Trail eventually and made the relatively short half-mile hike down to the lookout point.  There’s a guard rail at one point, which represents the official viewpoint, from which you can see absolutely nothing.  I did stop at this spot for some water.  While I was there, several red-crested cardinals–presumably looking for a handout–dropped by.

Red-Crested Cardinal, Awa’awapuhi Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

The Awa’awapuhi Trail clearly gets more traffic than the Nualolo Trail, presumably because it’s roughly one-mile shorter; that’s one-way.  As an out-and-back, the Awa’awapuhi Trail is two miles shorter than the Nualolo Trail, which is an obvious benefit.  It’s also in much better shape (there are no overgrown sections of the Awa’awapuhi Trail) and, while more relentless in its incline/decline, isn’t as steep in its worst sections.  Still, when I got to the “official” lookout point, there was no one else there.  I could see a (presumably unofficial) trail leading down from this official lookout spot and, though it was quite steep, I made it down this relatively short section with no real difficulty.  The section ends at a spot with some nice views.

Na Pali Coast, Awa’awapuhi Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Pali, Awa’awapuhi Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Pali, Awa’awapuhi Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Pali Coast, Awa’awapuhi Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

You can go further on this trail, if you dare.  The image below shows the promontory that you have to cross to do so.  That small connector at the bottom is about two feet wide.  To the left, is a drop of about 15 feet to a grassy area which falls away fairly rapidly.  If you fell off to the left, you’d probably live to tell the tale.  The fall off to the right is about 2000 feet straight down; there’s no grassy area…or, more accurately, if there is, you’re 2000 feet above it.

Na Pali Coast from the, Awa’awapuhi Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

I started to cross this small footbridge, carrying my heavy pack and my tripod…and my brain absolutely wouldn’t let me do it.  It was one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had.  I simply could not cross that narrow passage.  I mean…I’ve hiked the Angel’s Landing Trail at Zion National Park in Utah.  Twice.  I didn’t have anything like this experience.  I decided that at least part of the problem had to be the fact that I don’t have nearly the sense of balance when I’m hauling a heavy pack–and carrying a tripod in my hands–as I do when I’m unencumbered (center of gravity being what it is).  So I set both backpack and tripod down and was able to overcome the stumbling block…crossing the small “bridge” with relatively little difficulty.  But to obtain even more views, you have to go over the high point you see in the above image and the area where I’d left my things is completely out of sight if you do so.  You can’t see it again at any point further along (and it gets even hairier in spots further down that ridge).  There also really isn’t anywhere worth taking a picture of where you can set up a tripod.  While I was down there dealing with all of this, some other hikers came down to where I was and, since I didn’t want to leave my things unattended I retreated back across the “bridge” to the previous spot.

I spent quite a bit of time at this location–on the “safe” side of the precipice, with my backpack and tripod.  What I concluded, based on what I’d seen, was that while this spot had some really fascinating views, they didn’t really make for particularly fascinating landscape images.  For a variety of reasons, this was one of those “good views don’t necessarily make good photographs” situations (a subject I mused about in an entry I posted several years ago).

I kept waiting for people to leave, so that I could take another look over the ridge without worrying about what I was leaving behind, but more people kept showing up.  (A goodly number of them couldn’t bring themselves to step across that narrow “bridge,” even while carrying next to nothing.  I could understand why, after I thought about it for a bit.  There was no way to safely walk across that narrow, uneven area–it’s not remotely flat, not incidentally–without looking down to make sure where you’re stepping.  And when you do that, guess what you see?  That’s right, the cliffside, inches from where you want to step, and the dizzying site of the valley floor, 2000 feet below.  And if that bothers you…you’re not going to be able to make it across.  And it’s pretty normal to be bothered by something like this.  I realized later, that I could have gotten around the problem that *I* had–which was limited to trying to make it across with the weight of all of my things–if I’d sat down on the rocks and scooted across while carrying my pack and tripod.  But that would have been pointless because, as I’d seen on the other side, there was really no place wide enough to set up a tripod that was worth doing so, certainly not without blocking someone else’s ability to get by.

Eventually, I retreated back up the steep mountainside to the “official” viewpoint, where I drank the remainder of the water I’d brought…and it was at this point that a light rain began to fall.  It had been growing increasingly cloudy, just as forecast, for the past hour or more.  I decided that it was time to clear out.  I’d read that the Awa’awapuhi Trail–to say nothing of Nualolo–could be extremely difficult to traverse when wet, so I set off.  The hike out was not pleasant.  It rained–never very hard–off and on for the entire remainder of the hike.  The trail was okay–not really slippery at all, I suppose because it had been dry for several days and the rain was so light.  But, having already hiked the better part of eight miles that day and still dragging around a heavy pack up a relentlessly uphill trail that was gaining an average of 500 feet of elevation per mile…let’s just say that I’ve had more enjoyable experiences.

I did stop, briefly, on the way up, during a lull in the rain, to photograph a ferny area that I found captivating.  In a sense, recognizing the photo opportunity despite all the stress served as validation that my neurons were still firing.

Fern Forest, Awa’awapuhi Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

About 1.5 miles before the trailhead, I started dreaming of water.  I had already sweated through my clothes two or three times that day and I was out of water, naturally.  I was, in short, kind of running out of gas, but I pushed on without pausing.  I reached the trailhead and prepared for the two mile hike, in the light rain, on the park road back to my car.  I had to dodge cars on the road, of course, but it was nice to be walking on a paved surface that only undulated a bit, rather than hiking up a steep trail filled with rocks and tree roots.  On the park road, I met the couple I’d run into on the Nualolo Cliffs Trail.  They were heading to their own vehicle, which was parked at the Awa’awapuhi parking area.

I got back to the car, completing the nearly 13-mile hike, and immediately drained one of the four bottles of water I’d left there.  It was now about 3 PM, about eight hours after I’d started the hike.  I drove out of Koke’e, through Waimea Canyon State Park and, eventually, all the way down to the highway in the town of Waimea.  What to do with the last few hours of daylight?

It was cloudy now, and shortly after I reached the highway, a heavy rain squall blew through.  I decided that, given how close I was, I would try to make my way out to Polihale State Park, which is at the end of the road, at sea level, on the southwest part of Kauai.  The beach at Polihale came recommended and I wanted to check it out.  I figured that I’d try to shoot sunset out there, even though it wasn’t looking very promising for a good sunset.  I’d driven out of the rain squall–and it clearly hadn’t rained in this area as I neared the road to Polihale–but it was still almost entirely cloudy.

I got to the Poilhale turnoff and was greeted by a sign saying that this was an “unimproved road” and drivers took it at their own risk.  Not a good start.  I then encountered the single most pothole-filled road I think I’ve ever driven.  I was never concerned about getting stuck or breaking down, as long as I drove slowly….but I mean five miles an hour slowly.  Any faster, without a true high clearance vehicle, was really pushing it.  The road to the beach is five miles long…and I kept hoping it would get better, but after a mile and-a-half, it was at least as bad as it had been at the beginning.  I did some quick math.  Five miles an hour meant it would take an hour just to get out to the beach.  And it would take another hour to get back.  It was at least another hour’s drive back to Kapa’a, where I was staying, on the main highway (probably more, actually).  And if I stayed out at the beach for sunset, I’d have to make the drive back on this pitiful excuse of a road in the pitch dark.  And it still looked like sunset wouldn’t be great.  That was that…I turned around.

So, it was pushing 5 PM, less than 90 minutes before sunset, by the time I got back to the main highway.  Now what?  I decided to check out Kekaha Beach, just a few miles back on the road, in the direction I was ultimately headed anyway.  The Beach was directly accessible from parking strung out along the southern edge of the highway.  The only area of the sky that wasn’t cloudy was directly across the beach, to the south.  It was just about perfect.  And this was where I spent the rest of the day until the light was gone completely.

Kekaha Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

There was one section of beach that was covered by naupaka, which made for a very interesting foreground.

Kekaha Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Kekaha Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

The beach itself runs for miles in this area, and I moved along to the west to investigate the reflections available from a lagoon I’d spotted.

Sunset Reflections, Kekaha Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

The beach was nearly devoid of people–I could literally see a total of a handful of subjects–so I made my way down near the surf to try and make something of the last 20 or 30 minutes of ambient light as the sun sank to the horizon amidst a plethora of clouds to the west.

Kekaha Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Kekaha Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Kekaha Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Kekaha Beach at Dusk, Kauai, Hawaii

That this hadn’t exactly been the most sensational sunset I’d seen on Kauai validated my decision not to deal with the Polihale road, but I was still pretty pleased with the day’s events, including my early evening foray to Kekaha Beach.  I’d made it through the travails of the long Koke’e hike in one piece.  My hiking boots hadn’t filled my feet with blisters (and, just importantly, the boots themselves hadn’t fallen apart).  All of my cardio training on a stair climber (more on this, perhaps, in a separate entry) had paid off in that I was confident that I would still be able to function the next day after the physical strain of this one.

I made the trek back toward Kapa’a in the dark somewhat satisfied, but with a pressing question…what was I going to do with the remainder of my time (three full days plus one morning) on Kauai?

The following general scenario is something I have experienced many times:  I’m on a trail with a photographic end game in mind:  a waterfall, a beach, a scenic view, etc.  And, for one reason or another, I’m in a hurry to arrive at my appointed destination–I’m trying to maximize the light, I’m trying to beat the crowds, I’m hoping to beat the rain, you name it.  The point is I’ve got a subject in my mind and I’m double-timing it to get there.

And then, it happens.  My wandering eye catches sight of something interesting and I have to decide whether to stop and take a closer look…and possibly set up to photograph that interesting something.  Truth is, I usually at least stop and take a peek.  Sometimes I satisfy myself that, upon review, it’s not all that interesting after all.  Back to the trail as quickly as possible.  But sometimes I decide that it’s a photo-worthy subject and then I have to decide whether to interrupt my primary goal and photograph the newly discovered subject.

If I think the subject is mildly interesting and/or the conditions aren’t flattering for that subject at that time, I take note and consider stopping on the way back (assuming this is an out-and-back trail we’re talking about) or returning at some future time, if possible.

But if the subject is particularly interesting and the current conditions are conducive, I almost always take the time necessary to capture the moment because…well, because I’m never sure I’m going to get another chance.  If the moment at hand is meaningful and the opportunity is there, I want to make it count.

One such example came when I was hiking the Arethusa Falls Trail in Crawford Notch State Park in New Hampshire three autumns ago.  With the knowledge that the trail tends to get very crowded, particularly on weekends (it was a Saturday), and wanting to avoid conflicts with others at the falls, I hit the trail first thing in the morning.  My car was the first one in the lot so I knew that I wouldn’t have anyone to work around when I made it to the waterfall at the end of the roughly two-mile (one way) hike.

But on the way–perhaps halfway to my destination, I passed a boulder field that was covered with colorful freshly-fallen leaves.  I stopped in my tracks.  The light was even.  The wind was essentially non-existent.  There was no one around.  The scene definitely met my definition of photo-worthy.  Should I photograph the scene or press on to the falls, with the thought of photographing the scene on the return?  I almost instinctively set down my tripod and slipped my photo backpack from my shoulders; the time was now.

Arethusa Falls Trail, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

In short, when the opportunity arises, seize it.

Posted by: kerryl29 | November 11, 2019

Hawaii Day 3: The Kalalau Trail, etc.

The point of racing to Ke’e Beach at the tail end of Day 2 was to preview the early morning trip the following day.  My plan was to hike a segment of the Kalalau Trail on Day 3 and I wanted to hit the trail as early as possible.  The trail head for the Kalalau Trail is adjacent to Ke’e Beach, which lies in Ha’ena State Park.  For more than a year, access to the park was virtually eliminated as the north coast of Kauai recovered from horrific flooding that took place in April of 2018.  Approximately 50 inches of rain fell in this area during a 24-hour period, washing away parts of the Kuhio Highway, which provides the only land access to this part of Kauai.  The park wasn’t reopened to the public until the summer of 2019, just a few months before I visited.  Part of the restoration involved a new reservation system for those wanting to drive their own vehicles into the park’s lot.

I got wind of this new system less than two months before I visited and secured access to Ha’ena State Park for parts of three days.  (Passes are sold in daily segments, with each day having three segments–morning, early afternoon and late afternoon to sunset.  Without a pass, you cannot drive your vehicle into the park and there’s nowhere nearby that provides public parking from which one can walk in.)  For this particular day, and the next, I secured access to all three time segments, since I wasn’t sure which day would prove better for my visit and I had no idea how long I would be out on the trail.

The Kalalau Trail provides one of Hawaii’s most famous hikes.  The trail runs for nearly 12 miles into the wild Na Pali Coast; the first trail segment runs two miles (one way) to Hanakapi’ai Beach.  A side trail–also two miles in length, one way–provides access to Hanakapi’ai Falls, a 410-foot waterfall.  The trail to the falls isn’t maintained and is considered a bit of a challenge.  Anything beyond Hanakapi’ai Beach on the main Kalalau Trail is considered an overnight hike, which requires a back country permit.  My plan was to hike to the beach and the falls, then back to the trailhead.  I figured that this would take most of the day (given stops for photography) and that I would hang out at Ke’e Beach for sunset, then make the drive back to where I was staying after dark.

Things did not go according to plan.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was told that the gate to Ha’ena State Park wasn’t opened until 7 AM, so I planned to drive from my lodgings, in south Kapa’a, to an undetermined beach location somewhere on the north shore, photograph sunrise, and then continue on to Ha’ena State Park, which represents the end of the road on the north side of Kauai.

The “undetermined beach” ended up being Lumaha’i Beach, an easily accessed stretch of sand a few miles east of Ha’ena State Park.  It was still dark when I arrived in the nearly deserted parking lot for Lumaha’i Beach, but I gathered up my things and slogged my way through the sand to the water’s edge.

Lumaha’i Beach Sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

Lumaha’i Beach Sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

The beach seemed pretty barren when I first arrived but as the light came up I realized that a stream, at the far western edge of the beach, emptied directly into the ocean.  I made my way over there and managed to make a few images.

Lumaha’i Beach Sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

I quickly set off to make the final 10-15 minute drive to Ha’ena State Park.  There was an attendant there when I arrived and I handed over my pass, then moved on to the parking lot, which contained  only a couple of cars in at this early hour.  After slathering myself with sunscreen and gathering up my belongings for the day, I made the roughly 1/3 mile walk to the trailhead and set off.

The Kalalau Trail is somewhat challenging, for several reasons.  While there isn’t a ton of overall elevation gain, the trail is undulating…it goes up and down and back up and back down over the first couple of miles, and some of the sections are fairly steep.  That wouldn’t be a huge issue in and of itself, but the footing can be treacherous in stretches because…best I can tell, this trail is always wet.  The northern part of Kauai isn’t the wettest part of the island–that would be Mount Wai‘ale‘ale, near the island’s center, which is one of the wettest spots on earth.  But the north shore of Kauai is plenty wet–it rains there, at least briefly, just about every day, and the trail is almost always saturated, which means it’s extremely muddy in spots.

Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Mud on the Kalalau Trail doesn’t imply the kind of morass in which one sinks to mid-calf; there isn’t enough top soil for that.  Muddy means rocky and tree root surfaces that are covered with a film of mud.  These make for extraordinarily slick conditions, which aren’t all that big of a deal when the trail is flat…which is rarely.  When the trail is steep…look out.  I did not fall while hiking the Kalalau Trail, but I did skid on a few occasions and there were some spots that were sufficiently steep that, given the footing, some kind of a hand hold on something was advisable.

The biggest reason I hiked this trail was to obtain views of the mysterious Na Pali Coast, an area covering much of the north and western shores of the island with absolutely no vehicle access of any kind.  Other than this trail–and a couple in Koke’e State Park–the coast cannot be accessed by land at all.  Most views of the coast are obtained by boat or aircraft (mainly helicopter).  There are a couple–literally two, in my estimation–genuinely nice views of the coast during the first two-mile segment of the Kalalau Trail, but only one that I felt made for a nice image.

The spot was breezy, which kept messing with the foreground (a real problem, since the composition I liked required a three-frame focus stack) but I waited it out.  As is so often the case on trails that have a fair amount of foot traffic–and, while there was almost no one on the trail when I got there, I ultimately saw plenty of hikers–when I’m set up for a shot, countless people see what I’m doing, pull out their phones and join in the fun.

Na Pali Coast from the Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

As I mentioned, there were other glimpses of the Na Pali Coast from time to time on the hike, but most were obstructed or otherwise objectionable.  And the truth is that the majority of this segment of the trail passes through dense, lush forest.

The two-mile segment of the trail ends at Hanakapi’ai Stream, which provides the outlet for Hanakapi’ai Falls, and flows through Hanakapi’ai Beach into the Pacific.  I arrived at the stream and immediately found myself facing a problem.  It appeared that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to cross the rushing stream without getting wet.  Rock hopping might have been possible but would have been difficult at best with all of my gear.  (I saw plenty of people, effectively unburdened by heavy packs, struggling to find a way across.)  Instead, I rock scrambled over a boulder field downstream and onto the beach, which is bisected by the stream itself.

Hanakapi’ai Stream Black & White, Hanakapi’ai Beach, Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Since accessing the trail to the falls required crossing the stream, I decided to figure out how to get across after photographing on the beach itself.  Hanakapi’ai Beach was a venue I’d been looking forward to photographing and, while part of it was at least temporarily inaccessible to me (as it required somehow crossing the stream), I decided to put off dealing with that problem for a bit.

Hanakapi’ai Stream, Hanakapi’ai Beach, Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanakapi’ai Stream Black & White, Hanakapi’ai Beach, Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

There were a fair number of people in and around the area when I was there, but not many on my side of the stream.  Most were wading and swimming in a fairly large lagoon that was a ways up the beach, on the other side of the stream.  This worked out well as I had almost no one getting in my way as I concentrated on the confluence.

Hanakapi’ai Stream, Hanakapi’ai Beach, Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanakapi’ai Stream Black & White, Hanakapi’ai Beach, Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanakapi’ai Beach Black & White, Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanakapi’ai Stream, Hanakapi’ai Beach, Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanakapi’ai Beach, Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

As I was beginning to wrap up my shoot, something about one of my hiking boots caught my attention.  It was at that stage that I realized that the left boot was coming apart; a piece that joined the sole of the shoe to the boot itself had literally come off at some point and I recognized that the entire boot was compromised and would not hold together much longer.  I thought about the poor conditions on the trail that I’d just traversed–and that I would have to hike again, for two miles, just to get back to the trailhead.  I also thought about the prospect of making a an additional four-mile round trip hike to the falls on a trail that was almost certainly in worse condition–and steeper–than the one I’d just hiked.  If I wanted to press on to the waterfall, I was facing a total of six additional miles of bad, relatively steep trails.  And, remember:  I still had to cross the stream…at least two more times!  Who knew how many stream crossings the falls trail (both ways) might require.

At this point, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor; the hike to the falls was axed, and I set about returning to the trailhead, with the vague hope that the hiking boot would remain in one piece until I got there.

Because I can be pretty stubborn at times, after I scrambled back over the boulder field, I stopped along the stream to photograph an intimate scene that caught my attention.  I figured that another few minutes of waiting wasn’t going to have much impact on whether my hiking boots would hold out until I returned to the trail head.

The scene that caught my eye was a tiny fern, amid a number of large rocks right alongside the stream.  Getting in position to capture the images and produce the necessary focus stacks was a bit challenging, but I persevered.

Hanakapi’ai Stream Intimate, Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanakapi’ai Stream Intimate Black & White, Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

The sun was out and it was increasingly hot and humid (and it had been plenty of both earlier) on the return hike and, if anything, the trail seemed even slicker.  (It probably wasn’t, but it seemed as though it was.)  I sweated through my clothes completely, just to add to the ambience.

And then, literally one step after I reached the trailhead, the sole of my shoe partially separated from the boot and flipped underneath.  I still had the better part of half a mile to walk back to the parking lot, but it was on an even surface and I was able to keep things intact until I got back to the car.  Good thing I’d canceled that waterfall hike!  Given the distances involved, the shoe likely would have fallen apart roughly when I reached the falls, leaving me to somehow hike four miles back to the trailhead, including an unknown number of stream crossings, on terrible trails.  That would have been bad.

After towling myself off (and changing shoes), I decided to see if I could find a place that sold hiking boots somewhere on Kauai.  A search on my phone suggested that there was a store in Hanalei–only a few miles away–that sold them.  I was skeptical and when I arrived found that I was right to have been doubtful–they sold some outdoors stuff, but nothing like hiking boots.  The other hit that I got was a Famous Footwear store in Lihue.  I was shocked that there was a Famous Footwear outlet on Kauai, but there was.  It was a good hour’s drive, but what choice did I have?  I’d planned to do a lot of hiking throughout this trip, and that certainly wouldn’t be the case without the proper footwear, so I changed my plans.  It was around noon when I returned to my vehicle and began the trip south to Lihue.

On the way, I stopped at the Hanalei Valley Lookout, a nice view into the valley.  I wasn’t sure that I would have another chance to photograph from this spot, so I allowed myself the 15-20 minute delay.

Hanalei Valley Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanalei Valley Lookout Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanalei Valley Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

I found the shoe store, in an outdoor mall in Lihue, and they not only had an excellent selection of hiking boots, they had the Timberland model I was looking for in my size…and at a shockingly reasonable price.  So that worked out.  But it was now pushing mid-afternoon and I didn’t see any point in wasting another hour driving back to Ke’e Beach.  I’d gotten what I was going to get out of that hike.  Instead, I decided to go the other direction and check out the Poipu area, on the south shore of the island.  I was already 3/4 of the way there.

When I’d visited Kauai in 1980 with my family, we stayed at Poipu Beach, which at the time had a couple of hotels.  I’d been told, years earlier, that the place had been built up tremendously since then, but I had no idea just how built up with resorts, homes and time shares it had become.  Wow.

I probably only had 3-4 hours of daylight remaining by the time I got to the Poipu area, and I made my way to Spouting Horn Park first.  Spouting Horn is a blowhole, on a lava shelf, right on the ocean.  When I’d last been to Kauai it was possible to walk right out to the blowhole, but that possibility had been eliminated years ago.  Evidently a number of people had fallen into the hole over the years and or been swept out to sea in heavy surf, so now visitors are kept up on a bluff, at a safe distance.  It’s still possible to get pretty decent images from this vantage point, since the spray often billows more than 50 feet in the air.  After watching the wave action a bit, I became pretty adept at judging when a big spray action was coming.

Spouting Horn, Spouting Horn Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Spouting Horn Black & White, Spouting Horn Park, Kauai, Hawaii

When the tide is high there’s some pretty good wave action on this part of the coast.

Surging Surf Black & White, Spouting Horn Park, Kauai, Hawaii

After I finished at Spouting Horn, I took a tour of the greater Poipu area and eventually settled at Poipu Beach itself.  There were plenty of people milling about; I gather that there always are, as this is one of the most popular beaches on Kauai.  But the vast majority of people were in the sandy beach areas or picnicking in the grassy area above the beach.  I concentrated on a rocky area between the two sandy beaches, where almost no one else was around, after a general exploration of the area.

While the sun was still out, I amused myself by photographing palm trees and breaking waves.

Palm Tree Evening, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Breaking Wave, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Breaking Wave, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

But when the light started to get really nice, I made my way down to the rocky shoreline and set up shop there, photographing in various directions as the sky started to light up.

Surging Surf, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

At one point, a partial rainbow was briefly visible.

Evening Light, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Evening Light, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Evening Light, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

In time, the beach was overtaken by an absolutely beautiful Hawaiian sunset.

Poipu Beach Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Poipu Beach Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Poipu Beach Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Poipu Beach Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Poipu Beach Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

The sky show lasted for much longer than I expected, but once it started to fade, I climbed back out of the rocks and still managed to find a couple of worthwhile (I thought) shots of palm tree silhouettes.

Palm Tree Sunset, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Palm Tree Sunset, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

That brought the day to a close.  The planned itinerary had to be adjusted, but it had been a pretty satisfying experience overall.

The new hiking boots were going to get a real initiation the following day, as I had a 12-mile hike in Koke’e State Park planned…

Posted by: kerryl29 | November 4, 2019

Hawaii, Day 2: Exploring Waimea Canyon, etc.

As detailed elsewhere, Day 1 of my photo trip to Hawaii was a notably circumscribed experience.  Opportunities were so limited, in fact, that I didn’t have the chance to scout potential sunrise opportunities, beyond the spot that I had shot sunset on the previous day:  the beach adjacent to my hotel.  I made the (very) short walk out to Waipouli Beach in the gloom of dawn and was rewarded with a fairly nice sunrise…right up until it started to rain.

Waipouli Beach at Sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

Waipouli Beach at Sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

The rain put a damper (pun intended) on the morning shoot, and had the effect of shortening it.  When the rain stopped it was time to do some exploring of the island and I decided to make my way west toward Waimea Canyon.

The canyon, sometimes referred to as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” is quite a sight.  I’d been there once before, but that was almost 40 years prior.  I had a vague memory of a couple of views from overlooks, but on this occasion I hoped to get a longer, better, more up-close-and personal view.

On the way to the access point to the road that leads up to the canyon from the town of Waimea, along the main highway (HI-50), I stopped at the Hanapepe Valley Lookout to make some images.  The valley was swathed in low clouds and fog.

Hanapepe Valley from Hanapepe Valley Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanapepe Valley from Hanapepe Valley Lookout Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

Within 10 minutes, the low clouds moved off and changed the view completely.

Hanapepe Valley from Hanapepe Valley Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanapepe Valley from Hanapepe Valley Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

This was a good, early experience.  At many locations I visited while in Hawaii, the weather could be incredibly variable, with completely obscured vistas occasionally being revealed in a matter of minutes.  (Of course, the reverse could be true as well.)

I reached Waimea Canyon Drive and began the long (more than 20 miles) climb (nearly 4000 feet of elevation gain) up toward the end of the road–which actually lies in Koke’e State Park, which borders Waimea Canyon to the north and east.  There are numerous peeks into the canyon along the way, both at official “lookouts” and at unofficial viewpoints.  There are also views in the direction of the island of Niihau, visible in the Pacific to the west.

Distant Niihau from Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

I began making stops early on and really never stopped until I made a hike into the canyon.  Along the way, countless interesting perspectives revealed themselves.

Waimea Canyon, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea River, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea River, Waimea Canyon, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea River, Waimea Canyon, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

From some of these viewpoints, semi-abstract images were available with the use of a long lens.

Light & Shadow, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Light & Shadow, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Along the way, I found a stream, with a small waterfall, that was cutting through a rather stark patch of Kauai’s (in)famous red dirt.

Red Clay Waterfall, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Red Clay Waterfall, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Red Clay Waterfall, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Eventually, I reached the Waimea Canyon Lookout, my favorite of the official park’s canyon viewpoints.  From here, the canyon’s tapestry of colors was in full evidence.

Waimea Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

The sky conditions left a bit to be desired at this point, but the canyon itself is pretty spectacular in just about any weather.

Waimea Canyon Lookout Black & White, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Again, the telephoto lens came in very handy at this spot.

Waimea Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Waipo’o Falls, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Back at the lookout parking area, I took a moment to snap a couple of shots of some of the ubiquitous feral chickens that are present all over the island of Kauai.  (I even saw several on the airport property!)

Rooster, Waimea Canyon Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

I moved on to the other official viewpoints, including the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout, which provides a winding glance up the entire canyon from the back end, all the way to the ocean in the distance.  It was windy at this spot, but I found the view compelling.

Pu’u Hinahina Lookout, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

This was the jumping off point for the Canyon Trail, which, including a modest side trip or two, involved a hike of about five miles round trip.  I felt it was worth it.  While I didn’t like the canyon views as interesting as those from the lookouts, particularly the Waimea Canyon Lookout, there were a couple of waterfalls near the one-way end of the trail that I wanted to see and photograph.  Reaching the vantage point to photograph the waterfall you see in the two below images was a bit of an adventure, as it required a tiny bit of rock scrambling, but I deemed it worth the effort.

Upper Tier of Waipo’o Falls, Canyon Trail, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Upper Tier of Waipo’o Falls, Canyon Trail, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

When I completed the hike, I continued along the road, into Koke’e State Park, to the lookouts near and at the end of the road.  Both of these lookouts provide views of the spectacular Kalalau Valley, truly one of the remarkable views I’ve seen.  Once again, the conditions at the overlooks–particularly the Pu’u o Kila Lookout–were highly variable, with pockets of fog and low-flying clouds blowing in and out repeatedly.

Kalalau Valley from Pu’u o Kila Lookout, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Kalalau Valley from Pu’u o Kila Lookout, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

At one point, a rainbow was briefly visible in the upper valley; I was lucky enough to be in position to produce an image while the rainbow was in place.  Once again, waiting out the ever-changing conditions paid dividends.

Kalalau Valley from Pu’u o Kila Lookout, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

From the Kalalau Lookout, a couple of miles back down the road, a different view of the valley was evident.

Kalalau Valley from Kalalau Lookout, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Back at Pu’u o Kila, the Pihea Trail head beckons, in a stretch of very, very wet territory.  Mist and light drizzle was falling off and on and I made it about a mile down the trail before hitting an incredible, virtually impassable section of mud and turning back.  Still, the trail was bookended by several areas of thick ferns, which I hastened to capture.

Fern Extravaganza, Pihea Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Ferns, Pihea Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

It was mid-afternoon when I began the trek back down the canyon road and, after fighting through heavy traffic back toward the eastern end of the island, I made my way, in the early evening, toward the overlook for the Kilauea Point Lighthouse.  The lighthouse was closed for the day by the time I got there but I was treated to some very nice light as I captured the grounds from the bluff adjacent to the Kilaeua Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Kilauea Lighthouse, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai, Hawaii

Kilauea Lighthouse, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai, Hawaii

Kilauea Lighthouse, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai, Hawaii

Kilauea Lighthouse, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai, Hawaii

Finally, I made my way all the way to the end of the road on the northeast part of the island:  Ke’e Beach at Ha’ena State Park.  On the way, I drove through multiple squalls of rain around the town of Hanalei.  I got there just minutes before the sun set, but it was enough time for me to make the half-mile one-way hike out to the beach from the parking area.  It wasn’t an epic sunset by any means, but I did make a few images of this entry point to the Na Pali Coast before losing the light entirely.

Na Pali Coast at Sunset from Ke’e Beach, Ha’ena State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Pali Coast at Sunset from Ke’e Beach, Ha’ena State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

The race to Ke’e Beach before last light was an attempt to preview the drive for the following morning as I planned to spend most, if not all, of the next day on this part of the island.  That plan was short-circuited by the first of this trip’s equipment problems, a story I’ll relate in the next post in this series.

Posted by: kerryl29 | October 28, 2019

The Story Behind the Image: Oconaluftee River Reflections

On a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the spring of 2014 I was wandering around the North Carolina section of the park one morning, with little specific on the itinerary.  Mostly I was relatively aimlessly walking around locations I hadn’t visited on any of my previous trips to the park.  I had started the day with a planned sunrise shoot at a spot where the Oconoluftee Valley could be viewed, but had no real plan beyond that.

After stumbling across a church building in the relatively rarely visited Smokemont section (I saw literally no one while I was exploring the area around the church), I was walking back toward my parked vehicle, intent on traveling to some other area to explore, when I found myself astride the Oconoluftee River.

Lufty Baptist Church, Smokemont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

It was just about completely clear on this particular morning but the wooded area near the river was still in even light.  But, almost immediately, I noticed some interesting reflections in the water.  They were the kind of reflections that wouldn’t have existed in anything but blue sky conditions when spring growth was in its comparatively early stages and the absence of direct sun on the water made for some captivating patterns.  I pulled out my long lens and carefully framed a narrow area of moving water.  I experimented with different neutral density filters, apertures and shutter speeds.

Oconaluftee River Reflections, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

While I enjoy making images of this sort, I’ve found, over the years, that I’m not likely to experiment with this sort of thing unless I’m effectively uninhibited by preconceived notions of the landscape.  Thus “wandering around…with little specific on the itinerary” was probably a necessary (though not necessarily sufficient) pre-condition for this image to be made.

There’s something to be said for playfulness in the making of art.  By no means is it a requirement, or, at times, even desirable, depending on intent.  But I’ve found that allowing myself a certain degree of freedom, on occasion, in the field, often leads to a different sort of output than when I’m in a purposeful mood.  That output isn’t inherently better…or worse; just different.  And that alone makes it worth pursuing.

Posted by: kerryl29 | October 21, 2019

Hawaii: The Photographic Experience

I’ll resume the chronological recitation of my time in Hawaii in a couple of weeks, but for now I want to hone in on what the overall experience was like and how it compared and contrasted with other photo trips I’ve taken over the past 17 years.


While there have been some exceptions (cough–Yosemite Valley–cough), when I’ve dealt with crowds on past photo trips, they’ve been in the form of other photographers, not tourists.  That was decidedly not the case in Hawaii.  On those occasions when I ran into crowds (and on those occasions when I didn’t), I saw almost no other people whose primary purpose for being there was photographing.  There were plenty of people who pulled out smartphones, and lots of people taking selfies, but you’ll run into that phenomenon almost anywhere.  When it comes to visitors, and Hawaii has many of them, all year long (there really is no apparent “slow season” in Hawaii), very few people seem to view Hawaii as a prime photo destination…this, despite an almost endless number of photogenic subjects.

Papawai Point at Sunrise, Maui, Hawaii

What’s the reason for this?  Perhaps it’s the cost of visiting Hawaii and how comparatively difficult it is to get there (it’s a very long plane flight, especially if you’re not starting from the West Coast of the United States).  Perhaps it’s because it’s such a well-known general tourist destination.

Whatever the reason(s), Hawaii is a great place to photograph, and the relative lack of photographers (and plethora of general tourists) means that, at prime times for photography (read: the edges of the day), you’re unlikely to have difficulty with others encroaching on your access.

Upper Tier of Waipo’o Falls, Canyon Trail, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai, Hawaii


With a few notable exceptions that I will discuss in future posts, Hawaii photo locations are warm (if not outright hot) and humid all the time.  The humidity factor was, I think, more noteworthy than the heat.  The relative humidity almost never drops much below 65% in Hawaii, no matter how high the temperature rises.  (Temperatures, during my time in the islands, never dropped lower than the upper 70s and never got much above the low 90s Fahrenheit.)  Dealing with condensation on the outer element of my lenses was a constant battle, even though I routinely took precautions in an attempt to avoid it.  And, as I’ll describe in greater detail in future installments, the heat and humidity were particularly challenging when it came to hiking.

The only other photo trip I’ve taken that involved any consequential amount of heat and humidity was to south Florida a couple of years ago and that was in winter, so it wasn’t as warm most of the time (though it was every bit as humid).  I also did much less hiking in Florida than in Hawaii.

Sailboat Rainbow, Ka’anapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii

In many parts of both Kauai and Maui, rain was, if not a constant presence, a frequent threat, particularly on the eastern part of both islands.  While I was never directly caught in a major downpour, I very narrowly escaped several and had to deal with light rain on numerous occasions, including much of the back end of a 12-mile hike I took one day while on Kauai.

Spouting Horn Black & White, Spouting Horn Park, Kauai, Hawaii

Equipment Issues

This had nothing to do with Hawaii specifically, but for some reason, after experiencing no significant problems with equipment on photo trips dating back to 2002, the dam broke while I was in Hawaii.

The first problem took place when one of my hiking boots literally fell apart while I was hiking on the second full day of the trip.  (More on that when I relate the full experience of that day.)  Additionally, my manual cable release started acting flaky almost from the word go and plagued me off-and-on throughout the trip.  I thought I had a backup with me, but I didn’t.  If that wasn’t enough, the zoom ring on my 14-24 mm lens locked up on me–for no apparent reason; it functioned fine one day and when I pulled it out of the bag the next day it wasn’t working–about halfway into the trip and was out of commission for the duration.  And finally, the day after the mishap with the 14-24 revealed itself, I noticed that the rubber cover on my 24-70 mm lens–my workhorse–was loose and coming off.  The lens was still functional, thankfully, and I was able to nurse it through the remainder of the trip, but it will have to go in for repair when my fall photo season comes to an end (probably by mid-November).  (The 14-24, for those of you interested, has already gone in for repair and is now back in my bag.)

Lumaha’i Beach at Sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

In the end, I managed to work through all the problems, as I’ll relate in detail later in this series.  The 14-24 is, fortunately, my least used lens and while there were a few shots I would have liked to have at least taken a look at with that lens on the camera, I don’t feel as though I missed any meaningful opportunities as a result of the malfunction.  But it should be noted that there are no full service camera stores on either Maui or Kauai, so getting replacements for any of my photo equipment, wasn’t a realistic option.

Palm Tree Sky, Ka’anapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Salt Water Spray

It’s Hawaii, so I spent at least part of every day along the ocean, be it on beaches, at seaside overlooks or (as was the case most days) both.  Dealing with the potentially corrosive effects of salt water spray was a daily challenge.  Photographing at the seaside can be a wonderful experience, as I’ve noted in this space in the past, but it requires some careful planning.  At a minimum, if you’re photographing near the ocean you’re exposing your equipment to some harsh conditions.

Banyan Tree Black & White, Pipiwai Trail, Kipahulu District, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

At the end of each day of photography in Hawaii, I wiped down all of my equipment with a damp (fresh water) soft cloth–the exterior of my cameras, lenses and tripod.  Sand was rinsed from the tripod as well.  Had anything gotten into the tripod bushings (it didn’t on this trip, but I’ve had this issue in the past), I would have taken the tripod legs apart, removed the bushings and rinsed them out, then let the entire contents air dry before reassembling the unit.  (I’ve done this numerous times in the past.)

Poipu Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

For my lenses, and especially the filters I had on them while shooting alongside the ocean, I conducted a wet cleaning when necessary (which was just about every day) and, while in the field, regularly wiped the filters off with a microfiber cloth (I keep several in my camera backpack at all times).

Fern Wonderland, Awa’awapuhi Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

I’ll flesh some of these themes out more thoroughly in future entries, and will mention a few more that were more place-specific as well.

Sunset Sail, Polo Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Posted by: kerryl29 | October 15, 2019

The Zoom Crutch

When I first started photographing, zoom lenses were widely regarded as optical junk and for years I relied on a limited set of fixed focal length lenses.  But the optics of zoom lenses have improved tremendously over the years.  They still don’t match the quality of fixed focal length lenses (it’s obviously easier to craft a lens for a single focal length than a range of lengths), but they’ve come so far that it’s perfectly reasonable to consider whether the flexibility of a zoom is worth the (in many cases) relatively small image quality trade-off.  I myself decided, quite some time ago, that the trade-off was, in fact worth it, and today the only fixed focal length lens I own is of the macro variety.

Mono Lake at Sunrise, Mono County, California

But while the aforementioned versatility that a zoom lens provides is great, zooms are not without a potential downside (separate from any IQ limitations).

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who doesn’t regard himself as a “serious” photographer but is trying to improve his compositional skills, using his smartphone as his camera.  At some point, the discussion turned to the subject of what the smartphone camera could and couldn’t do and I mentioned that, while he didn’t have the ability to swap lenses, he did have a zoom capability.  I cautioned, however, against the tendency to rely on the camera’s zoom function to find the image and he admitted that, in fact, he often does spend a lot of time zooming in and out, while remaining physically fixed in place, to discover the “best” shot.

Moonset, Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park, Florida

I think just about everyone goes through a phase like the one described above.  (I didn’t, but I’m all but certain that’s only because I didn’t have any zoom lenses for years.)  Almost literally ever photographer I’ve talked to about this subject admits to running into this foible.

Wood Pattern black & white, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah

In fact, simply zooming in and out, in and of itself, isn’t really all that problematic.  But there’s an associated problem:  zooming like this, almost invariably, takes the place of actually looking over a scene with the naked eye and–this is probably even more important–routinely eliminates physical movement on the part of the photographer.  Both of these actions are, in my view, tremendously important to the process of image-making.

Easton Road Birches, Grafton County, New Hampshire

It is my firm and stated belief that photography is principally about seeing.  I think it’s critically important to explore a scene organically–that is, at first, with your own eyes.  Identify the center of interest unaided.  Establish the proximate focal length, select the lens of choice accordingly, and then put your eye to the viewfinder.  At this point, the zooming begins, but it’s a fine tuning exercise.  Maybe you want to photograph at 27 mm, perhaps 26 or 28.  But, it should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), that you shouldn’t be zooming between, say, 28 and 200 mm trying to “find the shot.”  The shot should be “found” before the zooming begins.

Driftwood Epic, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

And if the photographer is fixated on the zoom process to “find the shot,” he/she has effectively become locked into the spot occupied when the zooming begins.  That’s far too limited an approach.  Finding the image with the naked eye, as suggested in the above paragraph, has an implied second component:  move!  Physically move your body to find the most interesting manner in which to photograph the scene that caught your eye in the first place.  You can’t (or won’t) do that if you’re constantly zooming in and out.

Middle Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

This is not a post written in opposition to zoom lenses.  As I noted at the outset, I almost exclusively use zooms myself.  But it is a recommendation not to allow your zoom lens to be an inhibitor to the creative process that makes photography such a compelling endeavor in the first place.

The zoom function of a lens is a tool; use it as such.  Don’t allow it to be an impediment to your vision.

1883 Barn, Tompkins County, New York

Posted by: kerryl29 | October 7, 2019

Hawaii: Background and Day 1

Before getting to the (limited) photographic experience of my first day in Hawaii, I thought it might be useful to provide some background information about how this trip came about and ultimately developed.  My wife first proposed that I consider a trip to Hawaii late last year some time–after returning from Alaska.  I want to publicly offer thanks to E.J. Peiker, who has spent more time photographing in Hawaii than anyone I know–for his assistance as I began the planning for the trip.  I had been to Hawaii before–twice, in fact–but it had been nearly 40 years since my last visit.  The previous two visits, both of which took place while I was in high school, were family vacations.  This was years before I became serious about photography and photo opportunities were not a significant consideration when deciding where to go and what to do.  Besides, Hawaii has changed a great deal over the last four decades and E.J. was able to provide a plethora of useful advice.

Early on, I was encouraged by my wife to think big when it came to planning where to go and for how long.  At one point, there was talk of my visiting four, or even five, islands.  When I started to think specifically, I quickly pulled back on such thoughts.  In addition to being prohibitively expensive and utterly exhausting, it quickly became clear that the sheer time necessary to carry out such an itinerary was disqualifying.  I ultimately decided to limit myself to two islands; the question was which two.

There are eight major islands in the Hawaiian chain, seven of which are inhabited and six of which can be readily visited by the general public.  Of the six, I wrote off Lanai as a possibility for a variety of reasons.  The least visited of the six, Lanai has limited amenities and very limited accommodations…virtually all of which are extremely expensive.  It’s also by far the smallest and least accessible of the islands that can be visited, so I felt that my time (and money) could be better spent elsewhere.

The remaining five islands originally under consideration were, in no particular order, Kauai, Maui, Molokai, the Big Island of Hawaii and Oahu.  Of the five, Oahu was of the least interest to me, given my more or less exclusive interest in spending my time photographing, and it was fairly quickly eliminated from consideration.  Oahu–home to Honolulu–is by far the most populous (read: crowded) of the five islands and is arguably the least interesting (in part because of how crowded it is) to a landscape photographer, so that island was fairly quickly eliminated from consideration as well.

As for the remaining four islands…well, none of them were really eliminated.  I ultimately decided to pair them–the largest (the Big Island) with almost certainly the greatest number of photographic locations (i.e. demanding the most time) with the smallest and least accessible island (Molokai), arguably requiring the least time; and the remaining two, both of which were kind of in the middle (Kauai and Maui).  The question was, which pair to do?  (The hope is/was to do the pair not done on this trip at some point in the relatively near future.)  I more or less arbitrarily decided to do Kauai and Maui on this trip, Kauai first, then Maui.

Almost literally everything in Hawaii is expensive.  Accommodations are expensive.  Food is expensive.  Gas is expensive.  Fees for things that have fees are (with very few exceptions) expensive.  Despite this, Hawaii is essentially always crowded with visitors.  Some times are relatively worse than others (June…and summer in general, and the holiday period are known to be particularly difficult), but there really is no off-season.

But very few of these innumerable visitors, apparently, are primarily there to photograph…or so it appeared to me.  I saw plenty of smartphones while I was in Hawaii but people were mostly pulling them out for the purpose of producing selfies.  As best I can recall, I saw only three or four other people with tripods during the entire trip (and keep in mind that I was out all day, pretty much every day, for 14 days in a row).  I’ll have some additional thoughts on this subject in a later post in this series.

I decided, not entirely arbitrarily, that I wanted to devote six full days to each of the two islands I was visiting; this would give me ample opportunity to visit just about every place on my list for both islands, with the likely opportunity to return to those locations I found of particular interest.  Since a great deal of hiking was on my agenda, the sheer number of days would better enable me to pick particularly propitious weather days for each hike.  There would, additionally, be a day to arrive, a day to transition from Kauai to Maui and a day devoted to return travel to Chicago.  The question was how to do this without requiring a second mortgage.  In truth, there’s almost no way to spend two weeks in Hawaii without spending a lot of cash.  I minimized it as much as possible by using miles for the airfare (which saved roughly $800), booking the least expensive hotels I could find on both islands, keeping the rental car costs to a minimum and limiting food purchases to roughly $12 per day.  So while it was still an expensive proposition, I figure that I spent about as much in two weeks as the average visitor forks over in five days…or less, depending on the actual cost of the specific resort the average visitor might book.

The flight to Hawaii was direct from O’Hare airport in Chicago to Honolulu…roughly 9 1/2 hours in the air.  There’s a five-hour time difference between Chicago and Hawaii so even though the flight was scheduled to leave at roughly 10 AM (it was actually nearly 11 when we took off, but who’s counting?) it arrived in Honolulu at roughly 3 PM local time.  Then, after a short layover, it was on to Lihue, Kauai on a Hawaiian Airlines flight of approximately 25 minutes in duration.  By the time I’d negotiated the rental car line in Lihue, obtained my vehicle and made the short (15 minutes or so) drive to where I was staying (Kapa’a), it was roughly 5 PM.  Sunset was before 6:30, so I really had no time to go anywhere…thus, I decided to photograph the early evening scene right from the beach fronting the hotel, even though it was an east-facing locale.  There was no way to find a suitable west-facing location, so I made do.

One of the best–if not the best–aspects of both the places I stayed (on Kauai and Maui) was that each facility had direct beach access.  In Kauai, it took about 45 seconds to get from my room to the beach.  (In Maui, it was about 20 seconds.)  This was particularly nice in Kauai where I could, if I chose, photograph sunrise from an east-facing beach without driving anywhere.  I did, in fact, do that on three of the seven mornings I was on Kauai.

But, as I noted above, my introduction to Waipouli Beach on Kauai was at sunset on that first day.  It had been a very long day, what with the two flights taking a total of nearly 10 hours in the air, so being able to take the short walk to the relatively empty beach was welcome.

Waipouli Beach is fairly shallow, but it has a number of interesting elements that can be used for foreground interest–driftwood and rocks, primarily.  I didn’t have much time for scouting, but it really wasn’t necessary.  I found some interesting driftwood, almost right at the spot where I entered the beach, and went to work.

Waipouli Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Waipouli Beach at Sunset Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

Given that I was looking to the east as the sun was setting to the west, I wasn’t going to be able to get the full effect of the sunset–whatever that might have been, given copious clouds to the west.  But the light was still nice and the scene itself was captivating.

Waipouli Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Waipouli Beach at Sunset Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

There wasn’t much time before the light faded completely.  In fact, before it became completely dark, it started to rain.  (These relatively brief, but occasionally forceful, spells of rain were a fairly common experience, and one I’ll touch upon again in later installments.)

Waipouli Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Waipouli Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

During the cloudburst, I was able to gather up my things very quickly and take shelter under an awning attached to the on-the-beach restaurant that was part of the hotel complex.  When it stopped raining, I retreated to my room, but there was time for one more image before I packed things away for the evening.

Palm Tree Moonrise, Waipouli Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Given the lack of opportunity to scout remote locations on that first day, I decided that I would begin the following day with sunrise at Waipouli Beach.  I’ll describe that experience when I chronicle day two–my first full day on Kauai.

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