Saturday, December 15, 2012

Orange Tree Reflection

Orange Tree Reflection
Another photo from my visit to Zion last month.   This is also from Echo slot canyon, adjacent to the East Rim Trail.  The curves along the left canyon wall first caught my attention.  I hiked a little closer and saw I could line up the curves like a series of waves in my composition.  Then I noticed the orange tree in the distance and I knew I could make a winner if I just spent the time.

I wanted this orange-leaf tree in the slot canyon to be the major photo subject.  I also wanted to line up the tree and its' reflection in the waters of the slot.  Sometimes an inch or two difference in the position of the camera (especially the vertical position) can make all the difference.  I took some with my standard wide angle lens, but the tree was so distant that it had no impact.  I switched to my standard zoom lens (24-105 f/4.0 L) and also my telephoto zoom (70-200 f/4.0 L) and tried different compositions.  This photo ended up being shot with a focal length of 100mm.

This is the best composition I could create here.  The photo is quite dark yet shows a wide dynamic range with the highlights in the distant tree.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Deep Inside Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon Slot
Echo canyon is a small part of the East Rim Trail in Zion National Park.  It is not a destination per se, but rather something that people will hike through as they got up to Observation Point or come down the East Rim Trail to reach the main canyon. 

Some canyoneering groups will go into the depths of this wet, narrow and dangerous slot. the main trail actually goes adjacent to this and does not require any difficult work other than simply climbing up the trail. There are several points where the trail itself will come to Echo Canyon and access into this slot becomes available. 

The above photo was taken as such an access point.  I setup my tripod with its' legs squeezed between two narrow and slippery walls.  Carefully I composed the shot and then made my exposure.  Trouble is, the wide angle distortion is pretty obvious.  I had used the 16-35mm f/2.8 L lens to record the image. It didn't look right.  So I climbed out of the canyon, change lenses to the 17 mm f/4.0 L tilt-shift lens.  This special lens prevents distortion. I climbed back into position and took several images. I knew I would have to stitch together afterwards to get the widest angle possible and capture the feeling that I get in this narrow slot.

 From a composition standpoint, this canyon forms the perfect S-curve.  In this case, things worked out the way I had expected. I hope you like the photograph.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Movie Star Lens

Portrait
As I landscape photographer, I get plenty of practice shooting trees, rocks, streams and clouds.  Things that move in circles and against gravity are foreign to me.  That's what kids do.

I had the pleasure of taking some family portraits last week for some family members.  When I get the call to take someone's photo, I always reach for one lens:  Canon 135mm f/2.0 L.  This lens is so fast, so sharp and so accurate in getting the picture that I want.  Some people say the "keeper" rate is very high with this lens and I heartily agree.

In one of the moments where she stopped briefly, I was able to focus, compose and shoot.

In keeping my lenses straight from one another, they get nicknames.  This one is the "movie star lens" because it makes everyone look fantastic!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Trail Report: Padre Canyon (Snow Canyon)

Circular Whirlpool
 Impressive Cliffs on the Three Ponds and Padre Canyon Trail
Padre Canyon is a secret.  Not on the map given out at Snow Canyon State Park, this little gem is something I read about in the local newspaper.  I am not the 1st person to discover this but I believe I am the 1st person to create a trail report documenting my visit during the summer monsoon season.  What would normally be a very beautiful dry canyon, became an absolutely gorgeous, wet slot canyon after we had heavy summer rain.  I anticipated this would be a very good place to visit on a wet day.

Padre Canyon branches off from the 3 Ponds trail.  I have always been underwhelmed with this particular trail.  I was hoping to find something better.  Immediately after passing through the high canyon cliffs, the 3 Ponds trail turns to the north (right).  Padre Canyon is to the left (south).  My two daughters and I hiked up the canyon and saw a little trickle of water.  It seemed to disappear into the sand.  The farther we went up canyon, the greater the flow of water.

After a little bit of hiking, a very prominent and exciting sound delighted me: falling water.  There is no sound like a waterfall in the middle of the desert!  Nothing is more exciting, nothing is more welcome.  We could hear it a long time before we could actually see it.  When we finally climbed a little bit higher, this fantastic waterfall came into view.

Heard before seen, this waterfall was magical!
The closer we got, the better the waterfall became.  There were small pools, water flowing in circles and then falling over sandstone.  The biggest part of the waterfall dropped in several segments, make and diagonals, verticals and even horizontal movements back and forth.  What an amazing waterfall!

The next waterfall upstream
Close up required wet toes.
We took off our shoes, socks and waded up to the base of this waterfall.  In the summertime, this water felt delightfully pleasant.  There was nothing cold about it.  The bottom of each pond was lined with soft fine sand.

This fall could not be climbed.  We backtracked slightly and went around it.  We found another waterfall with a large pool at the bottom.  Not quite as scenic as the 1st, it still was a wonderful discovery.

Farther up, I found other pools and another waterfall that was quite small, forming a small circular shower room.  Not as photogenic as the first two waterfalls, I did not include a picture of that here but I hope to return and photograph it another day.  I also enjoy taking pictures of the wonderful sandstone and moss in this delightful canyon.
Climbing up above Padre Canyon, the view started to clear.

Sandstone and Moss

Snow Canyon: Tree and Reflection

Snow Canyon Tree, Reflection and Cliffs
One of the most helpful pieces of advice to give the photographer is to limit how many subjects are in a photograph to a maximum of 3.  A photograph tells a story.  In order for the story to be clearly understood, there must be a straightforward message.  Anything that is a distraction from that message, weakens the impact.

In this photograph the story is simple.  small oasis in the desert.  The subjects in this photograph are the tree, its' reflection in the water, the background cliffs.  This composition was achieved by using a telephoto lens, zooming in on this subject and eliminating some distracting bushes on the left.  A photographer should not simply record an image.  He or she should draw attention to the subject in order to communicate emotion or tell a story.  My story about this tree is one of small beauty in the desert, living among the rocks, without neighbors.  It is a delightful, beautiful growing plant doing the best it can under very difficult circumstances.  That is what I wanted to communicate and I hope this photograph succeeds.  I believe it does.

I look very carefully in my viewfinder, trying to pay special attention to the sides and corners of a photograph.  If there's something there that is a bit of a distraction, try to move a little closer for a little bit to one side or another in order to eliminate it.  By doing so, you will be more successful in telling your own artistic story.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Composing a Photograph: 3 Lollipops of White Pocket

#1  Composition:  Standard view of the Lollipop from White Pocket

The Lollipop of White Pocket is the most recognizable feature of this incredible area. It located right in the center of the sandstone goldmine and gets the late afternoon sunshine. I was shooting here after a summer monsoon as the clouds were just clearing. Blue sky was coming out but the light wasn't going to last forever with the clouds coming and going. They seemed to get thicker as time progressed, taking away the beautiful blues in the sky.   

#2 Composition Sandstone swirls act as leading lines
to the Lollipop Formation
These three compositions were shot one after another, each with the 17mm tilt-shift lens to prevent vertical distortion. One features a classic shot with the whole lollipop with landscape orientation. That's the shot on top.  The second is the sandstone portrait orientation shot on the right.  This has great lead-in lines and a wonderful point on the Lollipop that really catches my attention.  

The last with a small green bush below. The bush introduces another subject to this location.  This adds a great foreground subject that gives some variety in its' color and texture.  It really says more about the living plants in the rough terrain that the other two photos don't suggest.  

#3 Composition:  This green bush as colorful variety
 and a foreground interest point to the Lollipop
I present these in the order they were taken and in the order in which I walked around the Lollipop and searched for a great composition.  I first shot the standard and obvious shot.  Then I went looking for something different.  

I personally love something about each one:  the clouds and sky are best in #1.  The lead-in lines and pointed peak of #2 are superb.  The vegetation and color of #3 are great but the sky became less blue at that moment.  Composition is the one thing a photographer brings to his art that is completely personal.  It is what makes two photographers with identical equipment comes away from the same place with completely different art.  

So, which is the best?  That's a hard one to answer.  I posted this very question to my friends on the FredMiranda.com landscape forum.  The response was split between #1 and #2.  One person liked #3 the best.  My favorite is #2.

What do you think?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sunset Ignites Sandstone

Sunset Ignites Sandstone
The golden hour it is often limited to a golden 10 minutes.  Such was the case as I took this photograph at White Pocket.  The sun was setting very fast, clouds were intermittently blocking the light but for 10 minutes, the light was entirely golden and incredibly beautiful.  During this time, I composed this photograph.
Enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Nothing Straight at White Pocket

The Curve at White Pocket, Arizona
Having spent a good amount of time and White Pocket, I still have a few interesting things to share and post.  This photo is from the Gateway section of White Pocket.  I call it "the curve".  The white-topped tower is approximately 70 feet tall.  Because of surrounding structures, this does not give direct light at sunrise or sunset.  However the midmorning is an excellent time to photograph this location.  The sunlight illuminates the red, orange, tan colors beautifully.

I also discovered that laying on the sand dune behind the white-topped tower is an excellent place for shelter during a storm.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lines, Composition & Sharpness

Lines of composition at White Pocket
This will be a more technical entry featuring the sandstone wonderland of White Pocket.  I'm still sorting through and picking out the "keepers" from my photo trip there last month.

Sharpness and vignetting are two key photographic characteristic related to aperture.  When setting an aperture, a very small opening such as f/16 tends to reduce vignetting and enhance the depth of field (how much will be sharp and "in focus" whether near or far from the camera).  This attitude of "I'm going to get the maximum depth of field" attitude works well for some and I've used it for years.  This is especially helpful in the corners of a photograph (where sharpness tends to deteriorate).  This problem is pretty exclusive to wide angle lenses.

I changed wide angle lens from Canon's 17-40 f/4 L to the more pricey 16-35 f/2.8 L specifically to get more corner sharpness.  The 16-35 is sharper and I've not regretted the move.  But I still found I'd be shooting at f/16 for the corner sharpness factor even when I could get an outstanding depth of field at a larger aperture.  This approach does work.  I have gotten some great shots.

But there is one problem:  the sharpness in the center of a photograph is usually best at f/8 or f/11.   By shooting f/16, I get the most "in focus" although my central area isn't as sharp as it could be.  This may be hard to appreciate until you see it with your own eyes on a big screen at full resolution.  Or on a  large print.

There is a solution:  a newer, better, sharper lens.

Prime lenses have more sharpness.  Really big primes take sharpness to an extreme.

This shot, taken with the Canon 17mm f/4 L tilt-shift lens has sharpness in the corners and then some!  I shot with an aperture of f/11 for this photo trip and I've found that the sharpness in the center and corners is fantastic.  This lens really delivers!

The above shot was taken with two frames, one shifted slightly lower to include more foreground, and then stitched together.  ISO 100, f/11, 1/80 second.

Compositionally, I used the lines throughout the landscape and in the sky to direct the viewer to the center of the photograph.  The lines sweep in from each corner of the sky and directly from the lower left.  The right side also sends more lines in towards the center.  Hope you like it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

White Pocket Pools


White Pocket Arizona Pool
White Pocket, Arizona:  a natural pool in the desert
 White Pocket: a jumble of sandstone like no other.

White Pocket: a remote and small location in the middle of the Paria Plateau.

White Pocket: the end of a journey across the desert on 30 miles of unpaved road, the last 5 miles being deep sand.

White Pocket: a worldwide landscape photography location so much so that while I was there no less than 8 other groups came and went, one was a family of 6 from France.  None stayed as long as I did.  Most were there for 2 hours and then left.  That seems shameful as it takes numerous hours simply to reach this spot.

Well, I planned a summer trip to the desert for photography.  Summer and desert usually don't equal a good time, but I had planned to hike the famous Buckskin Gulch.  This slot canyon would be cool and shaded.  Perfect for summer.

Unless it rained. . . .

A prolonged and more powerful summer monsoon season came through the southwest this last month, dumping water everywhere.  Each day there was rain and more rain scattered from Las Vegas to Moab.  Several days before the trip, I watched the forecast turn from worrisome to scary.  The Buckskin Canyon became dangerous to enter and had a 13.5-foot flash flood the day before I was to go.  The BLM also reported multiple washouts in the dirt roads, including the Cottonwood Canyon Road.  Taking this all in as I was driving out of town towards the Paria Plateau, I tried to formulate a new plan.  Buckskin Gulch was lethal.  I needed somewhere that would be safe but also beautiful in these conditions.  White Pocket fit the bill.  Not only are the sandy roads easier to drive on when wet, I hoped all the empty pockets in the sandstone would be full of water when I got there.  How much rain was needed to fill these?  Had it rained enough?

When I arrived early in the morning, another lone visitor was just leaving.  It was 9 AM.  The best morning light was already gone, but I started wandering around the area looking for photographic subject.  No sense waiting in the car, as there was no shade for it and temperatures were already hot and sunny.  I started exploring to the far right (east) and happily found that water had filled up a pool:  a good sign.  I continued and was thrilled to find pool after pool scattered throughout White Pocket.  The brain rocks sandstone formation has most of these ponds/pool.  I had hit the jackpot, having arrived during the perfect time to capture this small oasis.

The hot morning had unrelenting sun.  The afternoon brought dark clouds and lightning.  From 3 to 5 PM, it rained hard.  Nonstop water poured over all the cliffs and filled all the pools even more.   I took shelter and just waited.  I could not do anything else.  All other visitors had come and gone by this time.  I was alone.  As I looked across the plateau towards Buckskin Gulch 20 miles away, I knew that a flash flood raged through the 2-ft wide and 200-ft deep slot canyon.  There was no escape.  I was glad to be here at White Pocket.  Later the sun came out and sunset was spectacular.

The pool in the picture above is right in the middle of White Pocket with a view of the Lollipop, tucked between three brain rock peaks.  Beautiful green-blue water filled up that pool to a depth of 2 feet.  When it rained, the overflow went down a small waterfall to another pool below.  You can see parts of that pool in this picture.  I found this pool to be the most beautiful of all and returned here to cool off twice this day and once the next.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hobgoblin Faces with 17mm Tilt Shift

A new lens can inspire any photographer to get out and try his or her hand.  After much internal debate, I recently purchased the Canon 17mm tilt-shift lens.  Tilt shifts are special lenses with special powers and certain limitations.  Having shot with the 24mm and 90mm tilt shift lenses for several years, I knew what it could add to my photographic abilities:  wide, sharp landscapes without the distortion normally introduced with wide-angle lenses.

With excitement, I took off over the desert into Nevada in search of the Hobgoblin Playground, also known as "Little Finland."  Not sure how Finland comes into this, but Hobgoblins certainly live here and stick their faces out of rock in weird and wonderful ways.  I explored and enjoyed for 2 hours before the sunset with my two daughters in tow.  They loved the weird wonderland.  Another photographer from Germany also was there.

Hobgoblin faces the setting sun.
As the sun was about to go down, I found this sandstone face reminding me lots of things:  a crescent moon, a man with a long nose, a man with a funny hat, a witch with a huge chin.  I see all these in this Hobgoblin.  So I took his picture.  We looked at the sunset together and then I called it a day.

I enjoy shooting with the 17mm tilt shift lens.  It is moderately sharper than the 16-35mm f/2.8 L lens that I also shoot with.  I see this mostly in the corners.  The perspective control is also such a nice thing to have.  It may cost a pretty penny but I believe it is worth it.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Storm Arrives over Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Coral Pink Sand Dunes:  a jewel that should not be missed at sunset, according to Laurent Martres.  He describes the sand turning an exquisite shake of pink just as the sun disappears.  On my way back from a weekend phototrip to White Pocket, I decided to see if this would happen for me.

Summer monsoon season is in full swing this year and I'd had intermittent rainstorms during the prior 48 hours.  Between storms, gorgeous sunlight lit up the world for stunning photographs.  I figured the sun would come out at the end of the day and reward me.  I was wrong.

After wandering across the dunes to set up for sunset, clouds went from thick to thicker.  The sun never peeked through but I found the evening light turned the clouds a deep blue color.  Blue and pink are wonderful complimentary colors and I took this shot just as the night was coming on at f/11, 3/10 of a second and ISO 200 to prevent too much motion blur in the dune vegetation.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Chimney Rock is an intriguing sandstone formation can be seen for several miles near the towns of Big Water and Church Wells, Utah.  Although it is easy to see, it is difficult to reach.  There are no roads that go directly to this monument.  Instead it is surrounded by sand, cacti, bottlebrush and very dry air.

During my visit, I wandered across the sand to reach this monument and felt that this was a very typical view of southern Utah on a typical day:  fluffy intermittent clouds, beautiful blue sky, classic red rock surrounded by a dry environment.  This was not the golden hour when the light changes color.  This Utah in its' full, hot, desert glory!

I took several pictures of this monument.  Ultimately I felt that the closer, wide-angle shot was the best.  I corrected some wide-angle distortion in Photoshop in order to accurately show this beauty.

Rainbow Canyon Slot

Grey Mud Pool marks the end of Rainbow Slot Canyon in southwestern Utah. During the heat of the day, this spooky place stayed cool and quiet.
Rainbow Canyon is a remote and seldom visited location in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  It is located near the Wahweap hoodoos and Sidestep Canyon.  Exploring the vast wilderness on foot involves climbing over, through or around the different pathways for water has made in the sandstone.

As I was hiking up a sandstone canyon to see if it would lead to the higher ground, I found that the walls became more narrow the farther I progressed.  Eventually came to the very deep slot canyon which did not allow much light to pass through.  It was like a cave:  temperatures were at least 30° cooler. 

After my eyes adjusted, I enjoyed exploring a little bit further in this slot canyon.  The farther I went, the more beautiful it became.  At the end of the canyon there was an abrupt cliff face.  At the bottom of it lay a small pool of mud.  The light was shining in and illuminating this small wonder.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Paria Canyon Overlook

Paria River Canyon overlook as it drains towards Lee's Ferry in the far distance
On my latest outing to the desert, I visited a remote overlook that is both breathtaking and untouched.  Perhaps because the Grand Canyon is so close, this overlook is thought to be second rate.  Indeed, nothing can really compare to the Grand Canyon.  However I would rate this particular overlook as a spectacular sight and certainly worth the effort to reach it.  One can actually drive to this site, no hiking required. 

The Paria River is filled with a huge percentage of sediment.  In fact it is one of the more cloudy rivers in existence and adds the greatest percentage of sediment to the Colorado River just above the beginning of the Grand Canyon National Park.  Following the river out towards the distance, one can see where the Grand Canyon begins at the site known as Lee's Ferry. 

This is part of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.  This photograph was taken near sunset but I believe the nice orange and a little bit of purple can help identify the vermillion shade which gives this national monument its name.  I was hoping for some nice clouds as the sun went down but the sky was fairly unremarkable.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed another beautiful desert sunset.

Friday, May 11, 2012

San Diego Zoo @ 300mm!

Snow Leopard at the San Diego Zoo
Going to the San Diego zoo causes 2 big problems for a photographer:  what animals to focus on, what lenses to bring. Of course easy answer is to see "all" of the animals and take "all" of your equipment so that you can be ready for any situation. However that is very impractical in my situation.

I was traveling with my family. This included my son, who is in a wheelchair.  He becomes tired and need some pushing every now and then. There are some enormously steep hills in the San Diego zoo which would be extremely dangerous without some help. Therefore I needed to have enough free hands to help with him. Plus we wanted to have fun as a family. That was the primary goal.

Lens choice:  one could make a case for simply taking an all-purpose lens. Something that will zoom out to wide angles as well as work for close-ups. The most practical lens that Canon makes for this is the 24-105mm f/4 L.  I have this and use it often but this lens does not allow really good close ups. The best for this situation is the super telephoto 300mm f/2.8 IS L.  This thick and heavy lens is spectacular at what it does:  bringing the action in close with unparalleled sharpness and speed.  After much internal debate I decided to take this and only this lens.  Walking around with this by itself is not necessarily too heavy. Sometimes it does attract unwanted attention. While I was at the polar bear exhibit taking some pictures a woman exclaimed "Holy s***, do you see that guy's camera?"  I received a few other comments throughout the day but most of the time people were more interested in the animals. Despite its weight and size, I never seem to be disappointed in the results when I use this lens. I was hoping for the same on this excursion.

I was very pleased with the results. The extremely large lens allowed me to shoot through some of the cages, wires and glass barriers.  Some of the properties of this lens allowed to really focus on the animal itself and in the cage is rendered out of focus in such a way that it looks like there is no barrier at all between me and the wildlife. The portrait of the snow leopard above is an example of this. I was shooting right through the wire cage but the cage does not appear to affect image quality at all.

Everybody had a good time and the photography turned out as well.  Success!  Please see my Animal Gallery for other photos from this outing.
Silverback Gorilla, photographed through plexiglass at San Diego Zoo




Saturday, May 5, 2012

Goodbye Maui

I had a wonderful time in Maui. Everything (and I mean everything) went perfect:  weather, waterfalls, scenery, company, adventure, food, fun and more. Please enjoy my favorite photos from this trip.  Visit my Maui Landscape Photography Gallery for full-size photos of this paradise.






Lower Hanawi Falls: Not in the Guidebooks

Lower Hanawi Waterfall, the best on the Maui

The best waterfall in Maui is certainly a debatable issue for experts and locals. For me there is no debate at all.  After visiting multiple waterfalls throughout the nine days of adventure, this waterfall still takes my breath away. Not only was it extremely tall but the water flow pouring over the cliff was enormous and had such power as to fill the entire canyon with mist. The roaring water could be heard from a long ways away.

What made this even more special was the solitude I enjoyed here. Yes, you heard that right: solitude. This was my own personal waterfall for an entire afternoon. There was no one else in sight. How could I be so lucky? This waterfall is not listed in any guidebook that I came across. I searched many. I learned of this waterfall's existence through a lot of research on the island, on the streams, and through the internet.  I'm certainly not the first person to visit this waterfall and I have seen exactly 3 pictures taken by other adventurers of this waterfall. 

This waterfall also required 1.5 hours of hiking, much of it upstream. Although this is not an easy hike, I found it much easier than several that I had done in Kauai.  The trail is not marked. The jungle is thick.  there were times when I was not certain if I was even on the right trail. One challenge I faced after about five or 10 minutes of hiking was a fork in the trail:  
Fork in Trail of Lower Hanawi Waterfall hike
This is the picture of that crucial moment as I contemplated going to the left or to the right. Both trails appear to be equally traveled. There was no sign or other trail marker to indicate which way to go. Using my common sense, I made a decision which turned out to be correct.  However I did not know if that decision was correct until about 45 minutes later when I reached the stream.  At that point I started going upstream until I was stopped by the waterfall.  

My first view of the waterfall took my breath away. Not only is the waterfall enormous, but it had a heavy stream of water pouring over the cliff. Paradise found!  

First View of Lower Hanawi Falls
Of course I kept going and spend plenty of time here taking pictures. There was also an opportunity to skinny dip in these quiet, eden-like garden.  As I climbed over the very slippery rock to the base of the waterfall, the plunge pool was quite a sight to see. The beautiful blue color, the mist-filled air and the noise of crashing water will always be etched in my mind.  
Plunge Pool
What a spectacular adventure:  one I shall not forget.  Certainly a highlight of this year!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Road to Hana Waterfalls, Maui

A trip to Maui would be incomplete without traveling the "Road to Hana".  This winding road is liable to make anyone motion sick. Besides the multiple curves and cliffs that are perched above the ocean, waterfalls are found in abundance.  I have never been in any location where there were so many beautiful waterfalls so easily accessible.  Most of these are located beside the road. Many of them are easily missed if one is driving too quickly and not looking down into the river beds as the bridges cross each ravine.

In the interest of photography and also hoping to help other people who may travel this road, I will document the waterfalls that I was able to visit. There are many other websites that do the same that are catered towards the tourists. Mine is catered towards photographers. The waterfalls will be listed in the order they are found traveling from the middle of the island towards Haleakala National Park.  Two waterfalls which I visited are not pictured because the flow of water was so poor that they were not attractive:  Wailua waterfall and Alelele waterfall.  Another waterfall which I had hoped to visit but could not reach because of time was Punalau waterfall.

Upper Waikani Waterfall
Upper Waikani waterfall is the first really spectacular waterfall that I've visited. This is beautiful from many different angles. It can be seen from the road. Hiking down a steep rocky trail can lead to the waterfall itself where people can swim. I crossed over to the far side of the waterfall to take this photograph, trying to get a different perspective from the typical scene.

Nemo Waterfall
The next waterfall is not located on the road. Instead it requires a short hike on to EMI property. This was very easy to find but also very beautiful and private. I had my own waterfall and a beautiful swimming hole to myself.

Hanawi Waterfall
Hanawi waterfall is located next to the road. This is actually the same stream that Nemo falls comes from. Nemo falls is higher up on the hill.  Hanawi is located next to the road. The terrain is so steep that one cannot hike from one to the other. You have to access them from different locations.

Bamboo Falls
The next two waterfalls do not have any particular name. These are located right next to the road in a bamboo grove. They are easy to drive by and not notice. Bamboo waterfall was located slightly higher than Chute falls.  Both of these names are given by me. I do not know of any official name which they have.  These are both past Hana, getting close to the national park.


Chute Falls, right next to the road
Driving on, but not much farther than the previous waterfalls I came across a beautiful sight:  Hahalawe Waterfall, also known as "photo falls".   I read this was also called "Photo Falls" and when I scouted it out online before coming I could only find very bad photos of it. I even mentally put it on the "not worth a stop" list. When I saw it driving to Oheo Gulch, I knew it had great potential. When driving by, the waterfall was half in sun and half in shade. Bad timing. Fortunately I was returning this way the next day and visited earlier in the morning. Conditions were right and I hope my photo does justice to this beautiful waterfall.

Hahalawe Waterfall, aka Photo Fall
Lastly I came to the national park and the waterfalls of Oheo Gulch. Here I discovered the "Seven Sacred Pools".  Although it was January, rainfall had been very scarce lately in the water flow in these pools was quite low. They were not as photogenic as I had anticipated. Despite that, I was not disappointed because of all the other discoveries I had made on this trip.
Oheo Gulch Waterfall
The last waterfall worth mentioning is also located in Hakeakala National Park:  Waimoku waterfall is located at the end of the Pipiwai trail. Hiking up to this waterfall is a delight and is very rewarding for the photographer. The waterfall itself is extremely tall. It is a little more difficult to photograph because of its size. However it is very worthwhile to visit. I enjoyed eating a picnic lunch next to this wonderful waterfall.

Waimoku Waterfall is about 400 feet tall!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How Much Caution is Reasonable?

Hawaii Beach Warning Signs
One thing that I often hear and see a lot of are warnings. As a landscape photographer, I naturally enjoy going out and spending some time in nature:  the desert, a slot canyon, the beach, cliffs, mountains, forests, sand dunes. When researching these locations, I often come across warnings. There are warnings about dehydration, falling off of cliffs, being swept out to sea by large waves, automobile failure in the middle of nowhere including flat tires and dead batteries, getting lost, and so much more.

This photograph is great example of this "attitude of caution."  Here there are warnings for jellyfish, man-of-war, waves breaking off of ledges, waves breaking on the shore, strong currents, unstable rocks and no lifeguard to protect you.  After reading the signs, one would be afraid to proceed. These signs were located in a state park on Maui, specifically Black Sand Beach. The beach was beautiful. I did not go swimming.  A wonderful trail goes along the shoreline. I have been in some remote and potentially dangerous areas. This was not one of those places!

I have reached the point where caution seems to be background noise. I do take it with a grain of salt whenever I hear of particular dangers because usually these dangers are nonexistent or they can easily be assessed using common sense.  If I see a ledge with a huge drop-off, I don't go near to it. I take plenty of water, a shovel, and other gear to get myself out of trouble whenever I drive off into the desert.   But if I believed every single morning I read, I would never be brave enough to leave home.  :(

Friday, April 13, 2012

13 Crossings: Trail Report to Makamakaole Waterfall

Pondering the Beauty of Makamakaole 2nd Waterfall

This is a trail that I could not discover in any guidebook. I found some references to it online as I was searching for unique places to visit on the island of Maui. What makes this location unique is the beautiful waterfall that is split into two forks as it goes down the cliff face. Another unique feature is the location in West Maui. Most of the other waterfalls worth visiting are located on the road to Hana. This is different.

The first of the 13 Crossings
Without really knowing much about the trail other than the trailhead location and the GPS location of the waterfall, I convinced my traveling partner to come with me and explore. We were both pleased to find that the trail is in excellent condition. The entire hike is around 3 miles round trip.it is fairly easy until the very end. At that point it becomes scary for about 15 feet. If you can pass that 15 feet of steep drop-off, you can reach this lovely waterfall.  The trick is that you have to climb up a lower waterfall to reach the second and more beautiful waterfall. Going up was frightening for me. Coming down was easy. My wife would tell you the opposite.
Going around and up the first waterfall

Looking down the first waterfall from the second:  you have to climb up and down this to reach the second waterfall.  It would be a bad place to fall but there are many things to hold.
Typical Trail scene
One nice surprise was a stack of boulders carefully placed at the first waterfall, giving a beautiful Zen appearance to this mystical place. We certainly enjoyed our visit.

Zen stones at 1st pool and waterfall

As we were hiking, I kept track of the number of times we crossed the stream. Because this is called the "13 crossings hike" I was pleased to note that we crossed the stream 13 times.  It is well named. :)

Makamakaole stream and boulders along the 13 crossings hike 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls: Path of Darkness

Pipiwai Trail through the Idyllic Bamboo Forest
Waimoku Waterfall
At the end of the road to Hana is Haleakala National Park, it's "seven sacred pools" (Oheo Gulch) and the Pipiwai Trail.  In my opinion, the Pipiwai trail is a much greater attraction than the seven sacred pools. It goes from the seashore up the canyon until ending at a 400 foot waterfall. Along the way there are two other major waterfalls, a picturesque banyan tree and a thick bamboo forest unlike anything else I have ever seen. The bamboo goes on for nearly 1 mile.

I had previously seen several pictures of this beautiful trail. It is truly enchanting, peaceful and filled with sounds of the bamboo gently swaying in the wind. In reality it is also very dark. The bamboo comes together so tightly that most of the light is filtered out. Although the pupil can dilate to allow more light to see, the camera is not so complicated. To get a similar amount of light in, the camera has to have an open shutter a long time, allowing more light to get into the sensor (film). In the middle of the day, I had some shutter speeds of 30 seconds in the darkest part of the forest. The particular shot taken above had a shutter speed of 5 seconds. A tripod is necessary to hold the camera precisely still, allowing this kind of shot to be taken.

I have called this photograph "Path of Light" because a little more light does creep through onto the trail compared to the surrounding thick forest.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Island Dawn: Koki Beach and Alau Island

Koki Beach and Alau Island
Hana is not just the location for waterfalls.  Because it is on the east side of the island of Maui, it is a great location for seeing the sunrise over the ocean.  Just south of Hana, Koki beach has gorgeous sand and the Alau Island off shore makes for a sight at sunrise. On the top of this jagged island, there are a few ragged palm trees. This is actually a bird sanctuary and cannot be visited by tourists.

 Like most sunrise locations, I arrived in darkness and set up my equipment. Slowly the light started to come through the clouds and reflected off the water.  The stormy clouds gathered before dawn, but enough orange light came through to make my day. This is my favorite sunrise of the trip to Maui.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Black Sand Beach (Waianapanapa), Maui

Macro shot of the smooth and highly tangible rocks and pebbles of Waianapanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach), Maui. These lovely rocks make an excellent fine art subject.
 Black Sand Beach (a.k.a. Waianapanapa State Park) is a location that I was hoping to visit. I had seen some very good as well as some very bad photographs from this location. I was not sure what I would find. Getting to Black Sand Beach was much easier than Red Sand Beach because a road goes right to it and there is no hiking in the dark on the side of a cliff required.  I was surprised to discover there was no one at this highly accessible and very beautiful location. I had the entire place to myself for two hours until I decided to leave. One of the most delightful things about the beach is the rocks themselves. They are smooth, black. When they are wet, they reflect the light from the sky. It's really a beautiful sight. Normally reflections are things you want to remove in a photograph with a polarized filter. In this case, they added to the magic and so I chose to photograph them without a polarized filter.  Green vegetation added to the delightful scene.

Black Sand Beach, Maui
Green palm trees and lush vegetation growing out of the volcanic sand of Waianapanapa State Park framed the black sandy beach at sunrise.