Do Birds Jump the Waves?

In Florida, I watch pelicans and osprey dive for fish, and sandpipers run from the approaching wave on the beach, but I have never witnessed a whole flock of birds jump the waves. That’s why I was intrigued by this sight in Iceland.

First of all, it amazes me that horses, birds, reindeer and seals can withstand the bitter cold and gale force winds of the Iceland winter. I saw all these types of wildlife roaming free and feeding on what Nature provides.

Then, I found myself at the foot of Vestrahorn on a black sand beach at dusk, which is mid-afternoon in January. I was photographing the mountain towering over the beach and reflecting in the wet sad. But a flock of birds floating near the shore caught my eye.

Birds at Vestrahorn
Sea birds jump the waves near the black sand beach at Vestrahorn.

I liked the rosy tones in the sky, the snow in the mountains and the repeating waves approaching the shore. What do you like about this image?

The Eyes Have It

Why do I fall in love with the Icelandic horse?

I remember that I asked my parents for a horse when I was a young child, too young to understand that the answer would always be no. I remember how I loved to ride horses at summer camp. And I remember learning how smart horses are, and how some can unlock their own stable door. These reasons are part of the story.

Perhaps the most authentic reason is the way I feel when a horse looks at me, and I try to read their thoughts and feelings. Our true connection is found in our eye contact. I cannot explain it, but I can show it.

Icelandic horse
I love the texture of this furry winter coat on this Icelandic horse, and the head tilt, allowing him to look at me as I admire him. Seen near Vik, Iceland.

Flowing Hot Lava

For the first time in my long life, I had the chance to view hot flowing lava, when I flew over Mauna Loa during the 2022 eruption. Mauna Loa, on the big island of Hawaii, is the largest active volcano in the world, and it had not erupted for 38 years prior to December 2022. Upon hearing that this eruption and our vacation would overlap, I was first worried that our non-refundable trip was doomed. After checking with a friend who lives on Hawaii Island, we kept our original plans and arrived on December 3. Fortunately, we enjoyed clear skies over the west coast Kona region, and some unique sightings of the lava flow. I even got my friend Dennis, who lives on Hawaii, out on his first helicopter adventure.

Lava flowing from Fissure 3 of Mauna Loa on Hawaii in December 2022, as seen from a helicopter.
Flowing lava finds the path of least resistance as it flows like rivers down Mauna Loa, the “long mountain,” in December 2022, as seen from a helicopter. Hawaii, Big Island.

Ecosystems in Hawaii

On a helicopter flight to fly over the flowing lava from Mauna Loa in early December (2022), we passed over vastly different ecosystems. This lush green area looks like a region that is continuously wet, and it also shows the fissures that belie the base layer of volcanic rock.

hawaii
Rain clouds and verdant green land are two clues that this hilly region of Hawaii receives frequent rain.

I moved quickly to capture this image, because I felt that the lumpy topography, the clouds, shadows, the crevice and the lack of human development gave this scene a mysterious atmosphere.

This image is included with 11 other diverse landscapes in my 2023 calendar, just published. If you haven’t ordered one and want one, email me now at cathykellyphotography@gmail.com.

Newest Land on the Planet

Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on Earth, is erupting now on the Big Island of Hawaii. As molten lava spews into the air and flows down the long mountain slopes, the newest land on the planet is forming.

In the wee hours of Monday December 5, I made these photographs from the safe distance of 2 miles. You can appreciate the ferocity of the fire and hot lava.

Mauna Loa eruption on December 5, 2022 seen from Old Saddle Road. Copyright Cathy Kelly.
Mauna Loa
Tremendous gas cloud forms over the eruption of Mauna Loa on December 5, 2022.
Copyright Cathy Kelly

Here is some background information on Mauna Loa and the meaning of its name from the U. S. Geological Survey. (This quote was written before the current eruption of 2022.)

“The Hawaiian name “Mauna Loa” means “Long Mountain.” This name is apt, for the subaerial part of Mauna Loa extends for about 120 km (74 mi) from the southern tip of the island to the summit caldera and then east-northeast to the coastline near Hilo.

Mauna Loa is among Earth’s most active volcanoes, having erupted 33 times since its first well-documented historical eruption in 1843. It has produced large, voluminous flows of basalt that have reached the ocean eight times since 1868. It last erupted in 1984, when a lava flow came within 7.2 km (4.5 mi) of Hilo, the largest population center on the island. “

Mauna Loa Erupting

What incredible good luck to witness a volcano erupting! Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii, just began to spew molten lava one week ago — for the first time in 38 years. When I first heard the news, I feared that our planned family vacation might be canceled for safety reasons. Fortunately, the lava flow and the harmful gases known as vog, have been limited to unpopulated regions of the island. Hundreds of curious onlookers can witness this extraordinary sight from two to three miles away from the viewpoint of Old Saddle Road.

The lava flow is best seen at night, when the molten lava creates a dramatic contrast with the dark sky and land. My good friend Dennis, who lives here on Hawaii, met me at 3am and drove me up to this viewing site. We photographed the changing scene and stayed until daybreak. This image shows the first light in the sky before dawn, around 6am.

maunaloa
Mauna Loa erupting on December 4, 2022, seen from Old Saddle Road, Hawaii.

Thankful for my Teacher

This year I sense a chorus of thankful feelings that our lives have mostly returned to normal after a long period of staying at home and masking our faces to avoid the COVID-19 pandemic. While the virus still circulates, most of us are traveling and working and getting our families together. Hooray!

I’d also like to take a moment to thank a photography teacher, who has inspired me and enhanced both my knowledge and enjoyment of photography: Gary Hart. Gary hosted a fascinating workshop at the Grand Canyon during summer monsoon season, teaching students about capturing lightning with a lightning trigger, and he will be co-hosting a January workshop in Iceland, where we hope to see and photograph the Northern Lights.

This morning I read Gary’s blog where he described what he is thankful for, especially post-pandemic. His blogs are very well written and always contain a few photography tips, including occasional confessions of his own mistakes, and always a touch of humor.

Thanks, Gary. Looking forward to Iceland!

Gary Hart (second from right) with his workshop assistant Curt Fargo (right) and three workshop students at the Grand Canyon.
Gary Hart’s Summer Monsoon workshop at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Lightning was firing across the canyon.
Gary Hart’s photo of the full workshop group at Desert View, South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Election Night Sunset

New Yorkers could look up at the city lights on Election night and enjoy the red, white and blue lights on the iconic Empire State Building. It was a clear night with balmy temperatures, perfect for rooftop photography.

I made a test print today of this image, 20 x 30 inches, and just wow! What a unique and amazing city!

Empire State Building, Manhattan, Top of the Rock, print
The perfect balance of a colorful sky right after sunset and the city lights adding vivid detail to the skyscrapers in Manhattan, New York City.

My Own Grand Central Terminal

Have you ever seen an iconic photo and wanted to execute your own? I felt that way about long exposures of Grand Central Terminal in New York City. I like the effect of a long exposure in the terminal center, where the people moving appear as a blur. A long exposure also allows you to take a high quality, low noise image in a low light space. I was really pleased with the results. You can even see the constellations painted on the ceiling.

If you love this image too, send me an email to order a print as large as 20 x 3o inches. At that size, the print is truly grand! Perfect for the New York fan on your holiday gift list. (For fast loading, a low resolution version of the image is uploaded here.)

grandcentral, newyorkcity
Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Print available from Cathy Kelly.

Feeling the Sunshine

When I wake up on a cloudy day, I feel like staying in my pajamas. As soon as the clouds clear and the blue sky allows the sunshine to light up the world, I feel a burst of energy. Do your moods swing the same way?

On a sunny afternoon in the Fall, you don’t have to convince me that it’s a good idea to go for a walk. This path into the landscape reminds me of a John Constable painting.

park, sunshine, walk
Sewickley Heights Park (Pennsylvania) on a sunny September afternoon.