You might think I’m referring to music from a ukulele, but I’m not. I want to tell you about what it’s like to fall asleep in Maui listening to the ocean waves crashing on the shore. It’s quite different from what you might be used to — if your experience is the “hush…hush” sound of waves running up on a sandy beach.
In Maui, my room was right on the shoreline, and waves were crashing a few meters from my bed. They made a booming, thunderous sound as the tide came in, as the waves crashed with force on lava rocks. Sometimes, I even wondered if that sound were thunder.
I was also fooled by the sound of the wind blowing the palm tree fronds. Frequently it sounded like raindrops hitting the roof, but it wasn’t rain. It was the dry fronds blowing into each other really hard.
Listening to these sounds, I realized what a gift it was to be far from the sounds of traffic, city sirens or even the television. It’s peaceful to hear the sounds of Nature, and think about the power of the wind and the waves — even the power of the rain, too.
Night photography that features the full moon is one of my favorite achievements. Add the lapping waves of the ocean and interesting landforms, and you can call that photo a personal favorite. All these elements came together for me at the end of a long day of photography on Maui.
That morning my alarm went off at 5 am, but we cancelled our 5:30 am departure for a sunrise shoot due to heavy rain all night continuing into the morning. Around 8 am, one of our workshop instructors knocked on my door. The other instructor had ventured out to scout road conditions and was stranded about an hour down the “Road to Hana” with a flat tire. Would I be willing to drive the route right away to pick him up? Of course!
Several hours later (around noon) with rain giving way to overcast sky, we hiked into a nearby state park, Wainapanapa, to do some photography. Later in the afternoon, we drove for an hour back the muddy, partially flooded, winding road to Hana — past the flat tire site — to the Haleakala State Park that features the “Seven Sacred Pools.” Then, we hiked a trail to a spectacular vantage point. Tired, yes. Sweaty, yes. Day is not over yet.
Just as the sun was setting, we arrived at our last location of the day: a little beach where you can see this volcanic mountain offshore “Alau Island” and enjoy some sun tinted clouds paint the sky before the scene disappeared into complete darkness. But this evening, there was something more. The full moon was rising opposite the sunset and near Alau island, while there was still some faint blue light in the sky.
I was ready with my equipment and techniques to capture a long exposure: my Really Right Stuff tripod and camera bracket on the Nikon D800 — necessary to make a long exposure. I knew I needed a long exposure in the very low light, and also that the long exposure would smooth the waves into a shimmering surface, accentuating the mood. I wanted the foreground to be dark, to show realistically the evening light. It was also important to me as a professional to hold back the bright light of the moon, to keep the highlights from blowing out. So, I hand held a graduated neutral density filter on the top edge of the frame.
I maintained the quality of the image by keeping the ISO at 100. I opened the lens up to f/ 2.8, and chose an exposure that allowed the foreground trees and rocks to go quite dark. With the help of the graduated filter, I held the dynamic range of the image well enough to capture this striking scene with one five-second exposure.
With this achievement, the week’s physical challenges all became worth it: the pre-dawn alarm clock, the heavy rain, the hot and humid hiking conditions, the muddy and sometimes precarious driving conditions. I was more than satisfied. I captured an image that exceeded my expectations.
With my husband and photography friends having departed, I woke up on my own in Maui this morning, but my productive photography workshop with Gary Hart gave me a tip to start my morning in a unique way. On a rainy afternoon in Hana (on Maui) this week Gary shared his methods for moonlit, full moon, and star photography. Then, last evening I remembered that this morning was just one day after the best day of the month for shooting a moonset — still close enough to capture something. Yesterday would have been better, but it was cloudy in Hana. On the second morning after a full moon, the moon (waning but 97% full) will set two hours after sunrise, when the landscape will be gently lit to balance the light of the moon. AND, as fate would have it, my room at Napili Shores opens on the Pacific Ocean, facing west where I saw the sunset last night. I looked up the time of the sunrise and moonset on my Focalware app, and set my alarm. It would only take me five minutes to put my clothes on, grab my camera and set up my tripod outside.
About 30 minutes after sunrise, when the full moon was about 20 degrees above the horizon was my best opportunity for an image. I was able to frame the moon with the silhouette of a palm tree, and the sky would only get brighter in the next 30 minutes, making it harder to separate the brightness of the moon from the brighter sky.
I did venture down on the lava rocks by the ocean in an effort to capture the moon sinking into the ocean, but clouds got between us (the moon and me), and that view didn’t happen. (Daily reminder: Mother Nature does whatever she wants. Cooperation is not in Her vocabulary.) I did capture some other cool images that I will share in future blogs, though. A vivid rainbow appeared for a few fleeting moments, and I captured that. Stay tuned to this nature photography blog…now is great time to subscribe by entering your email address. I’m posting some other cool Maui and Hawaii images on Instagram. Follow me there at @cathykellyphotography.
Rainy and humid Maui cut us a break this morning. While two other photo shoots have been rained out yesterday and today, the location we woke up at 3 am for, worked out — mercifully.
You have to set the alarm for 3 to drive the windy roads from sea level up at Napili Shores to 10,023 feet above sea level to the summit of Maui’s volcano in time for sunrise. I was pretty surprised to see a nearly full parking lot and about 100 other people crazy enough to be doing the same thing! The park rangers were helping us park, as if we were crowding into a lot for major league baseball or football back at home. After parking, we hiked up a pretty steep trail to this location, breathing pretty hard in the thin air.
Here is one of my favorite images from today’s early photo shoot. I used by Nikon D800 camera mounted on a Really Right Stuff tripod with the wide angle 14-24 mm Nikon lens and a Singh Ray graduated neutral density filter. I shot at ISO 100 to give me maximum ability to make a large highly detailed print later if I wish.
Look how the curves in the composition take your eye into the crater and back up the ridge into the clouds to the sun. Haleakala means, “house of the sun.”