It’s crazy that it was over a year ago that I was in Hawaii, and I was thinking about what to post I realized that I still had a ton of unprocessed brackets from that trip that could be fun to run through Photomatix, so that’s what I did! There is really nothing to shoot during the winter up here; snow makes for really gray and dismal looking HDRs, and beyond that it’s really hard to get motivated to go exploring around town when its -3° outside. So, to help make up for my inexcusable lack of posting I’ll post two shots here, both from Hawaii but that’s about where any similarities end. The first shot is from our walk across the interior crater of the volcano Kilauea-Iki. The volcano was active sometime in the ’90’s I think, but when we visited the lava had hardened into a black desert that enabled us to walk across it. It took the better part of a day to make the journey, and the landscape was truly alien. Along the way, and not surprisingly seeing as we were standing inside a volcano, there were many fissures where boiling steam would hiss up out of the ground. This seemed to be a good subject for a picture, and the dramatic clouds, as ever, add to the effect. The craziest part is that the volcano has erupted massively since we visited, meaning that most of the foreground in this shot is totally different now. I’d love to go back and see what changed!
The minerals that were in the lava that hardened give the rocks all sorts of interesting colors.
The next image is again from Hawaii, but in a stark contrast to the barren volcanic landscape, this shot is from the Limahuli botanic garden on Kauai. As you’d expect a botanic garden on a tropical island to be, the scenery was fantastic, with countless plants and animals that were foreign to me. As we got to the top of one of the hills, this fantastic view presented itself and, well, you know the rest!
After we visited the park, we walked along the beach and were able to see the mountains from a totally different angle. I’ll post those shots some other time!
As Andrew rightfully pointed out, I have dropped the ball (and then punted it away!) in terms of posting lately. My hours have been extended at work, and on top of that I’m shooting a wedding every Saturday for the next six, so my free time is limit
ed. That doesn’t mean I don’t have any though, and will definitely try and keep posting what I’ve got left from Hawaii until we leave for Maine at the end of June. Get pumped… cliché sunsets, boats, ocean, and coastlines are in the near future! Back to this post though. This was truly an incredible sight, and it rather hit us over the head as we walked into Volcano National Park. We’d parked the car and walked over to an area marked “scenic overlook” (photographers read those signs as “attempt to take unique picture here”). What we saw was a vast canyon, and at the bottom an unending sea of hardened, black lava. It was the scale of the thing that really blew me away, however, and to demonstrate this, I will show you the full picture…
Truly a spectacular view. If you look closely, you can see the billowing steam in the distance from an active volcano.
…and now, I will show you a 100% crop of some…. people.
Yes, those blurry noisy little dots are in fact humans, wandering across the lake of hardened lava. In the full image, you can see the lighter colored trail that most people use.
We started at the far end after walking around the rim and then down a steep slope into the crater. It took us all day to walk across the bottom but I’ve done few things in my life more breathtaking. It sounds corny but every 5 seconds you look around and say “ok… I am, in fact, walking across a volcano. That could theoretically still erupt.” And then you smile, grab yet another 3-shot bracket and keep walking.
This is probably my first or second favorite shot from Hawaii. It was one of those moments in life that I hope to have many more of, when you stop, and think to yourself “this is something that I have legitimately never seen before and will probably never see again.” In case you are confused by the picture, as some who have seen it so far seem to be, I’ll try my best to explain how it came about. We spent some time on the Big Island while in Hawaii for Christmas, an island famous for its active volcanoes. It is the newest of the Hawaiian islands and is thus still forming as the volcano burps over time. We took a road trip up to Volcano National Park, where we were able to hike along the rim of a volcano that had erupted less than 10 years ago, as well as a road trip along the tops of a few mountains (read: dormant volcanoes). The road trip gave us a good idea of what a truly alien landscape is, driving through incredibly thick fog (we were up in the clouds after all) with an endless expanse of hardened lava all around you, and in complete silence. We would get out ever hundred feet or so to read signs, examine craters, and just try and make sense of where we were. Right before we began our descent, I saw the sun peeking through the clouds, and (for the millionth time) asked if we could stop the car so I could take some pictures. It turned out that what I was seeing was in fact the sun reflecting off of the Pacific Ocean, gleaming up at us from underneath the clouds! The layer of clouds abruptly ended at a certain altitude, revealing the grand landscape below. The mountain cascades down into what are known as “lava shelves” or land that forms when molten lava hits the ocean water and immediately hardens. You can see that plant life has actually grown on some parts of the shelves way over to the left. These newly formed landmasses are very dangerous though, as they are quite brittle and do not attach to the seafloor but rather simply stick to the pre-existant shore. Because of this they have a high tendency to break off and sink rapidly, so you cannot go out on them. Nevertheless, viewed from almost a mile up in the air and inland, they make for an unforgettable sight.
The mountain turned into a sheer cliff about 20 feet in front of me. I did not really feel like stepping off the observation platform to get a better shot!
If there’s one thing HDR does well, it is to showcase all of the colors in a scene in all their saturated glory. This picture stands out to me in this regard, because I do not remember seeing nearly this much red, blue, purple, or yellow in the rocks at the time. It was late afternoon, and the sun was at just the right angle to light up the water all the way down at the bottom, and reflecting off to catch the different hues of the rocks. This scene has it all, every color, texture, and angle you could ask for. There’s one other one from this same spot that came out really well and I processed them both simultaneously but I will wait to post that one. I’m thinking of throwing up another one from my most recent trip to Maine first as I shot a lot there over Thanksgiving and have only posted one of them. I guess the holes in the ground are caused by either volcanic or aquatic erosion… one of the two usually applies on Hawaii! In order to reach this spot we has to drive over some incredibly rough terrain but it was worth it. I do wish I’d had the luxury of time and a tripod, which would have enabled me to get a full, ±4 stop, 5 shot bracket and even more importantly, stability. If you are the pixel peeper type, which I myself am, you will see that this image is not nearly as sharp as the 5D usually provides, mostly because the 3 bracketed images were not quite perfectly aligned, even with all of Photomatix’s magic. This shot is now available in many resolutions over at our desktops page. Enjoy!
You can't see it in this one, but in other holes adjacent to this there are ladders running up the side. The cliffs are so steep that people would haul their canoes up these ladders.
There really is no way to describe how weird/awesome/freaky it is to walk on hardened lava, in a location that, a few years ago, would have been entirely full of millions of tons of molten lava. The crater of Kilauea-Iki is still riven with cracks and chasms caused by the hardened lava breaking, and some of these reach thousands of feet down into the mantle where the lava still bubbles. When water reaches these depths, you get billowing columns of steam on the earth’s surface. It is actually kinda hard to see in this shot, but there is steam coming out of the crack toward the top. The different minerals that combined with the lava as it flowed over the earths surface created many awesome colors upon hardening. Reds and oranges are most common, as you can see here. The reddish haze in the clouds is actually called “Vog,” which is short for Volcanic Smog, caused by the combination of water vapor and poisonous gasses that escape from vents leftover from previous eruptions.
The vapor here is water, however in other places it can be sulfur dioxide, which is not nearly as harmless.
Try and say that name without either laughing or messing up… it took us literally all afternoon to get it right. Hawaii is, of course, full of these impossible to pronounce names (the native language is a spoken language, and all renderings of it into text are purely a Western construct to begin with…) but this is one of the better ones. We left the island of Kaua’i yesterday, hopped on two 20 minute flights, and were on the island of Hawaii (not to be confused with the state itself, some refer to the island as “The Big Island” so as not to be confused) staying in a cottage literally on the border of Volcano National Park. You know you’re close when the city you are staying in is “Volcano, Hawaii”. We got up early in a (failed) attempt to beat the (other) tourists and spent the day walking the Kilauea-Iki trail, which is a ~5m hike that goes around the rim of the Kilauea-Iki volcano, and then descends down and you trek straight across the bottom of the volcano, across a Martian plane of cracked black volcanic rock. I’ve never done anything like it; it was truly an alien experience. This shot is of a “crater” nearby that is part of the vista as you look out over Kilauea-Iki. Halema’uma’u continually belches steam and SO2 gas, making it not so fun to go near but really pretty. The HDR is from pretty far away, across the crater, using the 100mm macro (one of the first on this site to use that lens, incidentally) and the accompanying Youtube video is just something fun I shot with the 16-35 while we were at the visitor’s center, which is REALLY close to the steam-belching crater. There are, of course, HDRs from that as well… to be posted later… with the other 1100-odd HDRs I’ve gotten so far. It’s great and all, but when I think of the fact that we’ve still got half the trip ahead of us… let’s just say you’ll be seeing Hawaii shots for a while 😀
Right below the frame is the crater of Kilauea-Iki; it will be featured in future HDRs in all of its pitch-black glory.
In other news, Andrew sent me some shots he took with his newly acquired set of Nikon lenses using the Canon adapter. I cannot wait to get home and mess around with 14mm on the full frame 5D! Fun and, of course, HDRs, will ensue.