When the impulse first came over me to take Gary Hart’s Hawaii Volcanoes and Waterfalls Workshop on the Big Island, I thought about beautiful, sandy beaches, calm tropical breezes and relaxing with a frilly drink topped off with a little pink umbrella. Was I ever mistaken! And I am sure glad. First, there wasn’t time to “hang out” as we were too busy shooting amazing locations. Plus, the Big Island is not full of peaceful, sandy beaches. Instead, it is a magical, wild, untamed paradise. Perfect for a photographic workshop. Bob and I flew over a couple of days ahead of time to explore a little on our own. We both knew I would be gone much of the time on photo shoots and he would be left to explore on his own once the workshop started.
The morning before the workshop began, I ventured out on my own shortly before sunrise. After a little exploring, a little hiking and a lot of luck, I stumbled onto a quiet, remote little waterfront cove. See image above. I had miscalculated how long it would take to find the right place to shoot sunrise, thus the sun had already risen by the time I discovered this tropical paradise. While I missed the sunrise, I enjoyed shooting and exploring in the beautiful early morning light. What a great start to a wonderful week spent photographing the Big Island of Hawaii with my fellow workshop participants and our leaders.
Many of the beaches are naturally landscaped with lava rocks. Some are pebble size, some are larger sharp-edged rocks and others spread out like a rocky black carpet leading down to the water. One morning, I discovered where a tree had grown out of the lava. The tree itself had been cut down and removed and all that was left was this stump. The color and texture drew me closer, the roots snaking in and out of the lava held me there. I speculated on how long it had been there and the determination and fortitude it must have taken to prosper in such a harsh environment. Wonder why someone cut it down?
One afternoon we headed north on State Road 19 out of Hilo. We turned on a narrow, twisty, curvy, sometimes two-lane, sometimes one-lane road. We stopped at a small pullout and hiked about a mile down the trail. We then turned off on a smaller and less defined trail that led down to the water’s edge. We had been warned to wear our waterproof sandals or boots. We hiked a short distance upstream in 6 to 10 inches of water. It had been a hot, humid day and the cool water was a welcome relief. We discovered this little river flowing over a bed of lava creating a small waterfall. There is lava everywhere on the Big Island. Some of it big monstrous-looking rocks. Just above the waterfall, a huge tree had grown out of one such massive lava rock, its long tentacle-like roots surrounded the lava with moss and ferns nestled among them. Squatting down with my tripod set to its lowest standing height, I framed the image to capture this mystical and mysterious composition. I totally expected, Bilbo, the Hobbit from Lord of the Rings, to emerge from a tiny hidden doorway and ask, “Would you would like a cup of tea? What are you doing here anyway?”
Laupahoehoe Point Park is situated on a peninsula of lava that juts out from the northern coastline of the Big Island, creating a scenic area that is well worth the drive off State Road 19. A large, green lawn provides a place where families can relax and picnic. A plaque memorializes the 24 people killed in the April Fool’s Day 1946 tsunami. The giant waves rose to 56 feet above sea level sweeping away a schoolhouse on the point along with 21 school children. The name of the area comes from the word describing the type of lava (pahoehoe) that formed this peninsula, which, by the way, is shaped like a giant leaf, or lau.
Our group arrived here shortly before sunrise and spent a couple of hours shooting the waves crashing over the lava before heading back to the hotel for a very much anticipated (and well-deserved I might add) hot breakfast.
Flowers on the Big Island of Hawaii are as diverse and beautiful as the island on which they flourish. The image on the left is an unusual flower of which I was not able to locate the name. It started raining just as I spotted this little beauty. I set up the tripod and camera as quickly as I could, took a couple of shots, covered up the camera, grabbed my tripod and backpack and headed to the car – about a half-mile walk. The rain was not cold, the wind was light, and with my camera secure and dry in its raincoat, I didn’t mind getting wet. After all, this was our last stop of the morning before we again headed back for breakfast.
The image on the right is a partial shot of a giant floral display. It is called Red Wings Heliconia and was taken in the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens just outside of Hilo. The flower spike itself can grow to three or four feet in length.
Early one morning, our workshop group ventured out to a little unnamed beach on the Puna Coast. Just after sunrise, I wandered away from the group and discovered this peaceful little scene. As the workshop would end the next morning, I spent a few moments admiring the view while watching the waves break among the rocks and enjoying the early morning breeze. I reflected on my first visit to Hawaii, the amazing “wild” un-manicured beaches, coves and hidden treasures. I always cherish moments like these when, for a little while, photography takes a back seat to just “being” in nature.
Not sure if I can pick out the greatest highlight of my trip to the Big Island. But, if I had to say what was the deciding factor to sign up for this Hawaiian workshop, it would have to be the opportunity to see and photography the Kilauea Caldera at night with stars and the Milky Way overhead.
A little bit of history. Kilauea is still an active volcano and currently erupts from two locations: its summit and in the East Rift Zone. Geologists have dated major eruptions of Kilauea back over 225,000 years. Though, reliable records of historical activity actually began in 1820 with the first well-documented eruption occurring in 1823. Since that time Kilauea has erupted at least 18 times and is monitored continuously. The most recent eruption began on January 3, 1983, and continues as of this writing. This longest-running eruption could last another hundred years or stop tomorrow.
I stood in awe when I first set eyes on the Kilauea Caldera during my first full day in Hawaii. Bob and I drove to the steam vents, which are pretty incredible in themselves. Ground water steeps down to the hot volcanic rocks and returns to the surface as steam. When I first stepped out of the car in the parking area and saw the steam rising from the ground all around me, knowing I stood less than a mile away from an active volcano, I must admit, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there. Still, we drove to the Visitors Center about a half of mile away and joined a multitude of others to get our first look at the big hole in the ground known as the Kilauea Caldera. While you could see steam and smoke rising, it wasn’t until I returned a couple of nights later with my group and saw the orange, fiery glow spewing out that my heart really started pumping. We were lucky that night to have low-lying clouds, which reflected the color from the Caldera and a little later the Milky Way made its appearance. Truly, a night to remember!
I loved every minute of my Hawaii Photo Workshop. Thanks to our leaders, Gary Hart and his assistant, Don Smith, and my fellow participants. A big thanks to my understanding husband, Bob, who spent much of the time by himself. If you’re a photographer and want to see and experience the “real” Hawaii, check out Gary Hart and Don Smith websites. They both lead photo workshops there several times a year. You absolutely can’t go wrong.
Coming up next: I take artistic license with several of my Hawaiian images and create “painterly” versions. Hope you’ll come back and check them out. If you haven’t subscribed to my blog and would like to be notified when I post new blogs, you may subscribe here.
In the meantime, remember to look for and “SEE THE EXTRAORDINARY IN THE ORDINARY!”