For our last night on Hawaii’s Big Island we stayed on the Kona coast, and just like so many other nights in Hawaii it offered up a fantastic sunset. Despite the signs warning people away I spent a while exploring the rocks outside the Sheraton hotel looking for some interesting foreground to shoot.
The boat you can see out to the right is not there for the sunset, but to serve as a base for people snorkelling and scuba diving to see the Manta Rays that are very common in this part of the world. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to experience it this time around.
The Manta Rays have been ‘trained’ to associate light with plankton, so after dark they are attracted to the torches that tour guides shine under the water. I just need to become a certified diver so that I can get down there and take some photos!
After an hour-long drive to the port we arrived to find that our first attempt at seeing the Na Pali coast by boat was cancelled! The sea can get very choppy around the island of Kauai, and due to poor weather conditions we just couldn’t go out.
Fortunately we managed to re-book at the last minute through a different tour company for our last day on the island. To say I had my fingers crossed for good weather would be a huge understatement!
After our misfortune earlier in the week, we were lucky enough to experience incredible conditions when we finally made it out onto the water. I was able to keep my camera out for the majority of the trip without worrying about any spray at all!
I debated which lens to take on our Kauai helicopter tour long and hard. You can’t change lenses during the flight, so it’s a make or break decision! After much deliberation I went with a mid-range lens which turned out to be just right.
At 24mm this shot of the Na Pali coast was about as wide as I could get without the helicopter creeping in at the edges of the frame. We were too far away from anything for a super wide angle lens to be useful, and I think it would have been very difficult to get a sharp shot with a powerful zoom lens. Something in the 18-70mm range would have been just right.
You can take private photography tours with some companies. I have no idea if you can switch lenses on those flights, but they change the route depending on what you want to take photos of which is pretty cool. Perhaps one day if I have more money than sense I’ll take one of those!
After a stunning drive around the northern edge of the Big Island this was our reward, the view from the Pololu Valley lookout. From here you can hike down to the black sand beach which occupies the middle of the valley, and I can tell you it’s certainly worth it!
There are only 5 or 6 parking spots by the lookout. If you miss out you’re left to decide where is a reasonable place to park alongside a road that’s already pretty narrow! But it’s doable nonetheless. Thanks to our early start we managed to get a spot before it got too busy up there.
This part of the island is often covered in cloud with intermittent rain. Although we had a brief shower during our visit we were pretty lucky to see the sun for the majority of the morning, even if it made the hike to the beach that little bit more tiring!
One early morning we took a beautiful walk along the Big Island coast near Waikoloa, admiring the palm trees as we went. Wandering south from the Fairmont Orchid hotel there were so many small bays, some sandy and some full of lava rocks. It was the perfect place for a relaxing stroll in the relative cool at the beginning of the day.
I’m not sure why, but these trees are just so pleasing in photographs! Perhaps it’s because they just look so clean, with the slim narrow trunk leading up to such well defined leaves at the top. I don’t know! It’s not often you find trees that look so great as the single focus point of a photo, but I think the palm tree really pulls it off.
I used my Lightroom preset ‘Summer Sky’ on this shot, which I’ve been using a lot recently in photos where the sun is shining and the sky is just a plain blue. It just looks really boring without any clouds! Playing with the colour a little seems to make a big difference.
I’m thinking of putting some of my presets into a bundle and selling them online for a small fee. Would you be interested in that? I think I’ll try to sort something out over the next few weeks but I have no idea where to start!
Inaccessible by road there are really only three ways to see the Na Pali coast of Kauai – by helicopter, by boat or on foot. I wanted to see this unbelievable place from every possible angle! So during our five days on the island we tried all three, even if my stomach didn’t appreciate the helicopter ride all that much.
The practical nature of the safety briefing was quite refreshing, its clear and consistent message being simply “just get out of the damn helicopter!” Despite reassuring words from our pilot I was still a little nervous about our flight before take-off.
But as soon as we were in the air I was focussed on only one thing – capturing magical Kauai as best I could. As we flew along the Na Pail coast I could barely believe my eyes. Surely this is the most incredible coastline in the world?
Have you ever been on a helicopter tour? Maybe you’ve seen the Na Pali coast too? I’d love to hear from you!
The Na Pali coast on the island of Kauai is full of beautiful surprises like this that you can really only appreciate from the air. Known as the “open ceiling” sea cave it’s actually a hollowed out lava tube. You can take a boat tour and enter from the ocean where there is an opening big enough for the smaller boats.
I had no idea this place existed before we took our flight, so it’s more luck than judgement that I managed to capture it here. Shooting from a helicopter is the most challenging environment I’ve encountered yet for photography.
The best tip I can think of is to sacrifice depth of field and make sure you use Shutter Priority mode. Set that shutter speed really fast. I was hovering around the 1/1000th of a second mark which left me at f4.0 most of the time. You may not get the entire frame in focus, but at least you’ll get something!