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!
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!