Based in Acadia National Park in Maine during the time of peak Fall foliage colors, a small group of participants will work directly with me to gain new skills, insights, and inspiration toward creating more evocative and compelling photographs. Click HERE or CONTACT ME for further details.
One of my favorite things is to hike down Sliding Sands Trail in the Haleakala National Park, the night before the full moon, during sunset time. It gives me a chance to get down inside the crater, one of my favorite places on the planet, during the time of optimal-sweet light. With or without camera, I recognize this as an incredible life-experience – one that I always try and make time for, at least a few times a year. Last night, I was able to share this experience with a Maui photo workshop participant who was looking for an adventurous photographic expedition during his island vacation to Maui. It so happened that on this particular day, the moonrise was the most dramatic of the year! With the sun perfectly opposite the moon, the light and size of the moon appeared to be 14% larger and 30% brighter than normal! It only made sense for us to venture into the crater from atop the 10,023 foot peak, and put ourselves in an epic and otherworldly place (inside a volcanic crater) for this special moonrise! As good fortune would have it, we were graced with an insane sunset and the light was so sweet.
The Big Island was clearly visible, seemingly close enough to touch, as the large and brilliant moon arose above it. Me – as much as I was ooh’ing and aah’ing the moonrise to the right of this scene, I couldn’t resist focusing my photographic efforts on the sweet, brilliant, and colorful light that presented itself to my lens in this composition. Here, in Hawaii, being much closer to the equator, this period of sweet-light does not last long. It is fleeting. Ephemeral. You put yourself in in the right place, at the right time, and hope for the best. Last night, I found myself at the right place at the right time – very cool to be able to share the experience with another passionate photographer!
I have announced an “immersive” photo workshop that will be held in San Francisco this summer, August 10th and 11th, 2013. San Francisco is one of my favorite places to photograph, and I am excited for this unique opportunity to work with 2-3 participants during an exciting photography-filled weekend. We will focus our efforts on the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, dramatic cityscape images, city night images, and more. More information is HERE.
For the past 6 months or more, I have been putting myself out there quite a lot and working with people individually in personalized photography workshops here at my home base of Maui. I’ve gotta say, after years of dealing primarily with people in relation to selling artwork, I am really enjoying working with earlier-on-the-path photographers and passing on my knowledge, thoughts, perspectives and skills. I never really pre-visualized myself as a “teacher”, but I’m diggin’ it! So much so, that I am taking my act on the road. I am excited to announce a 3-day intensive workshop for the passionate photographer in my ol’ stomping grounds of La Jolla California. I spent 4 years there shooting essentially a three mile stretch of coast, which resulted in a big turn of direction in my work, leading to more personal and expressive images – many of which became award winners. Anyways, I am stoked! I can’t wait to head back there, after over 3 years of being away, and working with a small group of 4-6 people and passing on some important skills and perspectives. If you are interested, or if you know someone who may be, you can check out the details HERE.
THE BEING BEHIND Big Island, Hawaii 2013
It has been on my wishlist for quite a long time to view and photograph the lava flowing into the ocean on Hawaii’s Big Island, but for the past few years, the flow has not really been doing much. A couple of months ago, it finally broke through and is now providing surface activity and ocean entry where visitors can get close and witness this amazing spectacle. From the National Park side, it is a 6-8 mile hike each way across lava fields, which pretty much rules that option out. From the Kalapana side, it is approximately 2 miles hike each way, but this side is private property and there is a certain amount of state and landowner control, preventing people from simply walking in on their own to view the lava. So what is one to do? Here on Maui, I heard through the “coconut wireless” about a travel company called Poke-A-Stick Tours, that took people out to the lava. I called and spoke with Cheryl, owner/guide/host extraordinaire, and planned a couple of days with her afternoon sunset hikes out to the lava flow.
NEW EARTH Big Island, Hawaii 2013
It’s 4:30am. Crazy to think that I’ve already been awake for over an hour – not that I’m thinking, and not that I’m really awake! But here I am, at Isaac Hale State Park on the Big Island of Hawaii with 20 other walking zombies that look a lot like sleepy tourists, all anxious and curious by the adventure that awaits us.
Captain Shane Turpin and crew of two pull up alongside our gathered group of sleepwalkers in a big truck, towing an awkward looking passenger boat hitched on a trailer. After some curt dialogue about the what-and-what-not’s to our impending trip, we climb a ladder and board the boat. The driver then drives us down to the boat ramp, backs us in to the water, and before we know it, we are free from the trailer and moving out past the breakers into the dark sea.
I have my pack full of camera gear with two layers of water resistant protection at my feet. I’m wearing a fleece and and a raincoat, which keeps me warm in the surprisingly cool morning and does well enough keeping me dry against the waves that are continuously splashing and blowing into the boat and in my face. My shorts are soaked. I feel like a Navy Seal going out on a special night mission, but keep getting pulled back to reality by the chitter-chatter of over-talkative tourists. Isn’t O-dark-early a time for quiet? I wonder to myself, curious as to how some people can never be still and silent.
45 minutes-to-an-hour later, we arrive at our destination – New Earth, in the form of hot molten lava flowing steadily into the Pacific Ocean, splendidly steaming and smoking and wonderfully beautiful. Captain Shane maneuvers the boat with effortless ease, to within yards of the lava. I feel the radiance on my face and legs, and within minutes, the glowing heat dries my wet shorts. The lava meets the sea at a number of different spots along a 1/4 mile stretch of coast. In some spots, the thick fiery substance slowly drops into the water, and in other spots it’s gushing, as if it is being pumped out of the earth. It is totally awesome to view this spectacle in the dark of night!
As wonderful as it is to the eyes, attempting to photograph hot molten lava in the dark of night from a moving boat in a rough sea, is completely futile. I practice patience and wait for the light of a coming sunrise to illuminate the scene while enjoying the moment – which to my delight, has proven to be so powerful of a scene that it has rendered some silence from the tourists. Amen!
Before too long, the light of day takes over the darkness and I am able to start working with the camera. The Captain slowly runs the boat parallel to the coast so the passengers on one side are able to view and photograph, then turns back the other way allowing the others the spectacular view. With this method, you are face to face with the amazing sight, or looking out to sea and the setting of a crescent moon. During the 5-minute periods of looking out to sea, I review my images and quickly adjust my settings to better capture this dynamic scene. In the end, there’s probably not more than 10 minutes of optimal light to shoot images while being face to face with the lava.
One aspect of concern is that half-a-dozen times, we are completely immersed in the gaseous fumes spewing out of the planet. Just 2 days ago, I was told by a guide while hiking into the lava flow on foot, “Don’t breathe that smoke and gas – it will kill you.” I also remember reading online in my research that it is very dangerous to breathe. Apparently, I am the only one on this boat that has been told this or read this in my research! The Captain obviously does not seem concerned, and every time we are immersed in smoke and gas, I am the only one aboard that responds by burying my face and eyes into a relatively protective cocoon I’ve formed inside my fleece and raincoat. On the occasion I peer out, my eyes burn and I quickly burrow back into my cocoon. These periods are fleeting, maybe 30-45 seconds at a time, and it’s easy enough to cover up, but it still leaves me wondering, how harmful is this? If not for me on this one-time experience, then for the Captain and his crew who do this multiple times daily?
Morning has broken, the sweet light is fading, and we make our final pass by the lava before heading back to our starting point. The seas are a little rougher now, but no one seems to mind much, buzzed with the high of a spectacular experience freshly emblazoned in heart and mind. To see Mother Nature creating more land, New Earth, right in front of my eyes…what an insanely incredible experience!
The photo workshop side of my business is growing all of the time and Maui Photo Expeditions has been a lot of fun so far. I am looking to expand some trips outside of Maui and would love to get over to the Big Island more, so will be actively planning group trips over there. In the meantime, if you are visiting the Big Island of Hawaii and would like to discuss a personalized one-on-one workshop like I provide here on Maui, please Contact Me. I am happy to island-hop over! See details to my Maui Photo Expeditions HERE.
During one of my Maui Photo Expeditions this week, while working with a cool couple from Orange County, our emphasis turned to the element of “time”. Of course, if you follow my work, you know this is my favorite aspect to photography – especially extending the exposure out to be quite long. Through the use of neutral density filters, or the time of day or night, you as the photographer can control whether your shutter speed is 1/250th of a second, or two minutes, and everything in-between. By using different exposure times, you create different effects and evoke different feels in your image, translating and communicating different messages. So first, get mindful as to how you’re feeling and what it is you want to communicate, simplify, and then determine what shutter speed will best translate what you are feeling.
With this photograph, I used a shutter of 1/2 second. Two minutes would have evoked a serene and peaceful feel, but I wanted the big winter surf to be the focal point and to evoke a sense of Mother Nature’s raw power. The final element that finishes this capture is the warm light from the setting sun, captured moments before it dipped below the horizon to end another beautiful day in paradise.
Winter is my favorite time of the year on Maui. The weather is perfect, the whales are here in full force, and it’s the busy season! With that, I’ve been filling up my calendar and keeping very busy and working with many photographers through my Maui photography workshops (Maui Photo Expeditions). This weekend I had a full day one-on-one workshop with Jim, an IT-guy from Cali. As a PhD intellectual-thinking type, initially I was concerned. Could I get all techie for 10 hours? I wondered, worriedly. Thankfully, in our first half hour he expressed how he wasn’t looking to get techie, he was looking for assistance on the creative/artistic side of things. He was looking to me to assist him in activating that other side of the brain that’s not based in thinking, but in feeling. I could have hugged him! I mean, it’s not that I couldn’t talk about the technical/craft side-of-photography endlessly with a willing comrade, but I suppose I would rather not. I find the creative/artistic/feeling-based side-of-things much more interesting, and much more important toward creating more dynamic and expressive work. With the technical aspects – you learn it well enough to get past it in order to focus your attention on what is going to make your work more personal – mindfulness, presence, space. And where these topics may at times seem esoteric, especially (I imagine) to the “PhD intellectual-thinking type’s” out there, I strongly believe that it is not the topics of f-stops, depth-of-field, pixel pitch and the like that make images dynamic, but rather the depth-of-feeling, the mindfulness and presence felt through the image that the photographer is communicating, having made the work out of that state. This is the state out of which images that can move viewers are made, and it is this that I most like to focus on personally, and pass on to others.
Eliot Porter said, “The essential quality of a photograph is the emotional impact that it carries, which is a measure of the author’s success in translating into photographic terms his own emotional response to the subject.”
In preparing some of my thoughts before the workshop, I began with a question, and with a look at what I believe to be the foundation to all good work:
Why make photographs?
If you choose to make photographs, then it seems a valid question to look at – Why make photographs?
Whether it is conscious (yet) in you or not, as photographers, we make photographs to express and to communicate. Once that is acknowledged, then look at that question – What are we wanting to express? ~and~ What are we aiming to communicate? The more you look at this, the clearer it is seen. The clearer it is seen, the more personal and expressive the work. The more personal and expressive the work, the more dynamic it naturally becomes.
As a photographer, you look at things. You not only look at the world – at the skies and the seas and the forests and the fields and the cities, you look at your self too – at your thoughts and your feelings and your emotions and your tendencies and your habits. Being a photographer is being one who mindfully looks at things. Therefore, being a photographer is as much a personal inner journey, as it is a worldly outer journey. The more one looks at this, the more compelling the work becomes, and the more rewarding the process is.
It is with this mindset that I’d say that mindfully looking at things, or simply – Mindfulness, is the primary most important aspect that we can bring to our photography.
We had our first big winter surf of the year hit the north shores of the islands and here on Maui this week, which inspired me to pack up and get out shooting. I headed first up to Honolua Bay and explored some possible compositions, while watching the many surfers position for the double-overhead waves that were consistently rolling in. After checking out a few less-than-inspiring possibilities and feeling a bit crowded with the many spectators, I decided to head south a bit – away from the larger sets that were hitting the north shores. I stopped at a nearby pullout, jumped the guard rail and headed down a steep slope to the lava rock shoreline and was immediately sparked with some possible compositions. I stood and watched as a large set came in and definitely knew I could do some work here, so I headed back up the slope to the truck to retrieve my gear. Over the course of the next hour and until the light had left me in darkness, I shot 32gb worth of images with a couple different compositions. I kept my exposure times to around 1-4 seconds in order to maintain enough clarity in these 5-8 foot faces, but while adding enough motion to create a more intense dynamic. With this type of imagery, you really have to shoot shoot shoot, which kinda goes against my style of waiting for the sweet moment and getting the shot in fewer frames. With that said, you do what you gotta do to get the shot you’re feeling at the time, and in the end, I’m happy with a couple of captures from the night – enough so that I think they may have to be part of my portfolio-in-the-works titled Boundary.
The lesson here – work with your conditions and with your feelings. It was very dynamic with these big waves crashing against the rocks and making huge splashes 25 feet into the air. You could feel the impact and were covered by sea spray. I could have made a 2-minute long exposure and created a more peaceful and meditative feeling image, but that wouldn’t have translated true to my feelings, and to the conditions presented to me. So, next time you head out to make images, don’t think about it. Quiet the mind. Explore around until you find a place that you’re responding to, on an inner/feeling level, not on a mind/thinking level, and then get in touch with your feelings and with the conditions being presented to you. Then, photograph accordingly. With this approach, your images will become stronger and more feeling-based, and you will enjoy your time in nature much more than when you’re in-the-head.