The sun lowers into the ocean and the sapphire blue sky soon revises itself, deepening in shade first to lapis, then navy, and furthermore to an indigo blue with a deep purple influence. By this time, my focus was no longer on the atmosphere above, but rather on the volcanic cinder underfoot. My descent into the depths of the dormant volcano, the Haleakala crater of Maui, was underway. Beginning from the summit, an elevation of over 10,000 feet, my attention was now solely focused on the few feet of area ahead, being lit by my headlamp. Of course there was still some attention lingering with the atmosphere, but now it was focused on the cool, dry, crispness moving in and out of my lungs. “That’s reason enough to hike on a mountain – it results in further attention to breath,” I think to myself, as I navigate my way further down the crater interior, nearly 3,000 feet below.
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!
1. Be willing to miss Happy Hour and dinner at a popular dinnertime.
Most people seem to eat dinner around sunset. If you’re an outdoor landscape photographer, you’re not sitting at this table. Happy Hour…fuhgeddaboudit! Dinner and drinks both have to come later, after dark, and after the nights shooting.
2. Be willing to wake up earlier than you’d ever consider otherwise.
Most people I personally prefer to sleep in to reasonable hours like 7 or 8am (or, even 9am on occasion), but when you are driven to get dynamic images with Sweet Light, there are times when you have to get up at 0′ Dark Early – times that begin with a 4 !?! Yes, I know…it sounds inhumane, but all is soon forgotten when the magical morning light begins – mixed with your 1/2 sleep stupor, a feeling of harmonious bliss can take you over for a righteous and pure morning Happy Hour that leaves you feeling peachy all day. (Afternoon nap may be required.)
3. Be willing to struggle, suffer, and otherwise torture yourself.
Unless you find satisfaction in only making images alongside the edge of the road or parking lot, the same images anyone else can easily make, then as an outdoor landscape photographer, you’re going to have to suffer at the hand of nature. You will have to spend many hours in the elements, hiking and climbing and waiting in the hot or the cold or the wet, all the while quieting your mind which can get extremely noisy during these uncomfortable times. Fortunately, most of us who choose this photographic path do so because we love nature, whether punishing or not. I always feel that the more one pushes up against the comfort zones of the ego, the more of a gem there is to be found – especially while in the stillness of nature.
This past weekend, myself and a couple of friends decided to push up against these comfort zones and hike from close to sea-level to 8,000 feet over a course of 17 miles and 48 hours – UP! the Kaupo Gap and through the Haleakala Crater of Maui. I carried 50 pounds of weight which in addition to all my camping gear, included my camera and lens, filters and a tripod, with hopes of being able to make an image or two along the way. As it turned out, not much success in the way of an image for my limited edition collection on this journey, but there was still a gem there to be found, shining amongst the struggles and efforts required to make it through this demanding hike.
While living here on Maui, I try and get up to the Haleakala Crater National Park every chance I get. One of my favorite things to do is to head up on the afternoon of a full moon, hike down the Sliding Sands trail at sunset, loop around the cinder cone a few miles down, and head back up the trail to the rising moon and the darkening sky. This is what I was doing a year back when I captured Stillness Speaks, and what Rebecca and I were planning on doing yesterday. With Haleakala being over 10,000 feet tall, it is often engulfed in weather. From the sea-level perspective, you can never tell for certain whether or not you’ll be able to get above the weather, so I generally just go for it and hope for the best. If it’s socked in, as was the case yesterday, then it’s a chance to enjoy a drive.
The University of Hawaii has a live webcam looking into the crater from the summit, but it hasn’t been working for quite some time. Can we get someone on this, please?
I spent a couple of nights out camping with family and friends this weekend at Kipahulu Campground on the South East Coast of Maui. This is the place to camp on the Hana side of the island, and also the access point to the Seven Sacred Pools and the enchanting Bamboo Forest. It’s an absolutely beautiful campground along an awesome and rugged coastline, but beware – it is often wet here. This is the wet side of the island so one has to be prepared with the right equipment and the right mindset. We all live in Lahaina where it doesn’t rain at all, so I think we were all kinda enjoying it, but the big blue tarp sure made it easier and more comfortable.
Kipahulu Campground. Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii