PHOTOGRAPHING LAVA ENTERING THE OCEAN AND THE VOLCANO IN HAWAII

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.

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PHOTOGRAPHING ACTIVE LAVA ON THE BIG ISLAND OF HAWAII

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!

EARTH BLOOD  Big Island, Hawaii 2013

HOT WATER. STUDY 1  Big Island, Hawaii 2013

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.

HEADING TO NYC

TIMES SQUARE  New York City, New York

I’m excited to say I’m tuning out.  Turning the auto-responder In-the-Field ON with my email, and generally tuning to “travel mode”…starting now.

Becca and I are heading to New York City and plan on eating, walking and photographing our way through a week in the city.  Yep….that’s the type of places we like to go while living in Maui.

Last time there for only 24 hours, I was pleased to make Times Square, an eight-minute exposure made early in the morning.  I used a Pentax 67 and shot it on Fuji Velvia 100 and only made one exposure, so very stoked I figured the exposure correctly.  Using 10-stop nd filters is one thing with a digi, but when you’re using film, it’s a different animal.  I love how the passing cars and pedestrians all disappear with the time.

What I’ve read online makes me think NYC has become much more strict regarding tripods, so we’ll see what I can get this time around.  I plan on attempting to be very sneaky with the tripod.  As backup, I’ll have a beanpod and a Gorillapod – neither of which I have ever used.  Will report back.

I’ll be posting to Instagram (scottreither) with iPhone pics along the way.

-out

MAUI SUNSET PHOTOGRAPH – WORKING WITH THE D800

ABLAZE  Maui, Hawaii

Here on Maui, we have had our fair share of amazing sunsets over the past few months, but it seems I’ve been in a bit of a shooting-slump and have watched most of them without camera in hand.  It’s tough to watch stunning sweet light form in the sky without being out in a position to try and capture it photographically.  The stirring inside murmurs to itself, “should be out shooting…could be getting a great shot…who couldn’t make this light work well…Wow!  this light is friggin’ epic!…why aren’t I out shooting!?“  Continue reading

THREE NIGHT DIVERS IN LA JOLLA

THREE NIGHT DIVERS  La Jolla, California

I was heading out 4 or 5 nights a week into the dark cool evenings of the La Jolla night and photographing with little or no light.  On this particular occasion, I was heading down the street and saw three divers having just loaded on all of their wetsuit and scuba gear, heading for the water’s edge.  I was curious to see what I might be able to capture. Continue reading

LIGHT FALLS AWARDED BY OP’s THE AMERICAN LANDSCAPE

LIGHT FALLS  Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

Outdoor Photographer’s inaugural The American Landscape Photo Contest 2012 selected from over 10,000 individual images, and I am pleased to announce that I was awarded with an Honorable Mention for the above photograph LIGHT FALLS.  Additionally, this image was voted People’s Choice Winner.  Many thanks to those who voted! Continue reading

PHOTOGRAPHERS AND FISHERMAN HAVE MUCH IN COMMON

see the fisherman in red?

It seems nearly every time I go out shooting, I find myself in a stunning location at the magic hour to enjoy the clouds passing by and the sounds of the ocean, and if I’m lucky, the chance to get a sweet shot in my camera.  Continue reading

SCRIPPS PIER OF LA JOLLA

SUN STAR PIER, La Jolla, California, August 2009

Within days of moving to La Jolla at the beginning of 2005, I discovered this local landmark – the Scripps Pier, and immediately was drawn to it photographically.  I didn’t have any previous connection to piers or other of man’s constructions along the water’s edge, but that would change living in La Jolla, and in large part because of this pier.  I returned every sunset for nearly 3 weeks to get my first successful image of this pier – Time.  That particular photograph really started a new direction for my photography and made my work more personal.  It would be fair to say that that image marked the beginning of working on my own aesthetic and creating my own images, as opposed to looking at others and trying to replicate.  I imagine that most photographers and artists go through similar stages – it begins with trying to make the work you look up to and respect, and once you feel capable and have learned the techniques involved and the process, then you can begin to find your own aesthetic and create a new style that is more unique.  This photograph, Time, and the process of making it, being patient and returning every night before everything was right, had much to do with directing me to a new and more personal path as an artist.

Prior to this time, once I had a successful image of a location, I would generally not return to shoot it further.  Why mess with a good thing?  That too changed in La Jolla, and again, in large part because of this pier.  After several months, I had began to learn much about this tunnel-view composition and what I was drawn to about it.  It hung in the front of the gallery that I spent much time in and I had the opportunity to speak with the public about the photo in length.  This furthered my feelings and understanding of the piece.  A desire to shoot it again arose and within a year, after many visits, I had made a second successful image, Fog.

Through the first 2 years, I made, what I would call – 2 successful images that were “gallery worthy”.  In my third year, I went through a major aesthetic change in my work and went from shooting primarily bright Fuji Velvia color panoramic work to dark and moody black and white square compositions.  There were a number of reasons behind this, a darker mood and life outlook due to events in my life; a feeling that color was too often distracting the viewer of more clear communication; finding myself more drawn personally on an artistic level to cleaner, simpler works, to name a few.  In the end, this transition came completely naturally and with ease and my shooting was invigorated like never before.  I began to re-shoot many of the compositions that I had become familiar with in the area, and found many new ones and ways of making images.   At the end of a string of, yet many more visits, I had made my third successful image, and perhaps my favorite yet, Passage.

Through 3 1/2 years in La Jolla, I would say it’s safe to say I have photographed the Scripps Pier over 100 sunsets.  I have certainly thought that it would be cool to capture an image with the sun setting down the center of the corridor, and at one point, I made some conscious pursuit at it, but my timing was off and I never really followed through with it, never getting closer than a week of the proper time.  I suppose it wasn’t so important to me that I find the exact day or two of the year that it’s do-able.  In reality, I’m really not that much of a planner and it goes against my style completely to turn the art into a science and research as to the exact time and earthly coordinates…blah!  That would be one quick way to take the joy out of photographing, for me.

So, you could call it sweet karma, randomness, coincidence, dumb luck, or whatever you’d like, but on my final evening in La Jolla before moving away, I decide to head out one last time to shoot Scripps Pier at sunset.  I’m super-busy packing and cleaning, and generally waiting until the last minute, like I do.  As I arrive at the pier, it’s 5 minutes from sunset and I can see that the sun is lining up better than I have ever seen.  This is pretty cool, I think as I set up the tripod.  Just as I get the camera set and my settings in order, the sun clips the upper right corner of the frame at the end of the corridor.  Sweet! I take about 8-10 exposures, bracketing and trying different f-stops before settling on f/22 to get the more dramatic starburst.  The sun is visible in the frame for about 2 minutes before it moves north out of sight in this composition.

To get this on my last night in La Jolla!  Pretty cool is an understatement!

TIME, 2006

FOG, 2007

PASSAGE, 2009

(in retrospective – May, 2012)

With some years and many images now between me and this era in La Jolla and these images, it’s interesting to look back, and to see how new thoughts and feelings have developed.  I still feel that Time was the image that sent me on my own path, it felt so original at the time, and therefore it still holds a special place along my path as a photographer.  I wonder if most artists have such a clear moment when their works become more personal.  Perhaps for many, this exact moment is not clear, or for others, clarity of vision never comes at all.

Not too long after Time and Fog, and while still living in La Jolla, Peter Lik came to town and opened a gallery around the corner from my work/exhibit place at that time, the Bartram Gallery.  He evidently was attracted to the composition as well, because soon after he saw my image Time, he came out with his own version – the same composition but, on a gray day with poor light.  Obviously, he didn’t go down there a bunch of times to get sweet light!  It looked like a one-and-done, which I found a bit surprising from him – if you’re gonna replicate, then you’ve got to at least match-or-better the original, right?!  Especially if you’re the self-proclaimed greatest photographer in the galaxy.   Well, I’m guessing he agreed that his first attempt was weak because more recently, a few years later, he’s now come out with a newer version with a bit more dynamic light.  Better than the first attempt, but I think I’ve still got him beat on this one. ;)

 

ELECTRIFYING NIGHT

It’s 2:55 am.  I’ve got the shot composed.  Three palms framed vertically.  The stillness from just a few minutes ago has now turned to a swirl of wind, stirring up leaves and blowing the palm fronds above.  A chilling hissing sound that is difficult to put into words is erratically leaping about in the clouds overhead, an ionic disturbance of some kind, and for the first time tonight, I am truly scared that I am about to get struck by lightning.  Seconds later, bolts come firing from above and the booming thunder follows instantly – telling me that I am indeed directly under this storm.  Another minute and the sky unleashes the moisture that had been building up for hours, and the rain forces me to retreat to the safety of my vehicle, and then home.

But, I wouldn’t be going home empty handed…

NIGHTSTORM  Maui, Hawaii

Lightning is not something we get too much of here in Hawaii.  In my 15+ years of living predominantly on Maui, I have never seen anything close to this electrical storm that we had here this night.  In fact, I have never seen anything like this anywhere!  It was insane!

I had been enjoying a day off with my wife and we were doing our usual sunset stroll along the beach.  To the south, we saw intermittent flashes in the sky from lightning, and the photographer’s-stir within had began.  Initially, I reminded myself as to how difficult capturing lightning is, remembering back to chasing it around the Nevada desert for 2 months before making a couple of successful frames, and thought – no, I should just enjoy my one day off without running all around the island chasing flashes of light.  This train of thought was completely lost when I witnessed bolts of lightning spiderweb across the entire sky!  “That’s it, I gotta go!”  There was no way I could resist at that point, and we quickly made our way back to the house, I packed up and headed out.

The lighthouse was my first stop.  From here, I watched for 90 minutes as lightning continually bolted and flashed from both sides of Haleakala.  There were also bolts striking down out over the ocean and back toward Iao Valley.  It was everywhere!  And it was consistent, striking every 30 seconds or more.

ELECTRIKA  Maui, Hawaii

Once I had captured a successful image, I moved on, following the active flashes toward Hookipa beach, beyond the town of Paia.  I took myself to the edge of the most active area and watched many lightning bolts traveling cloud to cloud, following the coast from the south directly at me in the north.  It was absolutely spectacular and I was thoroughly buzzed with excitement and adrenaline at this point.

Having difficulties making successful compositions, and moving along with the storm, I found myself heading back to West Maui around midnight.  I stopped on the cliffs and made a few attempts at an image, using exposures ranging from 2-4 minutes long.  In the cove below, I heard humpback whales breathing and I laughed at how magical this night had become.  I kept trying to see them by the flash of light from the lightning, but never did see them – only heard their occasional exhales of air into the darkness of this electric night.

By the time I reached Olowalu, south of Lahaina, I was able to setup and within an hour, had made my second successful image of the night – Satori’s Sword.  The rain started to fall and I headed further north to Lauinopoko park, where I found the three palms to compose.  Knowing that the rain was coming and I had only 5-10 minutes to capture something, I found my anxiousness and alertness at its highest for the night.  Then came the hissing.  I am not sure of this phenomenon, but it was one of the most eerie and sinister sounds I have ever experienced.  It was as if you could hear the lightning pre-activating directly above, moments before striking down.  It almost seemed to be a warning, and I had to muster up all my courage to sit tight long enough to capture Nightstorm.  Literally, a minute after this image, the rain began, ending my amazing and electrifying night.

SATORI’S SWORD  Maui, Hawaii

Reports the following day estimate 21,000+ strikes in a 6 hour period of time.  I had shot 75 frames from 7pm to 3am and was left with three new electrifying images for my Limited Edition collection.

 

February 23, 2011
Maui, Hawaii

ECOLA STATE PARK VIEW OF CANNON BEACH OREGON

The views of the Cannon Beach coastline in Oregon from Ecola State Park are unrivaled and not-to-be-missed if you are anywhere in the vicinity.  Even a snapshot in middle-of-the-day bad-light isn’t too bad!

It was December and the weather was actually pretty nice, though the time is extremely sleepy – not much going on there.  In fact, many businesses appeared closed for the season.  I wonder where they go?  Maui…