Sea Smoke

It’s a funny thing having an image in one’s mind and then trying to go after it.  As time has progressed I find my ideas are more and more subject to the ephemerality of nature (yes that’s a word…or should be).   This particular afternoon the conditions were aligning to go after one of these such ideas; heavy ehu kai (sea spray) hugging the cliffs of the Na Pali at sunset.   With the surf pounding the north shore of great than 30′ I knew the possibility was there.  All I needed was a clear (enough) sky to the west and light winds to allow the spray to build.  Getting to the trail I had a bit of extra pep in my step and managed to make the first .5mi in about 10 minutes.  From there I was greeted with a welcome sight.  I had shot from 2 locations in the area before and knew approximately where I should be but allowed some time to scout just in case.
As the sun got lower the clouds out on the horizon helped play with the light as it popped through.  This dappling of light along the cliffs was nothing short of magical and a great preamble to the light show that would happen just shortly after this.  But that’s an image that will have to wait until another day 🙂

Heavy sea mist hugs the Na Pali coast as the setting sun illuminates it along the cliffs.
“Uahi Kai (Sea Smoke)” (unreleased)


It had been years…many, since I had last taken a camera to shoot the Waimea Pier.  The chance came up after a camping trip to Polihale on the west side of Kauai.  On the way back home it was late enough in the day that we decided to stop by and catch a sunset at the pier.  Having a few ideas already in my mind I set to work experimenting with different compositions.  Running from standing on the pier to underneath it, trying to work as quickly as possible with the dwindling light.  Comical I’m sure to watch.  My goal for this session were long exposures so each time I set a shot and clicked I was waiting anywhere from 30-60s.  Doesnt make for quick work.
As the sun was dropping I managed to get off this exposure under the pier and was quite happy with the dance of light around the pillars and base.  The funny thing is that even making sure my horizon was level, the pier is not straight!  Looks like someone needed a protractor when building this one 😉

Sunset as seen from under Waimea Pier on Kauai

What do we owe photography?

This blog comes from a place of contemplation and discussion.  What, as photographers, do we owe photography?
Recently I saw an image that was quite impressive from a photographer that had visited Kauai in the last year.  However, as I studied the shot I realized something wasnt quite right.  After approaching them privately about it, it seems that we dont share the same perspective of full disclosure.  And thus my question.   As photographers it is our gift to be able to capture nature in a way that can really connect with others.  Being able to bring them to where we were at the time of capture.  Experience that ephemeral moment.  With the advent of digital photography (though these techniques were going on long before digital), the reality of an image constantly gets called in to question.  With computers we dont need to capture something when we can just hit a few buttons and remake the image to our own will.   At least these are the thoughts that cross people’s minds when they often view photographs these days.  I’ve experienced it first hand in my Galleries.  That utter disbelief that nature could do something so spectacular.  “You must have done something”…nope.  Those Rainbow Eucalyptus really do look like that, the sky really does have that many stars and waves really do make crazy shapes.   That doesnt mean that a photo is done once the shutter is pushed.  Cameras are just tools.  They dont think, feel or do anything but capture light.  It is our job as photographers to take that negative and make a final product out of it.  In fact, most of the same techniques that were available now were possible in the darkroom, just with a few more chemicals and trial and error.   Then there are techniques such and dynamic range and focus blending which aim at expanding past the limitations of our gear.  Further beyond that we get in to the realm of adding in elements or manipulating a scene so that it fits the image that is in the mind’s eye.  The thing is, photography is art.  And everything and anything is possible with art.  It is what is inside of us that needs to get out and for us that medium is photography.  So to achieve the end result by any means is perfectly practical.
So, if I’m ok with image fabrication why all the hubbub?  In the end it comes down to disclosure and transparency.  As landscape photographers I believe that we owe it to the scene that we witnessed, the general public and other photographers to be true to our art.  By misrepresenting a photograph and not disclosing ‘artistic liberties’ one is further perpetuating the skepticism that the general public and collectors already have about the art itself.  Furthermore we disrespect that which nature has to offer for us.  If getting the perfect conditions were easy well….
Lets continue to evolve as artists.  Create what visions are in our mind’s eye.  Chase that light.  But always maintain consistency and integrity.  We owe it to photography 🙂
Much thanks and good light,
P.S.  It seems that this post as garnered some attention and after rereading it I realize I that I forgot to clarify a point.  I dont believe in spelling out the entire process when ‘creating’ an image but just a simple “artistic license or liberties or whatever you want to call them where taken in this photo” or something along those lines is good enough for me personally.  This tells us the viewer that the artist had a goal in mind and bent the rules to fit their vision.  If we want to know more, we can ask and this way the artist doesnt need to go in depth all the time.
Should have explained that initially so my apologies there 🙂