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 🙂
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 😉
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 🙂
“Tears of Joy”
It’s hard to describe the circumstances around getting this photo. The gist is running an errand last minute which was on a correction mission and driving through one of the craziest storms ever. Then, headed around traffic (because of construction) saw the mountains as the storm broke and was able to quickly get to a friends place with an epic view.
Needless to say this is a lot of water coming down Wai’ale’ale (and Kawakini-left falls). The mist is forming in a small valley that a small (usually) river rolls through. The massive water flow helped create its own clouds that would drift up.
Now, for those photogs out there. I learned another HUGE lesson today…again. I had changed my camera to shoot sRAW for the time-lapse and forgot to change it back in the excitement of this photo. ALWAYS check your settings. Alas the maximum print size for this image will be highly truncated. Lesson learned!
So this one has been in the archives since 2013. And it’s been a process to get right, and honestly is still not there. This is a very complicated 180 degree view from the rocks at Ke’e Beach showing our place in the Milky Way. As we sit, flying through the universe on the outside edge of the galaxy, this image gives me, maybe too much, sense of perspective. Looking out over the ocean as if space was just over there at the edge of the horizon. Venus along for the ride.
So way back in 2009 I found myself with some friends hiking inside a fenced off area…as you do on Kauai. When we got to the edge of this giant cliff the view was spectacular. Being midday, not generally my favorite time to shoot, I wasnt overly inspired to shoot that much landscape, however from that height looking down on the calm water was pretty impressive! The way the light and water played made for a crazy color below. Took a few shots to try and capture the effect and this is what the result was. Fun! Now to try it again soon 🙂
I’ve been holding this image for a long time. Since March of 2013 when I got to experience the magic that is snowfall in Yosemite Valley. In the frenzy that was that morning (which can be read about more in my other image “Pencil To Paper“) I recalled this spot which I had noticed on previous trips. Though back then the falls werent flowing nearly as much (if at all….something about a on-going drought). This time around a different story. As the snow was pounding down I set up the shot and luckily had my small umbrella hidden in my camera bag to protect the camera (not me) from the big, heavy flakes. Spending the better part of an hour at this location experimenting with different ways of capturing the scene as it changed. In the end this particular exposure really managed to translate the experience of that morning in the Valley 🙂
July 2009. Found myself in NYC. Having only been shooting ‘seriously’ for about 2 years I dont think I would have done anything differently even now. The undulations of the building were catching the sun hitting the other side of the street making these awesome patterns. Had I started my photography career in a city rather than in a tropical paradise there probably would be a lot more of this kind of work. But then again…I do travel a lot 🙂
Spouting Horn is always a fun place to shoot…and a bit tricky. Getting down to the rocks requires a bit of sneaking and a lot of precautions. Ending up as a statistic is never on my agenda. Working around the ocean for so long I always take my time to make sure I’m safe where I want to be and have a way out if need be.
This shot in general has been on the to do list for a while. And knowing myself I’m going to keep trying it. As usual the elements need to align to get the perfect conditions and they were pretty close (at least to what I have in my mind) this night 🙂 But then again…isn’ the fun in trying?
The Wai’oli Hui`ia Church is iconic on Kaua’i. Standing by itself toward the end of Hanalei on the road it’s one of those places that just begs to be photographed. And it gets its fair share. One can usually see people pulled over snapping photos throughout the day. On this particular Friday night in February 2010 I had spent sunset out at Ke’e Beach (see: Sun’s Retreat) catching a very tranquil end of day. Clear, calm. Perfect winter day. On the way back the itch got a hold of me and I pulled over myself to see what I could do in the full moonlight.
One of the difficulties of photographing the church is getting a proper angle on it. Because of various obstacles this becomes challenging. Plus now it was night and had to balance all the light sources being throw at me. Recalling correctly I spent the better part of an hour trying all different options. On this particular capture I very well might have been standing on the roof of my car across the street. In the end the mix of moonlight, Church light, star light and street light all combined to make a perfect little scene in Hanalei that night!