A number of years ago, while traveling back home from a Polihale mission I had stopped over at the Waimea Pier on the west side of Kaua’i. At the time I had only photographed it 1 or 2 times and I generally like to scout and imagine places under different conditions. Doing some calculations I knew I wanted to return at night. Fast forward way longer than I imagined it would take, I had the opprotunity to get out for some photography and headed to a different location. As the sun set over there I realized that I was in the wrong place and remembered the spot I had imagined long ago. Getting there at dusk there were a number of images (another successful pier shot for another time), I was able to make and then waited for the sky to darken enough for the stars and Milky Way to be seen. This spot is extra tricky as it is right at the edge of town so the light polution becomes problematic pretty quickly. As the sky darkened the stars shown through. The camera’s sensitive settings allowing it to pick up the last little bit of twilight glow in the sky giving the scene a surreal look.
It’s amazing how images to come to life. Sometimes they are the work of years of planning coinciding with perfect conditions. This very well may have been one of those photographs….had I actually knew what kind of conditions I was to expect this evening. After spending the afternoon and sunset exploring the southern coast of Maui in the La Perouse area and photographing down there I packed up and started the drive back north. As I made my way down the bumpy road the stars were absolutely blazing. With only a crescent moon hanging in the western sky I was still able to see the landscape but the Milky Way was clearly visible arcing all across the sky. I pulled over to the side of the road and took some images of the scene facing Haleakela. Of course at this point I realized my battery was hanging on to one bar. Uh oh. Change batteries. Dead. Crap. I forgot to charge everything after Burning Man. Back to the first battery and now with every exposure I’m worried about my evening ending early. Especially with night time images they take more power as the exposure times are around 25 seconds. I make sure to only take a few shots on the side of the road and continue up. Next stop Secrets beach.
Normally Secrets is not so secret. There are weddings almost every day of the week and it’s a great spot to hide out and watch the clouds pass by. However, at night, it is a different story. As I walked down the path and to the shore and set up the waves were pounding pretty good. Lessons learned in the past means keeping my bag well above the high water line. Then approached. At this point I heard voices…what?! I looked around in the darkness. There were houses around so maybe it was there. Then again. Finally I noticed a couple tucked in the back corner of the beach near the wall enjoying the evening as well. Not even alone at night!
Of course the obviously difficult thing of shooting stars is that it’s freakin dark out! With the little bit of moonlight I was able to get my composition pretty close and fired off a test shot. Keeping one eye on the ocean to my right I spent the next half an our or so adjusting and trying again. With each shot worried my battery was going to kick out on me. After seeing this one pop up on the back of the camera I was pleasantly surprised. The little but of moonlight was enough to give enough color and definition to the landscape without hiding the blazing Milky Way.
Whew. On ward to my next stop where fingers were crossed I could get a few more shots before I had to call it quits. What an awesome night!
Admittedly I do not get out to shoot as much as I once did. While my production has slowed a bit the ideas that I have had and still come up with do not cease. On Monday night I had the opportunity to actually attempt one of these such ideas that could probably date back 1-2 years. After leaving aFeinberg Gallery Poipu I got in to my car after catching a quick bite, and while tired, the sky had actually cleared up from the rainy weather we had had over the last couple of days. Seeing as that I had my gear in the car the only thing left was to head out and give it a go.
For those not familiar with the area this is Spouting Horn. A hugely popular attraction during the day, especially in the summer months when the south swell is more predominant. The ocean gets forced through an old lava tube and sprays upwards like a geyser. Pretty spectacularly at times. Of course venturing down is never recommended. I spend a LOT of my time around the ocean photographing and have a healthy respect for what it can do. Then add in the night time aspect and all the more creepy. Especially since that as the horn spouts there is a huge whistling sound. But this startling noise comes from about 30yards away from the water! Watching one direction…noise from another. After watching for a number of minutes I decide we’re good to go and grab the gear. I carefully make my way to where my approximate shot is and watch the ocean some more. Getting accustomed to the sound and pattern of the waves. Then the tricky part. Composing, focusing and shooting in the dark.
Now one of the things that I had not realized when visualizing this image was that there were street lights all around, thus bathing the area in artificial light. Rats, was my first thought. I had wanted it dark so that I could light paint the scene together. I took a test shot to see if I had my composition down and the result was pretty crazy! The whole ground was glowing bright red….like a dragon’s lair. And, as predicted…the milky way BLAZING off the horizon up in to the sky. Now the next part; figure out a way to capture the splash properly. Over the next hour or so I spent rattling off 25 second exposures and playing with different lighting…all while waiting for the right wave to send the spray shooting upwards (but not getting blown too much to block the milky way!).
Finally, toward the end, and getting fairly tired, I decided to call it. Hoping that at least one of the shots I had captured would work out. After all it took me almost 2 years to even attempt this…and the wait was worth it :0
So many stories surrounding this image. Of which include; powering through a month-old knee injury, getting a bit lost and then un-lost, ‘no fall’ zone hiking, fellow hikers lending me their trekking pole for the night and spending hours alone in the dark in a cave to then hike out in the dark, alone. Of course returning with a successful image always makes those details worth while when the effort is rewarded. This location, on the edge of a cliff, tucked in to a cave, was used hundreds of years ago by the Anasazi Indians, though the details and usage are still unknown. Being as I was out there, with a very clear sky, my instinct turns to photographing the stars. It’s amazing how much light cameras can pick up nowadays. Watching the nocturnal transition from such a remote location, one cant help but be transported back to ancient times. Chills. And then for that very dark walk back to the car….