Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 Year in Review

Milky Way over Big Bend
A review of my year in photography for 2015.  A few years ago I noticed a lot of other photographers were doing year in review type posts and I joined in.  See them here, 2013 and 2014 Year in Review.

This has been an amazing year for me in photography with some great trips, fantastic sunsets, and clear dark nights.  

2015 started with me being in the field awaiting sunrise on New Years Day.  We had cold rain breaking a streak of some ten years of cloudless sky.  That rain turned out to be a forecast of the year to come as rain was the key word here in Texas.  A normal year sees us get about 30" of rain and we have gone several years with drought and getting about 20" of rain.  This year we have had 59" and the year is not over yet!  It has been the wettest year on record.  
Nolan River Flood

I saw a few flooding events and the high water levels impacted several planned locations for the year.

Brazos River 
The short winter we have in Texas was mostly mild and then in the last week of February we had ice.  I photographed locally on a regular basis doing more and more night work.  It was sometimes difficult as the weather did not always cooperate but it did pay off when it all did work.  February say me try a couple of times for night images.  I went to the Nolan River with the idea of a shot I had and knew would work in February.  It was partly cloudy when I left Cowtown but socked in by the time I got to the river.  I decided to try again in March and got there in heavy rain and just stood there in the dark hoping for a break, but no dice.  

I went to the Brazos river another morning even though the moon was up just to get out and see a few stars and actually got a few nice images of an old bridge.

Guadalupes at Night
March also saw me return to west Texas for a week.  I started on the Lost Mesa for a night, then the Guadalupes for a couple of nights and then on to Big Bend.  I had several things I wanted to photograph, many of them night images.  I had rented a Canon 6D as it is a significantly better camera than my Canon 5D2 for nights.  After the trip I got to looking at all the great night images I was getting and splurged on a Sony A7S, which is the best night camera there is.  It has made a huge difference for me this year and on a couple of trips was the only camera I took.

The Lost Mesa turned out to be just a weak sunset, but I caught a great sunset on the dunes at Guadalupe Mountains.  I am always struck by the absolute silence here.  It is stone quiet standing out here all alone.  Watching the sunset the only sound is the click of the camera.

Texas hoodoos at night
I tried to catch a sunrise but after just a few images of stars the sky completely clouded up and it began to rain.  It rained all day.  At 6pm I was driving in the rain and stopped by the salt flats in gray light, rain, and the mountains in the clouds.  Then, as it is often here, the front edge passed, the light turned golden and the mountains popped out.  With water on the flats from a day of rain, it turned into another epic sunset from this location.

Guadalupe Mountains
After a few hours of sleep I went back out for the Milky Way and found fog in the salt basin and made foggy Milky Way images.

It was then off to Big Bend for several days in the desert with some great wildflowers, a few good sunsets, and some good night images.  I have found several locations I like and have learned the best season for each for night images.  Now, now matter what time of year, I have some spots that will work.

After a week of little sleep, I needed a vacation to rest up from my vacation.

Our bluebonnet season was bad this year, that late ice storm really put the damper on flowers.  I had a quick trip to Salt Lake City and got in a sunset at the Great Salt Lake in the middle of the gnat season.  I think they are worse than cold or snow!  :-)

Spring Wildflowers in Big Bend
Great Salt Lake
April and May brought big rains to Texas.  I was out one morning after a full night of rain and say a 25' flood roar down the Nolan River.  It was quite a sight looking at that much water as the river was out of its banks and really moving.

The Snowy Range
That high water then filled up Lake Whitney and backed it up into the Nolan River and I was unable to get to the bluff until October.  So the night images I wanted in July and August did not happen.  I did get to photograph another section of the river and used it as a good stand in on some hot summer nights for photographing the Milky Way.

In July I also had to goto Colorado and took an opportunity to get there a day early and go spend the night in the Snowy Range of Wyoming.  This was one of those trips I only took the Sony A7S and standing high in the mountains, I got some great night images with amazing green air glow.

For just having 24 hours up there I got in a lot of good photography and got several images for the portfolio.  Planning pays off.  As does having a place few other people go to.  One of the many reasons Wyoming is one of my favorite states!

Snowy Range at night
I always view the Labor Day weekend as the start of camping and photography season.  After the hot Texas summer, I know I can head to the desert and find cool temps.  Labor Day took me to the Lost Mesa and Guadalupe Mountains where I got in some great landscapes and nightscapes.  I had hoped to backpack to Guadalupe Peak but with a forecast of thunderstorms, I rerouted, stayed safe and got amazing images.  Had I backpacked I would have spent the night in a severe thunderstorm, so it was a good call.

Halealaka at Night
Things began to get very busy for me and I was out of town every other week between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

In the late summer I also had some of my Collections featured on Google+ which was a huge honor.  You can see them here:  Google+

I had to go to Maui in late September.  I know horrible....... I flew in a few days early, took my tent and camped on Halealaka and then along the coast at Hana.  I got to see a side of Hawaii few see these days.  The seascapes were good with some rainy sunrises along the coast and it was a cold night on the volcano at 10,000'.  I took a down jacket with me to Hawaii.  Let that sink in......

The night sky was great in the middle of the Pacific although the Milky Way was already too far west to photograph over the crater. 

Nolan River Nightscape
This was another trip I only took the Sony A7S.  I was really liking the small size of the Sony cameras especially with a few small prime lenses (in my case 30 year old Nikon lenses).  One type of camera I did not have but wish I did was an underwater camera.  I went snorkeling one morning and say 12 turtles!  It was a fantastic experience and one I wish I had a camera on.

In October I did a quick 5 day trip to Big Bend.  It was a solo trip and I went specifically for some fall night photography.  It was my first trip to Big Bend with the Sony A7S and I put it to good use getting some amazing views of the night sky there in the park.

Zion Narrows
I am already planning on a spring return and visiting my spring locations with the Sony camera.

The end of October saw me with a week in Zion.  Well it was supposed to be a week where I went to Bryce and Zion but some unexpected things happened and it turned into a week of camping in Zion.  This is another trip I have yet to cover on the blog as I run behind by at least a few months.

I waded the Narrows again this year.  For the first time I rented the dry pants and shoes.  Wow what a difference!  In the past I just wore shorts and Keen sandals.  That works in September, but not around Halloween.  I spent most of the day in the Narrows and got of of the best images I have ever made there.

I got to see fall color around the area and despite the fact it was a full moon week, got in a few nights of dark sky before moonrise.  The night images were everything I was hoping I could get.

Zion Canyon at night
October also saw me finally get to see the bluff on the Nolan River and we took in a sunset and stayed for the Milky Way after dark.  It took several months from the big rains for the lake levels to go down to get here.  I am glad we went when we did as 10" of rain over Thanksgiving filled them right back up!

November brought fall color to north Texas and I spent every free day visiting local parks and and making drives looking for fall color.

After a rather hectic fall it was nice to just be around the home area and take in the local experience.  I caught some great fall color and then the above mentioned rain at Thanksgiving made another chance for some flood photos.

I also did something a little different for me, bought a SJ400 action camera and started doing some videos out in the field and even put together a YouTube channel.  You can check it out here: My You Tube Channel
Fall color and flood on the West Fork

In December I kept photographing fall color, high water and even got in a night at an old church that is a favorite location.  I had envisioned a shot with the Milky Way and after September visit figured December would be perfect, we made some special arrangements and on a fantastic mild Texas December night got some great images.

I also had a couple of images published this month.  Both from Big Bend.  One in Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine and one in Wild West magazine.  Check them out in you local bookstore.

Big Falls on the West Fork
Now it is Christmas week, we just lost the last of our fall colors.  It is still in the 60's here but we are entering our short winter.  I am watching the weather to see what might develop over the next few days that might make a photo opportunity.  I am planning on getting out as much as I can and for sure will be out on New Years for my annual sunrise tradition.

2016 is starting to plan up for me too with a spring trip to Big Bend in the works and who knows what else.

Thanks 2015 for a great year and I look forward to what 2016 brings.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Emerald Coast

Last summer I visited the Emerald Coast of the Florida panhandle.  Get outside the bigger cities and you can find some small quaint beach towns that are quiet, have fantastic pure soft white sand and clear green water.  You can also find some state parks and forests where you can even get a few landscape images in.  All in all not a bad destination if you are going to the beach.

When I am there, I make it a habit to get up and out early and watch sunrise everyday.  The place is quiet and empty then and the waves have usually cleaned the beach of footprints.  Or maybe I go to one of the parks and walk around for the usually foggy sunrises photographing the trees and lakes.

Visiting here is never a true photography vacation but being a photographer I still bring some gear.  The last few years that means my Sony NEX6 kit and a small Sirui 025x tripod.  This is a small kit I have written about before and you can see more on in my Google+ Photography Gear Collection.  

The NEX6 is just barely bigger than a point and shoot with a small lens eq of 24-75mm.  To that I add the small Samyang 8mm f/2.8 fisheye for a great little kit the easily all fits in a small waistpack.  It is no problem to add that to my luggage even when I am just doing a carry-on.  The capability it gives me with a 16mp APS-C sized sensor is great.  The landscapes are good and when I switch to the Samyang fisheye, I have an incredibly sharp and wide view that is perfect for the night sky.

This year, I spent time on the beach setting up images of sunrise and blurring the waves in the morning twilight.

I photographed from the parks and along the lakes in the area watching sunrises and occasionally a sunset.

I even went out a few hours before sunup to see about photographing the Milky Way and was able to just get in a couple of images before the stars began to fade.

Florida is not the destination I normally pick but by getting out early and having a small camera kit, I can photograph it with great results even when I am not photographing.



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

El Capitan at Night

The Guadalupe Mountains end in a very dramatic fashion of a 1500' (500m) vertical cliff.  IT is actually a "V" shaped wedge of a cliff and is known as El Capitan as when viewed from above resembles the prow of a ship.  It is visible for many miles across the deserts of west Texas.  

It is also one of my favorite subjects to photograph.  It is photogenic from every direction, including standing on the summit of neighboring Guadalupe Peak (the highest point in Texas).

I had planned on camping on the summit of the peak for my September trip but ended up not doing so with the call for thunderstorms and was glad not to be there as the night I would have been on the peak it was in a severe thunderstorm.

So after camping west of the park and then on the escarpment, I made my way back into Texas to Guadalupe Mountains National Park for a chance to do some night photography of El Capitan.

GMNP is one of my favorite parks and a hidden gem of the NPS as visitation is low and even showing up in the middle of a holiday weekend, I still got one of the just 20 campsites available!


In the dark of the night I went out to set up a few images of different views of El Cap with the Milky Way high in the western sky, which was perfect to frame with the mighty El Cap.

I worked a few of the classic locations and found a couple of new spots to try images from.  There were a few clouds in the sky and they really worked to help give some additional elements to compliment the Milky Way.

Standing out there it was even chilly enough to add a fleece.  After the long hot Texas summer I always look forward to traveling west at Labor Day and I usually find I need a jacket.  That always makes me smile as I know fall is approaching.

After making several stops with different views of El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak, the night began to fade and soon sunrise would be upon us.  I called it a trip and began the long 500mi ride back to Cowtown.

Monday, November 30, 2015

In the Guadalupes

The Guadalupe Mountains are one of my favorite mountain ranges.  They rise out of the desert of west Texas and reach heights of almost 9,000'.  Those high peaks hold aspen and pines like one might find farther north in the mountains around Taos.  The canyons shelter maple trees, a relic of the last ice age.  The entire mountain range is also an ancient reef.  Yes, the Guadalupes used to be at the bottom of the ocean.  Imagine the Great Barrier Reef thrown almost two miles up into the sky.

The highest peaks are in Texas and preserved in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but the range move north into New Mexico.  The peaks are not quite as high but the western escarpment is still a couple thousand feet tall and runs north for many miles until the Guadalupes and Sacramento Mountains blend together.


The area in New Mexico is national forest and there are several places where access is possible.  I approached the escarpment from the west and made my way up into the forest and a campsite right on the rim.  

From here I had a view looking north, west, and south of the escarpment, desert, and mountains.  It is a big view here with a lot of sky.  As I wrote in my last post, I had considered packing up to Guadalupe Peak to photograph the sunset and stars from there but the call for thunderstorms had me alter my plan.

I have hopes that we will get clear skies at night so I can photograph the Milky Way.

As the afternoon wore on the signs of clouds building up let me know I made the right decision not to be on the summit this day.

Right at sunset the clouds became a thunderstorm centered over the high peaks and I watched lightening streak from the clouds.

I photographed the sunset from my vantage point and kept an eye on the sky around me to watch for bad weather.

It got windy but the storm stayed away to the south.

The sunset faded in the west and the storm kept growing and spreading out toward the west.  The stars began to shine in the night sky and I watched the show of li
 

ght and lightening until the Milky Way was visible.  The sky was broken clouds where the Milky Way could peek out and be seen.  I set to work framing up images with the sky and the distant storm.

On occasion I even caught a lightening in an image.

I stayed up for a few hours making images before calling it a day and fell asleep with a view of the rim and the sky.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Exploring the Lost Mesa

Over the Labor Day holiday I went west for a quick trip.  At first I had thought of backpacking up and camping on Guadalupe Peak, but in the days leading up to the trip it was forecast for thunderstorms I changed my plans to not be on a summit in a thunderstorm.  I like being outside but I also do not like to put myself in unsafe situations.

So I modified the trip to spend a night on the Lost Mesa and then a couple of nights around the Guadalupe Mountains.

September in the southwest is the monsoon season when the tropical activity of storms and hurricanes pushes moisture and rain into the area.  So September is usually the greenest time of the year here.

I found there were a few wildflowers, the grass looked healthy, and the ocotillo had leaves and were green.

Tlaloc Man Petroglyph on the Lost Mesa
The plan was to look for petroglyphs and then campout to see the Milky Way.  We got there and did a good hike checking out some of the rock art that you can find on boulders in the area.  There are several good examples to be seen here and I photographed a few favorites.

Knowing it would be dark skies until about midnight and that the Milky Way would be about due south, we picked our camp to take advantage of what a good night image might be.

After watching an ok sunset, I set up my tent and waited for dark.  The clouds seemed to be building and when it got dark they covered enough of the sky to make it difficult to see the stars.  Still there was just enough gaps I was able to get some of the Milky Way in the images.

I stayed up for a few hours photographing the night sky and occasionally my tent (one of the reasons I love a yellow tent is how it glows in a night image).

The clouds were mostly gone by sunrise but there was some nice morning light the next day.

After the sun rose and we lost the interesting light, we broke camp and headed toward the Guadalupe Mountains.  It would be a few hour drive but I had some ideas on a possible camp and off we went down the dusty roads.



Friday, November 13, 2015

Nights on the Nolan River

As the year progressed in 2015 and the months went by, I kept trying to photograph the bluff on the Nolan River for a particular image I had in mind (see the prior post).  On nights that did not happen I would try to photograph other sections of the Nolan River that had easier access and that would remain above the rising levels of Lake Whitney.

Farther upstream of the best area are more rocky sections, another bluff, and a great old stone railroad trestle. 

In the spring months I knew I might be able to frame the Milky Way above the trestle.  So on one of those predawn mornings where the river was too deep and fast to wade to the bluff, I went to the trestle.  Here the access is easy with some good rocky areas to shoot from and remain above the higher moving waters.  That is the top image here.

I would end up trying here on a couple of different mornings.  Since you need dark skies to photograph the Milky Way you are limited to those times when the moon is not in the sky.  So we could not try every weekend, but would give it a go when we could even if it was cloudy as you never know if the clouds will part long enough to get even one image.

So sometimes we were able to get the shots, other times were were not able to.  Every day and every attempt is different.  You do what you can with whatever conditions you find-that is just the nature of being a landscape photographer.

So over the course of the summer I kept trying to get to the bluff and kept having one thing or another keep it out of reach.  Each morning I would have to adapt and go to a different location or wade as far as I could get and take images.


It was both a fun and frustrating year which finally paid off in October with getting the image! (again see last blog post).

It is late in the Milky Way season as we approach the time of the year where we do not see the galactic core but there is still the less bright spiral arm to photograph and then the anticipation to mid-February when the Galactic Core reappears in the east just before dawn.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Nolan River Milky Way-Nine Months of Trying

Nolan River Bluff
One of my favorite areas to photograph here in north Texas is the Nolan River south of Fort Worth.  This is a small river that runs through just two counties (Johnson and Hill) before joining the Brazos at Lake Whitney.  The Nolan runs through some nice little hills on what is often a rocky bed and has a few sections of limestone bluffs.

Add in the fact it is also just far enough away from the Metroplex to see the Milky Way in the night sky and you might see why I like it for photography.

I can be there in just under an hour from my home making it a great location for sunrise or for a 3am departure to photograph the Milky Way before sun up.

I had some great success photographing the Milky Way there last year  Nolan River Blog Post    and hoped to get a chance to photograph there again.  I also wanted to see what my Sony A7S camera could do.

Well 2015 was a year in frustration in getting to the area I wanted to get to.


High water is too fast and deep
I knew in February I might be able to capture the Milky Way in the eastern sky just before sunrise.  I went down under partly cloudy skies but at the bluff it was 100% cloud cover.

In March I went down and it was raining.

In April I went down after a few days of rain and found some partly clear skies but the river was in flood stage from the rain and I could not get to the bluff.

In May we had epic rains in north Texas and the Nolan had a flood the crested some 25+ feet above the normal river level.  After the flood passed I tried again and found Lake Whitney had so much water it had backed up into the Nolan River and some of the surrounding bottom land and we could not even get to the river.  The trail in the trees disappeared into the dark water of the lake.


Lake Whitney backs up into surrounding creeks
June was much the same.  We could now get to the river but it was still far too deep to get to the area I wanted.  I went as far to go buy chest waders hoping I could wade along the bank but found the water at least 6 foot deep.

By July the water had receded some and I went back about 3 in the morning with chest waders  but still found it too deep.  I just was not comfortable going into 4-5 foot deep murky water in the dark with camera gear.

August was much the same.  The lake level was slowly going down but remained too high to get to where I wanted to get to.  There is another section of bluffs that remained above the lake level and we visited them in the late summer instead Nolan River Bluff
I can see the bluff but cannot get there



In September I was able to get to the river and get partially where I wanted to go but a side creek was still deep enough and muddy enough to not cross it.

Finally in October the lake level had dropped to what I thought might work.  But by now the Milky Way was so late in its season that it looked like going at sunset would be the best bet.  I was hoping there might just be enough of the bank showing to walk there and at worse walk along some rock ledges in just a few inches of water.


Could not get to the bluff but I got this shot along the river
That was exactly the conditions we found.  The lake/river level was far above what we had seen in 2014 still but it allowed us to get to the bluff.  Several of the rocks I had used for compositions were still under a few feet of water so we had to adapt.  We also found a large boulder had fallen from the bluff and was partially blocking the main ledge.

It was a clear day so there was no sunset to photograph.  However when it got dark we were able to see the Milky Way was in the south-southwestern sky and started photographing it.

We stayed for a few hours and as it swung around more westerly I was able to get the top image here looking down river.

It was a very tough year of many attempts and much frustration trying to photograph the bluff this year.  From clouds, to rain to floods, to full lakes were all things that made it difficult but in the end perseverance made it happen.

Those are just the things you deal with as a landscape photographer.  It can be difficult and then one day it all works.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Hawaii by Helicopter

One of the more popular ways to tour and see Hawaii these days is by helicopter tour.  There are tour operators on most of the islands and there are a variety of tours you can take.

I was able to tour the West Maui Mountains and the Molokai coast by air and it was quite a sight.

The views you get and the locations you can see are something you cannot experience any other way.

I am far from an expert on photographing from the air or for that matter any moving object.  I usually work on a tripod and take pictures of rocks and trees.  I joke I take pictures of rocks since they move in geologic time.  :-)

Now I was going to be photographing from a moving object that has natural vibration and through a plexiglass windscreen.  This was going to also require me to be hand holding the camera.

Here was the setup I went with:  One camera with just one lens.  I only had one camera (the Sony A7S) and used the wide view of the Nikon 20mm f/4 I have adapted for it.  This is a small and easy to use combo.  I like a wide view so I thought I would go with it.

For camera settings, I set it on Shutter Priority which had me set the shutter and then it do the rest.  Now since the Nikon is a manual focus and manual aperture lens, I set the aperture, the focus to infinity and then it left the camera with one adjustment to make- ISO.  It was just point and shoot and let the camera do the work.

Shutter to 1/1000 in Shutter Priority

Aperture of f/8 to maximize depth of field, sharpness, and speed


ISO set to Auto ISO

So I had a fixed shutter speed of 1/1000 and a fixed aperture of f/8 which meant the camera would adjust the ISO for each shot.  

This worked great with well exposed images.  The ISO would vary from about 400 up to about 3200.  On some cameras ISO 3200 might make you cringe but on the A7S they all looked as good as ISO 100.

I also set the camera for burst firing.  This allowed the camera to fire off a burst of images which can also help sharpness.  Since you are always moving it also means each also had a slightly different composition.

BTW, no polariser when shooting through a window as the plexiglass messes it up.


So over the approximately one hour flight we flew up to see waterfalls in the West Maui Mountains.  We flew over to Molokai and saw Elephant Rock along the way.  We went along the Molokai sea cliffs which they say are the tallest sea cliffs in the world (Molokai split in half millions of years ago with part of the island sliding into the sea and now rubble spread across the bottom of the North Pacific).  We went over to the coral reefs on the other side of the island and then back over to Maui where we crossed over into the upper Iao.
Valley.  Finally back to the Maui heliport.

The views were amazing and the images turned out surprisingly well.  I was not sure this would work or I would get anything.  I was very impressed with the results and the sights too.  The camera did great and my settings allowed me to just take pictures and let the camera do the rest.

Although the entire trip was incredibly scenic, I think my personal favorite part was the views of the Molokai sea cliffs and could have easily just gone up and down that area for hours.

An excellent way to end the trip.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Maui Coast beyond Hana

One of the things I hoped for when camping along the Hana coast was to see the Milky way and be able to photograph the night sky with the ocean.  I was eager to see what the Sony A7S could do there.

In the time after sunset there was a little clear sky but the moon was far too full to see the grandeur of the Milky Way.  I would end up trying to get some sleep and then get out about 4am and see the dark. 

However the Hana side of Maui is the wet side and it lived upto that reputation as it rained off and on both nights I camped there.  The rain would pass by and it was a heavy downpour for 15-20 minutes and then it would stop.  Then 30 minutes later it would rain again as another rain band passed over.  I was camping in the small North Face Stormbreak 1 tent and although I was not sure how well I would fit or it would handle rain, I was really impressed and dry camping here.  The tent was narrow but had as much length as any other tent.  I fit and even though my sleeping bag touched the end of the tent the excellent rainfly on the tent kept it 100% dry!  Tent was also super stable in the wind.  I actually find that a trait in ever North Face tent I have ever used.  Super happy with this tent.  Perfect for solo travel.

So after the on again-off again rain, I got up and out to almost complete overcast in the dark.

I made my way to the coast and even occasionally got a brief glimpse of the stars.  I might get one image and the sky would cloud over again.  Then a rain squall would pass over and I would cover the gear and wait it out in the dark.

This happened several times before dawn.  In one of the heavy ones I did retreat to the shelter of a nearby tree (no lightening at all or I would not have been out there).

Finally the night began to fade and I was able to watch two sunrises along the coast.

It was impressive!

The moving clouds made for some interesting light and the constant crash of the surf made it fun. Occasionally a big wave would cash and send spray up the rocky shore cliffs.  I kept my rain cover on the camera and used a cloth to keep the lens dry.


Each morning was fun like that and I would stay out there for a couple of hours each day.

Sunsets were also interesting as the light faded over the mountain behind you and the light left the sky.  Exposures would get longer and longer until it was more night than day photography.

Two sunsets and two sunrises were a great way to experience and photograph the island.  I was able to be right where I wanted to photograph, it was quiet, and I had it pretty much all to myself.  Yep, camping along the coast was a great way to see Maui and have serious low cost fun.




Friday, October 9, 2015

Road to Hana

The drive down from the summit of Haleakala takes you from 10,000' back to sea level.  From the chilly dawn on the summit, I descended to the warm, humid coast.  There I met the Road to Hana.  It is about 40 miles to Hana but it is a drive that takes at least two hours.  You see the road is a narrow two lane road that winds along the coast.  You travel about 25 mph around many curves (they say it is 620 curves) as the road hugs the cliffs.  Then there are all the one lane bridges.  Yes, one lane bridges.  59 of them.  So it is a long slow and scenic drive.

It takes even longer once you start stopping.

Believe me, you will want to stop.  

There are scenic views everywhere.  A stream here.  A cliff there.  Every turn and mile has something to see.

Realistically it will take you 4-7 hours to get there.

For most people its get there then turn around and drive back to their resort.  I had plans on camping.  Just beyond Hana itself you reenter Haleakala National Park and in addition to the Seven Scared Pools there is a campground.  Here I set up camp along the coast and was able to enjoy the quiet side of Maui.


Road to Koki Beach Beyond Hana
The drive took me several hours, but as I knew I was camping, I could take my time and enjoy it.  I made every stop possible looking for walks or images.

Take  a look at the top image here, it is a view along the coast.  If you look close you can see the road cut in the trees where a narrow two lane road is hugging the cliffs.  Yes, that is the drive.
Seven Sacred Pools

Once past Hana the road becomes even narrower, really just a lane and half wide with no stripe.  When two cars go past each other you have to slow to a crawl and go very slow, each of you a time almost off the road.  In some places off the road mean hanging on a cliff.

More than once I had to back up to let someone through.

All in all a beautiful drive and the payoff of getting to camp there made it so nice.  A sure thumbs up on the drive and camping along the coast for a very different Hawaii experience.
Coast beyond Hana

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Night on Haleakala

I had the opportunity to goto Maui in September and got to tack in a weekend leading into it.  I knew a couple areas I wanted to photograph in the summit of the volcano Haleakala and the Hana coast.  Me being me, I decided to pack my tent and sleeping bag so I could stay closer to the areas I wanted to photograph.  

Since Haleakala is at 10,000' above sea level, it is cold on top at night and sunrise, so I also packed a down jacket, hat and gloves.  Three things not usually in the luggage of those going to Hawaii.

For camera gear I wanted to travel light but also be able to photograph the Milky Way as well as landscape work.  I decided to bring one body- the Sony A7S.  It is a phenomenal night camera with super clean ISO 25,600 reults, which is perfect for night images of the Milky Way.  It is also decent in the daytime, 12mp is a little low for landscape however the images look great from it so I knew I would not get the biggest file size, but what I would get would be top notch.

After landing at the Airport at Kahaului, I grabbed a few food items, some water, and headed up the mountain.  I drove from literally sea level for an hour zig-zagging up the mountain to the Hosmer Campground which is right at treeline about 7,000'.  I was worried it might be full, after all it is a national park, but there were only three other tents set up there.  I found me a spot, set up the tent and drove for another 30 minutes to the summit.

On top I visited all the overlooks and looked over some possible compositions.  I had hopes the Milky Way would also be visible but was concerned it would be too far west in the sky to catch it over the crater.  It was cool and windy on the summit.

I stayed for sunset and then made my way back down to camp to get a little sleep.  I had been up for about 22 hours by that point with the long travel day and was asleep pretty fast.  

The moon was about half full and very bright, but would set about midnight.  I slept to 11:45pm and got up to head up the mountain, there I had the entire summit area to myself and photographed the stars, Milky Way and the Observatory on the summit.  It was very chilly up there.  My car thermometer said 38.  I was glad I brought a down jacket to Hawaii!

I stayed up the rest of the night photographing.  As I had feared the Milky Way and the galactic core was too far west in the sky but I was able to put it in a few images with the observatory.

A little closer to dawn the spiral arm of the Milky Way, which is the less bright arm of the galaxy that Orion is in, rose in the east.  That I was able to photograph above the crater and I was able to get a few nice night images.

After 4 pm the first of the sunrise watchers began to arrive on top.  Haleakala rises above the clouds and it is a popular sunrise destination for those visiting Maui.


By sunrise there were probably 500+ people and the parking lot was full.

I stayed until the sun crested the rim and grabbed a last few images and then made my way back to my tent about 7:30am.

Night on the summit was everything I had hoped.  I packed up my tent, put away the down jacket and headed for the Hana coast.