Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Eden's Exit

To me, Hawaii is the definition of Paradise.  It's so lush and the weather is so perfect, I can't imagine another place that could better reflect the word.  But paradise, as all good things, isn't everywhere and it has to have an entrance and an exit.  This shot could be paradise's exit.  As you can see, this place has some great green foliage and that it is just what a portion of paradise might look like.  But, something sinister can be seen on the other side of the bridge... A hole that has an orange red glow...  Could it be Hell?

Luckily, no, it isn't hell.  It's actually the entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the big island.  The following is from gohawaii.com's website as linked previously:

"Lava caves like this are formed when a river of lava gradually builds solid walls and a ceiling. When the lava flow stops and the last of it passes downhill, a cave is formed. These caves can be a few feet high and only yards long, or they can stretch for miles with high ceilings. The Thurston Lava Tube is a fantastic example of a massive lava cave. Lit by electric lights, with a flat rock floor and a ceiling high enough in the center to keep you from scraping your head, this is a great introduction to lava tube geology."

This photo is a 7-shot HDR bracketed at 1 stop intervals from -3 to +3 EVs. I processed them via Adobe Camera Raw, saved each bracket as a tif, merged them in Photomatix 4 using the natural setting and then tweaked it out in Photoshop CS6 with Nik Color Efex 4's tonal contrast, glamour glow and graduated filters.

I hope you enjoy the photo and thanks for dropping by!  As always, click on the image for a larger view.


Exif data:

Camera - Nikon D700
Exposure - 0.3
Aperture -  f/9.0
Focal Length - 16 mm
ISO Speed - 800
Flash - No Flash
Exposure Program - Aperture-priority AE
Lens Model - Nikkor16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0


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Friday, October 25, 2013

Fish Foto Fun

I knew I wanted to do some snorkeling in Hawaii and try my hand at getting some underwater pictures. So, I bought a used Canon S100 compact camera and a Canon WP-DC43 underwater housing.  I went the camera and housing route because there just isn't an underwater compact camera on the market that has raw capability and processing a raw file is so much better than a jpeg in post as you know.

It was fun indeed, but a lot of the shots I got were worthless.  I did get a few OK ones, but I think I need to practice a bit more.  Too bad there aren't nice warm and clear tide-pools here in Central Texas! :-)  Anyway, I did snorkel twice..  Well, really three times, but one time I can't really count because the water was too rough and I got all of my gear knocked off at one point.  That's a funny story in itself and I might talk about it one day.  Until then, I thought I'd post a few of the decent shots I got as well as a few things I learned while shooting with it...

1.  Even though the camera is in a housing and you have a mask on, it's still pretty hard to see the view screen on the camera.  It's OK, but not as good as when you are on dry land taking a snap.  You have to use your judgement a little more when composing and hope you get the shot.  If you can adjust the brightness, do so, but be aware that will also drain your battery faster.

2.  Fish don't normally sit and pose for a shot. Imagine that?  Silly fish..  So, you have to have a little luck and rely on your instinct as to where the fish might go and when.  Have your camera ready to go when you are close to the composure you want so you don't miss the shot.

3.  Turn off your camera when you know you won't be using it in the water.  Leaving it on all the time underwater is very tempting, but it can drain your battery before you know it.  Nothing more of a PITA than to have to get out of the water, take your camera out of it's housing, exchange batteries, then put it all back together while hoping you don't get one grain of sand in the housing's seal and possibly ruining your camera.

4.  It seems to take a bit longer for the camera to focus when underwater versus on land so you'll need to compensate for that.  If you can set a manual focus for aperture f4 say, you might have better luck. Plus, with the camera in the housing, Canon's housing anyway, it's very difficult to press the shutter halfway to get the camera to focus.  You kind of have to play with that a bit because it doesn't have that same feel.

5.  Snorkel in the midday sun.  This way it will be as bright as possible underwater and your camera will hopefully be able to focus faster and have shorter exposure times.

6.  Lastly, if you want really professional-quality underwater shots, prepare to use at least a camera with an APS-C size or above sensor and then get an underwater housing for it along with a good fisheye lens and some strobes.  Also get ready to pay thousands of dollars for a rig like that.  In other words, don't use what I did.  As you can see, the shots below are nice, but they are lacking detail and sharpness.  I really enjoyed taking them and I enjoy looking at them, but after that, they aren't good for much.  All of that being said, I still had lots of fun and would like to try it some more.  Maybe with some practice these shots will get better.  It would be interesting to see what Nikon's new 1 AW1 camera can do as well.  It's not APS-C size, but looks like it might be good...

About the shots...

Below:  This is a school of convict tang fish that I took near the Beach House Restaurant in Poipu, Kauai.


Below:  Here is the unofficial fish of the state of Hawaii.  It's called a Humuhumunukunukuapua'a or reef triggerfish for short. The long Hawaiian name means "triggerfish with a snout like a pig." It's not a great shot, but I just had to prove that I actually saw one, especially since I have a t-shirt with this fish on it! I took this one near the Beach House Restaurant in Poipu, Kauai.


Below:  This is a moorish idol fish that I took in the tide-pools near our rental on the big island.


Below:  This is an orange-spine unicornfish that I took in the tide-pools near our rental on the big island.


Below:  This is a raccoon butterflyfish that I took near the Beach House Restaurant in Poipu, Kauai.



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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Black Sand Beach on the Big Island

One of our goals when we went to Hawaii was to see a black sand beach.  We found one down on the south side of the island at Punaluu County Beach Park.  It's a beautiful place and is just so typical "Hawaii"!

When we got there we walked around a bit and just took in the sites. The sand felt just the same when walking on it as sand on a regular beach.  However, it's just such a different landscape (ocean-scape? beach-scape?) and so exotic that it was fun yet weird to look at.  But, I liked it!  Of course the palms and the ocean were just beautiful as well!

There was also a gentleman fishing with a net and he caught a few fish in his bucket.  I asked him what they were, but at this point I really don't remember.  I do remember seeing some small silver and black striped fish, but that could be almost anything.

We also went to the standard tourist T-shirt stand and we met a very nice guy named "Guy".  He was awesome!  We had heard that turtles would come up on the beach during the day so we asked him when that might happen and he walked with us right out to the water and pointed some out to us.  The turtles were still feeding in the water, but he said they would come up later in the day.  He also told us a little bit about his family and stuff.  Turns out he and his family are big volleyball players and have been all over the world competing.  And, the t-shirt stand at the beach has been in his family for two or three generations, if I remember correctly.  What a wonderful life he has!  Very nice and interesting guy (pun intended..).  So of course we bought some t-shirts from him and said we'd come back to check out the turtles, which we did.

So, here are some of the shots from the beach below.  I didn't get any spectacular shots I don't think, so I thought I would post a multitude of what I got there and just enjoy the memories.  I hope you enjoy the shots, too and thanks for dropping by!  (As always, click on the picture to see a larger version.)

BELOW: View looking west with a life guard shack on the right and pavilion in the distance.


BELOW: View looking east with Guy's T-shirt stand on the left.


BELOW: Guy with Eileen as we discuss turtles and life.



BELOW: A couple of sea turtles resting that we saw on our return trip to the beach later that same day.


BELOW: Another sea turtle with the warning sign not to get too close to these guys.  The shot above was taken with my zoom so I really wasn't within 15 feet of them when I took it.  More like 25 - 30 at least.





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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Napali Coast #2

Here's another shot of the Napali Coast on Kauai.  It's almost impossible to get a bad shot of this place from high in the air, but I managed to get a few bad ones.  However, of the good ones I got, this is one I really like!  This is probably nearly the best of the ones I did get.  I really like the composition and it seems to be pretty sharp all the way through.  Better than my previous.  I really liked the comp in that one, but it has some soft areas in it.  Also, there's not as much water in that one as there is in this. The colors of the ocean here are just really nice and that would've made a nice compliment in my last one.  The water in the foreground is sort of a turquoise green and then it fades into a nice blue further in the background.  Anyway, like I said for the most part, it's hard to get a bad shot there. 

So, this is a single shot processed in Adobe Camera Raw and then given varying degrees of Nik Color Efex 4's tonal contrast filter throughout.  Then a little noise reduction in the sky and a little sharpening and here you go!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Looking Through Waimea Canyon

Before we went to Kauai, my friend and co-worker Lori said she went to see the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific", which is Waimea Canyon, but all she saw were clouds.  Well, we had a similar experience.  We drove the road that sort of skirts Waimea Canyon from where it ends on the coast to where the canyon begins near the middle of the island in the higher elevations.  When we got to the top all we saw were clouds as well.  However, a few stops on the way up were pretty clear and we were able to see some pretty spectacular views.  This is one of those views.  It was pretty hazy, but it turned out nice nevertheless.  This shot is from one along route 550 on the way up.  It's a funny shot because if you look at the horizon, it seems kind of crooked towards the middle-right because that's where the mountains slope down towards the coast.  However, when you look at the clouds, you can see the it's really quite level.  Just one of those optical illusions, I guess.


Exif data:

Camera - Nikon D700
Exposure - 0.005 sec (1/200)
Aperture - f/7.1
Focal Length - 28 mm
ISO Speed - 200
Exposure Bias - 0 EV
Flash - No Flash
Exposure Program - Program AE
Lens Model - Nikkor 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6


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Friday, October 18, 2013

Sunrise at Shipwreck Beach

On Kauai, we stayed at a vacation rental home in the town of Poipu, smack dab between Poipu beach and Shipwreck Beach.  Poipu Beach was about a 10 minute walk to the west and Shipwreck Beach about the same to the east.  One morning, Eileen and I went to Shipwreck Beach to watch the sun come up and to get some snaps of the view.  It's awesome there because that's where the Grand Hyatt Resort is and my, what a great (grand) place that is!  That's what you see in this photo... Shipwreck Beach and some of the palms and a mini bungalow (for lack of a better term) on the left.

As far as processing this shot goes, I tried something different...  Instead of doing an HDR with 5 different shots at exposures 1 stop apart, I took two shots that were two stops apart, layered them in Photoshop and created a gradient mask to bring out the highlights in the foreground and the dramatic sky in the background.  I kind of like the way it turned out versus the HDR results I sometimes get from Photomatix.  Speaking of which, there's a shot from the Big Island that I took that I'm struggling with and if I figure out a good way to process it, I'll post and let you know what I did.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy this shot and thanks for dropping by!


Exif data:

Camera - Nikon D700
Exposure - 0.6 Aperture f/8.0
Focal Length - 16 mm
ISO Speed - 1600
Exposure Bias -  -1 EV
Flash - No Flash
Exposure Program - Aperture-priority AE
Lens Model - Nikkor 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0


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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Waterfalls Not Named Waimea

Lots of things in Hawaii have the name Waimea in them.  There are Waimea Falls on Kauai, Waimea Bay on Oahu, Waimea Canyon on Kauai, Waimea this and Waimea that.  I think - I'm not sure - but I think, Waimea may have been a king on one of the islands, so that's why so many things are named Waimea.  However, I really don't know for sure so I could be horribly, horribly wrong.  Anyway, as I mentioned, Kauai has some waterfalls named Waimea, but these ones here are not them. I do have pictures of Waimea Falls and I may post one of them later, but I liked this one better.  That being said, these falls are even prettier and unfortunately I don't know the name of them.  I guess I should've been better about that, but there are so many waterfalls on Kauai that it is hard to keep track.  And the best part is they are all beautiful!  These particular ones were kind of far away from where I stood to get the shot so the photo is not quite as tack-sharp as I would like, but I still like how it turned out for a handheld shot.

This is another single non-hdr shot and I just added some vibrance and saturation in ACR as well as the darken lighten filter from Nik Color Efex 4.


Exif data:

Camera - Nikon D700
Exposure -  0.013 sec (1/80)
Aperture -  f/8.0
Focal Length - 200 mm
ISO Speed -  400
Exposure Bias - 0 EV
Flash - No Flash
Exposure Program -  Aperture-priority AE
Lens Model - Nikkor 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6


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Friday, October 11, 2013

Helicopter View of Waimea Canyon

As I mentioned in my previous post, we took a tour of Kauai via helicopter and it was awesome!  So in this post I decided to show what it was like from the passenger's view as we were tooling around above the island.

In this shot we are just getting to Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai.  Waimea Canyon is so big that it is considered "the Grand Canyon of Hawaii".  I've never been to the actual Grand Canyon so I have no frame of reference, but this one here was pretty big.  I really like this shot because you can see the canyon quite well through the windshield and you can really see the gauges on the instrument cluster very clearly.  However, there are some white speckles on the windshield but those aren't flaws in the shot, they are actually water spots as we just came through a little bit of rain at this point.  As you can see, we are flying at about 3700 feet, flying at about 87 knots (100 mph), and have over half our fuel left.  Pretty cool, huh?  Love this stuff!

As far as the picture goes, it's just one shot that I adjusted a bit in Adobe Camera Raw.  I kept the white balance as set from the camera, but I let ACR adjust the exposure and then in post I added some tonal contrast to bring out the colors of the canyon and added graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky a little. Both filters were from Nik Color Efex 4. Then I reduced the noise in the shot with Nik's Dfine and sharpened with Nik's Sharpener 2.  I don't care what anyone says, I just love that whole Nik suite!


Exif data:

Camera - Nikon D700
Exposure - 0.017 sec (1/60)
Aperture - f/16.0
Focal Length - 16 mm
ISO Speed -  200
Exposure Bias -  0 EV
Flash - No Flash
Lens Model - Nikkor 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0
Exposure Program - Aperture-priority AE


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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Napali Coast #1

The island of Kauai in Hawaii has some of the most spectacular views in the world.  One of the most fantastic is the Napali Coast on the northwest side and the best way to see it is from the air.  We took a helicopter tour of the island with Jack Harter Helicopters and it was awesome!  They have choppers that will take you up with the doors off!  It's perfect for photographers.  And the Hughes 500 model helicopters they have are so smooth that it's like riding in a car through the air. Well, I thought so.  Eileen just wanted the trip to be over, but afterward I think she was glad we did it.

Anyway, both of us sat up front with the pilot.  The pilot was on the left, Eileen in the middle and I on the right.  I was so close to the opening of the chopper that when we flew through the rain, my arm would get wet and then immediately dry as soon as we flew out of it.  It was great because there were no windows to glare into the photo.  The photo here is what our pilot, Ben Silver called the "postcard shot".  I hope it's worthy of a postcard but you know you really don't have much time to shoot as you are flying through the air.  Especially since there are others on the flight that want to shoot the same thing from the other side of the aircraft.

So, Kauai is probably the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain.  It was formed by an old extinct volcano, Waimea I think, and subsequently formed all of these great canyons and nooks and crannies in the countryside due to all of the rain that falls there.  Kauai has the wettest climate on the planet where portions at the highest elevations can get anywhere from 450 - 700 inches of rain per year!  All of that water can do lots of things to mountains and that's why you see all of these beautiful formations here.

If you ever get a chance to visit, do the helicopter and you won't be sorry!


Exif data:

Camera - Nikon D700
Exposure -  0.004 sec (1/250)
Aperture - f/8.0
Focal Length - 35 mm
ISO Speed - 200
Exposure Bias - 0 EV
Flash - No Flash
Exposure Program - Program AE
Lens Model - Nikkor 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0


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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Kapoho Sunrise

Hello! I know it's been a while since I posted anything to the blog here, but I had good reason.. You see, Eileen and I as well as our friends Ellen, Theresa and Valerie just returned from a wonderful 10-day whirlwind trip to Hawaii!  It was awesome!  I mean, it's Hawaii, right?  How could it not be?!  Anyway, we spent 3 days on the "Big Island" and 7 on Kauai.  Both places are just gorgeous in their own ways and we couldn't have had a better time.  Therefore, a lot of the next posts will be from that trip. Hope you don't mind!

So, to start things off, this here is a shot of the water and the lava rock just outside the back of our vacation rental home in the town of Kapoho.  It was a small town just ESE of Pahoa on the southeast side of the island.  Where we stayed did not afford good sunset shots, so I had to opt for sunrise.  That was OK since because Hawaii is 5 hours behind US central time, we were up pretty early anyway.  What a lovely way to welcome the day!


Exif data:

Camera - Nikon D700
Exposure - 1.6
Aperture - f/4.0
Focal Length - 19 mm
ISO Speed - 640
Flash -  No Flash
Lens Model - 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0


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