Sunday, March 26, 2017


On our recent visit to the Island of Hawai'i, my wife and I signed up for a tour of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  This was a long tour.  We got picked up just after noon and got back to our resort just before midnight.  Our resort was located on the northwest side of the island, while the volcanic activity was occurring on the southeast side.  As a result, we were driven across the middle of the island on the Saddle Road, which roughly bisects the island, to Hilo and then on to the Volcanoes Park, and then returning after dark.

The tour featured two meals, including a lunch that we ate at a state park on the slopes of MaunaKea.  Here is one of the trees in that park.  I thought the tree, which was literally half-dead, spoke for the park, which featured wind followed by rain that chased us on toward Hilo.  On that leg of the drive we experienced a noisy thunderstorm, including hail, a first for our guide.

The time in Hilo included a visit to Rainbow Falls, a nice little falls in a park overgrown with riots of tropical vegetation.

Yes, it was raining, which is par for the course on the east side of the island.  And yes, the humidity was fogging up my lens.

After Hilo, we paid a first visit to the Volcanoes Park later in the afternoon.  Pretty unimpressive at that time of day.  Our viewing area for the active caldera was probably two to three miles away, which meant we could only view the vapors rising from the caldera.

What was impressive, though, was our visit to the Thurnston lava tube.  This feature is essentially a naturally made tunnel that runs about 400 feet underground.

It was tough to get a good shot because of the dim light.  This was shot at f/4.5 for 1/15 second at a whopping ISO of 8000.  Not bad, considering.  This lava tube, by the way, was the location of the scene in the first Indian Jones movie where Harrison Ford was being chased by a giant boulder rolling through the tube.

On our way out, I took photos of some giant ferns, still waiting to uncoil.  These coils were perhaps 4-6 inches across.

Following dinner at a restaurant in the nearby town of, yes, Volcano, we returned to the park after dark.  The viewing area at the Jagger Museum was 1.2 miles from the active caldera, and the light reflected off the vapor rising from the caldera was pretty spectacular.  A close look revealed that from time to time molten lava was being thrown up from the caldera.  Here are a couple of shots that I got.

Finally, is a shot taken (with my iPhone) of me and my wife by our guide who used a flashlight to illuminate us (including my retinas) with the volcano in the background.

At least my head did not appear to be in flames.



During our visit to the Island of Hawai'i, we stayed at a resort in Puako, probably a made-up name for a collection of resorts and expensive shops about 20 miles north of the Kona Airport.  A couple of times we drove south past the airport down the southwest side of the island, known as the Kona Coast.

The terrain on the west side of the island is in many places otherworldly.  There are vast fields of broken up lava that are virtually devoid of vegetation, despite the fact that the lava was deposited over 150 years ago.  In other spots there is sparse vegetation, mostly consisting of tuffs of grass, as in the following.

This volcanic rock remains extremely sharp.  When I took this shot from a kneeling position, I wound up with a cut on my knee that immediately began weeping blood.

On our first trip south we visited St. Benedict's, a small but amazing church the entire interior of which was painted over 100 years ago by the local priest untrained in the arts.  I earlier posted photos of that church.  The second time we visited, among other spots, the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, which has preserved ancient native fishing grounds from several hundred years ago.  Here are a few random shots from that visit.

First, what I initially thought was simply the park ranger's hat but in reality was a small sculpture, since the brim appears to be about 3/4 inch thick.

I liked how I was able to keep the focus on the sculpture while retaining the background view of the coast as recognizable despite being out of focus.

And here is another sculpture of some sort of totem at the entrance to the park.

Finally, a portion of a mortarless stone wall, part of a retaining wall that the natives built to capture fish that swam into manmade ponds during high tide and then were trapped when the tide waters subsided.

I find it difficult to capture seascapes without turning them into cliches.  Here is a daytime shot in full sun.

And another that I caught with my iPone of the one sunset that we witnessed.



On one of our days on the Island of Hawaii earlier this spring, my wife and I drove from our resort on the northwest side of the island to Hilo, on the east side.  Here are a few of the photos that I got on that jaunt.

Our resort was on the coast a couple of mies from the highway.  There was a line of palms at the turnoff from the highway, and I took the following shot that I turned into a (mediocre) black and white.

The highway reaches the north coast at the quaint town of Honoka'a, and I got the following shots of local storefronts.

By backtracking to the northwest for about 10 miles on a local road, we reached a beautiful lookout 1000 feet above the WaipiĘ»o Valley.  My goal here was to preserve the glimpse of the point of land beyond the primary point on the other side of the valley.  There was enough haze in the air that the further point was quite faint.  Here is the best I could do.

Perhaps the better shot was following in which I framed the points with nearby foliage.

This demanded a narrower aperture to keep the foliage in good focus.  For the record, f/16 at 1/100 second.

The main highway from Honoka'a to Hilo pretty much hugs the coast and is scenic if not fantastic.  Along the way, again a few miles off the main highway, is Akaka Falls.  There is a very modest fee for this small state park, very well worth it to see this, the highest falls in the state of Hawaii.

The problem with this shot and in general with viewing this waterfall is that there is little to indicate how high this falls really is, namely 442 feet.  Perhaps if I had included more of the surrounding terrain, I might have done a better job.

Then it was on to Hilo.  This town was, in my view, a bit sketchy.  Later we learned that parts of the downtown closest to the water had been severely flooded by tsunamis in years past.  As a result, new construction in those areas will not be undertaken and the buildings that remain are on the shabby side.  We ate lunch at a friendly little restaurant with the following bike out front.  Meh.

Afterward we visited a nice little urban park that included a small bas-relief sculpture and a manmade pond where I took photos of the resident water lilies.

We drove back to the west side of the island on what is known as the Saddle Road, which passes between the islands two behemoth mountains, MaunaKea and MaunaLoa, neither of which was visible in the low overcast.


Friday, March 24, 2017


On our recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, I took some photos of both flowers and trees common to the island.  Here is some of what I got.

Hibiscus blossoms were abundant everywhere, especially at the resort where we stayed.  Here are a couple of the photos of those that I took.

These flowers are relatively difficult to capture in photography because they are relatively large (4 to 6 inches across) and are very "3-dimensional."  The consequence is that depth of field becomes an issue.  Unless the aperture is stopped way down, it is nearly impossible to keep the entire blossom in focus.  A greater depth of field also can bring background into play, creating problems with distractions.  It helped that the flower in the first photo was being backlit by the sun, allowing me to underexpose the background.

Another tropical flower that was plentiful was the anthurium.

I would describe these plants as ugly but interesting.  They also pose depth of field issues, but not as serious as those with the hibiscus, since it is easier to isolate the flowers from any background distractions.

Water lilies are not exactly exotic, but I did like the composition of the following image.  As my daughter said, "Aw, look, they are holding petals."

On the other hand, banana flowers are relatively exotic, at least to this Midwesterner.

Here is another common flower, the name for which I embarrassed to say I don't know, but the shot was a pleasant one.

As to trees, banyans were common and very different from anything in the Midwest.  Here is a photo of a very, very large banyan located in a city park in Hilo.

To give an idea of how massive this tree was, here is a shot of my bride standing in front of this tree's "trunk(s)."

Here is an example of a different variety of banyan (I think) that is much more "groomed."

And a closeup of the texture of the tree's trunk.

There were some wonderful umbrella-shaped trees in Hilo.  Unfortunately, I was not able to get a clear shot of any of them because of neighboring distracting elements.  I did take this shot where I could pose the branches against the featureless sky.

I liked the fractal quality of this black and white shot.

Finally, another black and white of a small gnarled dead tree on a knoll of volcanic debris.


Monday, March 13, 2017


The Island of Hawai'i appears to have its share of feral creatures, including feral cats, goats, chickens, and donkeys.  But I didn't get photos of any of those.  However, I did get shots of a few other critters, including a sea turtle that was snoozing on the beach.

We were cautioned not get too close to these protected animals, but I did take a shot from a distance that I then cropped.

He was obviously having trouble staying awake under the warm midday sun.

On another day I spotted a gecko on a shrub and got the following shot before he scooted away.  Again, highly cropped, but I was happy with the resolution that included an interesting pattern of red spots on its pebbled back.  Yes, this shot is right side up, as the gecko was upside down.

Finally, I was photographing a large palm frond for its semi-abstract patterns.

I noticed that there was what appeared to be a small bit of green vegetation toward the lower right of the image that had gotten hung up between two of the tightly woven leaves.  When I went to brush it away to get a "clean" shot, I realized that it wasn't vegetation but instead a small frog that scurried away when I came close.  It may be hard to pick out in the above shot.  Here is a closeup of the portion of the above shot that features the frog, which couldn't have been more than half an inch across.


Sunday, March 12, 2017


Early during our trip to the Big Island, we visited St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church on the Kona coast.  The exterior of this small church is charming but unimposing.

It's the interior that is notable.  The church was built by Father John Berchmans Velge around the turn of the 20th century.  The priest, who was totally untutored in painting, decided to cover the interior of the church with religious paintings and local color (literally), educating himself in painting techniques as he went along.  Here are some shots of the interior, including a "traditional" one from the rear of the "nave."

Here are a few other views of the interior, including one of the ceiling, difficult to capture because of the relatively low height of the ceiling.

One of the parishioners, Bill Myers, gave us background on the history of the church, including some of the hidden messages that the pastor had included in his art.  Below is a portrait of Jesus, half-hidden behind the altar piece at the front of the sanctuary.

The church grounds include a cemetery, that is still "active" in the sense that former parishioners are still being buried there.  As Bill explained, burial is a problem because of the volcanic rock that lies two to three feet below the surface, explaining why some of the graves are capped with concrete, though I took the photo for the scattering of crosses rather than for the concrete.

Finally, is a shot of the rear of the church, which shows that it faces the ocean, a few hundred yards down a slope.

Bill explained that, although the church's exterior has seen some restoration over the years, the interior artwork has not, though it remains in good shape.

If you are ever in the neighborhood, St. Benedict's is a gem.