We’d been to the Big Island of Hawaii once before but this time the stakes were higher. I’d seen the rocky west coast of the Island and lazed on its breezy beaches, but my wanderlust and growing love of landscape photography spurred me to see what else was out there. Perhaps that’s why I packed a pair of long pants, thermals, and a thick sweatshirt in my bag. More on that in a minute.
What follows are the happy accidents and hopeful explorations born of seven days’ vacation on Hawaii’s Big Island.
Day one: not exactly sunny, but the surf made up for the gray skies with awesome force.
My first time experimenting with a neutral density filter on the camera produced some misty, dreamy shots. And a bloody ankle. I fell twice on the slippery rocks.
They don’t make water that color back home in Sacramento.
Day Two: Spider-Man and Batman practiced their moves on mom and dad’s bed.
Not even the Spider-Man hat could prevent saltwater in the eyes.
Throw a family on a paddleboard and, boom, you got yourself a family portrait.
“Big Sky Country” is already trademarked? Too bad, ’cause the Big Island of Hawaii has no shortage of big skies.
I didn’t actually make it down to the beach for many sunsets. That’s okay, because this one gave me the warm fuzzies.
Day Three: A visit to the east side of the island brought us to Volcanoes National Park. The steam vents made for a dramatic first impression of a world on fire.
Auntie and her daughter prepare to enter the mouth of the subterranean Nahuku-Thurston Lava Tube.
Inside the jaws of the beast.
As you can see, my niece the intrepid explorer escaped the lava tube alive.
She had twice as many lenses as me. Show-off.
My youngest son: a little guy in a giant’s world–with shorts that don’t quite stay up. I love this one!
Uncle Phillip takes a look down at Kilauea Iki. 400 feet down and 3000 feet across.
Auntie (a budding photographer) rocks her own Nikon camera while peering down toward the churning, steaming lava pool of Kilauea volcano.
That churning, steaming lava pool? It is just out of sight, though the lava you see here is only visible because it spurted 80 feet above the rest of the lava. I’ll get closer next time.
And when the tiny bit of lava doesn’t impress, there’s always the visitor center gift shop, right kids? My little guy and his cousin try on the ranger gear.
While driving home from the volcano, we passed another (sleeping) volcano: Maunakea. Lovely.
Day Four: Layer cake, looking out over Kua Bay.
Looking the other way, watching the colors change as they lead up to Mauna Loa in the center of the island.
Meanwhile, back at Manini’owali beach, these two are hard at play.
Day Five: Who better to helm the front of our snorkeling boat than my bride?
There’s something hypnotic about the wake of a ship sending little waves out against the currents heading to shore.
And now for a photo of my family with a healthy dose of class. And why, yes, my sunscreen is SPF 375.
My only attempt at a shoreline sunset on this trip. That it was raining only made it a more dramatic and memorable experience. Falling again also made it memorable.
Probably my favorite shoreline shot of the trip.
Seeing as this is the second time I photographed this spot, I’m thinking that I couldn’t get enough of it.
What happens when you point your camera toward the stars and spin your camera around the tripod. Or more accurately, what happens when I pick a rather uninteresting night to photograph stars.
Day Six: Grandpa’s on hand to bail my little guy out when he bites off more wave than he can chew.
It was finally time for me to put on my extra layers to brave the high altitude cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit) of Maunakea for an epic sunset. But when I got there, all I had was thick cloud cover and spooky landscape. Okay, it wasn’t actually black and white.
Moody self-portrait time. More cloud cover is what I saw after climbing to the top of a cinder cone on the side of Maunakea. Cloud cover. After making a two-hour trek to get here, I was getting nervous that the weather wouldn’t cooperate. Oh, and somewhere around here, my ND lens filter fell out of my bag. D’oh!
And just in time for me to catch some final rays of light, the clouds sank down beneath me to reveal a sunset at 10,000 feet.
Peering across a canyon of clouds to gigantic Mauna Loa. Surreal.
A five-photo stitched panorama of the sunset from the heights of Maunakea. I love the tsunami of clouds trying in vain to climb up to the 14000′ summit of Maunakea. The Maunakea Visitor Information Station is perched at 9500′ at the right of the image.
By the time I made it back to my car, the nighttime chill made me want to race back down to the warm breezes of the coast. But the high altitude and clean air made for a once-in-a-lifetime starscape. Time for another panorama.
Day Seven: Our Big Island trip had reached its end. Many thanks to Nana and Papa for making it possible for us all to come along.
Another family photo, this time with more class and less sunscreen. Exploring, adventuring and resting with this crew is a blessing like no other. Click credit: @michelebrooke1
And there you have it. We came to Hawaii’s Big Island with an appetite for joy and it filled us up.
Though I must confess that there’s no way I’d get to pursue my passion for photography without the support and blessing of my wife. These images and memories exist because of you and your patience, Erica. Thank you for adding richness in my life in so very many ways!
What are your favorite spots to visit on Hawaii’s Big Island? Share with us in the comments below!