Garden Isle

Kauai is one of the most consistently beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The entire island is teeming with waterfalls and lush vegetation, and rainbows are a daily (sometimes hourly) event. I’m sure that Oahu has its share of natural beauty as well (I hear the North Shore is quite lovely), but after spending several days in the high-rise tourist mini-metropolis that is Waikiki, stepping off the plane in Lihue is like going back in time two hundred years. The waterfall you see here is Wailua Falls, which is one of the most famous natural landmarks on the island and looks as amazing from ground level as it does from above.

Safe from the Sea

The Pacific can get extremely rough along the Na Pali coast on the north side of Kauai, but the coastline is stunningly beautiful and there’s no way to get there except by sea. Hence, groups of kayakers will work their way across the uninhabited shore over the course of a few days. I think it would be an absolutely amazing trip and I was constantly on watch for kayakers while we flew overhead in the helicopter. The symmetry of this scene really caught my eye, with the implicit safety of the shade on one side and the pounding surf on the other, and the beached kayaks scattered in between.

Falls’ Edge

In 1960, a boat carrying 7 year old Roger Woodward and two other people capsized above Niagara Falls. His young sister was pulled to shore before she reached the edge. The adult who had been piloting the boat went over the falls and was killed. Roger plummeted over the side before he could be reached, but miraculously survived. I have no idea how this is possible, but it happened again in 2003 when a man threw himself into the river and emerged on the other side with only minor injuries. The 600,000 gallons of water that tumble over the edge every second has proved sufficient to pulverize the solid rock at the bottom; you’d think it would make short work of flesh and bone. The sheer relentless power of the falls is incredible to behold, and watching it is both mesmerizing and terrifying.

Na Pali at 90 Knots

This summer I visited Hawaii for a wedding, and while there spent an hour aloft with Jack Harter Helicopters on an aerial tour of the island of Kauai. It was definitely one of the most exhilarating hours of the trip. Kauai is generally only inhabited within a few miles of its coastline, and there’s a vast interior that’s totally unexplorable by any means other than being in an aircraft or doing some serious backwoods bushwhacking. Fortunately we were able to take the former route, skimming over ridgetops at low altitude and then ascending up to 4000 feet ASL to observe the phenomenally beautiful views while we cruised along at 120 mph. This is the north-west part of the island, known as the Na Pali coast, which has no roads and is only reachable by sea. We saw it from a boat as well, but that’s a subject for another post…

Flickr: The First 100

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Let’s hope that’s true. Around the spring of last year I downloaded Google’s Picasa software and started organizing the various folders of digital pictures on my computer. I soon realized that I had amassed over 10,000 images since getting my first digital camera in late 2003. A few of these I had already uploaded to Flickr, but it wasn’t until I had a system for sorting and tagging my files that I made a conscious effort to get the rest of my decent shots online. As I added more I began to fixate on the round number of 100 pictures; the “best” 1% of my work so far.

Does this mean I think it’s smooth sailing from now on? Hardly. First off, I haven’t even taken anywhere near 10,000 real photographs. Henri wasn’t talking about poorly composed snapshots of my friends at 3AM. Also, while I’d like to think that I’ve improved as a photographer in the past years, the learning process has encouraged me to experiment with different approaches and techniques that sometimes fail miserably. I believe both my best and worst photos are still ahead; hopefully you’ll see some of the former here in this blog.

All the images on my Flickr page were taken with “point and shoot” digital cameras and most of them came from my 3.2 megapixel Pentax, the limitations of which I’ve become acutely aware of when trying to crop images that were only 1600×1200 pixels to begin with. I expect that most of the pictures from now on will have been taken with my D90, and the majority will be in HDR as well. At a rate of two new images per week, I’m hoping to have at least another 100 pictures up by this time next year.

You can check out my full photostream by clicking the Flickr link in the sidebar. Here are some of the ones I like best:

Next up: Releasing my first HDR image into the (digital) wild