In February I had the great fortune to instruct a photography tour/workshop on the Big Island of Hawaii. In the realm of winter photography, my experience and images stand out in stark contrast to the ones Kevin McNeal shared of photographing the aurora in Norway in his most recent article. Our Hawaii tour was organized by a trailblazing eco-tourism company from California called Destination Earth. Handling the photography instruction along with me was my good friend and colleague, David Cobb. As we have come to expect, our group of participants were fun, talented and ready for anything. It’s always the people that make our photography workshops such a wonderful experience. It was an amazing week long photography adventure with excellent housing, meals and transportation, as well as an adventurously full schedule, all organized by Destination Earth.
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The Big Island really is…well, big. To quote from www.gohawaii.com, “it is the youngest island in the Hawaiian chain and is also by far the biggest, nearly twice as big as all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined. You’ll find all but two of the world’s climatic zones within this island’s shores. This is the home of one of the world’s most active volcanoes (Kilauea), the tallest sea mountain in the world at more than 33,000 feet (Maunakea) and the most massive mountain in the world (Maunaloa). All but two of the world’s climate zones generate everything from lush rain forests to volcanic deserts, snow-capped mountaintops to beautiful black sand beaches. The lush east-side town of Hilo gets more than 130 inches of rain annually, while the Kohala Coast near Kawaihae usually gets no more than five inches a year. Ranging from the fern forests of Puna and the cool, misty breezes of Waimea, to the sunny lava plains of Kona and the dry heat of Kau, Hawaii Island is a place of stunningly distinct environments.”
One of the stand-out features of the trip was how much of the island we were able to see, how much diversity of landscape and climate we experienced and how varied the photographic opportunities were. We visited both well known and off the radar corners of the island and were able to experience Hawaii in ways that most beach vacationers or tour groups never get to.
While instructing photography in the field I don’t photograph with the same kind of focus and stubborn determination that I do when traveling on my own. My priority is providing instruction, pointing out photo ideas and being on hand to answer questions. But I do make a point of getting out my camera and putting some effort into my own photography as well. I find that I’m better able to evaluate light and composition and provide helpful suggestions if I’m in photographer mode and sizing up the scene through my own viewfinder. I also find that one of the best instructional tools in the field is to teach by example and actively demonstrate my approach and techniques.
Thanks to our expert guides and the action packed itinerary I had the chance to photograph locations I might not have otherwise visited and take photos using techniques and lighting which are outside of my usual golden hour light, tripod mounted comfort zone. I find that changing things up and operating outside the comfort zone is important for learning and expanding one’s mind creatively. As a result, I feel that the images I’m sharing in this article represent something a little different than my usual fare. Photographically they stretched me a bit and were stimulating and energizing to visualize, capture and develop. I have also thrown in some sunsets and waterfalls for good measure. I hope you enjoy viewing them.