15 Hours in Poipu

September 07, 2023  •  2 Comments

Once a Year Sunset with a Late Summer Swell, Poipu, Kauai 

The forecast called for clear skies until noon with clouds to show in the afternoon and lasting overnight. But zero chance of rain. Good conditions I thought for some color in the sky. After closing the gallery I rode home, made some coffee and got my gear together. Without getting too comfortable I fed the cats and drank the coffee, promising myself that I would leave the house by 5:30 pm. I wanted to go to south side location where there was a medium size swell in the water and-- I felt-- a pretty good chance of warm colors in the sky.

Splash Before Sunset, Poipu, Kauai

The Heritage Trail begins at Shipwrecks beach, next to the Hyatt and leads south to Mahaulepu. It's my favorite place on the south side. Usually it's a sunrise only location (in terms of photography), but I thought today would offer a chance for something unique. And I wanted to go for a walk along the beautiful and rugged south shore coastline. 

Haupu and the South Shore, Poipu, Kauai

After meandering along the sandy trails for about 20 minutes I came out to the cliffs and coves of where I would photograph tonight and tomorrow morning. I started high on the cliffs, moved down to one of the hidden coves, only to go high again as the sky began to turn.

Falling Spray, Golden Sky, Poipu, Kauai

I took three lenses and one camera along with me: Canon R5, Canon 28-70 f/2; Zeiss 21mm Milvus; and the Canon 70-200. I used all three, but used the 28-70 the most.  That lens is just so good.

Feeling a little boxed in-- and with the sky beginning to shine!-- I climbed back up to the cliffs, standing where the fisherman stood earlier in the session (see Splash Before Sunset above).

Facing to the southeast, this is what I saw:

Spilled Milk Mile 1, Poipu, Kauai 

And facing the south west, this was the view I was hoping for:

Banger, Poipu, Kauai

And here is the last photo of the day:

The Last Photo of the Day, Poipu, Kauai

Happy, content and wet with surf and sweat I walk back to the car as the sky glows still. 

Back at the house I feed the cats (again!); shower and open a beer. I decide to go back to the same place again tomorrow morning for sunrise. 

4:30 AM wake up. Cats, coffee and I'm out the door by 5. Walk the same trail I've walked many times before. I feel like I know this place so well, but it still surprises me. The best relationships always do. 

Blue Hour with Summer Swell, Poipu, Kauai

The sky still shows promise, but not like the day before. A few pink clouds tease me and look for a composition to match the changing light and sky. I choose instead to let the water carry the scene, first like a flower opening in bloom; and second like an avalanche of energy. For these blue hour and long exposure photos I used the Zeiss 21mm Milvus prime lens. 

Like a Flower Opening in Bloom, Poipu, Kauai

Like an Avalanche of Energy, Poipu, Kauai

Next, it's time for a few long exposures taken from further along the trail. 

Morning Rush but We Take It Slow, Poipu, Kauai

Time Pass By, Poipu, Kauai

One for the Road, Poipu, Kauai

This is how I spent 15 hours in Poipu, September 5th-6th, 2023.

Aloha,

Lee

 

 

 

 


Photography in the Age of AI

July 27, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

In the Light of Lightning, Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai. 25 seconds, f/2.8 @ 135mm,  ISO 800. Single exposure edited in Aperture with Topaz Denoise. 

***

Beauty is Truth, truth beauty,-- that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

~ John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn

 

Photography in the age of AI and Photoshop-- when Generative Fill allows one to add features, subjects, mountains and motorcycles into any image from any time and place by simply typing words into a box; in the current milieu where what is presented as beautiful is often not true--has value in that it can still communicate the perfection, serenity, chaos, and serendipity of the natural world. Photography can still communicate the dharma, or the teachings of the universe-- the Truth and Beauty of Keats and the Romantics-- without using AI. I would even argue that by exposing us to the truth, photography reveals the falsity of fake.

Yet, we have moved far away from the romantic notion that Truth is Beauty. The photographer's audience has become pessimistic and cautious. The wonder and amazement that they wish to feel and express has become reserved and bitter. They fear being duped by falsehoods trotted out as truth. The viewer recognizes the need to question the beauty that they see rather than accept it blindly. This is the age of AI. This is the viewer's response to Photography in the modern world. This is what photographer's have done to themselves and the industry. This is a sad state of affairs. A time when all is questioned because the natural world has not only been misrepresented, but subsequently and-- dangerously-- accepted as "art", "workflow", and standard practice.

This is bullshit.

But it is the current age. So how can we as photographer's who wish to represent the truth of beauty, the truth of the natural world, the beauty of the special moments that we have experienced and wish to share with others do so? I believe the answer lies in the story of the photograph. The story that accompanies each photograph-- the who, the what, the when, the where, and the why-- has become just as important as the photograph itself. 

A picture is no longer worth a thousand words because without authenticity a picture is worth nothing. So the story-- the thousand words-- is a method to support and authenticate the experience and truth depicted in the image. In the age of AI where falsehoods, manipulations, and misinterpretations have become the norm the story has become witness to the truth. And if photography ain't true-- in my eyes-- it ain't beautiful. In this way both the image and the story become witness to the gospel. The gospel for which Jack Kerouac said the only word that he had was "WoW." This is the gospel of amazing images that inspire, and lead the viewer to believe in what is possible-- even if it is something new and to them so far unseen.

So photographers be ready to tell the story. The who, what, when, where and why. And if your story contains AI and Generative Fill consider if your story is even worth telling. If your answer to the how is merely I typed the word mountain into a text box and a mountain magically appeared you are devaluing photography, but tell your bullshit story anyway. Let viewers know that your representation of the world is fake.  

Viewers, please, be kind and open to imagery that if even at first may seem unbelievable. With respect, ask about the story. Not to confirm your disbelief, but to know the truth. Be kind and supportive. Open to the photographer's story and work flow. Listen to the how and the why. The intention and the ideas behind the photograph. Allow both the image and the story to bear witness to the beauty and truth of the world.

In closing I will leave you with two things: First, a quote from OSHO that prefaced my first photo book. And second, I will tell you the story of the image above, In the Light of Lightning. 

"Only the real can know the real,

the true can know the truth,

the authentic can know the authentic that surrounds you." 

***

 

On December 8, 2012 Naomi and I were having dinner in our condo in Princeville. A strong electrical storm was hitting the north shore that evening, and throughout dinner I got up and walked to the lanai door to look at the lightning flashes until I couldn't stand it any longer.

Finally, I said to Naomi, "Im going to the lighthouse."

She said, "In this weather!?"

I replied, "Yes. I have an idea."

So I grabbed my gear and drove to the Kilauea Lighthosue. I parked the MIMNI Cooper in the cul-de-sac above Kilauea Point. I set up my tripod and camera and stood with umbrella out and tried to photograph a lightning bolt as it fell from the sky in the vicinity of the Kilauea Lighthouse. But I misjudged the storm. It was primarily sheet lightning  racing across the sky. No lightning bolts appeared. So how was I to photograph the scene? I decided that I would try to use the flashes of lightning as a natural flash to illuminate the lighthouse against the night sky.This was my strategy and subject-- the What. Now for the How.

Auto focus was a problem as it was too dark for the camera to pick up focus on the lighthouse window. And infinity focus was just too soft. So I waited for a strong flash of lightning, and placed pin-point focus on the lighthouse window. I then locked down the tripod, careful not to move the camera from the desired composition and I waited. I finally got a strong flash of lightning and the auto focus hit on the window. Sharp and in focus, the composition was set, but I still didn't have a photo as the exposure time was too short, leaving the lighthouse underexposed and the scene too dark. I placed the Canon 70-200mm lens on manual focus and was careful not to touch the barrel so as not to disturb focus that I only recently achieved. With focus set and composition dialed in all I had to do now was wait and get the timing right. I waited for a flash of lighting and would then press the remote shutter release. I started with exposure times of 15 seconds. Through trial and error I extended exposure times to 25 seconds and reviewed the LCD screen on the back of my Canon 5D III after each photograph. And then it hit. Just right-- three separate flashes of sheet lighting in a single 25 second exposure on December night at the Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai.

I was there-- in the rain-- at the cut-de-sac for about 3 hours. But at around 9pm magic struck and I was there to witness it and am now able to share it with you. Naomi called while I was out there and asked, "Are  you OK." All I could say was, "I got it! I think I got it!" Soon after that phone call I I packed up everything and drove home, excited about what I think had in camera. You never know until you see it on the computer, and really, never know until you see the image printed, but I was confident that I had an incredible and unique image of the Kilauea Lighthouse. Once home, I immediately put the memory card into the iMac and there it was-- In the Light of Lightning. I jumped up, and began giving Naomi high fives, happy that what I thought was possible actually was. 

And just to sweeten the scene, in preparation for the 100 year anniversary of the Kilauea Lighthouse  to be held in April of 2013, the Lighthouse underwent an extensive renovation throughout the summer of 2012 . I was able to take this photo just a few weeks after workers dismantled and removed the scaffolding covering the lighthosue. So the exterior paint and stucco is a s fresh as it will ever be. Yes, I acknowledge the serendipity-- and luck-- of some great images cannot be denied. But as my father would say, "I would rather be lucky than good." ;-)

Aloha, 

Lee


Canon RF 28-70 f/2 for Landscape Photography

May 31, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Morning Walk at ShipiesMorning Walk at ShipiesShipwrecks Beach, Kauai A Morning Walk at Shippies, Poipu, Kauai. Handheld with Canon R3, RF 28-70 f/2 @ 28mm f5.6, 1/320 second

To begin a review on the Canon RF 28-70 F/2.0 L lens I thought I would start with a picture of the lens because it is just so massive. I mean, this lens is huge, and heavy. It is also a little uncomfortable to hold and to spin through the focal lengths. And this is coming from a photographer who routinely carries an RF 600mm f4.

But after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to lead with a picture instead. Because that's what the Canon RF 28-70 f/2 does so well. It helps you take  compelling images. And that's why we choose the lenses we do. Not for weight. Not for size. But for the magic they produce and the desire stirred in us to produce the magic.

So yes, it is big. Yes, it is heavy. Yes, it can be unwieldy. But all of that also says that it is a lens without compromise. 

 

Waimea Canyon, Kauai. Handheld with Canon R5, RF 28-70 f/2 @ 55mm f6.3, 1/500 second

The first real lens I ever had was a 28-135. And I just loved that focal length. I thought it was the perfect walk around lens and have been looking for something that could take me back to the early days of my photography. I have become a little tired of always setting up camera and tripod and waiting for the good light of the golden hour. I understand the importance of shooting the edges of the day, but sometimes I just want to go out and photograph the things in the middle. To document the places on that we visit along the way. The things that interest and inspire us as we wait for the good light. And I think this lens helps me do that. It has a simpleness about it. The focal length is not too wide nor too long. It is perfect for vistas and viewpoints. It is tack sharp, and it renders colors beautifully.  The images it creates all have a certain look to them. They have a character that I didn't feel in the images created by other lenses-- lenses which I sold to make room in the quiver for this one.

 

Waimea Canyon, Kauai. Handheld with Canon R5, RF 28-70 f/2 @ 70mm f6.3, 1/500 second

Kekaha Beach, Kauai. Handheld with Canon R5, RF 28-70 f/2 @ 28mm f2.5, 1/2000 second

When researching this lens on the web and on Youtube I saw a lot of reviews and nearly all were focused on either wedding photography or portrait photography. Reviewers praised the lens for its speed and for the possibility of it replacing various primes, namely-- 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. As a nature photographer I couldn't care less about this. What I was interested in knowing was how would this lens work in the field, handheld, photographing a landscape or an outdoor scene? Well, the answer quite simply is, it does just fine. 

Waimea Canyon, Kauai. Handheld with Canon R5, RF 28-70 f/2 @ 50mm f2.8, 1/640 second

Poipu, Kauai. Handheld with Canon R3, RF 28-70 f/2 @ 28mm f3.5, 1/13 second

Koke'e State Park, Kauai. Handheld with Canon R5, RF 28-70 f/2 @ 70mm f2.8, 1/1000 second

While not a dedicated macro lens the RF 28-70 can take reasonably nice photos of flowers and other small things. I wouldn't recommend it over a true macro lens, but you can have some fun with it for sure, photographing dew drops, flowers, grass and other creepy crawlies. 

Kekaha, Kauai. Handheld with Canon R5, RF 28-70 f/2 @ 70mm f6.3, 1/2000 second

In conclusion the Canon RF 28-70 f/2.0 lens is an outstanding lens for landscape photography. Ideal for vistas and viewpoints and for photographing the places in between. It is super sharp and renders colors exceptionally well. The images it makes have a certain feel to them, a certain style if you will. It is a lens without compromise. But it is heavy. It is large. And it is expensive. So while the lens makes no compromises, the photography who chooses it may. Or perhaps they will be just as uncompromising as this magnificent lens.

Aloha,

Lee


 


 


A Photographic Safari through Tanzania's Iconic Northern Circuit

May 19, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

In February 2023 I made an incredible trip to Africa, where I spent 10 — absolutely amazing days on a photographic safari through the beautiful country of Tanzania. I visited Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Ndutu region of the South Serengeti. Words cannot really describe how incredible Tanzania was— and I imagine— all of Africa is. All that I can say is that everyone should be able to experience an African safari for themselves. If you go, you will be humbled, inspired and amazed.

I want to share this amazing experience with you and have created a small group, guided Photographic Safari through Tanzania's Iconic Northern Circuit during the Calving Season of the Great Migration. This photo safari is limited to 4 participants. It is led by a local guide who I will assist. The safari as an emphasis on photography and as such I will act as your "Photography Coach and Strategist" helping you to get the shots you want. It's going to be awesome. 

Dates for 2024 are:

  • January 31-- February 9-- FULLY BOOKED
  • February 11-- February 20-- FULLY BOOKED

 

***Now Taking Reservations for 2025!!!

Northern Tanzania Photo Safari-- February 6-16, 2025

Photo Safari Cost-- $8,900 per person/ shared room basis*

*Only 2 spaces left!!!

For more information on this incredible safari, please see the itinerary, parks overview and accommodations listed below. To see images from Tanzania-- images of what we may see together while on this amazing safari in Tanzania-- please see the gallery, Tanzania-- Northern Safari Circuit.

Mahalo,

Lee


2.2% for Public Lands

October 01, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Aloha. I have owned a gallery on Kauai for 10 years now and I think it's time to give back. As a nature photographer I have made the choice to only photograph public lands-- beach parks, county parks, state parks and wilderness areas here on Kauai; national parks, national monuments, wildlife refuges, national forests, and wilderness areas on the mainland; and national parks abroad. I recognize that I benefit directly from the beauty, wildness and wildlife of these public places. I benefit in financial terms, but also in emotional and creative ways as well. I don't only want to take. I want to give. I want to support organizations that protect, defend and care for public lands. So from here on out, 2.2% of all sales from my Hanapepe gallery and online will go directly to organizations that protect, defend and care for our public lands. I will try to choose a new organization each quarter and hope to spread our wealth to various organizations both near and far.

***

I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make a better place
With my own two hands
Make a kinder place
With my own two hands

~ Ben Harper, With My Own Two Hands

2.2% is inspired by my favorite Ben Harper song, My Own Two Hands. I believe that with my 2 hands and your 2 hands we can make a better place, a kinder place, a cleaner place, and a healthier place through our efforts to protect and provide open spaces and wild places from now to eternity. 

The many conversations that I have had regarding catastrophic storms, droughts, fires, and the need for environmental policy change has been the a major catalyst for this initiative. The land and oceans are in our blood. They are in our bodies. They are part of our DNA, and we should all be able to access, enjoy and protect our public lands just as we protect our own bodies and those of our loved ones. Protecting and defending our wild places will be essential as we try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and sustainable society. Maintaining and expanding our open spaces and wild places is vital to a prosperous future on this planet. This is not just an expression of our human rights, but also of our human needs to rest, play and be inspired by the awesomeness of nature.

***

I am pleased to announce that the first donation was made to the Alaska Wilderness League on 10/1/22, and represented sales made in September 2022.

The Alaska Wilderness League is an organization that seeks "to protect Alaska's land and waters by inspiring broad support for federal policy action" so that "Alaska's wild landscapes endure to support vibrant communities and abundant wildlife."

I chose this organization to be the first recipient because I brainstormed 2.2% Initiative while on an airplane flying to Alaska. Instrumental to this idea of supporting our public lands was the Patagonia film Public Trust, which I watched mid-flight from Seattle to Anchorage. If you would like more information on what Patagonia is doing to support our public lands or on how you can help directly, please text DEFEND to 71333. This is what I did, and now we are working together to make the world a better place by supporting, protecting and caring for our public lands and wild, natural places. 

Likewise, if you know of an organization that supports public lands, access, and environmental issues and would like my gallery to consider their efforts, please let me know. I am new to this, and I am and still learning so very much. But at least we've made a start. A positive start.

Mahalo nui loa for your support.

Aloha, 

Lee

 

Na Pali Coast, KauaiPop the TopWaves shoot high into the evening air like champagne at a party— a celebration of life and the joys of being on Kauai.
Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Awards
Pop the Top was named by The Atlantic as one of the top 25 images entered in the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest. Please see the link below to view all 25 images honored by this prestigious publication.
http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2016/10/2016-national-geographic-nature-photographer-of-the-year-contest/502829/

Pop the Top won Honorable Mention in the 10th Annual International Color Awards (Professional Nature Category).
Winner 2017 Audubon Community Nature Center Photo Contest, Adult Landscape Division.

http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/scott-wins-national-photography-contest/article_20d6f76c-16d9-5322-be64-241a4456d4eb.html
Pop the Top, Haena State Park, Kauai
 

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