It was an exhausting 13-hour flight from Montreal to Honolulu with a connection in New York, but I did not complain. It was the middle of January with temperatures below -20C in Eastern Canada and, in O’ahu, it was +25C with high humidity and mild temperature fluctuations between day and night. The water temperature in the ocean was 25C making it comfortable at any time.
I took full advantage of the weather and woke up around 3am every morning to drive to different parts of the island for sunrise hikes.
The highlight of my visit to Hawaii was a day-long hike around Hanauma Bay.
It was my very first trip with my brand new Sony a6000 camera just weeks after selling all my Canon gear and making the switch to mirrorless.
The Makapu‘u Point is a very popular tourist destination on Oahu island of Hawaii. The only time when you can enjoy relative serenity is early in the morning, before the sunrise.
To make it to the top of the point at 6 am I had to wake up 4 am in the morning, drive to the Oahu's southeastern tip and hike to the top of the point. By the time the sun was up the point was full of people.
It was a very warm morning at the end of January. But, on top of the Makapu‘u Point, it was extremely windy. I used my body weight to apply pressure to the top of my camera, making sure it would not fly away together with the tripod.
The Makapu’u Point on Oahu Island of Hawaii is the popular tourist destination. Because it is located not far from Honolulu and the hike to the top is short and not very demanding, it can be very crowded during the day.
Even though this spot is perfect for photographing both the sunrises and sunsets, the best time to enjoy it is early morning because you hardly have any people around.
After photographing the sunrise that day I spent probably another hour or so watching the Humpback whales passing between O’ahu and Moloka’i islands. Most of the whales were in pairs, one big one and another small, mother and her calf.
And just before leaving the point when I looked at the East Shore of the island I realized that 2 small islands not far from the shore looked like 2 whales, mother and her baby like the real ones I watched only minutes before.
It was a bit of foggy and the South Shore was not spectacular at all. I decided to concentrate on the main attractions of the scene: 2 islands illuminated my morning sun and the beautiful white clouds.
The South Shore coastal drive is probably the most scenic drive on Oahu island of Hawaii. The main reason for that is that its views are not obstructed by the trees and it runs very closely to the shore without taking you inland.
During my first visit to O’ahu, I drove along the drive, at least, a few dozen of times because at the end of the drive was located the famous Sandy Beach where I learned how to bodysurf and almost broke my back.
Makapu‘u Point is a great photo destination on O’ahu Island of Hawaii. It has wide open, unobstructed views on both the South Shore and East Shore of the island. Plus, it is the perfect location to photograph both the sunsets and sunrises.
On a clear day, from the spot above the lighthouse, you can see Moloka’i, the neighboring island.
Makapu‘u Point is a popular spot for whale watching. I visited Makapu‘u Point on tree different occasions and every time I could observe the Humpback whales with the calves passing by.
The small lighthouse is another element that always improve landscape compositions.
Shooting + Processing
I was at Makapu‘u Point early in the morning, just before the sunrise but I was out of luck. The dark, thick clouds covered the entire sky and the sunrise was ruined.
I set my tripod at the very edge of the Makapu’u Point and took 3 bracketed shots (-1; 0, +1).
I captured the featured photo while hiking along the Hanauma Bay Rim Trail in Hawaii (Oahu). The main two attractions of the trail are Hanauma Bay and Koko Head Mountain. When I was planning my sunrise hike, I knew that I wanted to capture both attractions in one composition with Koko Head in the background.
When I saw the actual place, I realized that capturing both attractions in one composition would be more challenging than I expected. There was no way I could place both the bay and the mountain into the same composition, as the landscape was too wide.
At the top of the trail, just when you reach the mountain ridge, there are two old WWII military bunkers (pillboxes). The bunkers were abandoned after the war and are now popular lookout points among the hikers.
I climbed to the top of one of the two bankers and set up my tripod. Now, if you check the right side of the mountain, which I placed in the foreground of the composition, you can see the second bunker where someone is sitting on its roof and enjoying the view.
Shooting and Processing
There was nothing special about shooting the scene. Shooting on a tripod, I selected a longer exposure (1/25 sec) in order to get a smooth effect of the moving grass in the foreground. Actually, I took another shot with the shutter speed at 1/125 sec but it did not look as good as the version with blurred grass.
That was probably the most spectacular sunrise I got to witness in my life. Of course, the weather and the location played a big part in it. Only two days before I took the featured photo I was in freezing Montreal where the temperature was below -20°C for 3 weeks in a row and now, after short 12-hour flight, I was in the tropics hiking the volcanos and witnessing sun rising over the Pacific Ocean.
When I analyzed the scene before shooting, I could see the very dark areas below me, the town was shaded by the mountain. At the same time, despite the sky was being mostly covered by thick clouds, I could see a few extremely bright spots above the horizon. It made me change the exposure bracketing intervals from 1EV to 2EV to cover the entire dynamic range of the scene.
I took 3 bracketed shots with 2EV intervals (-2, 0, +2) on a tripod standing on top of Lanikai Pillbox Trail.
I already featured photo I took almost from the exactly the same spot while visiting Hawaii (Sunrise Over South Shore of O’ahu). The big difference though between two shots is the photo below I took at the sunset and the previously published shot was taken at sunrise.
It is not often you came across the place which is perfect for both sunset and sunrise photography. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail on the O’ahu island of Hawaii is one of those amazing spots.
This is the extreme example of sunset photography. I was shooting directly into the sun, but it was already partly shielded by the Koko Head Mountain making the shadows of the scene very dark. The light of the scene was very dynamic. When I checked the dynamic range of the HDR image during the processing phase, the value was 19.3 stops.
Here are some dynamic range values for you to compare:
Scene: 19.3 stops
Human eye can see: up to 14 stops of light
Sony a6000 sensor: 11.4 stops
Computer monitor: 8 stops
The human eye is considered to be the best and the most sophisticated optical device, but even a human eye can not see the entire range of the light here.
This was the perfect scenario to use HDR photography and I took 3 bracketed shots with 2EV intervals (-2, 0, +2) on a tripod.
I remember the time when 100% of my photo editing was done in Photoshop. It was inefficient and time consuming process but, it was the only viable option for professional photographers.
When Adobe released a beta version of Lightroom, it was like a breath of fresh air. It was a completely new and revolutionary approach to the normal photography workflow. That’s right; Lightroom not only offered photo editing but a complete digital photography workflow.
The Lightroom photography workflow included Photo Organization, Photo Editing and Publishing. On top of everything and in stark contrast to Photoshop, Lightroom introduced nondestructive photo editing. Meaning that the original image is never modified and always stays intact in its initial state.
The introduction of Lightroom helped me to drastically reduce the time I spent processing photos. Plus, the Lightroom learning curve was not too steep.
Over the years, Adobe launched multiple versions of Lightroom and kept introducing new features to make it a one-stop solution for all photographers, from the occasional hobbyist to full-time professionals.
Even though Lightroom became my favorite and most valuable tool for my business, I also recognized that my time spent in Lightroom gradually increased due to the greater sophistication and complexity of the program.
When I realized that my photo editing time increased to the pre-Lightroom level, I knew I had to act. About a year ago I started to look for ways to optimize and streamline my workflow with the goal to free myself of as much time as possible.