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Black Sand Sunset | by Willie Huang Photo
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Black Sand Sunset

A trip to Hawaii isn’t complete without a visit to a black sand beach. Though not known for its black sand beaches as Maui and the Big Island, Kauai does have its own black sand beach on the southwestern shore by the town of Waimea. I’ll start with some information regarding Waimea Beach. In actuality, Waimea Beach is not a pure black sand beach but rather a blend of black, green, and white sands. However, the black sand, which originates from Waimea Canyon, overpowers the other colors and hence gives the overall sand color a strong black/charcoal color.


I started out the day embarking on an amazing 5-hour Napali Coast snorkel tour. Besides seeing the spectacular landscape of Kauai’s coastline I also saw sea turtles as well as Spinner Dolphins putting on a show for us. To cap off the day, my girlfriend and I headed to Waimea Beach to witness Kauai’s only black sand beach. Much to my surprise, Waimea Beach was virtually empty compared to the other beaches we’ve been to in Kauai. I can probably see why: the beach was littered with tree branches and rocks. Furthermore, black sand does not create the clear blue waters tourists are accustomed to seeing at Hawaii. The dark waters more or less reminded me of the ‘black’ waters back on the east coast.


As I scoured the beach for interesting compositions I came across several options. My first thought was the pier but such a shot would face eastward. My second potential spot was an outcrop of rocks that created some nice swirls around them as the waves retreated. However I really wanted something different for this beach considering this was my first shoot at a black sand beach. I then came across this large Y-shaped tree branch lodged deep into the sand. In an instant I knew this was the framing I wanted. I had never seen such a photogenic tree branch stuck so well into the sand. The waves would not budge or shake the branch. It felt as if this tree branch was placed there intending for me to photograph it.


I got up close and personal with this branch making it my main foreground piece while ensuring some of the branch also sticks above my horizon. I also wanted my framing to include background silhouettes of palm trees to symbolize Hawaii as well as including a portion of the beach to show the darkness of the black sand. The best part about shooting seascapes in Hawaii is the warmth of the water. Flip flops or standing barefoot in the water is soothing unlike the frigid waters of California. I was again treated to a beautiful display of cloud action glowing with pure Hawaiian colors to end my day on a high.


PS: This shot was made possible with the full support and inspiration of my girlfriend.


Canon 5D Mark II

EF 17-40mm f/4L

Singh-Ray 0.9 reverse GND


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Taken on May 18, 2012