Maelstrom #3 -Kauai, Hawaii

This photo is in the 2011 Nature's Best Photography Magazine as an honorable mention in the Windland Smith Rice Awards, Power in Nature category!


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I had this near-death experience on my last trip to Kauai! This lava-ledge is 20 feet above the sea, and I suppose the incoming wave is twice that height. This is not the Sprouting Horn near Poipu and it is not Queen's bath! It is called the Mokolea Lava Pools. See the Map below and to the right. It is east of the Kilauea Lighthouse. No HDR.


See the 1200 pixel version!


For a deceptively calmer view from this spot, see here:


Here is an even more dangerous shot!



Settings etc.:



Canon 5D

Canon 17-40L @ 27

0.6-second exposure @F14

LEE soft ND grad (100x150mm) 0.9 + 0.6

Lee foundation kit filter holder with Lee 77mm adapter ring

ISO 50

RAW file processed with Capture One by Phase One

TIFF file processed with Photoshop

Keen water shoes


People wanted to see the version I had previously uploaded, but with the big wave, so here it is!


To get this shot:


1. Get up 2 hours before sunrise.... on your vacation.

2. Put on your old shoes and shorts that are destined to become stained with red mud.

3. Drive to the trail head (Right turn before the Kilauea Lighthouse.)

4. Make sure there are decent clouds before committing to the hike down.

5. Get out your flashlight. I have a wind-up one so no worry about batteries.

6. Navigate the extremely slippery trail, in the dark, often on all-fours, for 1/2 mile

7. Ignore the strange noises in the dense steamy jungle... if you can.

8. Watch the surf for at least 20 minutes to determine a safe place to be.

9. Hand-hold the camera to get the settings right before heading into the water.

10. Set up the tripod and composition just before the next wave hits.

11. Make the exposure and run!

12. As you run, make sure to avoid spilling too much blood extracted by the sharp lava rock!


The map shows exactly where this is.


See my profile for a link to my website where I have limited edition prints and less expensive open edition prints.



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Taken on November 25, 2006