I've been playing around with some time lapse photography and what better subject than a sunset!
We are fortunate to have family who live in Hawaii and friends who periodically visit so we are able to spend time in the Islands. Just like the Humpback Whales who travel from the cold of Alaskan waters to the warmth of the Hawaiian waters, we travel from the cold of the midwest to the warmth of Hawaii.
I'm fascinated by the biology of these mammals. During the months of December-March, you can see whales from your hotel or just when driving on beachside roads. The best way to see the whales is to take a boat and there are many outfits offering whale watching tours. This year was my third whale watch. The weather conditions were very overcast this year which made for less than ideal whale watching. Last year was a better whale watch (scroll down to see last year's blog entry.)
The first whales we came across were "fin slapping" This is believed to be communication to other whales. The "slap" is very loud and causes quite the splash. I would imagine the sound underwater would be quite impressive to hear.
I did see a behavior this year that I had not seen previously. It is called the Head Rise or Spy Hop. This behavior is believed to be so they can check out what is happening on the surface. Two whales did this very close to the boat and it was as if they were checking us out. It's amazing how such a large animal can just rise up out of the ocean and stay suspended with it's massive head out of the water.
Even though the day was grey, misty and overcast, this whale watch offered the closest view of a whale. Since 2001 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has issued a Humpback Whale Approach Regulation which states you should not approach closer than 100 yards and when you get close to a whale you must slow or stop your boat. All of the boats I have been on follow this regulation. But the whales do not necessarily know and/or follow this regulation! At one point the captain had stopped the boat as we had spotted a whale a short distance away. Suddenly a huge whale surfaced and did a blow right beside the boat. Not only was the sound loud, but it was so close that my 400 mm lens would not focus as the whale was so close. It may actually have rubbed up alongside the boat! At one point we looked down and saw a whale suspended right below the boat. The lighting was so flat that even using the polarizer, I was not able to get a decent photo, but just seeing it that close was worth the trip.
I mentioned that is was possible to observe whales while on shore. This was reinforced the day after taking the whale watch tour. Early in the morning we observed whales while relaxing on our hotel balcony. Of course I had the 16-140 mm lens on the camera to take some scenic photos when some whales began to "play" in the ocean below. Not wanting to miss the action I did take some images hoping the severe cropping I would have to do would hold up.
I think the breeching whale is what I enjoy the most of watching whales. Even when you see them in the distance, it still is an amazing display to me. What made this breech even more special, was that this was a mother whale teaching her baby to breech. The first breech was just the mom doing the instruction. Then mom had the baby follow along. And finally the baby was able to do it on its own.
Will I take another whale watch the next time I'm in Hawaii? Yes, and I've found the boat that I will take next time. My first whale watch was on a big boat operated by the Pacific Whale Foundation. This was a great introduction as they had a biologist on board who explained the whale behavior and described everything that we were seeing. Last year was on a 41 foot boat that I describe as a "fishing boat" like you would see anywhere they do offshore fishing. The boat this year was another larger vessel. The last day on Maui, again while on the hotel balcony, I head screaming coming from the water. Coming out from a resort hotel two buildings from where we were staying were two outrigger canoes with 6 people doing the rowing. Why screaming? Because a whale had breeched close to the canoes. As I watched the whale breeched a second time. The is my next whale watch adventure, but I'm trying to figure out how to row and run the camera at the same time!
I also observed another method of getting to see the whales. On the same day as the outrigger canoes, there were a couple of individuals who paddled out on a paddle board. I don't think I'm ready to do that one as it would entail having to get a waterproof housing for the camera!
If you find yourself in Hawaii between December and March, I totally recommend doing a whale watch. The price is $25 and higher for a two hour cruise. I like the early morning cruise as the water tends to be calmer and the light better. For those who like camera information--The camera for all of these images was my Nikon D500. The ones with the grey cast to the water, the lens was my 80-400 mm zoom. The blue water images of the whales was with the 16-140 mm lens.
The Hawaiian Islands were formed from the eruption of underwater volcanoes. The hot lava pushed up from the center of the earth and the islands eventually reached the surface. Over the centuries, dust, seeds, birds and other animals made their way to the barren lava until the Hawaiian Islands became what we know today.
A trip to the islands should include a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii to view the still active Kilauea volcano. The volcano can be seen at the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. The park is open 24 hours a day and offers a visitor center, museum and viewing areas.
We arrived in the afternoon and after watching the video in the visitor center we headed to the Jaggar Museum to view the volcano.
From the viewing area, you can see the Kilauea Caldera. The caldera, a large crater formed by a collapse of the lava lake within the volcano, is about 2 miles wide and more than 3 miles long. Halema’uma’u, the main pit crater within Kilauea caldera, is visible from the viewing area.
We were there right at sunset and as the sun went down the glow from the crater became more visible. The sky went from being hazy from the steam and smoke from the crater to socked in with mist and clouds. So we left and I decided to try later after darkness fell hoping that the skies would clear and the lava would be glowing
I waited until about 9:30 to head back to the park. As I left the main road and headed to the Jaggar Museum, the skies were clear, dark and full of stars. The crowds were much smaller and I was able to set up the tripod and take my time getting the images I wanted.
One of Murphey’s Laws for photography or fishing is “You should have been here yesterday!” As I was getting my images, another guy with tripod and pro-level gear said that the view the night before had been magnificent. One of the NPS Rangers had told me earlier that the lava lake had fallen about 100 feet from the previous day, so the guy must have gotten those images the night before. But I put on the zoom lens and got right into the crater.
Since the skies were clear and filled with stars, I decided to experiment with some long exposures to see what I could get.
I decided to take a picture looking back at the Jaggar Museum. The inside of the museum was illuminated by the two exit lights. The exterior of the building was illuminated by the glow from the crater, although you can see one guy who was looking at his phone.
I spent less than an hour at the viewing area and decided it was time to leave as the mist and clouds began to move back in. But as usual, I had to take a few more just because.
Later during the night, the rain moved in so I did not return. On the "To Do" list on the next visit is to drive to the end of the road and then hike into the lava fields. it is posssible to hike to within a half mile of where the lava is flowing into the ocean. you travel over the lava fields and at points the molten lava is visible beneath your feet...next time!
If you are planning a visit to Hawaii, I suggest you investigate flying to the Big Island and visiting Volcanoes National Park.
As a parent you watch your kids as they grow up. You hope they are safe, have fun, make something of their lives, and make friendships that will last a lifetime.
When my son was in elementary school he had a small group of friends. Together these boys went on to Junior High and it seemed like we were always running to one place or another for and with them. One of his friends was a boy named Danny. When High School came they went to different schools but the friendship continued. They always hung together, they even drove the same cars-Honda Prelude! I remember when Danny got a new set of pipes on his car-I could lay awake after he left our house and hear him until he got almost home many miles away!
College came and even though the boys went their separate ways, the friendship continued. When my son Will got married, Danny (oh wait it was now Dan) was his Best Man. So this past weekend it was Dan's wedding and Will was his best man. And after doing all those growing up photos, I was honored to be the photographer for Dan and Samantha as they said their vows. I had to work a little harder as my second photographer was busy with the Best Man duties.
Here are some of the images from their wedding.
The month of October is to a wedding photographer as April is to a tax accountant! I wish I could claim this statement as my own, but I read it on Facebook and thought it was so true so I wanted to pass it on.
I have always enjoyed October weddings. The temperature is mostly pleasant and we might even be able to grab some nice outdoor images. So when I went out for the paper on Saturday and was greeted with a chilly drizzle I did not have high hopes for the afternoon wedding I was going to photograph. The wedding time came and the weather cleared so we did get to take those outdoor portraits.
For the second week in a row, the wedding was of a friend. I met the groom when he and my son were starting out as auto techs and working at the same shop. Jason still works on my cars in his own business now, so I was very happy when he and Missy asked me to be their photographer. The day was even more special as my son was the second photographer.
I hope you enjoy the slideshow of some of the images from Jason and Missy's wedding.
One of the aspects of being a wedding photographer is being able to share in one of the most enjoyable days of the couple's lives. Little girls grow up playing and dressing up as a bride. At a wedding held at Eagle Ridge Inn and Resort several years ago, a bride commented that she and her family had visited Eagle Ridge when she was 8 years old and she told her mother that she was going to get married there. After spending time with the couples and their families in the months leading up to a wedding I become to see my "clients" as friends. It's even more rewarding when people who are personal friends ask me to photograph the weddings of their families. Over the 40 plus years that I've been a wedding photographer I've had the pleasure to photograph the weddings of several friends.
This past weekend was one of those weddings for friends as I photographed the wedding of Brad and Morgan who become Mr. and Mrs. Crackel on October 7, 2016. This was my 3rd Crackel wedding and I have enjoyed being a part of these special days for the Crackel family.
Here is a video slideshow of just a few of the many images from Brad and Morgan's wedding.
One of the things I wanted to do when coming to Alaska was to photograph the Alaskan Brown Bear. The pictures that most people see of Alaskan bears is of the bear in the waterfall catching the salmon as it jumps up the falls. This is in Alaska at a place called Brooks Falls. At this time of the year, there are not as many salmon running up that river, so there are not too many bears around that area. So I opted to fly out of Homer Alaska on a guided bear viewing trip.
We started by getting fitted with hip boots and getting our gear loaded into the belly of the float plane. The plane was a DeHavilland Beaver.
We would be flying over an hour to a glacier river. The glacier melts an runs toward the ocean and is fresh water. The tides come in and push the fish up this river.
After we landed we got a briefing on how we were going to walk amongst the bears and how we had to act in certain circumstances. One of the things the guide said was if we should be challenged by a bear we were not to back up as the bear would see that as us backing down and it then might challenge us because it already had some dominance over us. We started walking across the sand a mud flats besides the meadow and came across some tracks. In the image below, the tracks on the left are from a wolf and the ones on the right are from a bear.
We had hiked a little over a mile when we saw a bear coming down the river our way. The guide suggested we just take a seat and let her come to us. This was a big female that the guide had seen quite a lot this season.
The main goal of the bears at this time of year is to eat as much as they can to store up fat for the winter hibernation. So they eat and sleep and then eat some more. After a while she dug a hole and took a nap.
After nap time, she took a little swim. At first we thought she had caught a fish but it turned out to be a stick. She "played" with the stick for some time. It reminded me of what a dog might do when playing fetch.
Then it was time to get to business of fishing. In this river, the salmon were jumping and making some splashing noise. The guide said that is like the dinner bell to the bears.
In the distance we saw a sow with two cubs and another bear in a meadow so we headed that way. The tide was coming in and the ankle deep river that we had traversed when we first landed had swollen to thigh depth...thank goodness for hip boots. And the speed of the current was fast. I had one camera strapped around my shoulder and I was carrying the other camera with the telephoto lens and all I could think was that I was going to go down and all my equipment was going to be under water. Luckily I made it back with no problems.
Back at the plane we had some visitors in the river. Six harbor seals had come into the river and were also fishing for the salmon. Above us flew an eagle looking for a quick meal. On the flight back the pilot pointed out whales in the bay and sea lions sunning on an island. All in all quite a day spending time with the true inhabitants of Alaska.
One of the shops in Talkeetna was a tiny gallery of photographs by Aurora Dora. Dora specializes in images of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. The northern lights are the effect of Sun Flares entering the atmosphere and igniting gases in the atmosphere. Different gases produce different colors and because they are basically exploding gas, the Northern Lights look like they are pulsing.
Dora has a board that lists the probability of seeing the Northern Lights on any particular night. On our last night to be in the area, the percentage was less than 20% and since it has been cloudy, I was not holding out much hope of getting to see them. First off you need clear skies. Then it’s better in the colder months and even though it was chilly during the night, the conditions were less than perfect. Oh, and another factor is that they show up at the peak of darkness which on August 28 would be between midnight and 4:00 am!
I had been up early for the sunrise and we had done some hiking and driving around, so sleep came easy. I am a good sleeper (part of the Gommel heredity!) but Sue finally was able to rouse me at about 1:20 am. She had awoken to see a beautiful clear night sky filled with an unbelievable number of stars and a band of light that at first looked just like a band of clouds. Luckily for me, she was able to get me up and I went out on our balcony to take a look. I thought it possible that it was the Northern Lights, so I got the camera and tripod to take a few exposures. The more I watched, the more the sky started to dance and I ended staying up until after 3:00 am.
The night sky was pretty amazing without the Northern Lights. I felt like I could just grab the big dipper!
The display was pulsing. It would just be a glowing band that looked like a strip of clouds and then it would start to shimmer and get bigger.
This is probably my favorite image. Not that it is the biggest display, but the colors and the night sky and stars being so clear and visible just make me like this one the best.
According to an App that one of the inn's guest had, this night would rate a 2 on a scale that rates the display from 0-9. Check out Aurora Dora's website to see some incredible images.
One of the things that Sue and I have talked about for some time is taking a trip to Alaska. We thought of going on a cruise. The problem with doing a cruise is that wherever you go, 2000 other people go with you-essentially you bring the crowds with you. So we figured we would go it on our own. It seems like other things always came first, so we never go to our Alaska trip.
Then my younger sister’s husband took a consulting job in Soldotna, Alaska for six months, so we figured we might as well take advantage of a built in guide while we could. So Sue took to Trip Advisor and Google and came up with a plan. We flew into Anchorage and after spending the night, headed to Talkeetna to the Denali Overlook Inn.
When Sue booked the room, she took one of the middle of the road rooms due to being able to save a little cash. A couple of days after she booked the room, we got a call back from the inn keeper. Seems that another guest had requests such that they needed the room we had booked. So they were going to upgrade us to the Denali View suite. Well, we would first like to thank the other guest, since our room was the prime room at the inn. When lying on the bed, we had a view of Denali, the tallest mountain in North America.
Many people who visit Denali National Park never see the whole mountain due to the cloudy, overcast conditions. The day we arrived, the summit of the mountain was covered with a layer of clouds. Sunset time was around 9:35 pm, so I figured with all the clouds we might have a nice sunset. Sunset did indeed put on quite a show.
And when looking out at the mountains, Denali put on a show even with the clouds.
The next morning I woke up early to see the sun just kissing the top of the peaks. Of course I had to grab the camera and take a few images as the sun continued to rise.
Later in the day, the clouds cleared and we finally saw the full grandeur of the mountains. Somewhere Sue read that less than 30% of the people who travel to Denali will actually see the total mountain. After two days we officially joined the 30% club.
Saturday 7/23/2016 I had the pleasure of photographing the wedding of Lauren Sheehan and Nicolas Shaw. The temps were in the mid 90's with the heat index over 100! What a hot sticky day for a wedding!
Lauren and Nicolas were a joy to work with. Starting with the "getting ready" portraits, through the ceremony, the church formals, outdoor portraits (yes during the hottest part of the day!) and the reception they couldn't have been more accommodating and fun to work with. Needless to say, we tried to do a super job for such a super couple.
Here are a few of the hundreds of images that were created throughout the day and evening.
As some of you know, after almost 40 years in the same home, Sue and I have embarked on a new adventure of moving and buying a new home. Since I started The Picture Man in 1974, I have kept all of my negatives from every job that I did. I started keeping records in a 3-ring binder of the file number, client name, type of job, and where it was filed. This has come in handy over the years as people would call and request reprints from jobs long ago.
But with the move, the storage space is limited, so the negative file has to go. I've spent several days going through the files keeping some - lots of family, all of the NCAA Div III National Track Meets (80, 83, 87, 89, 90, 94, 96, 2000), and those special ones. The picture above is most of what is going...I didn't think to take this picture until I had already taken 7 boxes outside.
Yes the switch to digital in 1999 has made it easier to keep the files and search when I need to find something, but there is something about having that negative to hold up to the light to view and remember the good times that were recorded on that piece of film.
While the weather news back home is about snow, the news in Hawaii is about big ocean swells caused by winter storms in the North Atlantic. Between December 1 and the last day in February, the storms create swells which translates into large waves on Hawaii's North Shore which translates to "Surf's Up" to the local surfers.
If the swells get large enough and the conditions are just right, a surfing competition is held in Wiamea Bay. This competition is the Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational known as "The Eddie." The competition is in memory of Eddie Aikau, the first lifeguard at Wiamea Bay and also a legend at surfing the big waves. Check out the Wikipedia entry about Eddie Aikau and the Quicksilver completion on links at the end of this post.
Monday 2/22/2016 we traveled to Oahu's North Shore to check out the surf. At Wiamea Bay the surf was crashing into the shore. No one was allowed to surf as the conditions were just too dangerous.
As I write this blog post, The Eddie has the green light pending the official determination at 8 am. The forecast is for waves of 35-55 feet! People are already camping out hoping to see some big waves and great competition.
Today I took a Whale Watching trip out of Moloka'i Hawaii. This is my second whale watching that I have done over the past several years. Today's boat was a 44' "fishing" type boat and there were 15 "watchers" and a crew of 2. The wind was pretty strong so there were 6-8 ft swells which made for tough shooting trying to hand-hold my Nikon with the 80-400mm zoom lens.
This past Saturday I photographed an event at Warehouse 109 in Plainfield, IL. It was my first time at this venue. It is an old warehouse that has been converted for having parties and other events. The owner has several old cars and motorcycles that add to the decor of the building.
After each event this summer, I had good intentions of writing a blog post. Now here it is October and my last post was Spring. So here are a couple of highlight from the summer's events.
Hopefully I can be better with the posts as the year progresses.
This has been the winter that never seems to end. This past week we have been teased with 50 degree days only to be followed by cold and even more snow. Wednesday morning I awoke to fresh snow. Much of this years snow has been the fluffy dry kind, but this one was the wet clingy kind that sticks to the windward side of the trees and buildings. So I went out to look at the snow and found some interesting things to photograph. Now if there was only some way of getting these sights and not have it so cold!
It's time for Winter to be over! No more snow that needs to be shoveled! No more sub zero wind chills! No more ice that I slip and slide on. I'm OK with Winter-ish, but NO MORE WINTER!
This weekend was the annual Naperville Central High School Father/Daughter Dance and Mother/Son Brunch. This was the 20th F/D and I have been the photographer for 19 of them.
When I was working in the school district, it was always fun to see the former students as they progressed through the High School. The past few years, those former students have been the parents of the students at these event. There were even several parents who's weddings I had photographed.
Today is Valentine's Day. Are you getting engaged? Book your wedding today and save $400. Book within the next week and save $200.