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First Light at Ahalanui - Puna Coast, Big Island, Hawaii | by PatrickSmithPhotography
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First Light at Ahalanui - Puna Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Greetings Stumblers! Ahalanui, on the Puna coast of the Big Island of Hawaii is home to an incredible volcanically heated hot pool with water that is nearly body temperature. It also has some excellent coastal scenery and large breaking waves. Sunrise is the best time to see the drama at its best! No HDR.


Free wallpaper for over 100 of my images in 6 different screen sizes is now available!


See the 1200 pixel version!





Settings etc.:



Canon 5D Mark II

Canon 17-40L @25

1/6-second exposure @F10

LEE soft ND grad (100x150mm - 4x6in) 0.9 + 0.9

Lee foundation kit filter holder with Lee 77mm adapter ring

No polarizer.

ISO 100

RAW file processed with Capture One by Phase One

TIFF file processed with Photoshop

Small Slik Sprint mini II tripod

Manfrotto 322RC2 pistol-grip ball head



The Story



It seemed like it would be an easy sunrise to shoot. Merely go around the hot pool, over the top of the rock wall blocking the ocean, and around to the cliffs and lava pools. However, the rocks are extremely slippery and you don't expect that when all of the lava is just a few decades old at most and very sharp. So, you walk along experiencing a reliable grippy surface and suddenly it is as slippery as ice! So if you go here, especially in the dark before sunrise, be careful!


The problem gets worse because I wanted to get close to the little reflecting pools in the foreground, but it was difficult to even move, let alone run from these unobstructed waves which pound this spot every 20 seconds or so.


The weather was warm and about as perfect as it can get, and this can lull you into a false sense of security. I mean, how can there be danger in such a paradise? Well, with no coral reef in front of many Hawaian beaches, it seems like every 4th wave is a sleeper wave, so be careful photographing any non-reef beach. Seriously!


Anyway, even if you do not make it to the beach during the day (the hot-pool lifeguard has a bullhorn to keep people away from the waves), definitely visit this hot pool. It has an opening for the 78 degree (28c) ocean water to mix with the 94 degree (34c) hot pool water. Suddenly, the oean water feels as cold as California! The breeze off the ocean is cool enough so that you can relax in the hot water without getting too hot. It is perfect!


Check it out.



The map shows the exact location.



Other stuff



My pictures are featured on the front page of the newly redesigned

The state Gov. of California website. Have a look! It is Flash with my pics cut into layers for a 3-d slideshow. If you are into building apps, the State has opened up lots of data to the public, so check it out!






Google Earth


Simply the best way to scout out locations that there is. You can see sun angles and pre-visualize light under lots of different conditions. Sometimes you can actually pre-compose your shots! This has saved me many thousands of vertical feet of climbing by avoiding spots with blocked views etc.


Satellite imagery (choose 'National' for a local US region or use your fave website)


Tide charting and preditions: (chose your area in US, other countries have similar websites)


Wave Heights (I choose 'North Pacific from Global')

Or Here:


Photos of every inch of the California coastline from a small plane. Excellent for close in detailed views.




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Taken on July 26, 2010