Sunset and Red Mud

I recently had a huge job getting shots all over the island for the Kauai Visitors Bureau. I did the drive from Kapaa to the top of Kokee (about 50 miles) at least 20 times over the past 6 weeks. Then there were the trips to the north shore getting  other shots. On and on. It was a ton of work, but well worth it and I ended up with some fantastic shots along the way.

Last week I was out doing my final day of shooting for the project. My wife Marta came along so she could get out of the house and we brought our dog Spike as well. A little family adventure to get some photos in Waimea Canyon.

We finished up on the west side and headed toward home. That’s when we both noticed the sunset was shaping up into something pretty fantastic. I had already gotten plenty of shots of the Salt Pond Beach Park for this project, but thought, why not? I haven’t gotten a sunset shot from there. So we raced down the highway from Waimea to Hanapepe in hopes of reaching the beach park in time.

15 minutes till sunset…

I was so intent on getting there before sunset that I wasn’t looking very closely at my surroundings. But lucky for me, my awesome wife was. I drove down the rough road toward the beach, only to find that the angle of the shot I wanted was way off. The sun was in totally the wrong position and it wasn’t going to be where I needed for a few months. Noticing my disappointment, Marta says “Go back the way we came. The shot would be fantastic there.” So off we went yet again!

10 minutes till sunset…

After a little navigation around potholes and speed bumps in our tiny Honda, we made it to the location she was thinking of. Right away, I could see it was going to be perfect. I ran to the back of the car and started digging out the camera and getting it set to go, all the while worried about time.

5 minutes till sunset…

With the camera set, I was off! I ran across the street and was completely amazed. The area where the salt ponds are is completely flooded. But those flood waters make for a killer reflection of everything on the beach park along with a brilliant orange sky from the setting sun. The road is up on a slight rise from the flat area around the flood, so I headed down the hill to get closer to the water.

4 minutes till sunset…

I was totally intent on looking for the shot. How close to the water for the perfect reflection? How wide to shoot? Where do I want the sun to peek through the trees and other beach park features? I was completely focused on the view and totally ignoring everything around me. And then it happened.

3 minutes till sunset…

I stepped off the the slope from the road out onto the flats and “Squish!” It felt like my foot had landed on a wonder of physics and engineering. It was like some brilliant scientist had finally created the perfect surface for a frying pan — A completely frictionless, non-stick surface — and he was running his field tests right here on Kauai. My foot shot out from under me at what seemed like a significantly increased velocity compared to how fast I was moving. It was like the laws of the physical universe had decided to go out to dinner at this exact moment, leaving me to the random whims of chaos and small gremlins.

2 minutes till sunset…

Now that my right foot was no longer underneath me, there was no stopping the inevitable. Down I went. The only thing going through my mind was “Save The Camera!” With some kind of ancient instinctual reaction from deep in the part of the brain that formed when we were all just exiting the primordial ooze, I did the only thing I could do. My right arm holding the camera shot straight up. I may hit the ground, but that camera was going to be safe. I hit with a resounding “Splat!” I instantly knew what was up. I was surrounded by the sunset and red mud. Super-saturated red mud.

1 minute till sunset…

There I was, laying in the mud, camera held high, slightly dazed and the sun was about to disappear. I shook it off and somehow managed to get to my feet without going down again. Since my left had was completely covered in mud, I proceeded to shoot the sunset one handed. Luckily, the camera was already at the right zoom distance. (One less thing to worry about!) I just had to do a few adjustments to the speed and aperture then shoot away.

I grabbed a few quick images and the sun was gone. Eight frames. That is all there is to record that moment in time. But I had them in my camera and could not wait to see what I had.

Of course there was quite a bit of anger and frustration involved in my mental state at the time, which I must sincerely apologize to my wife for. I was not in my right mind, covered in mud, with a sore hip, not knowing for sure if I had gotten the shot. I was definitely not in the best of moods, but she was nice and helpful none the less. And for that, I love her even more.

The shorts I was wearing are ruined, along with the shirt. Stained badly form the crazy red dirt we have here on Kauai. They are now destined to be clothes for yard work or car repairs. Not really salvageable, but they were a small price to pay after I saw the final images. The Kauai Visitors Bureau ended up purchasing one of the images, but that left me with the other seven frames. Of them all, this one is my favorite. So here it is, “Sunset and Red Mud”.

A mess of a shot to get, but well worth it!

A mess of a shot to get, but well worth it!

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I Shoot RAW

 

Did a bit of shooting recently for a friend. She wanted a few shots to use in promotions of her business, Mahalo Care, a line of skin care products made here on Kauai.

We did a quick bit of scheming and came up with a great location to shoot at sunrise. Of course there are challenges to shooting at sunrise (besides the getting up really early thing…), but I figured we could get it done regardless.

The big challenge was that we wanted the sun to her back. So with that in mind, I had to expose for the background and light the foreground. Pretty normal, except the background was a giant ball of fire floating in the sky. Luckily, I shoot with the Nikon D800 with its 36.3 megapixels of pure awesomeness.

And of course, I Shoot RAW. Always. I usually have a second memory card in the camera that is recording Jpegs as well, but those are just for a quick view for clients in case they want something right  away to look at. I also sometimes use those Jpegs to create a PDF for clients to choose their shots from. Once they pick their shots, I go back to the RAW files and process from there.

There is an ever continuing debate about shooting RAW over just shooting Jpeg. For me, the answers are simple. First off, I prefer to make the decisions about how my images are processed myself. If you shoot Jpeg, some programmer back in Japan (or where ever your camera is built) has decided how your image should look, and put that into the cameras processors. Of course he has no idea of what you are really looking to get out of the shot or really what the overall conditions are for your shoot. They just go to create a neutral overall balance in the shot. Nothing very dynamic. And when you do something like shoot into the sun, you get a giant mess. And really, who wants a giant mess?

The second reason I shoot RAW is the dynamic range of the image. Jpegs are compressed and that compression has removed a lot of data. Like an insane amount of data. But the RAW file has it all. Every single tiny morsel of amazing light and color is in there, ready for me to play with and create the final look I wanted.

Here are three versions of the same shot. The first is the straight RAW with the Jpeg that the camera created.

The straight RAW shot from the camera

The straight RAW shot from the camera

So that is kind of a bland looking shot. Almost a little on the dark side, without much color. This happened because of the really bright sun behind her. I had to expose for that. It made for a darker shot, but all of the info is in there.

Jpeg Version from the camera's processing

Jpeg Version from the camera’s processing

Then there is the version that the camera processed. Yes, there is a bit more color and it’s not so bland looking. Some people might just leave it as is and move on. There would be nothing wrong with that. The image does work on it’s own. It could be a little brighter and all, but in general, it would work. But is it really an image that would catch anyone’s eye? Probably not. Yes, she looks great, but nothing about the shot really stands out.

This is where you turn to RAW photos and the amazing power of Photoshop. I went in and set my colors, decided on an overall look, did all of the skin retouching, straightening the horizon as well as the post next to her. A few tweaks here and there and bam! the shot was done. And I’m guessing it might catch an eye or two. The colors really pop, she looks fantastic and the overall look matches the vision we had for the shot.

The final image, processed in Photoshop from the RAW file.

The final image, processed in Photoshop from the RAW file.

 

A shot from this series worked perfectly for her ad in Harper’s Bazaar Magazine and they are starting to appear on her website now as well. A shot like this would never come from a Jpeg, especially at the final size and resolution of this image. I did the final output at 20×30 inches at 360 dpi. Huge image and all kinds of resolution to mess with. Now if she wants to print them out to use as part of a poster, or just shrink them down to use on internet ads, all the detail she could want is there to play with.

For those of you who might be interested in any of the EXIF data or the way I lit this shot, here you go.

  • Camera:            Nikon D800
  • Lens:                 Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
  • ISO:                   100
  • Speed:               1/250 s
  • Aperture:          f/9.0
  • Temp:               4600 K
  • Focal Length:    42mm

 

The softbox is the Westcott 26 inch Rapid Box, an amazing and easy to use super portable light modifier. It was high to the right, just in front of her.It did the majority of the lighting. The reflector was down at the floor at a slight angle. It was meant to bounce a little of the softbox’s light back up and soften up the shadows under her chin.

 

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The Crazy Side of a Kauai Wedding

People love to get married on Kauai. Who wouldn’t? Sand, surf, jungle, great weather year round. It is a tropical paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Traditional weddings are not common out here. People get married on the beach or at a waterfall or on the edge of a cliff. Beauty is everywhere, so people want to get married pretty much anywhere and everywhere!

Since the weddings are typically not traditional, some of the photography is not traditional as well. When I shoot a wedding, I like to show the crazy side of a Kauai Wedding and get some shots that will leave friends and family wondering.

Here are a few shots from some weddings that show exactly what I’m talking about.

Machete?

Picture 1 of 4

Yes, that is a machete in her hand. At her wedding.

So remember, you too can come to this tropical paradise, see the sights, play in the sun and surf and see your own crazy side of a Kauai Wedding.

 

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Kauai Photographer

Aloha world!

My name is Daniel Lane and I am a Kauai Photographer. I have a fantastic job that I absolutely love, and I do that job on the amazing Hawaiian island of Kauai, also known as the Garden Island.

I am in the process of revamping my website. I have been rather occupied with my normal work along with helping my wife to build her business up, and her website and a pile of other stuff. So with all that was going on, this site kind of fell to the wayside and has been rather neglected for a while now.

Now is the time to change all that!

Of course this post is just a little explanatory on the condition of life, the universe and everything that is Pono Photo, but soon it will be much more.

I have two main objectives with this blog. First is to show the world my photography and this amazing island that I call home. Second is to maybe help others learn a thing or two about the art that I create.

Besides taking photos, I have been using Adobe Photoshop for decades. Some blog posts may be some interesting techniques I am currently working with or some tips to help with workflow. Who knows, but I know Photoshop will be involved somehow since I am working with the software every single day.

I did a Photo 365 a few years ago. It was a fun project that taught me a lot. But I think 365s are something to be done only once a decade or so. Too cumbersome to do more often than that. Shooting, processing and posting an image with some kind of write up about it every single day for a year is quite a task. So instead, I plan to post whatever comes to mind as regularly as possible. Hopefully some of you out there may like what you see and keep coming back for more.

And just a little teaser photo for you…

Typical golden sunrise on the east side of Kauai.

Typical golden sunrise on the east side of Kauai.

(Yes, this is the background image across a lot of this website. But now you can see it a little more clearly. 🙂 )

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