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Tag Archives: The Big Island

beach 3

Another image of a moonlit beach on The Big Island (Hawai’i).  This is the third in a series of four images.  Tomorrow I’ll explain how I found myself doing night photography at zero-dark-thirty on these beautiful shores…


beach 1

See if you can guess what’s unusual about this image I took on The Big Island (Hawai’i) last December.   The graininess is a clue…  


A large fan that used to help keep a warehouse ventilated hasn’t turned a blade in many years.  It sits frozen and backed by a large piece of plywood, so that even if a strong breeze succeeded in making the blades move, they would have no effect on the air in the building.

I guess it doesn’t matter, since the entire warehouse appears to have been abandoned a long time ago.

I like the symmetry of the blades, and the way their color and texture stands out against the dark plywood background.  Eventually the fan will rust apart, along with the rest of the warehouse.

But for now it’s a wonderful photo-op, though not the type a typical Hawaiian visitor would choose to photograph.

But I’m not typical.  So in addition to visiting the beaches and jungles and waterfalls and volcanoes, I seek out the abandoned sugar mills, stores, cars and homes that tell a story of a time gone by…

Since this is a piece about a fan, would it be wrong say it’s “Gone With The Wind?”


Looking very much like a Hawaiian version of Munch’s “The Scream,” this is one of many ki’i (carved wooden figures) at Pu’uhonua o Hanaunau (Place of Refuge) on The Big Island in Hawai’i.

While not an exact body double (thank goodness!), he nevertheless accurately depicts my reaction to my hard drive crash earlier this week.  As Yoda would say, happy I was not.  I also said some things Yoda would probably never say, but I’ll leave those to your imagination so as to maintain the PG rating of this blog.  I wouldn’t want to make any of my sailor, trucker or Marine DI readers blush or squirm in discomfort.

The jury is still out on the state of the hard drive.  Any of my friends and acquaintances who have more tech-savviness than I do are being begged, cajoled and coerced into offering advice and/or making an attempt to get the !#%%&%^@$# thing working again.

Until that happens, you will seen an even stranger and more random series of images and posts than normal.  Go with the flow.  We’ll return to our usual strange and random offerings as soon as we are able.

Peace out.

lava 1

So begins a poem by Robert Frost.  The poem speaks of the destruction of the planet by either fire or ice.  I thought it would be an appropriate title for today’s post, since the world was going to end again* today.

(* I say “again” because my second blog post (“Much Ado About Nothing,” May 22, 2011) was also on a day that the world was predicted to end, but didn’t.)

But fire can be a creative force as well as a destructive one.  Many seeds require fire in order to sprout.  Many artists put fire to good use.  For example, I’ve done raku which is a form of pottery that involves taking clay pieces and putting them directly into smoldering organic material.  (Talk about fun!)  I can think of many examples of fire being used creatively, such as jewelry making and blacksmithing and cooking and baking…

But probably the most primal example of the simultaneously creative and destructive force of fire is lava.  When I think of the concept of “molten earth” it truly blows my mind.

lava 2

To watch molten lava flowing is to witness the creation of the earth, or perhaps it would be more accurate to call it the re-creation of the earth.  To watch new land being formed is truly a miracle, and something most people don’t get to see…and survive!

Lava can of course be destructive and even deadly.  Lava temperatures can range from approximately 1,300-2,200 F.  And I’m sure you’ve heard of lava flows destroying villages and cities throughout history and up to the present.

One of the safest places to watch lava flowing is in the Hawai’ian Islands, on The Big Island (which is also called Hawai’i).  The lava on The Big Island flows relatively slowly and with some predictability much of the time, allowing for a close approach.

lava 3

“How close?” you ask.  Well, when I went out to the flow a couple of weeks ago, I witnessed several people melt the soles off their shoes.  (By the way, that’s TOO close, folks.)   This was most likely because they were walking on lava that was still too hot.  Lava can form a thin crust and still flow beneath it.    It may or may not support your weight.  Learning to recognize a brand-new flow is useful.  Stay away from any steam.  Don’t get tunnel vision.  You DO need to use caution and exercise what I call UNcommon sense.

But the lava CAN be approached to within several feet if you’re cautious.  Walk slowly.  You will feel the radiant heat, and unless you want your kin to accept a posthumous Darwin Award in your honor, you will stop as soon as you feel the heat and not keep walking.

Today begins a series of posts about volcanoes and lava.  All the images I’ve posted since Thanksgiving were taken on this last trip to Hawai’i, but none are “classic” Hawai’ian images, so I don’t know if more than a few friends realized where they were shot.

I’ll be explaining more about these images in the upcoming posts, so for today, just enjoy the pretty pictures.

lava 4

I went to Hawai’i a few years ago with someone who had never been there before.  I decided to start our trip in Kona (on The Big Island), which is hot and relatively dry (for the tropics) since a few days later we were going to stay with some friends of mine in Volcano.  The town of Volcano is about 3,800′ and can be a bit chilly and drizzly and not exactly how people picture Hawai’i.  Being on the rim of a volcano is very cool, but it has a different vibe than being at sea level and near the ocean.  I wanted us to get a few days of sunning and snorkeling under our belts before exploring the caldera and lava tubes and forests.

So we got settled in our hotel, where it turned out we were the youngest guests by about 30 years.  I booked it because it was a great deal, but evidently the retired set likes a good deal too, and we felt like we were suddenly in a retirement home.  As soon as we unpacked, we headed out to the ocean, which was only a block or two away.  I had told my companion about the sea turtles and how cool it is to snorkel with them, and she was excited about seeing them up close.

No sooner did we get out to the water, but a turtle appeared, right on cue.  My companion was delighted.  It was early evening, so we weren’t going to go snorkeling until the following day.  (After I told her that sharks feed at dusk, there was no way I was going to get her in the water until tomorrow anyway!)  But we enjoyed watching the turtles from the beach and the jetty.  Because the turtles feed on the algae that grows on rocks, they’re often seen along the beaches and breakwaters, very close to shore.  From the jetty, we could look almost straight down at the turtles.

I had left my good camera in the hotel room, as we were going to go out to dinner after our walk.  So all I had was my companion’s digital “point and pray” camera.  I took three images, and even though the turtles were right at the surface of the water, there was enough distortion from the small waves, the turtles swimming, and the fact that her camera arbitrarily chose a too-slow shutter speed to cause some interesting effects in the images.

When I first looked at them I was disappointed that they weren’t nice and clear like my aquarium shots.  But now I decided that I liked the distortion.  To me it lends a painterly effect.  It emphasizes the liquid medium that is the turtles’ home, and the fact that we are but temporary voyeurs of the turtles while they are feeding close to shore.  They also travel hundreds and even thousands of miles across the oceans and so we aren’t privy to most of their lives.

What do you think?  Are these good images, or bad ones?  Do you prefer the marine biology textbook turtle image, or the art class batik turtle on a tie-dyed sea?  Unlike in school, there are no right or wrong answers.

Meet the nene (pronounced “nay-nay”).  These geese (Branta sandvicensis) are currently found on only four islands in Hawai’i:  Maui, Moloka’i, Kaua’i and The Big Island.  They are descendants of the Canada Goose, at least a couple of which either had a very bad sense of direction and/or got blown seriously off-course while migrating a few hundred thousand years ago, give or take a few.  I imagine that after their prehistoric ancestors recovered from their trans-oceanic journey, they took one look around them and said “To hell with those brutal North American winters:  we’re gonna stay right here and raise us a family!”  Or words (or quacks) to that effect.

The nene’s coloring has modified over the millenia to more closely match the terrain they are found in.  In this image, their body feathers are similar to the color of the lava they’re walking on, and notice how well their heads blend into the shadows on the lava behind them.  Even their goslings do a great job of blending in!

The nene can still fly, but they spend most of their time walking.  Their feet have adapted to the sharp lava by becoming thicker and more padded on the bottom, and they also have less webbing between their toes than ordinary geese.  There’s very little fresh water in Hawai’i, and what there is flows quickly to the sea.  So these geese have adapted to their dry climate, not just by mostly walking (instead of swimming or flying) but also by developing the unique ability (among goose species) of being able to breed on land instead of in the water.  Finally, they differ from all the other North American geese in that they breed during the winter instead of the summer.  Winter is the rainy season in Hawai’i, and thus there’s more plant growth, which translates into more food for the parents and their young.

The nene is the official state bird of Hawai’i.  And indeed, after the thousands of years the species has called Hawai’i home, they are no longer Haoles (foreigners), but have earned the honor of being considered Kama’aina (locals).

Yup, those first two Canada geese that today’s nene are decended from knew a good thing when they found it.  And if you were to poll all the nene in Hawai’i and ask them if they wanted to go back to North America, I bet I know how they would vote:  “Nay!  Nay!”