Mid-Summer Update on Lava Light Galleries and Hawaii

We are enjoying one of the best summers EVER.  The weather has been great.  The ocean has been calm (with one epic exception…more in a moment), warm and crystal clear.  We have had a steady stream of relatives, visitors and old friends.  Covid is still around, but those who catch it here or elsewhere seem to be having minor symptoms.  Crowds are less than normal.  The volcano continues to continue to erupt, with a something like 26 BILLION gallons of lava now in the lava lake.  No lava has shown up outside of the caldera…so it is not running on the ground nor into the ocean.  Air quality is good and skies are blue, but not crystal clear like before the eruption.  For most, the volcanic “fog” or vog has not been an issue.

Last week we had the biggest south swell that any of us can remember.  We had about four days of HUGE surf.  There were waves breaking over the roofs of two and three story condos at Keauhou.  We traveled to South Point to photograph the amazing swell at sunrise and were greeted by 30 foot faces on the windblown waves.  The swell shut down many beaches and did a bit of damage.  And then…it went completely away.  It had been caused by a hurricane that passed well south of the islands, but that storm produced waves the size of the biggest winter waves we’ve had here.

The Milky Way photography has been some of the best ever and should remain that way until September or early October.

Could not resist putting one of my bird shots on this blog. That cute little guy is just feet away from me in my office and enjoying a summer sunset.  He is a java sparrow.  The wave shots are from South Point, Hawaii…southern most part of the USA.

Our gallery is open seven days a week from 10AM to 8PM.  Life is good.

Aloha,

 

CJ Kale, Linda and Don Hurzeler

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April Update on the Big Island

A quick update on the eruption, the Big Island and our gallery…

The eruption continues, all of it within the Halema’uma’u crater.  It has built up a lake of lava that is quite large, is over 300 feet deep and filled with something like 17 billion gallons of lava.  It is quite a sight.

To view the eruption you go to the opposite side of the crater than you used to visit before the crater collapsed…opposite of the Jaggar Museum.  That Museum is still closed, but there are viewing areas around it that are quite good.  The real prize is the view from the Crater Rim Road observation area.

You get to that area by entering the Volcanoes National Park, taking the very first left turn and heading downhill to the Devastation Trail Parking lot.  Park there and look for the outhouses and signs that are on Crater Rim Road…right where you enter the parking lot.  Bring a jacket and a flash light.  The crater is best viewed at night.  It will look almost exactly like the photo in this blog.

For photographers…bring a wide angle lens for shots like the one above and a telephoto of at least 200mm, if you want more detail from the lava lake and any fountaining that is taking place.  Also…got to have a tripod…that wide angle shot is 30 seconds at low ISO and wide open.

From the parking lot, it is a one mile hike on flat, paved road and a one hundred yard walk on a lava rock trail to get to the viewing area.  The area is safe (or as safe as anything can be inside a very active volcanic area) and legal.  It is also well marked.  Avoid sunrise and sunset if possible…those times are often so busy that you can not find a place to park.  I also suggest that you check the Volcano, Hawaii weather report…look at the hourly report…and expect that it will rain if it says the chances are 25% or higher.  Not a lot of fun out there in the rain.  You can also check to see the current volcanic activity on the USGS…the Geological Service site…looking for the twice daily reports on the eruption from Kilauea.  Eruptions vary in intensity…and can go out completely and quite quickly…but the report will give you a good update.  If it does go out, it is likely to come back on in a day or two.

Call me at 808 9388383 if you get lost or need advice…Don Hurzeler.  My phone is usually on until about 10 pm…later if I am at the volcano.

The whales are leaving…still a few around.  The surf is going down and the sand will soon return to the beaches.  It has been a busy winter, but visitors will start to leave in a couple of weeks and not return until mid June.  Mantas have been abundant…I swam with 30 the other night.  The Milky Way is starting to look great…as long as the moon is down.  Most businesses are open…the ones that survived the pandemic.  Restaurants and rental cars seem to be the pinch points.  As of now…and things could change quickly…the pandemic protocols are gone…no masks required and travel no longer requires a bunch of paper work and tests.  And no surprise…prices of everything are going up. Supplies are adequate, but not great.

Waipo Valley is completely closed…you can not even walk down to it.  They are working to find solutions to the dangerous road and may have something soon. However, the original notice said it would be closed to any one other than valley residents until 2025…OUCH.  The Mauna Kea summit is open, but things are still a little bit controversial up there…check before you go.  I know all of the services have been going each night, so I am guessing it is settling down.

Our gallery is doing great.  CJ just returned from a long trip chasing aurora in Alaska…and he scored big with some great shots.  More about those shots next blog.

Come see us if you can…and I am thankful that things are finally returning to near normal.

 

Aloha,

 

Don Hurzeler…for CJ Kale and Linda Hurzeler and our entire Lava Light Galleries, Inc team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Update for Hawaii and Lava Light Gallery

Winter is “mo betta” on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Our day time temperatures are down to the mid to low 80’s.  The ocean is about 78.  And the volcano is erupting.  All in all, not a bad place to spend part of your winter.

Here are the facts…covid remains a problem here and elsewhere.  Check the travel requirements before you book your trip.  We have lots of visitors on the island, so we are certainly not shut down.  It appears that the current surge may be lessening, but that is something you will always want to check before you travel here or anywhere.  Our gallery is open seven days a week from 10am to 8pm.  Masks are currently required inside retail establishments.

The volcano has put on an amazing show for months now.  The caldera currently has something like 12 billion gallons of liquid lava in the lake at Halema’uma’u.  However, it has been intermittent lately…goes on and goes off without much warning.  I took a friend out a few weeks ago and we caught a classic night of eruption.  We went the next night and got there just in time to see it completely stop erupting…and it did not come back on for three days.

If you do come to see the volcano, some advice.  The Park Service has provided an EXCELLENT viewing area on the opposite side of the caldera from the Jagger Museum.  You access it by driving down Chain of Craters Road, go past the Thurston Lava Tube about a mile or so and then look for the Devastation Trail Parking lot.  Park there and look for the Port-a-Potties…they are at the start of the closed to traffic, but open to hikers, Crater Rim Road.  You hike one mile down that paved road and then about 100 yards over a decent lava trail to the viewing area.  As long as you stay inbounds…inside the ropes…it is as safe as any other viewing area you may have visited and provides an excellent view of the entire lava lake and the splatter cone.  Lava is often jumping and flowing heavily into the lake.  The photo on the left is about how it looks at night without any telephoto or binoculars. The shot on the right is with a 400 mm telephoto.

The crater is at 4000 feet and makes its own weather…so it can be windy, wet, cold or all three.  Bring rain gear and a bottle of water.  Check the hourly weather forecast for Volcano, Hawaii to get an idea of what you are in for on your trip.  We typically do not go if the rain possibility is over 25% or the cloud cover is 80% or more….but you may have limited time and may have to give it a go no matter what the weather.  However, if it says it is going to rain over there…like 50% chance or more…believe it.  And when it rains, it creates steam and obscures the viewing.

If you Google Kilauea Eruption, you will easily find the U.S. Geological Service website that features a daily update on conditions.  I also look at the “Multimedia” area and go to web cams..then look at the summit webcams to see what it looks like in close to real time.  If it is not red…if you do not see lava…you can be pretty sure it has shut off temporarily.  Could be back roaring tomorrow…keep checking.

And I hate to tell you this, but the best time BY FAR to see the volcano is at night.  It just does not look anywhere near as vibrant during the day.  Sunset and sunrise are often crowded.  If you are a photographer, we highly recommend 12am to 5am.  Remember to clean the front of your lens on a regular basis…there is often moisture in the air there and it will make you photos look out of focus if you let it build up on your lens.

The humpback whales are back.  I have not noticed them in big numbers, but there are plenty around.

We have had lots of mantas on the night time manta excursions.  You can get up close with them by snorkel or as a diver.

This is the time of year when we can get big surf…so be careful out there and never turn your back to the ocean.

Restaurants are not as plentiful as in the past…suffering still from lack of staff and covid restrictions.  Same with retail, we lost a lot of our small businesses during the past two years of the pandemic.  Rental cars are more reasonable than they were a few months ago, but book them early. However, for those who do come to visit, adventures and beaches and fun things to do are in good supply and not as booked up as normal.

That is a quick update.  If you have a specific question, feel free to call me at 808 9388383…just keep in mind our Hawaii time zone.  I am a bit cranky when I answer the phone at 3am.

Hope to see you soon.   Aloha,

 

Don Hurzeler and all of us at Lava Light Galleries, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

Lava Light Lesson #40…The Photo Skill We Never Mention

Got to admit, I am pretty proud of these two shots…colorful, clear, stop action on a fast moving bird in low light.  If I had a third arm, I would use it to pat myself on the back for these two shots…I love them.

So there are a couple of lessons here.  First, I could never have gotten either shot without the proper tools…a great camera body (Sony a1) and a great lens that is both telephoto and gathers lots of light (Sony GM 400mm 2.8).  Admittedly, these are expensive tools, but much needed if you take photos for a living, as we do.

Second, neither shot just happened.  I got the birds used to having me around.  I showed up at the same time each day with some peanuts or sunflower seeds for them to enjoy.  I watched their flight paths so I could pick a spot where I knew they would eventually cross.  I tried all kinds of speeds and settings to get the shot I wanted.  I settled on 1/4000th of a second, at f2.8 to 4.0 depending on the fading light (f4.0 is much better and gives more depth of field) and an ISO of 400 to 640…although the horizontal one was taken at 1600 ISO…as the sun had about set and I thought I might give it a shot (I hate high ISO but this one worked out well).  So, the shots did not just happen because I got lucky…I planned my luck.

And here is the part we do not normally mention…I probably shot 10,000 cardinal shots over the last two months to get these two shots.  Got some nice shots…and two great shots.  Also got thousands of misses, which we call “deleters”.

So, if you are seeking that great shot of whatever the subject, come prepared with good tools, observe the situation and put together a game plan, make adjustments as needed and wear out the shutter until you get the shot that will cause you to grow your own third arm.

Aloha,

 

Don Hurzeler

 

 

Eruption!

A quick update for our Lava Light family of friends.  Kilauea is erupting.  CJ and I have been out twice already and it is beautiful.  The eruption is contained entirely inside the caldera and it has already built up a sizable lava lake.  You can not yet see the lava directly from any of the legal observation areas, but if the flow keeps up at this rate, you may be able to see it soon.  Night time is best to see the plume as a bright orange and yellow.  It is quite a show.

Crowds in the park are sizable at sunset and evening.  They thin out at midnight and stay that way until dawn.  We love being there an hour before dawn…perfect conditions.

Along with the eruption comes the vog…and it is back.  We have lost our bright blue skies for the moment.

Covid has been a real problem here, but the numbers are now going down.  Still an issue and visitors are few at the moment (the beginning of October is normally very busy with Iron Man visitors…but the Iron Man was moved to Utah for this year so things are pretty slow here).

A couple of whales have already been spotted, but the heaviest number of whales do not arrive until December.  Don’t expect to see any during the October time frame…if you do it will just be one or two.

Retail and restaurants are still impacted by the pandemic.  There are enough open to serve your needs…but it is not wide open with lots of choices.  We are hoping that will change come Winter…but who knows at this point.  About 70 percent of all eligible people on the island are now vaccinated.  There are still mask and other restrictions in place…and you will need to check on up to date travel requirements.

It is a great time to visit, if you can put up with some covid related hassle.  Crowds are small.  Our gallery is open 11-7 daily and by appointment if you want to visit at some other time.  We have been doing great business since last October and we are very grateful for the support of our returning customers.  We have missed our Canadian friends and hope they return in large numbers this Winter.

We are healthy and happy and can not wait to see you.  Aloha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Get Eaten By A Grizzly Bear

You ever read about the dumb tourists that get too close to a wild animal and get hurt…like too close to a buffalo or a bear?  I read the articles and watch the YouTube videos and just shake my heads at the idiots involved in those dangerous encounters.  And now…one of those encounters starred Linda and myself.  Here is how easy that kind of situation can develop.

Linda and I shot Old Faithful in Yellowstone, at night, hoping to get the Milky Way above the eruption (mixed results).  After the sun came up, we headed back to our hotel in West Yellowstone to get some sleep.  About a mile or two from Old Faithful, in an area called Biscuit Basin, Linda spotted a bear on the other side of the Firehole River…two bears.  I circled the car around and we grabbed our cameras with the big lenses.  There was about 100 yards of meadow, then 25 yards of river and the bears were on the other side.  Safe enough conditions to be out in the open with bears around….but wait!

I took the lead and ran across the meadow.  As I approached the river bank, I could no longer see either of the bears.  One of the two bears I never saw again…don’t know where he went.  What I did see was six tourists to my left running for their lives.  That got my attention.  I turned my gaze toward the river and there…right in front of me…coming up the bank on my side of the river…was the largest grizzly bear I have ever seen.  He was maybe 25 yards in front of me and moving toward me…with Linda not far behind me.

I alerted Linda.  The bear took notice of the running tourists.  He then took time to shake off the water from the river, find a tree, scratch his back on the tree and began eating the grass and flowers that had brought him to this side of the river for a meal.  Linda and I quietly walked backwards, taking dozens of photographs as we retreated and finally made it back to the safety of our car without incident.  At all times, we both knew that he could be on us in two seconds if he so chose to do so.  I have never felt so stupid or exposed.

By now, numbers of other cars arrived to watch the bear and see if he would eat us.  The occupants seemed disappointed that we made it back to safety.  Together, we all watched the bear eat and enjoy the beautiful morning for more than a half an hour…hundreds of photos were taken and no one badgered the bear nor endangered themselves by getting too close…we all stayed in or right next to our cars.

One other dangerous situation presented itself.  Three guys on bikes came by and did not seem to notice the bear nearby.  Just as they got even with the bear, some impatient driver honked his horn and startled the bear.  The bear took off at full speed (which is quite impressive) on a line that would take him right to the bikers on the road.  Happy to say that he passed right behind the bikers without stopping and made it across the road to safety and the brush on the other side.

I kind of know what I am doing when I am in the water with sharks or other large critters.  However, I have very little experience being in the wild with bears or other large animals like you might find in Yellowstone or elsewhere.  We saw bears all over Yellowstone and well outside the park, as well.  As large as they are, they can just pop up and then you need to be prepared to deal with them.  We had bear spray with us…which seemed SO inadequate and dicey.  It does give you nine seconds of spray to slow the bear and really piss him off before he eats you.

As for those who go hiking alone in back country…you are braver than me…by far.  I have now had two or three scary encounters with bears and that is enough.  I’m sticking close to the car when they are around.

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June 2021 Update

Things are returning toward normal on the Big Island and at our gallery.  Most businesses have re-opened.  The hours of operation are returning to near normal…right now we are open 10 am to 8 pm seven days a week…earlier or later on occasion or by appointment.  Rental cars are still scarce…so book early.  Boat trips…such as dolphin excursions and manta dives…are booking up, so again…book early.  Masks are still required indoors.  Covid rates of infection are quite low, but we still see a few new infections on the island each day.  Not sure how many of the residence on the island have been vaccinated, but I believe it is over 60%.

CJ, Linda and I just travelled off island and back…and it was simple and the covid process was quick.  However…that is for returning residence.  Check the protocols for visitors. I believe that tests are still required and that the process is still kind of aggravating…but officials have gotten better at the process and it should work ok for you in your travels.

Island conditions are near perfect.  We had an eruption going, but it has gone quiet for the time being…we miss seeing the lava glow, but are enjoying the blue skies.  A number of minor earthquakes centered near the National Park…makes us think there will be more lava activity ahead.  The ocean is clear, warm and the surf is small for the summer.  It is a great time to be on the Big Island.

If we can help you in any way…give us a call or drop us a note.  You can reach Don Hurzeler at 808 9388383.

Aloha.

 

 

April 2021 Hawaii Update…Gallery is Open and Doing Well

We have now been open each day since October 1, 2020….thankfully.  Business has been good.

Hawaii is open for visitors, but still under considerable restrictions.  We notice a lot more visitors here now, but still WAY under what we would normally see.  And just about now is the time each year when tourism slows and things get a little quiet until summer.

Most businesses are open, but many have restricted hours.  These things change day to day, so check ahead.  Check also on rental car availability…was a problem for a while and may still be.  There seems to be adequate hotel room space.

Of note…the volcano is still erupting.  The lava lake is huge…about 750 feet deep and covers 109 acres.  It is crusted over in most places, but still provides a nice glow at night.  The Milky Way is showing up above the crater in the early morning sky. We have been spending a lot of time out there doing our photography.  This is the beginning of Milky Way season in Hawaii…peaking in June through September.

There is currently no running lava on the surface anywhere.  You still can not view the actual lava in the caldera from any of the safe, legal or easily accessible viewing areas…but we should be able to do so soon.

There has been very little VOG…smog with lava particles in it.  VOG is a side effect of an eruption and, happily, it has been minor so far.  Blue skies abound.

The weather has been great.  The ocean is warm and exceptionally clear.  Lots of marine life around…CJ and I swam with about 20 mantas yesterday.  Linda and I have been out with dolphin several times a week for months.  The big waves have settled down and the whales are mostly gone for the season, with some sperm whales and other species well off shore.

The Governor announced an Interisland Covid passport program to be launched by mid May, making it much easier to travel from island to island.  This is brand new so make sure you check up on it before any trip.  Right now, the covid tests and paperwork routine is still in place, but working fairly smoothly.  Lots of us on the island have had our two shots with more getting vaccinated each day.  Yesterdays new covid case count was one new case.

Our current gallery hours are 11 to 7 seven days a week.  You can call us if you need to come in earlier or later and we will do our best to be there for you.  After all this pandemic stuff…we are exceptionally happy to see our customers…returning or new.  My mobile number is 808 9388383…Don Hurzeler…call if you want to check on hours or set up an appointment…otherwise, please just drop in to say hello.

Very recent photos of the volcano, Milky Way and a manta.  CJ has been killing it on moon bows.  Linda has been killing it with dolphin photos.  Lots of new stuff to show you.

Aloha,

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Don Hurzeler for CJ and Linda and the Lava Light Galleries, Inc.

 

 

Lava Light Lesson #39…Saving a “Bad” Photo by Editing

A bad photo might be just out of focus, might have a blown out area around the sun that shows up as a white blob, might be way too dark and when you brighten it up in Lightroom you notice tons of noise now in the photo.  Here is my advice on such photos….forget about it!  Quit wasting your time on it.  It is a bad photo and get over it…there will be others.

A caution…keep that RAW file.  Your editing skills may get much better or new software might come along that will help you fix that photo.  So do not throw it away.  I save them in a folder called “Problem Images”…and on very rare occasions, have been finally able to save one of those shots.  Most time…not so much.

The problem with saving bad photos is that you will convince yourself that you have really improved it and finally put it out there…when in fact, you had to do some things you really did not want to do to the image.  In our case, if we over crop it or mess around too much trying to eliminate noise or whatever…the problem is that someone might like it and buy it…and then we find out that it looks like heck when we blow it up large.  Major embarrassment follows…so we very rarely make that mistake.  We do not try to save “bad” photos.

The bird photo is one I saved.  I love the photo…but would never try to sell it.  It is a major crop and slightly out of focus.  Ok for my memories…not ok for our gallery.

Save your editing time for your great photos…and it will be time well spent…and save that RAW file, just in case.

Aloha.

 

 

 

Mid January 2021 Update on the Gallery and the Eruption

Our Lava Light Gallery at the Queens MarketPlace, Waikoloa is open seven days a week now…from 11 am until 7 pm and earlier or later by appointment.  We are doing quite well, even with limited tourist traffic on the island…and we are all healthy.  Come see us if you are “on island” anytime soon.

The eruption of Kilauea continues.  The lava lake is huge…nearly 700 feet deep and covering some 80 acres.  The actual lava is not visible from any place safe or legal…but the beautiful glow of the lava after dark shows up nicely from all the regular locations.  The Jagger Overlook remains closed due to earthquake damage.

Talking to a Ranger from the Park the other night and she said the geologists thought that the lava lake might become visible to all of us from the normal locations as early as March 2021.  That would be amazing and we hope it happens.  Still no running lava on the ground anywhere on the island.  Aloha.