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.



Don Hurzeler