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.





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.




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.



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.





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.





With very little warning, Kilauea erupted a couple days ago…big time.  All of the action is inside of Halema’uma’u.  It started with three fissures opening inside the crater and poured out enough lava to evaporate the sizable acidy lake at the bottom of the crater in just about no time, fill it in with lava that is now over 500 feet deep and something like 70 acres of surface area…and the initial activity threw up a plume some five miles high.  We are pretty excited.

There is no lava running on the surface…to hike out to…anywhere on the island…yet.  You can not see the lake from any of the viewing areas…but you can see the glow as in the photos from several spots…safe spots for viewing.  It is quite a show.

Two downsides…the crowds have been unbelievable.  Stop in the gallery if you are on island and CJ, Linda or I will help you put together a plan for minimizing the crowd problem…we have it figured out.  Two nights ago, the line of cars trying to park at the Kilauea Overlook stretched all the way to the park entrance.  The Jagger Overlook area remains closed due to 2018 damage.  Other viewing spots include the area around the steaming vents, the area behind the still closed Volcano House and the area overlooking Kilauea Iki.  Hiking out to look straight down into the crater…don’t…illegal and too darn dangerous at the moment…not worth it.

The second downside is that the vog is back…sorry…no more beautiful blue skies for the moment.

No telling how long this event will last…but it is a good one at the moment.  We hope you get to see it.

On the photo above, I caught the vent and the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn…dots of white in the blue sky area on the top right corner of the photo.  Not the big spectacle you might hope to see with a huge telephoto, but something unique that I may never get to see in a life time…a conjunction right next to an erupting volcano.  The other photo was taken last night at Kilauea Iki.

Happy holidays.  If you are coming to the island and want some up to date info, call me anytime at 808 9388383, remembering that Hawaii time is probably several hours earlier than your location.  If you have lived here, you know why I mention that.  One of my favorite neighbors from our old neighborhood in the Chicago area called me one morning.  He said “Don, you don’t sound your normal cheery self.”  He was right about that…it was 8 am in Chicago, but 3am here.  I was not cheery.

But I am cheery this holiday season…and sure hope to see you soon.  Aloha to all and thanks for your support even during these trying times.


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






Update on the Gallery in Waikoloa…Open and Ready for Business

Still lots of unknowns and barriers to travel here in Hawaii.  However, we are seeing more and more visitors each day…thankfully.  Covid number on this island have been quite low recently.  Businesses are starting to open up a bit…with quite a few still closed and a number that will never re-open…done in by the pandemic.

Whale season is off to a slow start.  I’ve spotted a few and we did have an estimated 150 sperm whales roll through recently.  My wife and I have been lucky enough to get in with two different whale sharks off Kona in the past month or so…life is good.  Water is warm and weather has been great.

We are open seven days a week.  Our core hours at the moment are 10-5, but they will lengthen out as we get closer to year end.  We hope to be back to standard hours soon.  If you find us closed and want more info, call me (Don)  at 808 9388383 and I will let you know how soon we can be in the gallery.

Got to say…we miss our regular customers.  However, “normal” has to return someday and we plan to be here when it does.

Happy holidays to one and all…and Aloha.




Are You Don?

CJ and his buddy, Nick, founded this gallery.  My wife, Linda and I, were basically students of the founders and graduated to partners after a long period of apprenticeship.  Happy to say, we can now hold up our end when it comes to photography.  Nick is off on his own venture in Colorado and CJ, Linda and I get to offer our images up for your consideration.  We love it.

When Covid does not have us locked down, we advertise extensively on local radio.  So, every now and again, someone comes in…walks up to the old guy (that would be me) and asks “Are you Don?”  My answer is always the same “I’m what’s left of Don”.  At 73…the statement is more true than I would care to think about.

I’ve been a writer almost my entire life…one liners for comedians, speeches, columns, articles and books…a half dozen books of my own and many more in association with other authors.  I’ve had such a crazy life that I wanted to share it…so I wrote a book about my adventures…and gave it the title What’s Left of Don.  It came out in July and was at the top of the Amazon list of top new releases.  Just this week, it hit number one best seller on Amazon.  Truth in telling…Amazon rates things in categories and I am at the top of the category they put me in…and a win is a win.  I am a happy camper.

So, it is on Amazon and Kindle.  It is full of humor, danger, adventure and just plain insanity.  I wrote it during the pandemic and found it impossible to get anyone to review it…the New York Times critics admitted that they were just throwing away submissions.  So, I wrote the reviews myself and they are glowing.  There is even a review by Mahatma Gandhi and he has not endorsed a book since his death in 1948!

CJ is often the star of my stories.  Lots of lava stories…shark and croc stories…and inside gossip on some of the top celebrities I’ve hung around with in my life…like Little Oscar and his Weiner Mobile…just to drop a big name right off the bat.

Pick up a copy when you can.  What’s Left of Don by Don Hurzeler on or Kindle…or in our gallery.  I promise you it will have you laughing and give you an insight into how we get the images we get…and it is not always pretty.  One of the chapters has the title Turd Drops Three Stories into Circle of Friends….that right there should tell you this is not your average book.

Book coverer photo by CJ Kale on the very first day we met him…and the very first time we hiked out with CJ and Nick to the very active lava field.  Additional details are at







Lava Light Lessons #37…Think Before You Shoot.

Not sure that CJ has ever put it exactly like this,  but a lesson he is always teaching is “Think about the shot you want.”  He is not big on just establishing an average type setting, pointing the camera and pushing the button.  Think the shot through first.  What do you want out of the shot?

A mental check list might look like this…

Is the sun where you want it…hopefully at your back?

Do I want the subject in perfect focus and the background blurred?

Do I have the subject in one of the thirds…is the composition right?

Do I want to expose for the sky and let the foreground be a bit underexposed?

Is there anything sticking in from any side of the frame that will detract from the shot…like a branch of a tree?

That sky is kind of grey…do I want to minimize it in the shot and get more foreground?

Is there some kid running across the shot?

All of this can be done in a few seconds…but it needs to be done.  Too many shots turn out average because you or I did not take a moment to think about how we can make the photo the best it can be.

On the attached owl photo I had these shot thoughts before I took the photo…

Is his face in the sun so I can get the color of those beautiful eyes?

Can I get in close enough with my lens or by creeping up on him to basically fill about 25% of the frame with the owl without having to crop the shot to do so?

I want to blur the background…so I need an aperture that is wide…in this case, f/6.3.

Am I blowing out any of the background…over exposing it?

Most importantly…are the eyes in perfect focus?

As soon as I saw the eyes…click.  Got the shot.  Again, the whole process need only take a few moments…but those moments are important.

Hope that helps.




Don Hurzeler