Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii
Since I have the time and it is 32 degrees F. with occasional mist or drizzle outside my window at the moment, I have been thinking about the most critical factors for making a good picture. I think that being at the right place at the right time is the most critical element. The most important variable is the composition. Another important variable is having the vision to recognize it and record it. The third is having the right camera and lens with you at the time, and finally, recording the image with the best settings of the camera’s controls. Most people seem to stop with those, but I think they are missing what is becoming one of the most important factors … having and using the correct software to develop the image. If they didn’t record their image in the raw format and then use programs on their computer to develop it, they have missed what is becoming one of the most critical factors for making a good image.
While reminiscing and longing for the warm days with bright sunshine during my last trip to Hawaii, I ran across the above image. My first reaction was that it wasn’t much … just a lot of blue water and blue sky, an empty chair, and two kayakers too far away for the lens I had with me (close to the horizon in the middle). I’m not sure why I took the picture but probably just so that I could crop-zoom in to get a better view of the kayakers.
Since I have tried to use my time to improve my use of my software for developing my images, I decided to take this not so good picture and see what I could do with it as a B&W image. Yes, I know what you are thinking … B&W has no place in bright sunny Hawaii, but after playing with this image I’m not so sure. By switching to B&W I was able to take all the monotonous blue out of the image and force myself to look at the details. As it ended up above, I like it better in B&W than the original color. The more I stare at it, the more I remember how hot and bright it was.
In case you are wondering, I used Adobe Light Room (LR4) for the basic development of the color image and then used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to convert it to B&W as you see it above. The most important thing for you to remember is that with software you can go back and change the picture at any time. You can’t change the composition, lens, etc. other than to crop-zoom, but you can change the way the original digital image is interpreted. By saving your images as raw images you will find that you can go back years later with improved software and do a lot more with your old images. If you are still shooting just jpegs, your chair is empty and you are missing the view the second time around.
Making a Picture
Some of you who know me or have read my blog have noticed that I have referred more and more to my photography as “making pictures” rather than “taking pictures”. In addition, some have remarked how great my pictures are and wonder how they can also take such pictures. Well, the purpose of this article is to discuss “making” versus “taking” pictures. All pictures are made, or developed; but, there is a difference between allowing the camera’s computer to interpret the data or doing it on your computer which is more capable, and with better software gives you more latitude in the development. Those more experienced photographers who might be reading this can probably skip this article since I am going to address it to those close to the novice end of the spectrum.
Before I get into explaining what I do, I want to make a few things clear. These are my opinions and are not the only things to consider and it isn’t the cameras that I use. Yes, there is a basic level of camera that is necessary, but once you move up to cameras around $500 – $600, and up, almost any of the current cameras will do. Primarily, it takes a camera that allows you to take your pictures in a raw rather than jpeg format. Basic point & shoot cameras all save their pictures as jpeg files. This is a compressed format in which the computer in the camera processes the digital data from the sensor and interprets how they should look and then throws out a lot of the data as it compresses them down to smaller files so that you don’t get alarmed about how few pictures you can store on your memory card. Some top-end point & shoot cameras also allow you to save all the data as raw files and let you process, or develop, the files on your computer to make a picture. All of the more advanced cameras give you the option as to whether to shoot jpegs or raw files. I always shoot and process my own raw files. Another basic requirement is having enough pixels to be able to crop if necessary.
I crop to refine the composition and/or to crop-zoom. You will see below an example of that feature. My current cameras have 12 or 16 MP but usually 12 MP is sufficient to allow for reasonable crop-zooming but it depends on the end use of the picture; i.e. whether or not, and how large, you print your pictures. If you only present them on digital devices, which I do, you have a lot more latitude for zoom-cropping.
Other basics that I am not covering in this article are your vision, composition, camera ergonomics, etc., etc. Those may be subjects for another day.
Getting back to the purpose for this article, look at the following picture. I took it in Hawaii on the island of Kauai while visiting Waimea Canyon. As we went up in altitude and could see further, the air became more noticeably hazy. The following picture is as I first saw it after downloading it to my computer, and this was after my software (Lightroom 4) had done some basic processing so that I could recognise what I saw when I took the picture. If I had taken the picture as a jpeg, it would look like this or slightly better depending on the camera’s settings and processing capability.
The above picture is rather flat and isn’t all that good, but is close to what you might have seen after you had a drugstore print your jpeg pictures. In order to improve it, I used a software program called Adobe Lightroom 4 (LR4). The first thing I did was crop the picture. The concept of taking a vertical picture didn’t work as well as I hoped so I cropped off the bottom of the picture. I then changed the exposure and made other changes to increase the contrast, clarity, etc. of the picture. I’m not going to go into all of those details in this article. Today I just want to show you what is capable of being accomplished if you shoot raw files and use LR4 to process them.
I liked the above picture better, but it still didn’t satisfy me. It still didn’t look as I remember it looking. I then made some more changes to the cropping of the scene as well as some more adjustments. You can primarily see the differences in the sky and the enriched character of the rocks and that I cropped out more of the foreground.
One of the major advantages with doing the development of the picture yourself is that you can keep going back and make other changes. There is never an end. LR4 is a nondestructive program. You never destroy the basic picture and you can always go back and do it over, or you can develop multiple versions of the picture; i.e. you can “make” the picture to fit your vision, or the mood of the scene, or to fit the requirements of a particular blog article. 🙂
Last Days on Kauai
For those who have wondered where we stayed, it was at a condo in Poipu Shores. They are in a prime location and this makes the third time that we have stayed there. For our last three days on Kaua’i, we spent most of our time lounging around Poipu.
We took several walks along the shore line, just watching the wave’s crash onto the lava rocks.
The picture below was taken at Spouting Horn. It is a lava shelf where water and air are forced through a small hole by the wave pressure.
One of the main attractions at Poipu Shores is that you can look down from your lanai and watch sea turtles swimming. They are excellent swimmers and they don’t get tossed against the rocks.
I couldn’t leave Kaua’i without showing you our last sunset from our lanai. The next day we flew from Kaua’i to the Honolulu airport on O’hau where we changed planes and flew on to the big island of Hawai’i.
PS, I took the above picture with the Canon S95. The date & time in the filename is wrong since I forgot to set them on Hawaiian time.
24 Sept., 2011
On our second day on Kauai, we decided to go north, to the wet part of the island, to the end of the road. You cannot drive around the island since the terrain prohibits road construction … as you saw at one end of the road in yesterday’s posting, and today we go to the other end.
To start off the day, I just have to show you the morning sky as the sun was coming up. I really think I could sit on this Lanai every morning of the year while having my first cup of Kona coffee. I’d never tire of this view, or the weather, or the coffee.
After breakfast we drove to the northern end of the road and immediately started hiking up the Kalalau Trail. I wish I had more pictures of the trail … it’s a lulu … very steep and very rocky. The following picture was taken on an “easy” section of the trail. For the rest of the time I was too busy trying to not turn an ankle.
I’m not sure that the rest of them felt that the view was worth it, but it certainly was for me. The following is a view of the Ke’e Beach … looking down to where the trail started.
After you go a little further on the trail and go over a ridge, you can see in the other direction (Southwest) and can see the Na Pali coastline … no roads here.
After safely getting back down to our car, we then started back towards Poipu but made many stops along the way. The following view is from an overlook that looks down on the Hanalei. This valley is where most of the taro is grown.
Further down the coast we stopped at the Kilauea Lighthouse. It is now a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Refuge. They are in the process or restoring the Lighthouse (you can see the construction arm).
Below is a scene looking along the coast from the Lighthouse.
I hope you enjoyed these few pictures. I didn’t go there just to take pictures so most of them are quick snap shots that I took throughout our time on the islands. I might not continue to put up a day-by-day blog (though after the fact) but occasionally switch to other organizational themes. I haven’t decided yet and will make that decision as I plow through my pictures.
First Day on Kauai in Sept. 2011
We arrived around dark and then drove to our condo in Poipu. Since I have been there twice before, I knew what to expect, but it was different for my sister and husband who were traveling with us. They were amazed when they felt the sound of the waves crashing against the lava rock right below their bedroom window. Yes, I meant felt … the nearest thing that I can compare it to is a sonic boom … over and over. But that was only a taste of new experiences. Below is a picture of the sky right before the sun breaks the horizon in the morning. We were sitting on our lanai.
(As always with my pictures, you can click on each picture, and then click above the picture to see it in a larger (2000 X ?) size.)
This next picture was taken a few minutes later looking out over the ocean.
After we had an outdoor breakfast at a nearby restaurant, we took a walk along the shore. The following is just one of many pictures that we took of the waves crashing against the lava.
For those of you who have never been to Hawaii ( the name of the State, as well as the name of the largest island), I’ll try to describe it in bits and pieces as I show you some of my pictures that I took over a two-week period. The following picture is representative of the “shore line.” Hawaii has some beautiful beaches but they are small in size and number. The shore line of a volcano is a lot different from the continuous expanses of sand along the eastern coast of the U.S. The islands are the upper tips of enormous mountains. If you measure their height from the ocean floor to the top of the peaks sticking out of the ocean, they are taller than Mt. Everest. The islands are really new, as measured in geological time, and are very steep. When you step off of the shore it goes almost straight down except for in bays, etc. where the sand has had a chance to build up.
Another feature that a lot of people don’t appreciate is that each tall island is one-half dry with the other half being very wet and tropical in nature. We were staying in Poipu which is located between the tropical section and the dry section, and we spent our first day on the dry side of the island.
Another characteristic of the island of Kauai, is that it has a large canyon on the dry side. It looks somewhat like the Grand Canyon on the mainland. It is the Waimea Canyon which is 10 miles long, one mile wide, and over 3,600 feet deep. To get there you drive up a road that follows a narrow ridge with several places to stop and marvel at the views. The following is one of those views.
If you continue to the end of the road, you reach the Pu’u o Kila Lookout. Here you are not looking into the canyon but in the other direction, down into the Kalalau Valley. It’s over 3000 feet down to the ocean below. This is the largest valley along the Na Pali coast. The only way to reach the beach is to hike 11 miles or kayak.
If you turn and look east, and it’s hard to turn your eyes away from such a beautiful view, you will see the following sign. The highest peak on the island is Wai’ale’ale, one of the wettest spots on earth. I don’t think you ever get much of a chance to actually see the peak from this spot since it’s always in a cloud. According to the USGS, this spot receives over 440 inches of rain per year.
After returning to our condo, we took a brief rest on our lanai and watched the sun set over the ocean at the end of our first full day in Hawaii.
The above image of me is a creation by my friend Charlie. He is a wizard with Photoshop. You can follow his daily photography, poems, and amazing voice on his web site: Read Between the Minds. Listen to his poems. His insight, vision, and poetry are amazing …. especially when you realize that he puts a new one up every day!
He created the above image after I mentioned to him that after my lumber fusion, and my pending prostate surgery, that if I could just get some new knees and a heart that I would be like a new man.
I haven’t been taking many pictures lately due to the fact that I have been busy with other chores, etc. We are going to Ireland this coming weekend to spend two weeks there. I’m hoping that I will get lots of new pictures while I’m there. I will try to get some of them up in June and let you know how my latest light-weight approach to travel works out, but the bulk of the pictures will have to wait until after my surgery in mid June and a short recovery period.
I also plan to go to Hawaii in September to spend a few weeks on the islands Hawaii and Kauai … and take lots of pictures.
In the mean time, I urge you to follow ExposedPla.net and look at all the hikes that I wish I could take. I should have traveled more when I was younger.