desktop of the month – march 2011

This month’s desktop calendar is of the Kipu Falls, on the island of Kauai. It was late afternoon when we got down there and the sunlight was streaming in low between the branches, spreading these shafts of light across the pool.

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wailua rainbow

We visited the Wailua Falls in Kauai on New Year’s Eve. These 80-ft falls are quite majestic and powerful. On this particular visit, we arrived in the early afternoon, and the Sun was at the right angle to cast this lovely rainbow from the mist created by the falls.

I used a long(ish) exposure on this image above – closing the aperture down to f/22 and the exposure set to 3 seconds. Of course I used a tripod, and the proof is in the image… there’s the camera’s shadow to the bottom left of the image!

The reason for the long exposure was not just an attempt to capture the power of the falls, or to transform the torrent of water into milky smoothness. I noticed that the mist that was being created by the falls was naturally broken up and not uniformly distributed as it travelled across the lake at the bottom of the falls. So the intention with the long exposure was to capture a more vibrant and fuller rainbow as that mist “travelled” through it.

Finally, an apology, I just can’t resist throwing in a black and white image. Wasted on the rainbow so a close up study of the falling water.

wash over

I don’t know what it is that attracts me to water, but attracted I am. And right now, I seem to always want to express that attraction with a long exposure.

I delayed over posting this image but went with it in the end. The reason is that there appear to be some bad halos above the rocks, as if I cranked the contrast slider up and kept my eyes shut. So here’s my disclaimer: in fact, what you see there are waves crashing and lapping over the rocks in a 10 second exposure. The surf is obviously white and so you naturally get a white halo around the rocks. There you go.

waimea canyon

The week between Christmas and New Year we spent on the island of Kauai. Aside from the Big Island, this is probably our favourite island in the Hawaiian chain that we have visited (still need to go to Molokai and Lanai). Not least because of the wonderful Waimea canyon.

From the Mana Road

I posted about a trip we took along the Mana Road back in December. When reviewing and reflecting on that day about a couple of months ago, I realised that I wanted to do more with those images.  I finally managed to get a few of those photos together and put them into an eBook of sorts. As well as showing a selection of 11 photos from that trip, I also talk a bit about the experience I felt while on the Mana Road. As you can see by the title, it is not really about the road itself, but what you experience and see from the road that mattered to me.

It was a short trip along the Mana Road that day, perhaps just 5 or 6 miles up from Waimea. And now I’m itching to go back and photograph the landscape seen along the length of the whole road. You can find the little eBook published at from the following link (go into full screen mode when you get there):

From the Mana Road.

The impact of Big Island vog on the state of Hawaii

It was a quiet weekend for me with regard to this blog as we were in Kona for a  swimming meet. More on that later, in the meantime…

In his post, A Very Voggy Day, Andrew provides a nice link to the MODIS satellite which took  visual images of the island. The clouds are the really white, fluffy stuff. The murky, grey looking stuff is the vog which is generated by Kilauea and which the trade winds carry off to the rest of the island chain.

The image dramatically demonstrates how, when the trade winds are blowing, the best place to be is the east coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

Water of Life – a balancing act

For the next few nights I am here at Hale Pohaku Hotel & Resort for Stray Astronomers, exiled from the world, civilisation and my family.

Having the fortune of living in Hawaii, we are constantly reminded every day of the beauty that surrounds us. This planet we live on is a gift and it seems that we are only just starting to learn that there’s a delicate balance in the existence of this beauty around us – delicate, as once it is gone it will be very difficult to get back.

Paradoxically, one of the things that you become acutely aware of by living on an island is that precious commodity, water. You’d think that being surrounded by water  we would have no trouble with its supply for domestic and agricultural use…wrong. “But you’re in Hawaii,” I hear you say, “the tropics, it’s always raining there!”. Yes that’s true – we have lush rain forests, waterfalls and rainbows – but it seems that almost every year we go through a drought when the scarcity if water for domestic use becomes a serious issue for many on the island. (Part of the reason for that is that many on the island depend on rain water for their domestic water)

Maybe it’s an island-thing?! I was born on another island, in the Mediterranean (aka ‘Middle-Earth’ for all you Hobbitses out there!), called Cyprus. Water shortages are a very real problem there as there is nowhere near the amount of rainfall in Cyprus as we enjoy here in Hawaii. There are times when neighbourhoods go without water for days, the local government cutting off supplies in order to regulate its use. And they’ve come up with other “innovative” methods. There are two types of water supply: clean domestic water, and partially cleaned water exclusively for use with agriculture (almost everybody in Cyprus has a their own little ‘farm’ in their back gardens, no matter how big or small). I’ve heard my dad say at the table, “They’re watering our potatoes with sewage water! How do they taste?”

Now, back to the point! At the Hale Pohaku Hotel & Resort for Stray Astronomers, the problem is more accute as the Resort is built at the 9,000 ft level on the slopes of Mauna Kea, and all water needs to brought up here by tanker. However, a very unique system for preserving water has developed. It has been around for as long as I have been coming here (gosh, that’s almost 20 years now!!) and it prevents you from wasting too much water in the shower. You’ve been awake for 18 of the last 24 hours, twelve of which you’ve spent at the summit. You only managed to get 4 hours sleep and you fall grogilly out of bed needing a shower before you start the next 18 hours. You get the mixer taps balanced just right and the water is perfect. You jump in and you’re really comfortable and you start to relax and your thoughts unwind from the previous night’s work at the telescope. Just as you get to the point when you think you finally understand what’s going on “up there” your back and shoulderes are scalded by extremely hot water coming out of the shower. From contemplating the universe in a zen-like state to 3rd-degree burns in a fraction of a second. You struggle to regain the balance but there’s no chance of getting back to that nice place. Whatever is in there regulating the mix of water has gone non-linear, chaotic. Add a touch of cold water and freezing water tries to frostbite your toes (and other bits!). Too much, go the other way! Ow, ow, hot, hot!

Soon enough you give up and get out. The shower has won and the water of life is preserved.

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