June in Oahu:
What Worked; What Didn't
Lyon Arboretum, Honolulu, Hi, 18 June 2009, 11:16 am.
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II; Lens: EF 24-105mm/f4.0L @ 82mm focal length; Flash: MT24EX
Support gear: RRS BH-55 LR ballhead, MPR-1 lens plate, B87-B flash are with two B87-B FM flash mounts & two FA-EX flash extenders.
Exposure: 1/200 second, f/25, ISO 100
Notes: One of the most difficult shots for me is to make a decent composition in a rain forest. The challenge is to eliminate as much extraneous foliage as possible and come up with patterns and textures that don’t look plain messy and still tell the story you want to tell.
I’ll continue last month’s travel theme doing a post-op of my one-week trip to Oahu with my family. You can see I’ve unashamedly copped Michael Reichmann’s (luminous-landscape.com) “What Worked What Didn’t” tag, which happily gives me great license to accumulate widely disparate stream-of-conscious thoughts in one article.
Camera: I just got a Canon 5D Mark II one week before the trip, so this was a great chance to put it through its paces. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, except for a few minor faults, I think this is pretty close to the ideal travel SLR. I sold my Canon 1Ds Mark II and got just enough for it to pay for the 5D. For me, this was a fantastic trade. I also have a 1D Mark III, so I still have a rugged powerhouse when I need one, but I can see the compact size of the 5D being a real plus for travel.
- Why didn’t Canon include an SD card slot along with the CF slot?
- I missed the 100% viewfinder but 98% ain’t bad.
- Still no mirror lock-up button.
- Why not 1/250 x-synch like my 1D?
- Super smooth images.
- Lots of resolution lets me crop if needed.
- The JPEGs are very nice.
- 1080P video recording.
- Near-Endless buffer.
UDMA CF Card: I bought my first UDMA card (Delkin). The speed is simply phenomenal. It was practically impossible to max the buffer when shooting Large-Fine JPEGs continuously at 3.9 frames/second. Definitely worth the high price.
Lenses: I took only three lenses: EF 17-40mm/f4.0L, EF 24-105mm/f4.0L, EF 180mm/f3.5L macro. At Sandy Beach (see below) the 180mm was only a bit short and with the excellent 5D images, I got very acceptable results. If I weren’t flying, my 500mm/f4.0 would have been an excellent choice for shooting the body surfers. As is, I fit the camera, 3 lenses, MT-24EX dual light macro strobe, RRS B87-B flash arm with two mounts and two FA-EX extenders in a Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW bag and carried it very easily on board the plane.
RRS Stuff: BH-55 LR ballhead, B5d-L L-plate, B87-B flash arm equipped as mentioned, MPR-1 on the 180mm/f3.5 lens, plus other unidentified prototype gear for field testing. If not for the field testing, I would have taken a smaller BH-40 LR head to save on space & weight.
Family Travel Mixed with Photography
I have six kids. The oldest four are all out of the house now, but I have an 11-year old and an 8 year old still at home. I’ve been combining serious to semi-serious photography with family-in-tow for the better part of 3 decades. For those of you who’ve “been there, done that” you can appreciate why my idea of productive/enjoyable/challenging (take your pick) photography and “family fun” don’t often cross paths; just ask my older kids! Here are a few ideas of how to combine the two without fomenting a mutiny.
- Plan Well
Lack of serious planning is a sure recipe for disappointment for the Family Trip Photographer. Discuss plans with all stakeholders and be sure you’re not abandoning the rest of the meshpokha with no means of travel or way of enjoying their surroundings while you gallivant in the hinterland seeking the perfect sunrise.
- Allow for Spontaneity/the Unexpected
Burns said “The best-laid plans of mice and men/ Go oft awry.” Referred to as “the fog of war;” Sun Tsu, Carl von Clausewitz, General A.M. Gray, and all history’s great military strategists knew uncertainty is the only certainty and did their best to allow for it. Inevitably an obstacle of some sort will arise (bad weather) or a wonderful opportunity will present itself that demands a change of plans. Roll with the punches and don’t stress out; after all, you’re on vacation.
- Over-Compensate for Time Away from the Group
Unless they are photographers themselves, the rest of the family/group/spouse/kids/partner/etc. will likely feel the time you spend on photography is a lot more than you think it is, especially if they have to sit in the car and wait while you do it. Radio Shack makes a $45 sound level meter (Model: 33-4050). When you pull the car over to snap a quick shot of the incredible field of _______ (insert the name of your favorite flower), check the decibel level of gasps and moans on the meter. When it exceeds 80 or so, you know you are pushing the envelope. Back to the point: take the time you plan to spend with the family and then double it. Now, double it again. They’ll love you for it.
I love Hawaii. I’ve been to Oahu probably a dozen times, four or five times to the Big Island, and once to Maui. For photography, I prefer the Big Island, but Joan is a big city girl and likes the energy of Honolulu. Oahu is ideal for mixed-vacation travel (see “Family Travel” below), because the island is small and there are plenty of good nature photography targets within easy striking distance from Waikiki. I can leave before sunrise, get some cool early-morning shots and be back in time to join the rest of the family when they are still just enjoying a leisurely late-start breakfast. They never even miss me. Here are a couple of such places I visited this trip.
- Sandy Beach: A thirty-minute drive due east of Honolulu (with no traffic) past Hanauma Bay. Early one morning I happened onto some decent wave action of about 5-7 feet. FYI, surfer wave height reports in Hawaii are typically about half of the actual height on the face of the wave, so the real deal was pretty impressive. What makes this a particularly good place for the shore-anchored photographer is that the waves on this beach were breaking fairly close in, so it wasn’t difficult to get some decent shots with merely the 180mm/f3.5 and the 5D Mark II. Early morning light was great. Later I took the kids there and let them frolic on the shore until the life guards posted the dangerous wave warnings. Originally, I was planning to just shoot waves and get some un-peopled beach shots, but luckily my plans were foiled because there was already quite a group of die-hard body-surfers in action near sunrise. I say luckily because the photos of the waves are much more impressive with something in the image to give a sense of scale and the body-surfers filled that bill perfectly.
Sandy Beach, Oahu, 16 June 2009, 8:35 am
Camera:Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II; Lens: EF 180mm/f4.0X
Support gear:RRS BH-55 LR ballhead, MPR-1 lens plate
Exposure:1/500 second, f/8, ISO 200
Notes:5-7’ wave looks more like 10-14’ when you put the body surfer in the image!
- Lyon Arboretum: Next to the University of Hawaii’s Honolulu campus. Lots of tropical plants, flowers and some birds. This is a tropical rainforest. The trails can be wet and slippery, so take good hiking shoes. Also, beware the mosquitoes. I was using a new camera bag and forgot to put a plastic garbage bag in the pocket to cover the gear in rain, so a couple of times I had to use my body instead. Be smart and bring an umbrella or other rain gear.
Lyon Arboretum, Honolulu, Hi, 18 June 2009, 10:38 am
Camera:Canon EOS 5D Mark II; Lens: EF 180mm/f4.0L; Flash: MT24EX
Support gear:RRS BH-55 LR ballhead, MPR-1 lens plate, B87-B flash are with two B87-B FM flash mounts & two FA-EX flash extenders
Exposure:1/8 second, f/10, ISO 100
Notes:Looking straight down into the center of a beautiful, broad-leafed tropical shrub (anyone know the name?).
- Nu’uanu Pali Overlook: On Highway 61 half-way between Honolulu and Kailua/Kane’ohe. I never get tired of this spectacular view of the windward side of the Ko’olau mountain range. Sheer, wind ripped cliffs covered in lush green. The wind is always gale-force here, so be prepared.
- Laniakea Beach: Turtle watcher’s paradise. This one is not nearly so close to Honolulu as the others, but still only about an hour and a half drive to the North Shore. Drive about 1.5 miles north-east of Haleiwa town on the Kamehameha Highway #83. Look for a white-fenced horse ranch on the right and then a turn out for cars. Park there. Hawaiian green sea turtles crawl up on the shore nearly every day to bask in the sun and are perfectly happy to pose for you and at least a couple dozen other tourists. They also can be easily photographed swimming in the surf (the turtles, that is, but a few tourists too).