Kalalau Valley, Kauai
I have made many trips to the island of Kauai and have hiked most of the trails. The trail to the Kalalau Valley Overlook crosses the wettest part of the islands and it’s almost always raining there. I waited for a rare dry morning to hike up the Kuilau Ridge Trail. The trailhead is located about a hundred yards east of the first stream crossing in the arboretum. At the end of the pavement, a wide trail gradually climbs an old jeep road. It’s a 1.75 mile walk and an elevation gain of 760 feet to the end of the Kuilau Ridge Trail. A quarter-mile up the trail, the views through openings in tall groves of koa trees reveal dramatically-spiked peaks to the west. Along the trail are forests of false staghorn ferns, guava trees, and many colorful tropical flowers including bird-of-paradise and wild orchids.
Exotic types of eucalyptus and koa grow along the ridge above the trail. There are patterns everywhere and many opportunities for close-ups of banana leaves, wild ginger, and countless other tropical plants. Up there is the wettest spot on Earth with an average annual rainfall of 451 inches. Water can be seen pouring down vertical walls on the distant cliffs. The trail climbs a few switchbacks to several more spectacular viewpoints where I could see to the east and the west. Then the trail narrows and crosses a knife-edge ridge between two deep valleys. At a point two miles from the trailhead, the trail crosses a footbridge over the Opaekaa Stream which eventually drops over Opaekaa Falls. A sign on the bridge marks the end of the Kuilau Trail, a good place to turn around. I filled the whole day with photographing everything I saw, my favorite image was this sunset over the Kalalau Valley.
There are so many spectacular landscapes, lush jungle trails to breath-taking views, and waterfalls crashing from volcanic peaks that you must visit Kauai. Use Photograph America Newsletter issue #079 - Back to the Islands: Kauai/Molokai to help you find all the best photo locations. Follow the online reports of flight restrictions or quarantines on the airline you will be using. Good Luck.
Wyoming Bighorn in Winter
Wyoming Bighorn in Winter - The Wapiti Valley along the North Fork of the Shoshone River, west of Cody, Wyoming, sits in the snow-shadow of the Absaroka Range and receives less snow than the Tetons and Yellowstone. Cody, Wyoming, is one of the best places for wildlife photographers to find herds of wintering bighorns in North America. One of my favorite shots was a head-to-head portrait of a mature ram and a younger ram. They held this pose for several moments. There was no head butting, just some sort of personal contact that was meaningful to them. The younger rams seem to be doing most of the head butting. If you miss the first crashing of heads, frame and focus quickly, because they sometimes try again. If your autofocus lens has trouble locking onto the animals, your lens may be trying to focus on tall grass in the foreground of your composition. If that becomes a problem, turn off your autofocus and focus manually. If their big dark eyes appear sharp, the whole image will appear sharp. For a catchlight in a dark eye, activate your camera’s built-in flash unit. At the distances you will be shooting the bighorns, a built-in flash will have little effect on your overall exposure, but it may create a catchlight in an otherwise dark and lifeless eye.
Photograph America Newsletter issue #108 - Wyoming Bighorn in Winter has the details you will need to get ready for a trip to Cody, Wyoming and a week of photographing herds of wintering bighorn sheep alongside a wild mountain river. In late October or early November, bighorns come down from the deep snows in the high mountains east of Yellowstone, when only a light dusting of snow covers Cody. Don’t miss this easy chance for some dramatic wildlife photography.
Lions - Zoo Photography
If you are planning to take an African safari to photograph wildlife in Kenya, Tanzania, or Botswana, start by applying for or updating your passport and then getting in a few days of practice at your local zoo. A trip to a zoo will give you the opportunity to learn how to operate your camera properly so that you can capture the best possible photos of all the creatures you will find in the wild. Even if you have no plans for international travel, a photo trip to the zoo can be interesting and enjoyable. Most large cities and many medium-sized cities in the United States have a zoo. There are over twenty-five in the state of California, and over 2,500 zoos spread across the country. Do an Internet search to find the best zoos in your area.
I have visited several zoos recently to expand my wildlife photo collection and to take notes on some tips that may help you with your photography at the zoo. Some zoos are focusing on and doing outstanding work at restoring endangered species with breeding programs and returning virtually extinct wildlife to environments that are being cleaned up and preserved. Zoos used to have long rows of cages keeping their animals “behind bars.” New zoos have been totally redesigned to resemble their animal’s natural habitats. A few safari parks scattered across the United States are offering guided tours through expansive environments with a variety of large animals, like elephants and giraffes.
Issue #143 - Photographing Wildlife at the Zoo covers the highlights of my local zoos, from San Fransisco to Los Angeles and Sacramento plus tips on thirteen other zoos scattered across the country. This issue has tips on improving your exposures and the most important tip (on page 8) that will guarantee sharp images.
Swan Island Dahlias
Photographers looking for spectacularly colorful flower gardens late in the summer must travel to Swan Island Dahlias, family owned since 1927 and located twenty miles south of Portland in the town of Canby, Oregon. Forty acres of blooming dahlias are open to the pubic from August 1st through the end of September from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm daily with free entry and free parking. Photographers wanting to avoid the big crowds during their annual Dahlia Festival held every year the last weekend in August plus the Labor Day Weekend –Saturday, Sunday and Monday, should arrive midweek, before or after the festival. Photographers are welcome, and tripods, too. Visitors must stay on the grassy walkways.
A 105 mm macro is excellent for reaching farther into the clusters of blooming dahlias without getting too close. I usually focus sharply on the dominant point of interest in the scene - like the eyes in a portrait. To achieve the greatest depth-of-field when doing close-up photography, I focus at a point located 1/3 of the distance between the nearest point and the farthest point that I want to be sharply focused. Then I depress my camera’s depth-of-field preview button and close my aperture slowly until everything from the near point to the far point is in focus. When the focus looks sharp, that’s the aperture I use. A depth-of-field preview button on an SLR with an optical viewfinder will give you the image control you need for macro photography.
Photograph America Newsletter issue #124 - The Gardens of Portland, Oregon covers the best places to find close-up photography in the parks and gardens in and around the city of Portland. Fly into Portland, rent a car and follow the directions in the newsletter to the Portland Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Hoyt Arboretum, the Swan Island Dahlia Garden and tips on more great photo spots.
Notes and images from Bob Hitchman.