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Akaka Falls





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Behind The Lens

This photo was taken on the jungle island of Kaua'i Hawaii. Akaka Falls is one of the tallest falls on the archipelago. The trail back to this 485 foot cascade is a beautiful, fairly short hike through the rain forest.
Due to the restricted hours of access to this trail I was forced to get creative to capture the light that I wanted along with the motion blur in the waterfall itself. I was able to drive from my hotel up to the trail head and begin hiking at around 10 am and reached the falls by 11 am. The way I compensated for the almost mid day lighting was to use a Lee Big Stopper filter (10 stop ND).
I wanted to draw the viewer down into the falls by using the sloping walls of the basin around the falls to create leading lines to give the image a grand sense of depth. The almost mid day light was partially shielded by the cloud cover that parted just enough to illuminate the falls themselves to give me the highlights down the falls and the shadows on the surrounding walls to achieve the depth I set out to capture.
I used my Nikon D600 with a Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-5.6 lens to capture this photograph. The long exposure shutter speed was achieved with the help of a Lee Big Stopper filter (10 stop Neutral Density). I hand held while braced on a tree branch due to the inability to set up a tripod.
I was on a photographic vacation in Hawaii trying to bring home some beautiful images of the unique landscape of the archipelago. I had done extensive research on which island held what photographic opportunities and knew that space would be limited at these particular falls. I wanted to show the scale of the 485 foot waterfall in a way that I could show that there are massive features on some of the smallest islands.
The post processing of this image was fairly simple and straight forward. I brought the image into Adobe Lightroom 6 and worked mainly to correct the unnatural blue cast from the Lee Big Stopper. After correcting white balance I proceeded to work on creating a little more contrast than the original RAW image possessed. The finishing touches were done in Adobe Photoshop CS6 Extended to use the dodge and burn tools for very small details in the water and foreground foliage.
In my camera bag
My bag is always built around my Nikon D600. The lenses that I carry can vary depending on the subject I plan to shoot, but for a shoot like the one that produced this photo I had my D600 body, a Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-5.6, a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8, my ND filter kit and a sturdy Gitzo Mountaineer Tripod. The D600 has a wonderful 24.2 MP sensor that gives excellent contrast and sharpness and the 24-85mm gives a great degree of versatility and there is a reason the 70-200mm f/2.8 is part of the "Nikon Holy Trinity", it is by far the best lens in my bag on every shoot I go to. Not included in this trip was my Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 VR. The reason for leaving this lens out was partly because I did not want to carry the extra weight and mainly I did not see a use for it on a landscape shoot.
The weather in Hawaii is in a constant state of change, literally by the minute sometimes. Patience and planning are the true keys to success when shooting in a dynamic environment such as this. Just because the lighting when you arrive at a location isn't good or pleasant does not mean that it is a lost cause, be patient and give the light and scene time to develop. I waited on this shot for more than an hour, the clouds were sometimes blocking the direct sunlight and sometimes not. The key is to be able to wait and keep focused to see the right light when it comes available. Watching internet weather reports can aid in choosing the right day to go out and see what the light does, and always remember to adapt to your surroundings. Don't be afraid to go and try to find new angles and new times of day to capture special light.

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