Landscape

  • Hualalai Sunset

    Hualalai mountain shrouded by sunset lit clouds from the Kailua Kona shoreline

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    Standing on the coastline waiting for the sun to get into position to photograph the rocky shoreline  swallowing the waves during sunset, I looked behind me at the mountain.  This was too good to pass up and immediately shifted focus from the ocean to the land. My single wide lens couldn’t capture the entire scene that I was witnessing, so I needed to shoot a panorama.

    This image is a combination of 9 images. I first panned the landscape and then the sky to create the largest single image I have ever worked on. 20 hours of warping, masking, blending, and enhancing as well as another 3 to polish the shot to how I saw this amazing sunset.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • South Swell

    A beautiful sunset from along the Kona coastline during a large swell.

    I went to this familiar location to shoot from the same spot I usually do, right at the mouth of the hole in the reef. This usually puts me right in line looking at the sun setting with a dramatic foreground of the water draining back to sea. Fortunately there was a large south swell that had forced me to find a new perspective because standing where I usually do would be dangerous as the water will pull my photography gear or me into the hole that is 10 to 15 feet deep if not careful. Some of these waves will catch me off guard and it is not easy to escape and in the past I have had to thrust my camera way up in the air by grabbing the tripod legs so a wave didn’t kill it, but would leave me drenched. You might wonder why I say fortunately instead of unfortunately. Why would it be fortunate to be forced into something I wasn’t planning on. Well, I say fortunately because I love it when I am forced to try something new. When there is a spectacular sunset I always go to my comfort zone with a perspective and composition I have photographed before so I don’t screw it up. Where I usually come home with some great shots, I am still longing for a new perspective. I don’t want to have a portfolio of the same shots when there are so many great views along this coastline. At least this time I was forced.
    This is not the most amazing photograph, but it was very complicated both with composition and technicality. I really had to work for this shot. The foreground rocks aren’t very large, so in order to trick the eye I had to crouch down into the small crevice and straddle the river of rushing water about 2 feet off the ground. In that position it is really hard to setup and look through the view finder… especially when you are as out of shape and stiff like I am.   🙁   I had to fold myself while moving around so my shadow wasn’t visible on the left rock face. It’s hard to explain how weird I felt, but I’m sure I looked like a crazy person on the coastline waiting until the right moment, which never ever comes immediately. I have to begin cramping up before I can begin to shoot and create.
    After all that I waited on developing these images until 3 months later because of the volcano eruption that stole my attention. It wasn’t until I was tired of not seeing a sunset because of all the VOG that I went back through my images to find this awesome day.
    This image is a mesh of 2 images at different focal points. One for the foreground rocks and the other for the rest of the scene. The final image was edited several times over, over a couple days to get the look I was going for.
    © Christopher Johnson
  • Nanawale Bay Coastline

    An aerial photograph of Nanawale Bay coastline from a Paradise Helicopter tour.

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    Photographed just east of the Kapoho lava flow ocean entry as we were flying away from the devastation. This was a small look into the recent past of what the coastline along the Kapoho coastline looked like before the lava destroyed it a month ago.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Boulder Creek Falls

    Boulder Creek falls along the Alakahi stream that winds its way through the lush tropical landscape of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden near Hilo.

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    Way in the back up stream is the waterfall that the Botanical Garden named as Boulder Creek Falls. In order to get to it I would have to make my way through the dense tropical forest which would most likely be frowned upon by the garden staff. With the amount of people around I decided not to attempt it. Instead I setup on a small bridge that crosses the stream and waited for the right moment.

    Like the Onomea Falls image that I posted earlier, I had to wait a while for the sunlight to be hidden behind some clouds in order to have a nice evenly lit scene. However, the sunlight wasn’t my only obstacle. The small bridge that I set my tripod on was not sturdy. Any amount of movement would create a huge vibration, which doesn’t go very well when taking slow shutter exposures. The large crowds of people that found their way to the falls had the same idea to stop and take pictures before winding their way up to the end of the path. Funny thing is that the end of the path is about 50 yards away up to the left which is somewhat in the shot. I really had short windows where I could photograph the scene once the sun was blocked. The best part was that I setup really low to the ground in a crouched position, but because the bridge was not wide enough to allow me to be behind the camera and have people walk behind me that I had to crouch off to the side and crane my head around to see through the view finder. Super awkward position, but very enjoyable to be sitting in front of this beautiful scene.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Onomea Waterfall

    The beautiful cascading Onomea waterfall in the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.

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    Two years ago I visited this waterfall and failed to focus properly on all parts of the scene and regretted not spending the time to make sure I had the shot before I left. The unfortunate thing is I though I had the shot when I left only to find slightly out of focus images when I went to process them. If the out of focus elements were in the background I may have dismissed the error, but they were foreground elements. It’s one thing on macro or artsy style images to have blurred parts, as long as it’s not the main focus of the image, but this wasn’t the case. Needless to say it bothered me for a while and when my daughter wanted to return last weekend I didn’t hesitate to go.

    We arrived around noon which isn’t ideal for photographing waterfalls or complex landscapes because the light from the sun spots the scene with unpleasant highlights. I was hoping for a cloud to hide the sun momentarily, but after waiting 20 minutes there was no relief from the sun.  I gave up to walk the gardens and to hopefully have better luck later, which when I returned my wish was granted.

    After a cautious and abundant photoshoot I knew I had the shots I needed to create the image I had been wanting for 2 years. I focus blended the foreground tree with the waterfall and distant trees in Photoshop to create a fully sharp image as well as adjusting the exposure with luminosity masks to create depth and interest.

    Hope you enjoy this image and the lesson for me was to take my time and make sure I have all elements of the scene captured before leaving. Returning may not be an option.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Ka’anapali Sunset

    A beautiful sunset from the Ka’anapali beach on the island of Maui

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    The winter months in Hawaii are the busiest as people that live in cold climates seek an escape to warm beautiful tropical weather. With the increase in people finding wide open unobstructed landscape photo opportunities decrease.

    I went out to photograph this sunset off of the sandy beach of Ka’anapali. Instead of getting a wide angle shot close to the water I decided on capturing a fresh perspective. I have always loved the look of the trees that lined the beach along with the broad leaved vines that grow along the ground, so this time I setup back away from the ocean. After composing and setting up for the shot I started to realize the traffic of all the people coming out to enjoy the sunset. Some people stopped to take a quick picture while others rested on the trees within my field of view. The last interruption came as a family posed to take a family photo on the tree with the sunset to their backs. Luckily I had a few open opportunities to get the shots I needed to work with. The rest of the time was spent enjoying the sunset and the way people reacted once they saw me crouched on the ground taking their photo.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Restricted

    Black and White photograph of a leaning tree in Waimea, Hawaii

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    During a rainy day in Waimea, I decided to drive around some side roads in search of some interesting compositions that were enhanced by the mood of the weather. While driving the paved portion of Mana Road I was excited by this tree hanging over a barbed wire fence with a faded line of trees in the distant background. There were a lot of amazing elements to play with. I went with a low camera angle in order to place the distant trees under the canopy of the foreground tree. This also allowed for an exaggerated fence line to fill up the entire right side of the frame for some added interest. The image just wasn’t complete once I had completed the color edit. Although I still like it I decided to work the image as a black and white which I feel enhances the overall feel I was going for when I first was attracted to this location.

    I titled this piece Restricted because of the contrasting sides of the fence. One side is overgrown and rugged while the other is tended to and open while outlined by a sharp barbed wire fence. The tree feels like it is trying to reach over to the other side, but is rooted on the wrong side. Restricted from crossing over.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Kiholo Bay at Night

    Kiave tree in a moonlit night along the Kiholo Bay coastline

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    We were camping next to this awesome Kiave Tree on the beach of Kiholo Bay. During the day there wasn’t a lot to photograph because the clear skies didn’t give much interest to the sky and the bold shadows weren’t very attractive. At night the skies were full of stars and the full moon and camp fire provided a lot of interest. It took a while to come up with a composition that I liked. Since the viewfinder was dark, I had to take an exposure and wait for it to load before I could review it, then adjust to what worked. It ended up being a fun creative exercise.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Land Arch

    Photograph of an arch along a very old lava flow.

    Strangely enough I have been passing by this arch for close to 12 years and for some reason I never noticed it up until just recently. Just at the lookout on the Mamalahoa Hwy, north of Kona, this arch can be seen right off of the road looking up toward Hualali mountain. This makes it that much crazier that I had never seen it. I can only figure that every time I passed by or stopped… I was looking towards Maui and the old lava flow formations that traveled down the hillside. Now I find myself always looking at and studying this arch whenever I pass by.

    Unfortunately the background of this arch isn’t usually very attractive because of the steep dark mountain side and formless clouds that build to create a stark white sky. I was pleasantly surprised that on my way home from visiting family we were passing by this area through some heavy fog. Without hesitation I pulled off and stood at the entry of this arch to shoot a few images. I was trying to focus on the eerie foggy atmosphere surrounding this interesting structure especially the spot of white fog under the arch which is usually dark from the rock behind. The fog provided a lot more depth and color to this otherwise difficult to photograph location.

    This island has so many cool and unique landscape qualities that I look forward to finding other spots. The key is to keep my eyes open to finding them.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Foggy Day

    Photograph of trees in a grassy field slowly disappearing into the foggy day

     

    On my diverted way to work I found myself navigating the roads in a cloud. Fighting my need to get to work on time I pulled off the road to photograph these beautiful trees slowly disappearing into the fog. I wanted to spend a couple hours wandering through the forrest to fully enjoy this moment. I don’t witness foggy days like this very often, so when I do I get very excited.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Mud Lane

    Fog rolls through the beautiful tunnel of trees lining Mud Lane

     

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    I find it unusual that a road winds its way through a beautiful grove of trees and at every turn has a magical scene is named Mud Lane. I had actually never known that this road existed until this day. My daughters wanted to go long board skateboarding down this road that they had gone before with their aunt. I didn’t really want to drive all the way to Waimea, but I wanted to do what they wanted to do and so we set off. Halfway there, around Waikoloa, it began to sprinkle rain, fog began to roll in and I thought for sure it was going to be a bust, but we continued anyway. Maybe the storm is localized I thought. We hit Waimea and we were still socked in. I didn’t really know where this mysterious road was I had heard so much about and I was really relying on my 12 year old for directions, but I did know it was on the rainy side of Waimea… and it was.

    A few miles outside of town we made the turn down Mud Lane and parked just off the road. As the girls took off on the skateboards I was in awe with the beautiful scene of trees lining this narrow road that went on for miles. Fog rolled in and out of the canopy creating a dreamy look. I didn’t care it was raining.

    Photographing the trees came with challenges. I used a telephoto lens to zoom down the tunnel. I was dealing with more camera shake than usual while rain drops steadily fell on the camera. I was soaked and so was the equipment, but I didn’t care. I was thoroughly enjoying every part of this location.

    © Christopher Johnson

     

    Art Prints

  • Leading Lines

    Photograph of the tall bamboo forest on Maui

     

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    The stalks of tall bamboo lean up toward the beautiful canopy of the Bamboo forest on the island of Maui. A hike that I did on the previous visit to Maui and was determined to go back. The drive to Hana isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes an entire day to drive, even if you didn’t stop. This time we went the back way, the ‘Do Not Go This Way In A Rental Vehicle’ way, but it was fine. Way faster if you just go to the Haleakala National Park where the 7 Sacred Pools are. The only crazy part was towards the end when navigating around the steep cliffs on a single lane road. The guard rails had been rusted apart from the insane surf. I was just hoping no one was coming the other direction. I am pretty sure we would have just looked at each other until someone reluctantly decided to reverse to a nearest pull out. Luckily no one came.

    The hike was the same as I remembered. The only difference was that we couldn’t walk all the way to waterfall due to the heavy rains we had this Summer. I love the bamboo. There is nothing like it. The hike is fairly long and uneventful and you almost want to turn back, thinking it won’t change. Then you cross a bridge and enter into the first part of the forest and your breath is taken from you. All you want to do from that point is venture deeper into it and engross your entire self into the forest. When the wind blows there is a quiet and soothing knocking from the hollow stalks that almost stops you in your tracks. Although the wind isn’t what I wanted for photographing the bamboo because of movement, I thoroughly enjoyed and welcomed it.

    The remaining trip back to Lahaina was fun. We ended up going back on the ‘Road To Hana’, which took forever, but was beautiful. It was amazing to see the damage from the Hurricane Darby that I heard so much about on the news. Funny that months later I was having dinner with a mother and daughter that lived in Hana. The mother told me a story of how she came to a van full of tourists that nearly went over the cliff on one of the windy turns. The van had been pinned by a tree and was luckily not going anywhere. While waiting for the tow truck the mother asked the tourists if they wanted their pictures taken while in the van, which they excitedly said ‘yes’. After the picture they all left the van to discover how close they were to falling over the cliff. The funny thing was the tourist driving had a “I Survived The Road To Hana” shirt on.

    © Christopher Johnson

    Purchase a print by visiting my RedBubble page.

  • Akaka Falls

    Akaka Falls framed with the ferns in the foreground.

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    This magnificent waterfall has been photographed a million times and mostly the same way. I wanted to photograph it with a different approach. Framing the waterfall with all of its surroundings in order to accent the subtleties of the area was my goal. The ferns in the foreground, small waterfalls along the left side of the falls, the moss along the walls, and the way the water catches smooth rocks along the cliff walls as it falls were all the details I set out to capture that are normally lost in a wide angle view.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Eucalyptus Forest

    Large Eucalyptus trees along the Hamakua coast on the Big Island.

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    I have been meaning to stop and take the time to venture into these trees for a very long time, but every time I drove by I was either in a hurry or the lighting wasn’t right. This time, however, was perfect. The sun was setting making the harsh highlights from the sun non-existent, but instead offered a soft even glow around each tree.

    Entering the forest was a challenge since the grassy trail was taller than me.  As I made my way through the grass and spider webs 🙁 …. and the deeper I went into the forest, the grass was a lot shorter and more manageable to photograph.  With the light quickly fleeting I was able to shoot a handful of images. Two of which are what I set out to capture.

    © Christopher Johnson

    Purchase a print by visiting my RedBubble page

  • Onomea Falls

    Photograph of the beautiful picturesque Onomea waterfall

     

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    A beautiful waterfall within the Tropical Botanical Garden walk north of Hilo on the Scenic road. I definitely recommend taking the time to visit this botanical garden. It’s breathtaking!

    © Christopher Johnson