Feb 182014

A photographer friend who purchased my Oregon and Washington guidebooks, and who knew that I lived in Hawaii for many years, recently asked for recommendations on the best places on the islands of Maui and Hawaii for landscape photography. Like most photographers visiting the Hawaiian Islands, my friend has a limited number of days for his vacation and won’t have time to run around the islands to all the locations shown in general interest visitor guides. Here are my suggestions for where to go on Maui for great scenic and nature photography. I’ll follow this up with separate post on my recommendations for the Big Island.

Wailua Falls, Kipahulu District, Hana Coast, Maui, Hawaii. (Greg Vaughn)

Wailua Falls, Kipahulu District, Hana Coast, Maui, Hawaii.

1.  Wailua Falls – The whole Hana Coast is a nature and travel photographer’s tropical paradise with dramatic coast views and numerous waterfalls tumbling over lava cliffs in verdant rainforest. This favorite photo spot is right next to the Hana Highway in the Kipahulu District, between Hana town and the ‘Oheo Gulch area of Haleakala National Park. Visit here in the afternoon when you’re more likely to find soft, overcast light. 

Sunrise and Alau Island, Hana, Maui, Hawaii. (Greg Vaughn)

Sunrise and Alau Island, Hana, Maui, Hawaii.

2. Koki Beach Park – Heading south from Hana town, turn makai (towards the coast) on Haneo’o Road, which also goes to Hamoa Beach. ‘Alau Island sits just offshore, and the jagged lava boulders along the shore make great subjects for long exposures with water flowing around them. This is a superb location for sunrise.

3. Pipiwai Trail – After visiting the pools and waterfalls at the ‘Ohe’o Gulch area of Haleakala National Park, leave your car at the Kipahulu Visitor Center and walk across the road to the trailhead. On the way to Waimoku Falls, this easy, 4-mile round-trip hike passes through a dense forest of tall bamboo. Bring your bathing suit for a dip in the pool at the base of the waterfall, and mosquito repellent for the hike through the forest. Plenty to keep you busy here for at least a whole afternoon.

Sunrise over Haleakala Crater; Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii. (Greg Vaughn)

Sunrise over Haleakala Crater; Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii.

4. Haleakala Summit – Yes, there is going to be a crowd at the summit overlook – experiencing sunrise from the top of Haleakala is practically required of all visitors to Maui. Most people stay right at the main official viewpoint but if you walk down Sliding Sands Trail even a few hundred yards you’ll probably be all by yourself and have the option of a much different photograph than the usual summit view.

Pu'u o Pele and Pu'u of Maui cinder cones in Haleakala Crater; Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii. (Greg Vaughn/© Greg Vaughn)

Pu’u o Pele and Pu’u of Maui cinder cones in Haleakala Crater; Haleakala National Park, Maui.

5. Kalahaku Overlook, Haleakala National Park – Drive to the summit parking lot at Haleakala then turn around and head back down the road for about a mile to the turn off for Kalahaku. This is a great alternative for sunrise, with far fewer visitors, and it also puts you in great position to photograph the pu’u (cinder cones) in the crater with dramatic early morning light.

6. ‘Iao Valley – With good reason, a visit to ‘Iao Valley has long been a staple of Maui tourism. The main attraction is ‘Iao Needle, a volcanic remnant that abruptly rises 1200′ above a stream bed. The state park here is also an important cultural site and contains a botanical garden. Overcast skies won’t work for ‘Iao Needle, so go for a sunny day or dramatic clouds; nearby mountains keep the needle in shadow early in the morning.

Raindrops on taro leaf; Hana Coast, Maui, Hawaii. (Greg Vaughn/© Greg Vaughn)

Raindrops on taro leaf, Maui, Hawaii.

7. Maui Nui Botanical Gardens – Not far from the aiport at Kahului, Maui Nui Botanical Garden works to preserve and showcase Maui’s native and culturally significant plants. This is a great place to learn about and photograph species that are unique to Hawaii, as well as those that were introduced by early Polynesian settlers of the islands.

8. Kula Botanical Gardens – There is no shortage of good photo ops in Upcountry Maui, the local term for the west-facing slopes of Haleakala. Little towns and settlements are scattered across a broad area of ranches, farms, and forest. Tropical flowers like anthuriums, protea, plumeria, heliconias and orchids are grown commerically, and some of the operations welcome visitors. Kula Botanical Garden is especially photographer friendly and features several acres of exotic and native Hawaiian flora. You’ll probably also want to point your lenses at the koi pond and the resident Nene geese.

Man in surf at sunset on Kaanapali Beach at Hyatt Regency Resort, Maui, Hawaii. (Greg Vaughn)

Ka’anapali Beach sunset, Maui, Hawaii.

9. Ka’anapali Beach – The narrow strip of beach right in front of the Hyatt Regency Kaanapali Resort is one of my favorite locations for Maui sunsets. Nothing says the tropics like coconut palm trees hanging over a sandy beach, and mother nature puts on a show here most every night. With a wide composition, you can include Lanai Island on the horizon. Sunset not really happening tonight? Grab a mai tai at the beach bar and stick around for the twilight glow.

Palm trees and beach at dawn with Kahoolawe Island in distance; Kihei, Maui, Hawaii. (Greg Vaughn/© Greg Vaughn)

Palm trees and beach at dawn with Kahoolawe Island in distance; Kihei, Maui.

10. Kihei, Wailea & Makena Beaches – Just about any beach on the west side of Maui can be good for fiery sunsets. The quiet dawn light can also work very well here. The beaches on this part of the island, with the exception of Big Beach at Makena, are generally small sandy areas between ancient lava flows. Cocopalm trees have been planted along most of this coast, so it’s fairly easy to find a good composition with the palms either the main subject of your photo or used to frame the scene.

If you’ve been to Maui, you’re probably thinking, hey, what about this beach, and what about that waterfall?  Let me know your favorites by leaving a Comment.

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Feb 142014

Oregon became the 33rd of the United States on February 14th, 1859. To celebrate the day I’ve put up a little slideshow on my website with photographs that show some of the reasons that I love living here. Click on that link for a better, larger view of the photos.

If you’re an Oregon lover too, please share the show, and leave a Comment with your favorite thing about this great state.

Jan 282014

Central Oregon Visitors Guide cover

The Central Oregon Visitors Association chose one of my photos from Smith Rock State Park for the cover for this year’s Official Visitor Guide. Smith Rock is world famous as a rock climbing site – several of the popular routes are on the rock face on the right side of this photo. The state park is also a great place for hiking and for scenic landscape photography. This image also shows the Crooked River winding through the park and the view to distant Mount Jefferson through Asterisk Pass.

You can order a copy of the free visitors guide, or view it online, at the Central Oregon Visitors Association website.

Dec 172013

Covers of Photographing Oregon and Photographing Washington books

 Still looking for a Christmas present for a photographer friend, or maybe a little something for yourself? My travel guidebooks Photographing Oregon and Photographing Washington make excellent gifts. For nature and landscape photographers, they are a gift that will keep on giving for years to come, with excellent advice on where (and when) to go for the best nature photography opportunities in the Pacific Northwest.

From now until December 20th, I’m offering free shipping within the USA on both of these books, which amounts to about a 20% discount. The books will be shipped via USPS Priority Mail, so they should be delivered by December 24.

Here’s the deal: to get the discount, you’ll have to order the books here. When you add to the cart, it will include the normal shipping charge of $6.00.  This is a very short term sale, and changing the web page code to give the discount is a hassle, so what I’m doing instead is issuing you a $6.00 refund as soon as I receive your order.

Photographing Washington and Photographing Oregon are part of an award winning series of guides for photographers published by PhotoTripUSA. Both books get great reviews from those who have used them, and from those who buy them for friends and relatives. Click on the link and let me ship one or both to you at this special price.

Dec 052013
North Cascades Highway through Early Winters Valley with winter snow

North Cascades Highway through Early Winters Valley in winter.

As it does every year, the Washington State Department of Transportation has closed State Highway 20, commonly known as the North Cascades Highway. This incredibly scenic road is the most northerly route through the Cascade Mountains in the USA. Winter storms dump a lot of snow in this area, and there is a high danger of avalanches in several spots along the highway.

The road will stay closed until enough snow melts to lessen avalanche danger and make it possible for snow plows to safely clear the route. Most years, that is sometime in April, but it’s not unheard of for the road to be closed into May.

Many people don’t realize that only a portion of the highway is closed, and that it’s still possible to drive to some great places for access to North Cascades National Park and the Ross Lake National Recreation Area. The highway is gated just east of Diablo Dam and a few miles west of Winthrop in the Methow Valley, preventing access to the Washington Pass area at the crest of the Cascades.

On the western side of the Cascades, there’s no problem getting to the Rockport area to see and photograph one of the largest winter congregations of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. See my earlier blog post on viewing the bald eagles on the Skagit River.

The photo above shows the highway in the area of the big hairpin turn in Early Winters Valley just below Liberty Bell and the Early Winters Spires. It was taken from the overlook at Washington Pass, soon after an early winter storm but before the snow had accumulated enough to close the road.

For more information about State Highway 20, check the WSDOT website.  Some of the great locations for landscape and nature photography accessible via North Cascades Highway are detailed in my book Photographing Washington.

Dec 042013
Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes on vine

Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes on vine; Valley View Winery, southern Oregon.

Announcing my annual Holiday Sale: 20% off on all fine art photographic print orders. For the widest variety of print types and framing options, visit my gallery at FineArtAmerica. To get the discount, enter coupon code AYDTSH at checkout. Ordering from my collection at FineArtAmerica gives you the option of ordering print only, matted print, matted and framed print, canvas gallery wraps, prints on metal or acrylic, or even notecards.

Virtually every photograph on my website, www.GregVaughn.com, can be ordered as a print. Click on the “Buy” button on any image, select the “Prints” tab for prints on standard photographic paper, or select the “Products” tab for canvas gallery wrap prints. For images ordered via the online cart use coupon code HOL2013.

I’m also offering the 20% discount from the prices listed on http://www.gregvaughn.com/prints.html for my personally-crafted custom archival prints.

If you find an image on my website that isn’t in my collection at FineArtAmerica, but you’d like to order from that site so that you can get the complete matted and framed package or one of their other options, let me know and I’ll upload the photo to FAA.

The sale price is good through December 31, 2013, but please order by December 15 if you want it delivered before Christmas.

Nov 282013
Hot air balloons ascending during Red Rock Balloon Rally

Red Rock Balloon Rally, Gallup, New Mexico.

The annual Red Rock Balloon Rally is the second largest balloon rally in the world, surpassed only by the much more famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This rally has been held every year since 1981, and this year’s event, December 6-8, 2013, is expected to draw over 200 hot air balloons to Red Rock Park just outside of Gallup, New Mexico.

first balloons ascend at dawn from Red Rock Park

Dawn Patrol at Red Rock Park

One of the highlights of the rally is Dawn Patrol on Saturday morning. Pilots and their crews start inflating the balloons in the dark and begin their ascent just before sunrise. The balloons glow beautifully when the burners are fired up to fill the balloons with hot air.

Hot air balloon touching a sandstone canyon wall.

Hot air balloon touching a sandstone canyon wall.

The Red Rock Balloon Rally is especially great for photographers, not only because of the spectacular landscape of Red Rock Park, but also because there is easy access to the balloon launching area and to a variety of viewpoints. There is no admission charge for the event, and you might even be able to score a ride in one of the balloons. I had a thrilling ride aboard the balloon Aeolos, courtesy of pilot and owner Sam Tzamaloukas. Photographers need to note that space is extremely limited in the balloon baskets. You will not be able to bring a bag full of gear, and you won’t be able to move around much. My advice: one camera body with the widest lens you own and another body with a mid-range wide-to-tele zoom. Put a lens hood on each lens to prevent flare and to protect the lenses when they bang against the basket.

Here’s a link for more of my photos the Red Rock Balloon Rally.

Have you been to a hot air balloon festival?  Been up in a balloon?  On your bucket list?

Nov 062013
Ponytail Falls photograph from behind the waterfall

Ponytail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

The current generation of digital camera sensors have an amazing dynamic range. Coupled with the latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom, the available technology now gives photographers the ability to render contrasty scenes in a way that were next to impossible when shooting film. I was able to pull this image of Ponytail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge out of a single capture on a Nikon D600. No HDR apps, no time-consuming multiple frame blending.

The scene looking out from the alcove behind the waterfall had an extreme range of contrast, from the almost black rocks in the foreground to the bright light coming through the forest and the whitewater in the pool. I wouldn’t have even tried shooting such a contrasty scene with a transparency film like Velvia.

The very first time I shot with a pro-level DSLR, I was hooked on digital. My first captures showed me that I was no longer so constrained by the limitations of film. I finally had control of both contrast and color rendition. In the ten years I’ve been shooting digitally I’ve seen enormous improvements in image quality. And as we’ve all seen, photographers can now produce images that would have been impossible just a few years ago.

Do you think we’ll continue to see improvement on such a scale as the last decade?

Oct 232013
Multnomah Falls with trees in fall color

Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, in Autumn.

The peak of fall color is hitting the lower elevation areas of western Oregon this last week of October, which is pretty typical for this area. I paid a quick visit to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area on Saturday, 10/19/13, and found the the bigleaf maple trees throughout the the waterfall section of the Gorge have some good color. On some trees, the leaves had already turned brown or fallen, but on many others, the golden yellow foliage was just starting to happen. As seen in the photo above, the color at Multnomah Falls is fairly good; it should be even better in the next week or so. For nature and landscape photography in Oregon, the Gorge is the place to be from now through the first week of November.

On my way to the Gorge, I drove Highway 35 from the eastern slopes of Mount Hood down through the Hood River Valley. There is very little color at the high elevation areas like Mount Hood Meadows, but further down towards the valley the western larch or tamarack trees were starting to turn. They were more green than gold on Friday (10/18), but should also be looking very good in the coming days. Most of the vine maple along the highway was well past prime, but there were still a fair number of trees with brilliant reds and oranges.

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park

South Falls in Silver Falls State Park

On Tuesday, 10/22/13, I visited Silver Falls State Park, and found, much to my chagrin, that there is very little fall color left around the waterfalls. The leaves were gone from almost all of the bigleaf maple trees, and those that still clung to the branches were mostly brown. The good folks at the Friends of Silver Falls State Park Nature Store in the park told me that strong winds a couple of weeks ago had knocked down a good portion of the leaves, so it hasn’t been a great year for autumn color there. Even if the photo conditions weren’t great, it was great to walk the trails and enjoy the waterfalls on a cool, crisp autumn day.

In the Willamette Valley, ornamental maples and other landscape trees are looking great and there is spectacular color throughout parks and gardens. Grape vines in Wine Country are starting to turn, so the vineyards will soon be good photo subjects as well.

Where will you go for fall color photography – or where have you been?

Oct 162013
vine maple leaves with fall color

Vine maple in autumn, McKenzie River National Recreation Trail.

Autumn just may be the very best time of year for landscape and nature photography in Oregon. Every region of the state boasts locations with vivid fall color. As a bonus, the season for prime color is spread over a period of a couple of months, depending on elevation and region. Vine maples kick in with brilliant reds, oranges and yellows as early as late August in the high Cascade Mountains, while in the Columbia River Gorge the colorful foliage can last into early November. Bigleaf maple, with their large, golden- to lemony-yellow leaves are the predominant species for colorful foliage west of the Cascade crest, and pockets of aspen and cottonwood light up canyons and river sides east of the Cascades. Here are some suggestions for where to go to photograph the season’s wonders:

Multnomah Falls and Multnomah Falls Lodge in Autumn

Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge is a perennial favorite for fall color. Bigleaf maple line the Historic Columbia River Highway and brighten the forest at almost all waterfall sites. Peak color is generally late October through the first week of November.

Portland Japanese Garden with fall color

Portland Japanese Garden.

Just minutes from busy downtown, the Portland Japanese Garden is an oasis of serenity – well, except maybe on fall weekends, when throngs of visitors flock the garden in Washington Park. Nearby Hoyt Arboretum and Forest Park are also great places to find colorful foliage.

Torii Mor Vineyards driveway in the Dundee Hills.

Torii Mor Vineyards driveway in the Dundee Hills.

How about combining fall foliage photography with a little wine tasting? In late October the rows of grape vines turn yellow, and majestic oak and maple trees line the roads in Willamette Valley Wine Country .

Aufderheide Drive in Autumn.

Aufderheide Memorial Drive in Autumn.

The West Cascades Scenic Byway offers a route through the Cascade Mountains traversing north-south between Estacada and Oakridge. The southernmost leg of the route follows Forest Road 19 between the McKenzie River and Westfir. This section is also known as Aufderheide Memorial Drive, after a former USFS Willamette National Forest supervisor. The road passes through a forest of towering old-growth Douglas-fir trees, interspersed with plenty of bigleaf maple and vine maple.

South Falls in Silver Falls State Park

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park

Silver Falls State Park is a favorite of Oregon photographers in both spring and fall. Ten beautiful waterfalls are easily accessed from a loop trail. South Falls is perhaps the most photogenic, with several viewpoints for varied photo compositions. Get there mid- to late-October for the best color.

Ranch buildings and cottonwood trees in eastern Oregon.

Fall ranch scene in eastern Oregon.

Over in eastern Oregon, quaking aspen and cottonwood trees line meadows, canyons and river banks, and high up in the Blue Mountains the needles of the western larch (tamarack) trees, a deciduous conifer, turn yellow and orange. Fall color is best on this side of the state from mid-September to mid-October, depending on elevation.

Looking for places to photograph the season’s splendor a little further north? See my blog post from last year Top 10 Places for Fall Color Photography in Washington.

For more detailed information about locations for shooting fall color in the Pacific Northwest, see my books Photographing Oregon and Photographing Washington.

Where are your favorite places for making photos of the autumn hues?