March 30, 2017

2017 Milky Way Tour

This time of the year marks the beginning of Milky Way season for photographers and astronomy lovers alike. Confession time, prior to delving into picture taking, I rarely looked up at the skies and couldn't tell you the Big Dipper from a hole in my shoe!

But once I started shooting sunset/sunrise landscapes, I began noticing these incredible pictures of the Milky Way on the internet. As a novice, my initial thought was these images were taken with high end telescope cameras or some such doo-hickey beyond my reach. Then one of my friends posted a MW pic taken in Hawaii with camera gear that was equivalent to what I currently use. After further research, I find out that not only is MW photos possible for most folks, but that Hawaii is one of the best places to shoot due to less light pollution and advantageous weather conditions.

The image that headlines this post was my first attempt at Makapu'u Beach last year.  I was really happy with my first attempt and it even made a blogger's post, "80 Things to Do On Oahu-the Bucket List" at #59 ( I did a few more, but not as much as I would have liked. I tried my hand at photographing it above the lava on the Big Island, but it proved less than spectacular (although I'm going back to give it another try).

I promised myself I would go full speed this year,  marketing my determination as the "Milky Way Tour" for 2017! Much like a touring artist, I envisioned specific dates and locations to mark each shooting event.  

On March 25, I headed out to Kualoa Beach Park to photograph MW over Mokoli'i Island or as locals lovingly refer to as "Chinaman's Hat". I notice the Mokoli'i name used more often nowadays, quite possibly due to political correctness. While "chinaman" does have a derogatory connotation, it was never used in that manner in describing the island. Hawaii's melting pot culture really allowed races to experience and appreciate the uniqueness and difference that each nationality brought to the table. This familiarity also fostered friendly teasing  about these differences without taking offense. Thus Chinaman's Hat remains an affectionate and nostalgic term for many of the locals. What I thought was going to be a solo endeavor ended up a group affair with me encountering a dozen or so fellow photographers with the same idea...hah!

After grabbing four hours of sleep, followed by a full day of chores and errands, I somehow managed to pull myself out of bed and head out to Lanai Lookout at 3:00 am the next morning. The plan was to meet fellow shooters there in the parking lot, but the area was so dark that I did not see one single person. I knew they were out there from the various camera lights shining in the dark. Clouds, which are a photog's best friend at sunrise/sunset, is a major boon (along with a full moon) when shooting MW. Undaunted, I headed out to the parking lot and hoped for spots of clear skies. Prior to heading down the cliff, I spotted these two warning signs and knew immediately it might make for cool foreground imagery. The signs are actually white and yellow, but in a stroke of sheer luck, a passing car was slowing down and flashing his brake. The lights were enough to give the signs a nice reddish glow, giving the image a more ominous feel as the Milky Way stretches out into the distance.  

Because it was a three day weekend, I journeyed out to Hawaii Kai on Monday to shoot a carnival from a distance. The destination was Kuliouou Park, a duck sanctuary, that provides a variety of beach textures due to low tides (my wife and I took our dogs out there on Saturday where they were literally running and playing a good distance out from shore). While there, I saw the carnival from afar and knew it might make a pretty cool shot at sunset. And man, was the sunset amazing on Monday, only in the opposite direction...LOL! I kept moving my camera back and forth like a loony Daffy Duck, trying to capture the setting sun in the west, and the fading lights over the carnival in the east. What I ended up doing is replacing the sky over the carnival with a MW composite shot later in the evening. I must have shot nearly five hundred images over those three days and walked away with four good shots. But for me, it's the final product that matters, so I'm pretty happy.

Heading out to the Big Island this weekend for a long overdue vacation. I'm bringing my gear, so I don't expect it will be fully restful. Let the 2017 Milky Way Tour continue!

 (Photographs copyright 2017 by Len Yokoyama. All rights reserved)

No comments: