July 3, 2017

When Images Collide

The title of this post is an ode to the George Pal sci-fi-fi classic "When Worlds Collide", but this entry has nothing to do with it...haha! Instead, it's a little story of how things come together sometimes in my photographic journey. By all accounts, I'm definitely not what you would call a "photo journalist".  My images are just a little off skewed and tend to look a little hyper-realistic. That being said, I'm not a photoshop maverick either, editing and compositing bits and pieces from different images to craft something totally new and unique. The accompanying images probably fall somewhere in between.

Last weekend, I did something I rarely do, shoot both sunrise and the milky way in the same day! For the morning shots, I'm usually out of bed and downing a cup of coffee by 4:00 am. For this instance, I had a model shoot at Lanai Lookout, a popular spot for wedding couples during the day. It was near here that the famous "From Here to Eternity" beach scene with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr was filmed. Because we had to access our area through rocky terrain via a lava cave (while carrying a bench and camera gear), I gave ourselves extra time, so my alarm was set at 3:00 am. Once we arrived without any mishap, the group quickly set up in order to be ready for the approaching sunrise. The window for the "golden hour" when the sky has that unmistakable orange/yellow cast is very short, so you need to get your shots done quickly and correctly!

I had worked with Katie last year on a portrait shoot before she left for Harvard University. Bright and charismatic, Katie is a natural in front of the camera and was game for an early outdoor shoot (even if it meant waking up crazy early). Our prior work together was strictly in studio, so an outdoor setting was a natural progression.

The waves on the south side of Oahu had been pretty high all week...in the 8-12 foot range. People have been swept off shore... lost at sea with one fell swoop of a powerful wave. Safety is always the highest priority when shooting at a beach area. Add in to the fact that "King Tides" (highest tides of the year) was set to his Friday night and the session was in doubt until we actually made our way to the shoreline.

God, with His infinite blessings, gave us a beautiful sunrise with various shades of orange and yellow dotting the cloud filled skies. We worked quickly to set Katie up while I began firing test shots to calibrate the off camera lighting. Shooting sunrise is tricky, as I need to expose for the background, which invariably leads to an underexposed model. Trying to add enough light to Katie without it being overwhelming (something camera flashes in auto mode often produce) is a trial and error process for me. I do have a light meter, but I find it quicker to make an educated guess and adjust from there.

After finding the sweet spot, we did a number of poses including one for the panorama seen at the end of this post. While the sunrise is always a breathtaking sight, I had this ideal of putting the milky way in the pano image. So, after waking at three in the morning, I found myself heading back at Lanai Lookout around midnight to shoot the night sky. Sitting at the edge of the cave, camera mounted on a tripod for long exposures, the quiet and peaceful surroundings gave me time to marvel at God's incredible handiwork.  Not a soul in sight but for the stars and ocean.

And to really put me in the "bonkers" category, I headed up to the to the top of Hanauma Bay Ridge trail earlier to photograph a cell tower against the Milky Way. It's a good mile and a half to the top at a steep incline, but I somehow managed to make it. 

All in all, it was a pretty successful Saturday from dawn to dusk. Enjoy these images....

(Photographs Copyright 2017 by Len Yokoyama)

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