Cherry Blossoms

When we visited Washington D.C. in 2016, we tried our best to time our trip to match the blooming of the cherry trees. They bloom in spring for about 1 week (possibly less, depending on weather and wind), but that one week can fall anywhere in a month and a half window. We knew it had been a very warm winter, so we knew they were likely to bloom early and scheduled the trip and time off of work for our best-guess weekend.

Alas, as it turns out, we were a week late. The trees bloomed record early, and by the time we go there there were just a few straggling blossoms here and there.

Cherry Blossoms

1/800 at f8, ISO 400

Except, as it turns out, for one tree out of the thousands that was in peak bloom just in time for our arrival. S0 as it turns out we did have the opportunity to get a picture of a cherry tree in full bloom.

Bei Bei

When we visited Washington DC in 2016, one of the must stops was the Smithsonian National Zoo — specifically to see the giant pandas, and more specifically to see Bei Bei, the baby panda.

Bei Bei the baby Giant Panda

1/500 at f5.6, ISO 800

The National Zoo in general was great, and we got to the panda exhibit just in time to see Bei Bei’s mother Mei Xiang playing with Bei Bei, running around and wrestling. It was adorable, and I got quickly got a handful of shots. Within minutes the keepers called the pandas into the nearby building for something, and that was the end of Bei Bei for the day. We were very happy we didn’t arrive a few minutes later — we’d have missed Bei Bei entirely (and probably would have had to schedule another trip under the demands of my wife).

First Sunrise in the US

On Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine, if you’re willing to get up in pitch darkness and drive up to the top of Cadillac Mountain, you can be among the first people in the US to see the sun rise. When we visited, we did just that.

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, Maine

1/500 at f4.5, ISO 400

We ended up with a fairly unimpressive sunrise due to cloud cover that did not cooperate, but it was still a really great experience — and once that we shared with around a hundred other people. I was shocked at how crowded the Cadillac Mountain summit was (and annoyed how people kept wandering in front of my tripod and sitting down right in the middle of my shot, causing me to continually have to move). Here’s a look at the part of the summit crowd.

Sunrise watchers on Cadillac Mountain summit

After the show was over and the sun was well into the sky, we debated whether to try to come again the next day in hopes of a more spectacular sunrise, but quickly agreed that Hell No. Wife went back to the B&B to sleep, while I wandered around a nearly deserted Acadia in the early morning for a few hours.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

We traveled up the coast on Maine in early summer of 2016 and spent several days in Acadia National Park, which was absolutely lovely. While there, we made a quick trip down to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, because my wife loves lighthouses. We went at sunset, because I wanted a picture of the lighthouse.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

1/200 at f3.5, ISO 400

Getting a picture requires climbing down a steep staircase and then scrambling out across some rocks — and those rocks are only available to scramble to at low tide. So we actually scheduled which day we’d hit the lighthouse based on when low tide matched up with sunset (and if I’m being honest, I also scheduled the trip to make sure the two would align).

We didn’t have a particularly spectacular sunset that evening, but still got a peasant photo of the lighthouse in action — both myself and another guy standing out on a low flat rock with our tripods and water splashing up against our feet.

Lake Cabin Snowstorm

This picture comes from almost exactly a year ago in 2015, when my fiance and I rented a cabin in the New Hampshire woods for her birthday weekend. The cabin sat on a hill overlooking a lake, and almost as soon as we arrived is started snowing, and snowing heavily. This was a year of legendary snow for the New England area, and the snow we got while up there only piled on top of existing snow.

Lake Cabin Snowstorm

1/90 at f5.5, 100mm, ISO 200

It was a perfectly picturesque setting for a winter weekend at a cabin. The lake below the cabin had a small island on it, with a tiny cabin on the island itself. One afternoon I wrestled the tripod into the snow to get this shot of the lake amidst the falling snow, which quickly became one of my favorite winter shots.

Winter Wonderland

We had one of those horrible, awful snowstorms today. Not the ones that drop feet of snow — worse than that. There might be only 8 inches or so, but it started as rain, and even after converting to snow it was wet, sticky, heavy snow. The kind where each shovelful weighs more than you do, and there’s a layer of slush beneath the snow.

On the bright side, that’s also the kind of snow that clings to trees, and fences, and everything as it falls, temporarily turning the world into the kind of winter wonderland that only comes once every few years. And today’s was the most amazing I think I’ve ever seen: every tree branch and twig was coated in white. It was stunning.

Snowy New England Pond

1/125 at f2.8, ISO 800

Alas I had to spend the magical day in the office, but as soon as my train brought me home (thankfully on time, without the delays of the trains before and after mine, due to engine failure and a downed tree on the tracks) I raced to grab my camera and ran down the block to get some shots of what landscape I could nearby before the light faded.

Sunset over winter pond

1/160 at f2.8, ISO 800

Because by morning, mark my words, it’ll start to melt off the trees when the sun comes out and the snow fill fall in clump, leaving only the typical clusters of snow on the evergreens and thickest branches.

Snow covered trees

1/80 at f2.8, ISO 800

Living most of my life in Minnesota, I’ve seen plenty of snow, and plenty of wet snow clinging to branches. But I’ve never seen anything like today’s Massachusetts winter. I’m very happy there’s a little pond just down the street from my house where I could get some nice shots of the winter sunset before the light was gone. I think one of these is going to get printed to add to our winter photos collection.

Snow covered trees by pond

1/50 at f2.8, ISO 800

Photography in winter may be a pain in the ass, trudging through knee-high snow (which I did have to do to get to this pond), but every now and then it really pays off with something special. Very happy with these.

Mauna Kea Summit Sunset

While we were in Hawaii, we went up to the summit of Mauna Kea, the largest volcano in the US, to watch the sun set. Normally I’m opposed to sunset pictures (much like flower pictures), but watching the sun setting beneath the clouds far below was cool enough that I was willing to make an exception.

Mauna Kea Sunset

3.6 sec at f5.3, ISO 200

Mauna Kea is also one of the best places in the world for astronomical observation, due to its height above the clouds and much of the atmosphere combined with being on an island in the middle of the Pacific with serious light pollution laws. The summit was covered with a bunch of massive telescopes, including this one.

Telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea

1/10th sec at f5.3, ISO 400

More Hawaii Waterfalls

I went to Hawaii prepared to take pictures of waterfalls — tripod, cable release, and neutral density filters. And while Rainbow Falls was the best waterfall picture I got, there were several others:

Kulaniapia Falls

Kulaniapia Falls Hawaii

3 sec at f5.0, ISO 200

This waterfall was directly behind the B&B we stayed in on the Hilo side of the island. We could literally hear the roaring of the falls as we fell asleep, and watch and listen to it as we ate breakfast on the deck outside the main building each morning. You could also climb down and swim beneath the falls; however, when we were there they were running too high and no one was allowed to swim.

It would have been nearly a perfect place to stay, except that there was no air conditioning, which meant sleeping with all windows open and still being uncomfortably hot. And because the screens were bad, it then meant getting eaten by mosquitoes all night.

Boulder Creek Falls

Boulder Creek Falls Hawaii

2.5 sec at f22, ISO 200

This was a wee little waterfall in the Tropical Botanical Gardens, which was probably the coolest place we visited on the Hilo side. A massive area of large paved trails through a rainforest garden filled with amazing tropical flowers.

Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls Hawaii

1/250 at f3.5, ISO 400

This is the largest waterfall in Hawaii and it’s pretty easy to get to — just a short walk down some trails from the parking lot. Unfortunately the area overlooking the falls is set fairly low, so it’s impossible to actually see the base of the falls. I managed to get this shot by standing on the base of the fence and holding the camera as high over my head as I could.

I managed to get a decent shot using that method, but if they just had a six-foot viewing platform at the overlook, then everyone could see the entire falls.

Hawaii Beaches: Waialea & Green Sand Beach

While we were in Hawaii I found it surprisingly difficult to get good beach shots — largely because so many beaches were so packed with people, no matter the day of the week or the time of the day. When I did come across a lovely empty expanse of pretty beach, it was overcast and the water looked the same muddy gray as the sky.

So here are some of the few beach shots I managed to get:

Waialea Beach

Waialea Beach Hawaii
1/200 at f5.6, 35mm, ISO 200

Waialea Beach is on the Kona side of the big island, just south of Hapuna beach. It’s a rocky beach with a bunch of shade trees, as opposed to the gorgeous white sand of Hapuna beach. Waialea was still really crowded, but I managed to get this shot lined up and waiting for people to stop walking in front of me, and hit the trigger just as some swimmers went behind the big rock and were temporarily out of sight.

Green Sand Beach

Green Sand Beach Hawaii
1/125 at f4.5, 42mm, ISO200

Green Sand Beach, on the southern tip of the island just northeast of South Point (the southern most point in the US), is an absolute horror to get to. You drive to the nearest lot and then it’s a 3 mile one-way hike across a dusty, barren, blazingly hot landscape to a descent into the rare green sand beach. We managed to get a ride in the back of a pickup from a local who was charging $15 for the trip, and I think that might have been even worse. The “roads” were horribly rutted and the back of the pickup was bottoming out, and there was no door on the back. It was a nightmare ride and I arrived covered in dust. I was blowing more and more dust out of my nose for the rest of the day.

When we got there we discovered that the wee beach was positively packed solid with people, and this was the best shot I could get without skinny guys in tiny speedos in the shot. The sand was, however, actually green.

A Random Wave

1/250 at f5.6, 170mm, ISO 400

Here is a shot of a wave curling at the beach of the Hualalai resort where we stayed for our first few days. I really wanted to get a cool curling wave shot, but of course we were there in summer when the waves are smaller — and we were there during a hot low surf period as well. So this was as good as it gets. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of stop motion on the wave: I had thought 1/250 would be sufficient speed, but I definitely know next time to really get the shutter speed up there, 1/500 at a minimum.

Rainbow Falls

I spent a good chunk of this summer getting married. Once the work was out of the way, we went on our honeymoon on Big Island, Hawaii. With glorious beaches, volcanoes, rain forests, and waterfalls I took a lot of pictures. I’m still slowly digging through and processing them, and I suspect I’ll be posting them here for the next year or more, given how seldom I remember to update this site.

For my first honeymoon shot, here is Rainbow Falls in Hawaii:

2.2 sec at f11, 200mm, ISO 200, 3-stop ND filter

We spent our last few days in Hawaii on the Hilo side of big island, the east side that is also the wet side. This is where you find all the rain forests and waterfalls, including Rainbow Falls. Rainbow Falls is named for the rainbow that appears by the falls under the right conditions. I really wanted to be able to see the rainbow and so did a lot of research on when it appears and even cleared spots on our schedule over two different days so we could go back if conditions weren’t right the first time.

Happily we arrived at about 10:30 am and the sun was shining (you need the sun, which is very unreliable in a rain forest). There was no hiking involved either, which was a nice change of pace. You just drive up into a parking lot and the falls are right there.

At first we didn’t see the rainbow, because we were looking for it to appear in front of the falls themselves. Finally I noticed it just over the water beneath the falls and quickly adjusted my camera position. I used a 3-stop neutral density filter to get a long enough exposure in the bright light and probably took somewhere north of 40 pictures. The rainbow faded in and out depending on the sun and the spray, and in half the shots it faded away just after I hit the shutter.

In the end I got a good dozen shots with the rainbow nice and bright, and of them this is probably my favorite balance between falls exposure and rainbow (the brighter the exposure, the better the rainbow, but then the falls were blasted out pure white). I suspect we’ll be printing this one to hang on our walls.

A good reminder of an epic honeymoon.

Return top

PhotoBug Blog

Photo Bug is the home of Brian's very occasionally updated photography journal. Posts are sporadic, and I keep swearing that some day I'll dig through the archives and start filling things up. Some day...