I recently had the good fortune of leading a Destination Workshop for Canon over to the Big Island of Hawaii. It is always wonderful to return to the largest of the chain of Hawaiian Islands and the most extreme!
My week began with catching up with old friends on arrival day before the “kids” arrive for the workshop.
I was contacted early by two attendees who were looking to fly over the active lava fields up on the Pali, (the hills) as the lava makes its way from the caldera down to the ocean. We booked an early morning helicopter flight to be at the crater just before sunrise. Our trip coincided with both the summer solstice and the new moon, providing us very long days and plenty of darkness once the sun set. After all, our workshop was titled “Waterfalls, Stars and Lava.”
Brian, Mike and I met at the hanger at 4:30 am to watch our pilot Sean prepare our bird to take us over the 2000 degree flowing lava, all without the doors to inhibit our movement or vision. We were soon airborne en route to the glow on the horizon. We reached our first of a few destinations in about 20 minutes.
Here we hover over the caldera looking into the churning lava lake. It is a sight that one can never get enough of. Looking down into the center of the earth is a remarkable feeling. So is feeling the heat that rises up to greet you.
Sean would hover above so each side could get an unobstructed view into the crater.
We would journey down the Pali where Sean would scan the horizon for outbreaks of lava that came to the surface. The breakouts are always changing providing us with a rather target rich environment.
We took a pass over to the ocean entry to watch as the flow enters the water, creating huge steam plumes as the hot lava meets the 80 degree waters. With recent activity on New Years Eve causing a 27 acre delta to fall into the ocean, aircraft are now restricted to a 1000 foot altitude and 300 foot lateral limitation. We stayed there for just a few minutes longer heading back to see more breakouts before we needed to head back to the airport.
The resulting imagery was diverse and spectacular as you can see here.
My main camera of choice was my Canon 1DX Mark II with the EF 100-400 mm. I was able to make good use of the 1DX2 and its powerful 14 frames per second as visibility was ever changing, revealing and then hiding the magnificent views below us.
I brought the kids over to my favorite locations all around the Island for either sunrise or sunset. Our first night together greeted us with very unusual conditions, that being a clear sky above Volcano National Park, inviting us to capture the Milky Way over the glowing crater that we flew over the morning prior. On the ride home, my kids could not stop sharing that the class had already exceeded their expectations. Not bad for day one!
During the rest of our time together, the kids were led to the finest beaches, waterfalls and on the final night, we drove to the top of a long dormant volcano called Maura Kea, sitting at 13,800 above sea level. We were treated to a gorgeous sunset only to watch the clouds dissipate as night fell, revealing the darkest skies that I can ever remember seeing. After I did a little reconisence mission up on top of the hill, I came back and brought my class to our final spectacular perch, overlooking the international observatories with the Milky Way rising above them. We were alone with the exception of scientists and security. What a magnificent view we enjoyed that few get to experience.
It was soon time to leave the 30 degree summit dressed in hat, gloves, thermals and down jackets to return to the warmth of the town of Hilo.
This was a class adventure that will be hard to top.
After saying our goodbyes around Midnight, we all headed to bed with a heart full of joy and contentment. Everyone certainly slept well that night. All except an attendee named Dan and I. We were only going to be able to grab a quick nap as we had a sunrise boat ride out to see the lava ocean entry from as close as 30 feet. The rough seas made the sunrise captures a bit of a challenge but nothing that some ISO and higher shutter speeds would help with.
This adventure was the cherry on top of the sundae for sure! I don’t remember any workshop being this full of action providing once in a lifetime imagery.
Please visit the Canon website to see what other Destination Workshops are coming up.
I will share this with you, in 2018, be ready to join me on another Canon Destination workshop to chase my favorite muse, the Aurora Borealis!
This is one workshop that will surely sell out in minutes. I hope that you can join me as I take 16 lucky photo enthusiasts on one of the coolest experiences that you can ever imagine.
Ken Sklute has been honored as one of Canon’s Explorers of Light, a designation shared by only 60 top photographers worldwide. Ken has enjoyed a diverse career photographing landscapes, professional sports, and people.
Phone: (602) 738-0601