David J Grenier
Fine Art Photography


David J Grenier Fine Art Photography

Adventures in Hawaiʻi, June 2015

I had the pleasure of journeying back to the Hawaiian Islands in May 2015 for a photoshoot, together with two photographer friends, Eric Emerson and Michael Heathman, both accomplished fine art photographers from California. I have travelled to Hawaiʻi at least twenty times over the last 15 years, a place that I feel very much at home because it reminds me of my original birth island, Sri Lanka, in many ways as it is tropical, with mild yet humid temperatures year round, an easy laid back style of living, and monsoonal rains that are typical of the tropics. A little about Hawaiʻi from Wikipedia: Hawaiʻi is the 50th and most recent US State to join the United States, having joined on August 21, 1959. Hawaiʻi is the only U.S. state located in Oceania and the only one composed entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean. Hawaiʻi is the only U.S. state not located in the Americas. The state does not observe daylight savings time.

The state encompasses nearly the entire volcanic Hawaiʻian archipelago, which comprises hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 miles (2,400 km). At the southeastern end of the archipelago, the eight main islands are—in order from northwest to southeast: Niʻhau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lanaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui and the Island of Hawaiʻi. The last is the largest island in the group; it is often called the "Big Island" or "Hawaiʻi Island" to avoid confusion with the state or archipelago. 

The trip this year took us to the Big Island (2 nights) and Maui (8 nights). On the Big Island a goal was to shoot the Milky Way from the look out at Kilauea, with the cauldron ablaze on the ground, compositionally aligned with the Milky Way in the Heavens. In Maui I did not have any specific goals as this was my first visit, and hoped to capture a tropical sunrise and sunset, famous and common in these islands. In this blog post I have included six of my favorite images from the trip, as well as a wider selection in the form of a slideshow in an iMovie embedded below.


'Fire in the Stars' ~ Kilauea ablaze and the Milky Way aglow, the only chance we were given to capture both attractions, on the morning of May 16, 2015 at 4:31 am. It was an inspiring, albeit fleeting moment to witness both before the reddish clouds above the glowing lava in the cauldron moved over to block visibility of the Milky Way. Our attempt to shoot this again the next morning were thwarted by heavy rains, so this was the only shot I managed to sneak away with from this magical sight!


'Kīlauea Sunrise' ~ this was a 5:00 am shot of the glow generated by the lava lake in Kīlauea, a currently active volcano, and the most active of the five volcanoes that together form the island of Hawaiʻi, and, perhaps the most active volcano on earth. There is something very primal and attractive for us humans to see molten lava, which builds and yet destroys, and is largely uncontrollable by mankind!


'Awakening' ~ sunrise at Koki Beach, just south of Hana on the east coast of Maui. The large red cinder hill to the left is Ka Iwi o Pele, where Hawaiian Mythology tells the bones of Pele were left after a fatal battle with her older sister. In more recent times, this hill now belongs to Oprah, as part of a 105 acre parcel that she bought from Hana Ranch in 2002. Pele, the Fire Goddess, is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes and the creator of the Hawaiian Islands.


'Lion de la Mer' ~ I captured this image in a little cove just south of Hana on the east coast, very close to the house we had rented that we stayed in for four nights. This was my first visit to Maui (haven't been on a Hawaiian island yet that I did not like), and if you look closely you will find the Lion of the Sea!


'Maui Sunset' ~ we have had two evenings of spectacular sunsets, this one being from our first day in Kihei, located in south west Maui (on the horizon, the islands of Lanaʻi to the right, and Molokaʻi in the middle).


'Swept Away' ~ our final sunset on the last day of our visit to Maui, captured at La Perouse Bay or Keoneʻoʻio Bay, which is located south of the town of Wailea.  The bay's Hawaiian name is Keoneʻoʻio. It was later named for the French explorer Captain Jean-Francois de Galaup, compte de La Perouse, who, in 1786, surveyed and mapped the prominent embayment, and is the site of Maui's most recent volcanic activity.

Another item of interest about Hawaiʻi, from Wikipedia ~ The Hawaiian language takes its name from the largest island, Hawaiʻi, where it developed, originally from a Polynesian language of the South Pacific, most likely Marquesan or Tahitian. The island name was first written in English in 1778 by British explorer James Cook and his crew members. The Hawaiian alphabet only uses 12 Roman letters - a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l, m, n, p, w; five vowels (long and short) and eight consonants, one of them being a glottal stop (ʻ) (called ʻokina in Hawaiian).

Captain James Cook was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy. Cook made detailed maps of Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. Cook was killed in Hawaii in a fight with Hawaiians during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific in 1779. He left a legacy of scientific and geographical knowledge which was to influence his successors well into the 20th century and numerous memorials worldwide have been dedicated to him.

In closing, I am often asked 'what is your favorite Hawaiian island'? It is difficult for me to choose just one (I have visited Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Maui and the Island of Hawaiʻi), as each island is different, has it's own uniqueness and charms. But if I absolutely must choose one from the perspective of a landscape photographer, I would go with Kauaʻi, often referred to as the 'Garden Isle', for good reasons!

Mahalo to these magical island for now, and look forward to my next visit!