Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Jon Cornforth returned from his latest visits to Hawaii and American Samoa with treasures galore

In recent months, Jon Cornforth has made several photo trips to the Hawaiian Islands and American Samoa. At the Kaloko Honokohau National Historic Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jon photographed this small sea turtle at sunset resting on the lava shoreline north of the small boat harbor. "I was lucky that the sky lit up like this, because the fog and clouds often block the magic light at the end of the day in Kona. My friend and fellow photographer, Stuart Westmorland, was using a flash next to me, which fortunately added a bit of fill light to the otherwise backlit turtle. I normally dislike flash, but in this case the fill-light is perfectly balanced with the ambient light. I might have to buy myself a flash.

"I created this image -- as well as all the others in this story -- with either my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 28mm or 35mm f2 ZE lens, a Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer, and Singh-Ray Graduated Neutral Density filters. These images are all single-exposures which required a minimal amount of processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

"I created this image while visiting Hana, Hawaii, with my family. This rugged lava coastline could be anywhere in Hawaii, but this particular location is near Kaihalulu (Red Sand) Beach. I was captivated by this small waterfall cascading off of the lava ledge, so I returned a few mornings in a row searching for dramatic light. After several failed attempts, I was finally able to photograph the dynamic scene that I envisioned. I had to be set up early, and fully confident in my skills, because this light only lasted for a fleeting moment before vanishing. I don’t normally like to shoot into the sun due to lens flare, but the sun was so low on the horizon that the wave actually blocked part of it. I also had to be willing to get my camera wet, which my recent $900 repair bill from Canon will attest to. I also like how the wave is rearing up and about to crash against the shore.

"I finally had the opportunity to photograph snow on the summit of Mauna Kea during my February visit to the Big Island of Hawaii. After more than a decade of trying, it was nice to finally be able to experience being at the beach in the morning and then driving up to the snowy summit in the afternoon. I visited the summit during previous trips. It's a straightforward drive, but getting out of the car and walking around at 13,796′ above sea level is the real challenge. From the highest drivable point, it is only a few hundred yards and slightly up hill to the true summit. I put on every piece of clothing I brought to Hawaii, including, thankfully, my winter hat, and set out from the parking lot about an hour before sunset. Each step in the snow was a challenge, but after a short time I was on the summit. I was immediately drawn to this wind sculpted ridge slightly south along the summit ridge, especially since it did not appear to have any footprints. Once I settled into place with my tripod, I waited for the golden light less than an hour later. I got cold, especially my hands. I noticed the sunlight was causing some glare spots on my image, so I held my hand on the side of the lens to block the direct light. It’s amazing how quickly the sun sets at the equator.

"After spending two adventurous weeks in American Samoa at the beginning of December, I flew back to Hawaii to meet my family for our winter vacation. The first island we visited was Lanai. I had camped at Manele Bay several years ago and had always wanted to return. It's a fantastic campground for anyone interested in visiting Lanai, but doesn’t feel up to spending the money to stay at the nearby Four Seasons resort. I spent most of my day relaxing at the beach, but set out to photograph the surreal landscape of the Garden of the Gods in the late afternoon. These unusual rock formations are located high in the center of the island down a winding 4-wheel-drive road. This is one of my favorite images after several visits. Every afternoon, the clouds built up over the center of the island, but the horizon was mostly clear to the west. This weather combination allowed me to photograph this scene with very dramatic light.

"I photographed this dramatic sunset while visiting the US National Park of American Samoa on Ofu Island. It took a lot of effort to travel to this out-of-the-way tropical destination, which was part of the charm. However, the park's remote location also explains why it is the least visited of the US National Parks. I stayed at the Vaoto Lodge where Jim, Ben, & Marge were delightful hosts. Other than the two researchers who were doing coral studies, I had the entire stretch of beach in the Park all to myself. I photographed a number of brilliant sunrise and sunset images, but this was the most spectacular. As much as I travel, it is still special when the clouds light up with intense color like this. I composed this image by framing the dramatic peaks in the distance with this eroded limestone shelf with waves washing over it in the foreground.

"I am excited to share that my “Discover Digital Quick Tips” article was published in the April 2012 issue of Outdoor Photographer! The article offers advice on what my top processing techniques are and how to use them to make your own images look even more spectacular. You can also read it online.

"I have multiple trips planned to Alaska, plus my first trip to Tonga. This fall, I will also be joining a small sailboat expedition to South Georgia Island for 4 weeks. As you can see, I have a lot of exciting things going on and many new images to be created."

Jon not only regularly publishes images and articles with Outdoor Photographer and Popular Photography, he also sells fine art prints, and is active on social media where he regularly shares his most recent adventures as well as provides photography tips. Jon also leads several photography tours each year, including his upcoming Alaska's Polar Bear tour this October and Japan's Winter Wildlife in February 2013.

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