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Tropical Paradise, Akaka Falls State Park, Hawaii

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 5 August 2010 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

On the road again....

I'm writing from a Starbucks in the Payson, Arizona Safeway--ahhh, the glamorous life of a nature photographer. All this travel has been great, but it does make it hard to keep up with my blog. Nevertheless, I'm still slowly making it through my Hawaii images, including today's from the Big Island. When Don Smith and I detoured to Hilo on Hawaii following Don's Kauai workshop, it was to photograph lava and volcanos. What really surprised me was the lushness of the area around Hilo--in many places at least as lush as Kauai.

My first clue to what was in store came as our plane approached Hilo and I spied several spectacular waterfalls through the window. I figured if they're that visible from the air, the view on the ground must be spectacular. So on the one full day we had on Hawaii, Don and I went exploring. Of the several photographable waterfalls we found, I think my favorites were in Akaka Falls State Park, about 30 minutes outside Hilo. Here we took a short walk (less than a mile) through a densely knit jungle of brilliant flowers, dangling vines, graceful trees, towering bamboo, and a host of other exotic plants. But the highlight of the of the walk for me was the two towering waterfalls plunging into calm pools carved into the jungle floor.

In this image is Akaka Fall, the more photographable (by virtue of its location) of the two. As you may have figured out, I've photographed a few waterfalls in my day, but none in a lush tropical setting like this. So rather than simply capture the fall from top to bottom with a vertical frame, I chose to compose it horizontally and emphasize the surrounding jungle as well. The overcast sky, which made for steamy air almost as thick as the jungle, provided ideal light, making exposure easy. Believe it or not, this composition only shows about 1/3 of the fall, but I think (hope) truncating the top and bottom enables you to use your imagination to complete a scene that no camera could do justice.

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

Barbara from Oakland, United States

This is just great, Gary! Sharp focus throughout and the wonderful colors of the greens just make this image!

5 Aug 2010 5:38am

shoti from somewhere in, China

could be the garden of Eden. where's the tree of knowledge of good and evil? :) a beautiful catch. looks like paradise indeed, Gary.

5 Aug 2010 5:51am

Judy aka Ladybug from Brooksville, Florida, United States

That must have been a steamy hike, but so worth it to get to the falls. This screams of the lushness surrounding you, with vibrant greens in the soft light.

5 Aug 2010 11:30am

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

These waterfalls are just wonderful ! The vegetation all around is very beautiful too... great capture again Gary ! Have a wonderful day :)

5 Aug 2010 11:51am

Julie Brown from Indianapolis, United States

The horizontal comp is wonderful. Including the surrounding vegetation was a great choice!

5 Aug 2010 1:58pm

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

Gary - Many years ago I hiked the trail at Sacred Falls S.P. on Maui before they had to close it a year later. Not since that time, have I seen such an image of beauty and vibrancy. I don't remember the names of all the plants (other than perhaps that gorgeous huge philodendrun() but the way you have composed this is just magical. The pano or horizontal view magnificently and absolutely acheives your intent and it conveys this entire scene in such a way that it is impossible not to simply "soak in" rhe lushness and awesome beauty. The "cast" of players in this image blend so well, yet each is clearly evident by itself. This is a masterpiece Gary!! I love it.

5 Aug 2010 2:20pm

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

ps - I wonder if the Payson,AZ SafewayStarbucks is any better than the Bellevue,WA Safeway Starbuks :-)

5 Aug 2010 2:23pm

JOEMULLIGAN from burnsville, nc, United States

great image. i love the way you cut the falls off at top and bottom. I think it's more powerful that way. You feel the force of the water instead of a long slender stream of light.....which could also be beautiful.

5 Aug 2010 3:35pm

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States


5 Aug 2010 3:49pm

Marianne Bush from Belmont, United States

Pure magic, Gary. You just threw a huge chunk of inspiration my way. Fabulous composition and wonderful focus and clarity.

6 Aug 2010 1:03am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

wonderful, lush green surrounds the waterfall and i like how it is almost hidden behind all the interest in the foreground! beautifully captured!

6 Aug 2010 3:17am

steve loos from hollister, United States

Is the "you had me at Lei" spot? ha ha ha. Very beautiful image Gary; I love the bright sharply focused plants in the foreground.

6 Aug 2010 3:20am

jamesy from christchurch, New Zealand

fabulous shot

6 Aug 2010 6:29am

ManuelaR from Hainburg (Frankfurt/Main), Germany

Wonderful, love everything about it!

6 Aug 2010 8:33am

Vaido from Võrumaa, Estonia

Very nice framing... This light exposes well plant and wall textures.

6 Aug 2010 9:29am

pixator from kerman, Iran

Very beautiful !

6 Aug 2010 7:13pm

Julie from Easton, United States

Those falls are simply beautiful and you have captured them in such a nice way!

8 Aug 2010 3:26am

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria

Wonderful image!

8 Aug 2010 7:35pm

Wild Mustang Photography from Carlisle, United States

Stunning ,perfect shot! 5*****!

9 Aug 2010 3:35am

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

Wow! I love the tropical surroundings...I can feel the warm air and hear the water!

10 Aug 2010 6:44pm

Dutçh from Chicagoland, United States

The fall had to be immense if this is only a third. Interestingly, centered in the photo, it's perfect which pushes aside that rule of thirds. There are times to.. and times not to. This was a not and its just gorgeous!

10 Aug 2010 7:37pm

Roland from Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Was just there day before yesterday but didn't think of zooming in so close, love this one... Took some great shots myself, will just take a bit till I'm back home after 2 months traveling through the USA National Parks editing all the images...

11 Aug 2010 12:46am

Lin Ritter-Gilbert-Piest from Mesa, United States

Gary--Your photos are OUTSTANDING. Next time you're ANYWHERE in Arizona, be it Page, Payson or elsewhere, we'd LOVE to meet up with you. My husband is truly interested in THE same landscapes as you and our very favorite place in the whole world is Yosemite. Thanks for sharing. I'm gonna look for your book tomorrow! If interested, see our website at Thanks again!

30 Sep 2010 3:11am

@Lin Ritter-Gilbert-Piest: Thanks, Lin. Nice pictures on your site--thanks for sharing.