Tag Archives: hawaii
May 25, 2013


About six months ago I made a conscious decision to stop worrying about updating Postcard Valet.  This was after a few months spent worrying about why I wasn’t updating the site during our last few months in Australia.  Though I regret not explaining why I haven’t been updating, the rationalization for why was an easy one to make.  Once we got on the road again, at the end of the day I barely had the time and energy to back up our photos and keep up with my daily journaling… Writing for the blog – let alone video editing – would have completely exhausted me, as well as taken away valuable travel time.

Considering we just drove onto the Alaska Marine Highway and, in about six hours we will return to Juneau and our trip around the world will be at an end, I thought this would be a good time to finally write about what Oksana and I have been up to. (more…)

March 9, 2007

Kalahaku Overlook

Haleakala Crater from Kalahaku Overlook

I have a new theory.  The time I spend playing with a picture in Photoshop is inversely proportional to the quality of the original image.  On the face of it, that seems obvious, right?  If the photo sucks, you’re really going to have to work it over in the digital darkroom.  But then, if the picture is good, Photoshop work is more like play, and I can spend hours playing…  Okay, so maybe my new theory doesn’t have a proof.

This is a stitched panorama of the immense Haleakala Crater on Maui Island, Hawaii.  I believe it’s taken from the Kalahaku Overlook, but because Oksana and I stumbled upon this scenic view, I could be mistaken.  I wrote a bit about that day.

The view is awesome, of course, in the true sense of the word.  We spent at least 45 minutes hanging out at the railing, took countless pictures and even a time-lapse video of the clouds boiling below.  And though I like the panoramic photo you see here, I don’t think it’s one of my better pictures.  I wish I could put my thumb on why.

Is there too much sky?  Maybe, but if I crop it out the panorama becomes too thin.  Is it that the depth of the valley doesn’t translate?  We were practically standing on a vertical cliff, but here it looks like you could almost along the dip in the middle until you reached the crater floor below.

I tried a dozen variations of cropping, trying to make things right.  I lightened up some of the foreground elements, trying to create a sense of depth.  I even spent some time cloning out a huge foreground handrail in the lower right corner.  I know the scene is good; I just can’t seem to make the photo do it justice. 

But that doesn’t mean I can’t post it on my blog, now, does it?

It’s hard to see in the small version of this panorama, but the black lava flows and red cinder cones make for some attractive (also in the true sense of the word!) scenery.  I wish we had planned an excursion down into that crater.  As it was, we were only on Haleakala for the sunrise — we didn’t think to bring the hiking gear, extra water, maps, and cabin reservations that would have made a hike down Sliding Sands Trail really worthwhile.  Maybe next time.

Canon Digital Rebet XT
Date: 12 August 2005
Focal Length: 18mm
Shutter: 1/1000 second
Aperture: F/5
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Stitched with Autostitch, cropped, cloned extra rock on right, dodged foreground rocks, auto color adjustment

Continue reading to see the actual detail in the final panorama…


January 12, 2007

HAVO Lights

Kilauea Steam

Purchase a Print

The great tourist myth of Hawaii, perpetrated by all the television travel documentaries, is that you’ll see rivers of flowing lava.  Indeed you will, if you go to any of the museums with video display terminals.  Apparently, the really fantastic displays occur, oh, every ten or twenty years.  And when they do, cars are piled up for miles and miles as even the locals cram closer for a look.

That’s not to say that you won’t get a chance to see some geothermal activity if you visit.  A heli-tour over Kilauea might give you a peek down into its active crater.  Sulfur steam vents abound in Hawaii’s Volcano National park.  And if it’s the frozen black lava you’re after…  Well!  The Big Island’s got more of that than you can imagine.

One of my favorite nights on Kona was spent watching lava spill into the sea.  The active craters of Kilauea are miles inland, but underground lava tubes transport a steady stream of molten rock to the sea.  Where it meets the water, a huge cloud of steam billows upward.  Due to a terrible parking space, we had to hurry to get out onto the lava field before dark.

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 16 August 2005
Focal Length: 48mm
Shutter: 30 seconds
Aperture: F/4.5
Photoshop: Cropped, minor cloning away of lens artifacts,
somewhat extensive use of burn/dodge tools (never exceeding 30%)


September 26, 2005

Hawaii Volcano National Park

One of my favorite photos from the trip.Despite going to bed relatively late after the night dive, our next day in Hawaii started very early. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it was to be the longest, most tiring day of our vacation.

I wanted to spend some time in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but didn’t know what to expect. Would the park be crowded? Would it take more than one day to see it all? Would the active steam vents – as our guidebook said – lose their grandeur as the day warmed up?

We were staying in Kona and the points of interest were on the other side of the island, a three-hour drive away. We left at 5:30am, hoping to pull into the park early enough to see the steam while the air was still cool.

The drive from Kona to Kilauea was nice, if rather long. The traffic was sparse and the road alternated between long, straight stretches and Hana-like curves that slowed us to a crawl. We drove through arid, almost desert-like regions, soggy hillsides thick with vegetation, barren black lava fields along the jagged southern coastline, and finally into the rolling hills of the park.

We paid a $10 fee at the gate and drove straight to the visitor’s center. A park ranger had just opened the doors and was going about the business of posting the daily activity reports. We had a quick look around, asked a few questions, and drove off on a road called Crater Rim Drive, which encircles the mostly-dormant craters of Kilauea.

We skipped the first point-of-interest, Sulfur Rocks, for the steam vents that were just a quarter-mile down the road. There was only one other car in the parking lot – getting up early had paid off for us. I dug out our cameras as Oksana changed into warmer clothes; it was windy and the early morning mountain air was still cold.

September 13, 2005

Manta Rays

A manta ray skims over two divers.When planning a vacation, I sometimes waffle between wanting to have a thorough, scheduled-to-the-day plan versus one built completely on freedom and spontaneity. I usually opt for the latter. For instance, when Oksana and I decided to spend a month in Costa Rica, the extent of our planning was to buy a guidebook and book round-trip tickets to San Jose. Everything, including the hotel we stayed in our first night, was found after we arrived.

The same attitude that worked so well for us there, gave us some problems in Hawaii. After the first three days, we spent too much of our vacation time fretting about where we would stay. While I was never particularly worried, Oksana let the stress build up whenever our internet searches and phone calls for the next hotel dragged on too long. I can’t argue that it would have been nice to know, before we ever stepped on the plane, where we would be staying each and every night.

On the other hand, one of the best things about vacations is the unexpected discoveries. While at the B&B in Maui, we met up with a couple who raved about an exciting snorkeling excursion on the Big Island. Had we been locked into hotel reservations, we might not have been able to take advantage of their suggestion to pay for a night dive to swim with manta rays. As it was, we were able to plan our Big Island stay around that tour.

As soon as we checked into our Kona hotel, I called the company they had suggested, Big Island Divers, to get the scoop. $70 per person gives you a 1-tank night “dive” with sightings of mantas almost guaranteed. I asked if it was worthwhile to go as a snorkeler, and the woman on the other end of the line proceeded to describe the underwater wonders we would see. Prices seemed non-negotiable, despite the fact that we wanted to use our own equipment and wouldn’t need a tank of air. Still, it sounded good enough to reserve a spot for Oksana and me on their boat for the following day.

When the time came, Oksana and I drove to the dive shop. We paid for our trip, got fitted with wetsuits, and waited around while the rest of the divers on our boat readied their own equipment. We drove to the harbor behind the boat trailer and, once all 20 or so of us were on board, cast off just before sunset.


August 31, 2005


Molokini - Screen cap from a video shot from an airplane.If you go to Maui, you can’t miss Molokini. You can see the cliffs of the mostly submerged crater jutting up through the waves from Kihei and Wailea, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about all the free brochures that’ll inevitably pile up in your rental car.

Molokini, along with the Road to Hana and Haleakala, is one of the premiere attractions to the island of Maui. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why.

I wrote in my previous post about how Oksana and I managed to pay about $50 each for this “free” tour, so there shouldn’t be any need to rehash that part of the story.

Molokini promises much and delivers little, or at least it did on the day we went. We were told that the submerged crater was home to turtles, sharks, and all varieties of tropical fish. Even better, we would be able see all these things because the ocean’s bottom-churning waves exhausted themselves on the crater’s rim. Not only that, but most of the Molokini tours also included a stop at Turtle Town, a section of coastline along Maui that was jam packed with green sea turtles.

So we laid out the cash and waited our turn with eager anticipation. Just like good tourists.

July 18, 2005


What if Moscow was the capital of Hawaii?Oksana and I have been strategizing a semi-elaborate trip to Russia since last year. Until a couple weeks ago, the plan was to:

1) Coordinate three weeks off from our respective jobs in August,
2) Fly to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski,
3) Spend time with Oksana’s family while finalizing the sale of her parent’s apartment,
4) Fly to Moscow/St. Petersburg to play tourist,
5) Return to the States.

Due to unforeseen complications with visas, money, and our jobs, we were forced to come up with a new, slightly different plan:

1) Go to Hawaii.

You may be craving an explanation; this is a desire which I can fulfill.