The other night I went up to the summit of Haleakala National Park with an amazing group of people to photograph the stars and the Milky Way. As I kept contorting my neck to look up at the heavens, it finally hit me that I didn’t have to look up to see the stars; they were right in front of me the whole time.
They call themselves photographers, but really they are so much more than that. They are teachers who want to learn, they are students who love to listen, and they are engineers who are really artists. They are the active members of the Maui Camera Club, and they are the real stars on Maui.
I’m not sure how it works in the mainland, but out here on the small island of Maui, we have a strong community of photographers willing to support and push each other with a common desire to improve upon their photography. From professionals to the very basic of amateurs, club members cover all ranges in the spectrum. Anyone can be a part of the club and contribute their talent and skills if they so choose to participate in meetings, outings, or classroom training.
This particular outing was arranged by David Schoonover. Forever lending his time, talents and energy to helping other photographers grow, David suggested the idea of shooting the stars and Milky Way at the most recent camera club meeting. As with everything in life, the outing was all about timing. David had done the research and figured the Milky Way would make its way above Haleakala crater shortly after nine.
At ten thousand feet, the weather at the summit of Haleakala can be unpredictable at best. Earlier in the evening, the crater was socked in and we could not see more than thirty feet in front of us. But by the time the stars came up, the wind was calm and the sky was free of clouds. Being prepared for the drastic weather changes is almost as important as having the right camera equipment on an outing such as this. Being warm and able to think about your composition with a clear head is half the struggle of getting the photograph you want.
The summit is free of industrial noise, but you still have the sound of the breeze along with the call of the resident Hawaiian petrel or ʻuaʻu bird, which nests among the rocky slopes of Haleakala. The ‘ua’u were chirping quite a bit, which seemed like a positive sign that the world’s largest breeding colonies are doing well thanks to education and conservation.
Right before we got back in the truck to head down the mountain, I began to play with the zoom on my lens. This is something I normally do when I shoot the holiday lights at work. I set the shutter speed to fifteen seconds, then after five seconds I begin to slowly twist the lens so that I spend the final ten seconds zooming in on the stars.
The effect makes it look like I am getting bombarded with gamma rays or something out of a comic book origin story (Fantastic Four, The Hulk). I just hope I do not turn into the Human Torch, otherwise all my camera gear will be melted.
With the majority of the group back in the warmth of their vehicles, we decided that it was time to call it a night. It was a great experience to shoot the stars with friends who share an interest in both helping others with photography and learning from them at the same time. Isn’t that the way we should all learn?