Starlight, Starbright

Last night, after work, I met up with a few die-hard members of the Maui Camera Club atop the summit of Haleakala to capture an amazing sunset, shoot some stars, and catch a cold. I was successful at two of those items on my list of things to do. As I write this blog, I am heavily under the influence of a name-brand cold medication.

Beginning on February 1st, Haleakala National Park will be instituting a reservation system for anyone wanting to attend the sunrise atop the volcano. This is a huge change from normal operating procedures for the park and has caused some grumbling by businesses that operate in the park and by people who go maybe once every three years. The bottom line is that the park has 150 parking spaces at the summit, and, on a typical morning, 300 cars arrive to watch the sunrise, so this an attempt to solve a problem. Will it be the final solution? We are a few days to finding out how it will work, so please stand by for more information.

Viewing a sunset does not require a reservation, just your entrance fee into the park. Although, watching the parking lot fill up and having people parking wherever they wanted last evening was entertaining and frightening at the same time. Having limited parking options as the sun begins to set really brings out the worst in people’s human nature.

I made a conscious decision before I left the house that I was only going to bring my Rokinon 14mm ultra-wide angle lens to shoot sunset and the stars, which explains why, as I was driving through the park a small pu’eo (Hawaiian owl) glided silently in front of the car. I swear they were taunting me.

Last night’s sunset was quick and easy but not spectacular. The temperature was in the high 50’s (fahrenheit), and the wild was mild, with occasional strong gusts. There were no clouds above 9,000 feet, so it went from sunny, to the sun dropping through the clouds below, to eventual darkness. Once the sun dipped below the clouds, the exodus began, and parking spots were plentiful.

Once the sun set, the temperature began its descent into the 40’s, so we sat in the warmth of the car and waited for about an hour for the stars to be visible. We were very fortunate last night as it was a clear sky above us. With our headlamps on (an invaluable tool any photographer should have in their camera bag, I use an inexpensive version that has a red light option to save your night vision), we ventured to different vantage points atop the summit to find a composition we liked.

One of the telescopes in Science City was shooting a laser into the sky. The beam from the laser pulsed super quickly and was moving in an upward angle. If you look in the picture below, you can see a faint green beam of light emitting from the center of the photo, pointing to the left.

We left the summit parking lot and made our way down to the lower visitor center parking where I was drawn to a composition I have shot many times before. The visitor center is lit faintly by the light from the public restroom, which makes light painting a breeze. In the picture below, I decided to shoot vertically to get more stars above and less horizon, but really wanted to visitor center to be sharp.

Nursing a few sniffles the next day is always worth getting out to shoot some pictures. I may not have gotten any jaw-dropping shots, but I did get to practice shooting against the elements, which is always useful in the real world.

Vincent Lorusso Written by:

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives. - Jackie Robinson

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