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The Big Island of Hawaii: Turtles, sharks and some magic sun rays

Published on 2019-06-08 17:38:22

I can't believe I have been out of the water for so long!

Our conditions here in Laguna Beach suck balls massively, with storm after storm causing some seriously nasty runoffs, with viz reported in the inches, even at the Channel Islands and a freaking lot of sargassum still thriving in all our coves. That has not really been a good few months for our scuba diving community.

So we went to the Big Island of Hawaii. But this time we wanted to explore a little more the Eastern and Northern part of the island and dive on the Kohala coast, about half an hour to an hour north of the airport so we decided to stay in a nice condo in the Waikoloa Village area.

Despite a discouraging weather forecast, we ended up with one of the best weather we've ever had on the island: it was 85 the whole week we stayed, and we even got to see the East Coast and the famed valley of Waipo in the sun!

Diving conditions were pretty good. We dove with Kohala Divers and it was OK, nothing fancy or unusual, pretty dive sites but not that much marine life or interesting rock formation. The next day as we were walking around our beach club, we noticed a dive flag next to a small shack. We inquired and decided to book two dives from that small operation that runs up to two six-packs of two-tank dives in the morning. We did not regret it. We were 5 divers on the boat on our dive day and had probably the best lava tube dives ever. Even the Cathedrals in Lanai or the famed Skull Cave on the Big Island were not as interesting as these lava tubes! We loved it so much that we booked another two-tank dives for the next day! The operation is the Mauna Lani Sea Adventures and they seem to be the best kept diving secret on the island...

Shooting the lava tubes and the rays of light is not too complicated. Placement is of the highest importance to be able to frame the right combination of dark rocks and bright sun rays hitting light sands. A wide angle helps a lot but on our point and shoot we are often limited to an equivalent 28mm. My Canon G7X Mark II has an equivalent 24mm and that's not really a wide angle. So we have to get far, the good news is that the subject won't move, so we can take our time. Except if you're the first on the scene (as you should be), you're at risk of either pissing off your patient buddies or just have buddies inviting themselves as models in your perfect shoot. And then there's sand and silt and anything your buddies fins (or your own most of the time) will add to the scene! The best things to do for the perfect shot is probably to dive solo or come back or wait for the dust to settle after your group has gone... However, some shots really shine with a diver in the middle so there's that...

Capturing the sun rays requires a faster shutter speed than what we usually use for regular scene shot. It's a trial and error process: you shoot at 1/400s, check the shot then go up in speed until you start seeing the rays. It's tricky because the small screen often gives the false impression that the rays are well captured and highly contrasted but on your monitor at home, it's not that obvious...

If the rays are not highlighted enough, there's always the option to add some more in Photoshop. There are a lot of tutorials online that can easily be adapted for underwater scenes where you need longer rays and often coming from outside of the shot, so playing with the sun ray layer and moving it around to achieve the perfect atmosphere is not super complicated, you can check out that sun ray + diver shot on the right, it's had a little Photoshop magic added to it...


And the short video 



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