Friday, July 31, 2009

Blame Global Warming...

Last winter had more days with snow on the ground and the lakes frozen over than anyone can remember.

This spring has been one of the dryest on record.

We are in the middle of a prolonged heat wave, with all time temperature records being broken all over the West Coast.

Then today we get the biggest and longest thunder and lightning storm anyone can remember!

This is all great! I love this new variety of weather patterns, way better than just rain all the time.

Speaking of bugs..........

This one was "bugging" me while I was trying to get shots of the hummingbird. The birds and the bees, for some reason that sounds familiar to me. I must be getting old!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What bugs you?

Here are pictures from yesterday and today. For whatever reason bugs were what captured my attention. The first one is aphids of some type or other.

This next one came out not bad, the bee must have known I was going to post his picture as he did a number of poses for me, this one being the best.

And lastly this huge bug. I held a dime up close for scale (but not too close!). I have no idea what it is but it definately has my respect!

Almost ready.........

I was wondering around with my camera yesterday and decided to take a stroll through the small orchard we have. I noticed that the apples and grapes were getting close to being ready so I took a few photos trying to capture the colors. There's nothing like cruising along on the mower and just reaching up and grabbing an apple or plum for a quick snack.

I'm not a big wine drinker but I do love grape juice and when it comes straight from the vine the taste is amazing!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lady of the arboretum

This bronze lady is in a secluded nook in the Lyon Arboretum in the upper Manoa Valey on Oahu.

The arboretum is operated by the University of Hawai'i and is the only university operated botanical garden located in a tropical rainforest in the United States.

The Lyon Arboretum is open to the public and is well worth the visit. Bring your camera, good shoes, bug spray and pack a snack or light lunch. The arboretum covers over 200 acres!

Coming down from the sky

Two nights ago I was relaxing on the couch watching TV while a rain storm was passing through. According to the weatherman it was just supposed to be a gentle rain and nothing to worry about. In the middle of relaxing my wife came in from outside and told me the clouds were rotating. I quickly grabbed my camera and headed out the door. That either makes me a dedicated photographer or an idoit, I'm not sure which.

For a brief second this cloud swirled down from the sky and then dissipated as quickly as it formed. After that it was the gentle rain that the weatherman had promised. Life in Kansas, it's always interesting!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More from the front porch

When I started taking photos of the hummingbird I ended up taking 112 shots in just a matter of a few minutes. I was adjusting the aperture and switching from auto and manual focus as I went. I've grown to love the "new fangled" auto-focus on the DSLR's but it just wouldn't focus right all of the time when I was shooting.

After looking at my photos I decided in hind sight the auto focus got about as many right as I did using manual focus so I'm not sure I was any better off using manual focus. Like Paul said in his last comment, I only got a few really good photos out of all of the ones I shot. I am definitely glad I am using digital and not film. Digital has allowed me to shoot things I never would have wasted the money of film and developing on. If you are shooting digital (and I can't imagine why you wouldn't) shoot, shoot, shoot! It's always better to delete something than not have something because you wouldn't press that button a few more times.

Because of the location of the hibiscus and the fact the sun was coming up behind the plant my lighting wasn't ideal for the bird. The back lighting was almost perfect for the flower and I didn't want to use the flash because I thought it might scare off the hummingbird. This predicament left me to do a little post processing on these to get the hummingbird lit a little better.

These are cropped quite a bit to get the close-up I was looking for. I would have really liked to have been using a 400mm or even 500mm lens. I guess I'm going to have to invest in a "Bigma" one of these days.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Just humming along.......

My wife and I were sitting on the front porch early this morning drinking coffee and contemplating a trip to Hawaii when a guest arrived. I guess the hibiscus was just too tempting because I was able to get within about ten feet to take some photos of this hummingbird.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Downtown Coal Harbour... LOL

Definately not downtown Coal Harbour, the tallest building here is the old WW II airplane hanger down at the water.

I took this in the downtown busines district on Honolulu. It's one of those stupid tourist pictures one takes when on holiday, the locals just shake their heads at the guy without a tan then smile when they think how much money I'll be spending while I'm there and the only thing I'll be taking back with me is some lousey pictures, a sun burn and one of those distracting stick to the dash dancing hula dolls for my pickup truck...

Man-o-man I can't wait until next holiday in Hawaii!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Smoke in the forest

The weather out here on the West Coast continues to be unseasonably hot and dry with no end in sight. Though this picture is only of campfire smoke in the forest, there have been and continue to be forest fires elsewhere in the interior of British Columbia. At one point last week 17,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes for a number of days, a small handful of those people returned only to find ashes.

Interestingly enough I haven't heard many people here in the coast complaining about the sunshine or hot dry weather, I guess the memory of our long sunless winter is still fresh enough in everyone's mind...

Serious about your hobby

I was driving near a lake the other day and I came across this mailbox at a house about four miles from the lake. I guess the person who lives here likes to go fishing!

I wonder if the make one of these in the shape of a camera?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Maui Ocean Center

If you go to Maui and want to see the sea life without getting wet you have two options. You can take a submarine ride out to a reef, which is a pretty cool deal or you can go to the Maui Ocean Center. For a fee (of course) you can get into the only aquarium on Maui and see everything you would see in the ocean on a scuba or snorkeling excursion.

Actually, you will see more because it is all right there and you don’t have to hope that you are diving in the right spot at the right time. The Maui Ocean Center has several open tanks for some of it’s sea life such as the sea turtle (honu in Hawaiian) which allow you a very up close and personal view.

The aquarium is probably the only place you will get a close up view of the state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Are you wondering how to pronounce that name? You break it down into syllables; humu-(hoomoo) humu-nuku-(nookoo) nuku-a-pu-a-a. Now, three times real fast! These suckers are fast and are even hard to get a shot of in the aquarium! (That's why you don't see one here, mine all came out blurry) You will also see all of the other sea creatures such as sharks, jelly fish, stingrays and a myriad of other fish.

If you go to the aquarium they offer a gadget you can carry along with you that tells you where you are and what you are looking at at any given spot within the Ocean Center. This of course costs extra and really isn’t worth the extra money unless you have kids with you.

Be sure to hit the gift shop before you leave for the obligatory t-shirt or hat. I think the gift shop is almost as big as the aquarium and if you go in there with kids you will be in trouble! They will want everything. About half of what the gift shop has is centered around kids so get ready to heat up the credit card. I didn't have any kids with me but I did have my wife. She wanted to buy things for the kids and grandkids. It might have been easier if the kids were there! LOL

The Maui Ocean Center is definitely worth a stop while you are on Maui if you have the time. I don’t know that it is something you would go back to time and time again but it is worth seeing at least once.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer in Port Hardy

The weather for the past number of weeks has been warm and dry, the winter blues is long forgoten, people come outdoors and soak in the warmth, the beach fills kids. What a great time Summer is on Northern Vancouver Island.

CCG "Tanu" at the Seagate Wharf, Port Hardy

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Best deal on Oahu

You can still find good deals in Hawaii, but you have to get off the beaten path and venture out of the tourist areas and into the real Hawaii.

Eating, shoping and exploring places where only the locals go can be a little intimidating at first. Best to wait a week or two until your lilly white skin has a bit of a tan before you venture fourth, then when you're ready, go with a confident attitude, one that says that you belong there too.

My wife and I have been all kinds of places and met all kinds of interesting people on Oahu and never had any problems. The Real Hawaii takes a little longer to learn and explore, but it has been worth every moment.

The Lu'au (sorry, I'm still stuck in Hawaii)

If you go to Hawaii you have to go to a lu’au at least once. It is the truly touristy thing to do. No matter what island you go to you will find someone that puts on a lu’au several nights a week. The word lu’au means an elaborate feast with traditional foods and entertainment.

On the island of Maui there are two lu’aus that are rated as the best. The highest rated and most traditional of the two is the Old Lahaina Lu’au in Lahaina. This is a traditional, some say authentic Hawaiian lu’au so you won’t get the cheesy M.C. or the mainland style singers. You also don’t get the fire dancers since that is a Samoan tradition, not Hawaiian.

The second best lu’au on Maui is the one at the Hyatt Regency Resort. This is the one my wife and I chose to go to, mainly because it was very handy, being at the hotel where we stayed. This is a very good lu’au and they do have the Samoan fire dancers. They also incorporate a few things from Tahiti to round out the show. The food is excellent and although you won’t want to eat it you should at least taste the poi (pronounced poy). It is a traditional Hawaiian staple that tastes pretty much like wall paper paste. Sounds yummy, huh?
Both of these shows are supposed to be very good. The lu’au at the Hyatt was very enjoyable, fast paced and entertaining. The food was excellent! It is set up buffet style and there is something for everyone. This is an all you can eat and drink meal, including the alcoholic beverages. Mai Tais are everywhere and if you don’t get through the door early they are a little watered down by the melting ice. You can always go to the open bar and get something different if you aren’t the fruity island drink kind of person.
Something that the Hyatt Regency Resort does that we found very nice was the V.I.P. tickets. If you buy an ordinary ticket to the Hyatt’s lu’au you will be standing in line along the beach waiting to get in. The line can be long and the wait can be 30 to 45 minutes depending on when you get in line. The Hyatt suggests you get there 30-45 minutes early, apparently so that you can stand in line. If you purchase the V.I.P. tickets you will pay about $15 more per ticket but you have a special V.I.P. entrance with no waiting. The V.I.P. ticket also allows you into the lu’au first, guarantees you down front seating for the best views and you get to go through the food line first. In my opinion it is well worth the extra money! The lu’au started at 6:00 p.m., we showed up about ten minutes early and walked right in. We were handed a pretty tasty Mai Tai when we walked in and were shown directly to our front row seats. If you decide to go to a lu’au, check to see if they have V.I.P. tickets and what the extra money will get you.

You can expect to pay between $65.00 and $90.00 per person to see a lu’au which might be considered a little pricey but the food is excellent and you are getting a show with dinner. Besides that, most lu’aus are on the beach which adds a little more incentive to go and lets face it, nothing is cheap in Hawaii!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Old Growth Forest

A short walk into the forest from the beach near the old Suquash Coal Mine found us in a beautiful stand of Old Growth Cedar. Each tree in this place was unique unlike the uniform stands of trees found in areas previously logged and replanted. There was little undergrowth beneith the canopy of these forest giants which made walking easy. What a refreshing treat finding this beautiful little patch of untouched nature.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More from Haleakala

Anyone for some cloud walking? You better be really light on your feet!

Did I mention that the summit of Haleakala is way up there? If you were measuring the mountain from it's base deep in the Pacific ocean to it's summit, Haleakala would be the tallest mountain in the world, measuring in at over 32,000 feet tall!

Once you are at the top of Haleakala you can take one of the hiking trails, some of which can push the limits of an old man like myself. You have to remember that you are at 10,000 feet above sea level. One of the hiking trails is called the Sliding Sands Trail. This trail is about four miles long and descends into the crater at the summit. The descent is over 2000 feet in elevation. Just remember that you are hiking and you will have to go back UP that 2000 feet to get back to your car!

If hiking isn't your thing then you could take a bike tour down the volcano. There are several companies that will drive you to the summit in one of their vans, put you on a bicycle and send you down hill for a pretty exhilerating ride. Sounds nice doesn't it? Taking a roller coaster ride on a bike from 10,000 feet up. It is until you remember that the road going up and down the side of the mountain is made up of many, many switchbacks, some of which have an uphill leg to them even though you are going down hill. Plan on doing some pretty hefty peddling in some spots.
Personally, I'm a get a massage at the spa and drink a beer kind of guy. I go on vacation to relax, I don't want to work too hard at anything while I'm there. Driving up and down the side of the volcano was all the work I wanted. You may think the drive in a car isn't work but with a constant barrage of thrill seekers on bicycles coming at you on the way up it can be pretty challenging!
There are several other things you can do on Haleakala. It is after all Hawaii and if it is legal, there is a company that offers it. You can ride one of the trails on horseback, you can take an organized tour trip to see the sunrise (or go by yourself), you can go in the middle of the night and watch the University of Hawaii shoot lazers at the moon from one of the observatories (they are using the lazers to hit reflectors placed on the moon so they can measure the continental drift).
Or, if you are there to relax and be lazy, you can just drive up and take some photos like I did.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ala Wai Canal

The Ala Wai Canail runs the length of the backside of Waikiki. Though a little trashy in places (perhaps like the alley behind your favorite resturant) it serves as the home location for the Outrigger Canoe Club of Waikiki and forms the southern edge of the Ala Wai Golf club.

The canal was built from 1920 - 1928 under somewhat questionable circumstances and destroyed a flourishing Taro and Rice farming industry not to mention the destruction of many cultural artifacts such as stonework for ponds, heiau (temples) etc.

Shortly after that a Pink Hotel was built and paving of paradise began. Alas such is progress... Still a great place to stroll after dinner or watch the outrigger canoes.

Haleakala on Maui

I guess I should have said that Haleakala (pronounced Ha-lay-a-ka-la) IS Maui and not is on Maui. Haleakala is Hawaiian for "house of the sun". There are two volcanoes that make up the island of Maui and Haleakala is the biggest of the two. As you can see by the elevation sign above, Haleakala goes way up into the sky! So much so that they tell you that if you are going to scuba dive you have to wait 24 hours after you have been to the top of the volcano so that you don't increase your chances of getting the dreaded bends.

Going to the top of the dormant volcano is a treat. Just the drive up there is full of fantastic views but when you get to the top, what a view! You can see for miles and you can just about see the whole island of Maui from the top. Because it is above the clouds and the sky is so clear, there is an observatory at the top of Haleakala as you can see in this photo.
The volcano is a very interesting place to visit. Once at the top you can hike around and see the different parts of the landscape, wave at the tourists flying by in helicopters and freeze your coconuts off if you didn't come prepared! That's right, it gets cold, so very cold at 10,000 feet!
When we left the beach it was in the 70's and when we got to the top of Haleakala I had to have the defroster on to melt the freezing mist off of the windshield. Of course we had no idea it was going to be that way (I didn't bother doing my home work before we went and since we were on a tropical island it didn't register in my brain at the time that the temperature would be different at 10,000 feet) so there I was in shorts, sandals and a t-shirt trying to hold my camera steady as I was shivering from the cold.

The scientists say that Haleakala is slowly shrinking and that it used to be 15,000 feet above sea level. It is slowly crushing itself under it's own weight. I think you probably still have time to see the dormant volcano though, I don't think it's going to disappear any time soon.
Of the two volcanoes that make up Maui, Haleakala is the biggest and youngest. They advertise an "early" morning trip to the top of Haleakala to see the sunrise. By "early" they are talking about being at the top of the volcano by 4:00 a.m.! If you are staying on the leeward side of the island that means getting up at about 2:00 a.m. to make the drive up. From Ka'anapali Beach where we stayed it's about and hour and a half to two hours from the beach to the top of the volcano. Needless to say, I didn't get any photos of the sunrise from the top of Haleakala!
One of the more interesting amusements I had was a water bottle that was in the back seat of the car. I had drank about half of the water in the bottle, last opening it at the top of the volcano. Once we got back to the bottom of the volcano and sea level, the bottle had collapsed in on itself from the atmospheric change on the way down. It's the little things in life, right?
If you take this trip make sure to take a pair of long pants and a jacket. There is a charge by the park service just before you get to the top of the volcano. It was $10 per car when we were there and that was good for a week if you wanted to make the trip more than once.

Friday, July 17, 2009

$erious Photographer

I couldn't help myself when I saw this fellow taking pictures of the surfers at Waimea Bay, so I snapped of a couple of pictures with my Fuji 4 mp. Closer inspection reveals that this however was only a Canon and not the much coveted Nikon D400... LOL

Hotels and Resorts

When you travel anywhere, especially to Hawaii, there are always several choices to make regarding where you stay. The choices can be narrowed down greatly by the amount of money you are willing to spend on your accommodations and what you expect to get out of those accommodations.
When my wife and I went to Maui we chose to stay in a resort hotel (the Hyatt Regency) for several different reasons. The first was the location and comfort. We found that several regular hotels would not guarantee the type of room we would get when we made our reservation. My wife and I don't smoke and I'm 6'2" tall. I wanted a non-smoking room with a king size bed and the hotels wouldn't guarantee the availability of such a room even though I made our reservations months in advance and was paying for the room in advance.

The photo above is of one of the restuarants at the Hyatt Regency resort on Maui where we stayed.

That's what made us look into the resort hotels. They were double the cost of what a "regular" hotel would be but I was promised and received the type of room I wanted. Most people don't spend a lot of time in their hotel rooms when on vacation and we were just like everyone else but I wanted what I wanted so I paid for it.

I can say that you definitely get what you pay for. The only negative thing I can say about the Hyatt Resort was the price. Everything else was beyond our expectations. Staying at a resort gives you access to several restaurants and bars, the Hyatt had five restuarants and even more bars. It was also very nice to be able to just charge it to the room. The Hyatt has it's own ocean front spa which is something my wife and I both enjoyed greatly. The service was impeccable no matter where you were on the resort or what employee you talked to. From the landscapers to the spa employees, everyone was there to make sure you were happy. The views were spectacular and the rooms were clean and nice.

The photo above is from our lanai looking out at the pool and ocean. This truely was a fantastic view and well worth the extra cost just because my wife and I sat on the lanai having coffee (Kona coffee supplied by the resort) every morning and we would sit out again just before going to bed and listen to the ocean and watch the moon reflect off of the waves.

This photo was taken from outside our room looking down into the open air lobby of the hotel.
If you plan on spending a lot of time around your hotel I would definitely recommend checking out one of the many resort hotels. I am biased towards the Hyatt just because it was such a nice place and we were treated like royalty and believe me, we are far from royalty!
One more thing, If you are going to Hawaii for a relaxing vacation you should give some very serious consideration to flying first class. Again, it is more expensive than coach (about twice as much) but the difference between the two is night and day. Our longest leg of the flight was about eight and a half hours with the return trip an overnight flight. First class made all the difference in the world for sleeping and comfort.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Signs of the times

For whatever reason I have a small collection of defaced signs from Hawaii, and where better to show them off...


Another type of Old transportation

This outrigger canoe was actually in the lobby of the hotel where my wife and I stayed on Maui. I think paddling around in one of these on the ocean would be hard enough. I can't imagine carving one out by hand like they used to. I like my power tools!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another timeless shot

Speaking of Hawaii... Found this classic beauty on the North Shore of Oahu.

I intentionaly took this picture with the idea in mind that nothing in the shot would appear newer than the (1951?) Dodge.

I think he's smiling.............

Thanks to Paul, we are back in Hawaii and that's not a bad thing. For anyone that has never been to Hawaii I would recommend it highly. Save up your pennies (it will take a lot of them) and take the time to go. You will not be disappointed!

I needed a wider angle lens for this photo but it was taken with a Sony point and shoot and this is as wide as I could get. I know, you're thinking I should have just stepped back farther but I couldn't without stepping off the platform this is on which would have made me too low to get the shot.

This was taken in Whaler's Village on Maui. Whaler's Village is a little shopping center with a few restaurants thrown in for good measure. You can burn a whole in your wallet pretty quick here!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Priceless signage

Saw this on the back of a garbage truck in a back alley in Waikiki, just had to get a picture!