Because… Lava!

I just flew home after spending two week in Hawai’i.

Boo!–flew home.

Yeah!–two weeks in Hawai’i.

It was an interesting “vacation” because I flew in on a Thursday night and my friends left the next evening. I house sat for the first week, working like a fiend from their living room. I’m pretty sure I logged 70 hours of work so that I could disconnect this week and be ON vacation. See, travel is something I take very seriously. I consider it a full-contact sport, actually. I’m out and about, seeing, doing, and photographing everything I can! And I love it!

The first Saturday, my alarm went off at 3:00 a.m. I hauled my butt outta bed, put on some clothes, grabbed my camera bag and the keys to my friends’ minivan, and drove to Honolulu International Airport to hop a plane to Maui. There, I rented a car and spent fourteen hours at Haleakala National Park. (I may or may not have an obsession with national parks that might require some sort of intervention at some time in my life.) I had an absolute ball, all by my little self. I shot about 450 photographs. I slept on Sunday and puttered around the house before firing up the work laptop and logging some hours. During the week, I watched a season and one half of White Collar as well as a few movies and two Dodgers baseball games. All while logging that 70 hours of work. Last Saturday, I pulled the same stunt, waking at 3:00 a.m. and making my way to Honolulu International again. This time I was hopping a plane to the big island for ten hours of fun.

This was a seriously cool day. And I don’t mean the temperature.

I rented a car and found a dive to grab some breakfast. And I do mean dive. I then headed back to the airport because I spent money I don’t ordinarily shell out and booked a flight with a helicopter tour company over Hawai’i’s other national park. Why?

Hawai'i Volcanoes National ParkBecause… lava.


The island has been very active the past few weeks, volcanically speaking. The helicopter ride was worth every penny. I was assigned a window seat (a computer chooses where you’re going to sit to make sure weight distribution is done safely and accurately). Praise the Lord! I brought my Canon EOS 5D and both lenses, my 28-80 mm and my 70-300 mm. (Keep your opinions to yourself! Once you’ve had back surgery and live with a connective tissue disorder you can start preaching at me about the efficacies of different lenses.) I used both. Aside from the excitement of seeing lava, this was my first ever helicopter ride. I felt like an eight-year-old on Christmas morning… a chance for some gnarly photos and a helicopter ride?! Could the day get better?

Hawai'i Volcanoes National ParkFlying over the lava flows venting into the Pacific Ocean presented one of the coolest sights I’ve ever seen. Awesome! I think God likes photographs because He allows great things to happen so I can get good shots. This day, the wind was blowing toward the ocean and away from the lava flow so I was able to get photos of the molten lava without steam blocking the view. Like I said, awesome! In the first photo, the lava flow reminds me of an eagle’s talons. In the second, Medusa’s head of snakes from my Greek mythology–don’t judge me! How two different angles of the same phenomenon could look so different is beyond me. No matter what it brings to mind for you, it’s pretty darn cool.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National ParkWhen we landed, I climbed back in the rental car and drove over to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to see everything else. Again, God and photos… When I arrived at Jagger Museum and looked at Halema‘uma‘u Crater, the lava lake was up to the rim for the first time since Mother’s Day. The distance from where I am standing to the lava lake is approximately one mile. (I found myself wishing for a 400mm lens… or a 500mm, if we’re being honest.)

Although Kīlauea has been in a constant state of eruption since January 3, 1983–it’s the longest continuous eruption in recorded history–normally, visitors can only see the “glow” from the lava and not the lava itself. During the morning hours when I first arrived, there were two fountains burbling. Later that afternoon and evening, it got more active. At one point, I saw four different fountains in the lava lake. At dusk, orangy-red fissures in the lake were visible. I spoke with one gentleman who estimated this was his thirtieth trip to the park since 1983… and the first time he’d seen lava. Score one for the newb! I saw lava. Lots of lava. If I’d had more time, I would’ve driven down to the ocean vent and hiked out the four miles (mind you, I loathe hiking) to photograph it from another angle at a safe distance.

I live in California. California has volcanoes. Really. We do! Mt. Shasta? Volcano. Lassen? Volcano (thus… Lassen Volcanic National Park). Lassen has even erupted within the past 100 years… surprise! I was in Puget Sound on Whidbey Island in 1982 when Mount St. Helens blew its top. We heard the concussion, but I didn’t see anything on the drive home. And I haven’t met anyone who’s ever seen lava before. This was such a treat. Lava is eight-year-old-on-Christmas-morning cool and I got to see it!

Inspiration: Rare


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