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Peering into Earth's Core, Halema' uma' u Crater

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 30 July 2010 in Landscape & Rural.


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On the last night of our 11-day trip to Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii, Gary Hart and I stopped at the Kilauea Caldera located atop Volcanoes National Park. From the Jagger Museum's lookout at mid-day, all we could see was steam rising from the Halema' uma' u Crater. I had overheard a ranger talking about the dimensions of the crater (400 feet across and 650 feet down to the lava)! We decided to return at sunset to see if we could capture the glow that would hopefully appear under more subdued light.

And appear it did! We were once again lucky to get a semi-clear evening and as if on cue, a brilliant star field began to emerge from the darkness. To balance the topography with the ever-darkening sky, I used a Singh-Ray 3-stop hard edge graduated neutral density filter. I like to handhold my filters and I try to create a bit of up and down movement to help blur the transition line. For this image it worked well. Unfortunately my 15-second exposure was not enough to freeze the moon, but nonetheless I felt including the moon helped create a nice implied diagonal line to establish some visual movement for the viewer's eye between the starfield and the glowing crater.

On a personal note, it was an incredible evening for photography and for witnessing a river of lava passing under the earth's rim (don't see that everyday living in California)! The crowds thinned to only a handful of hearty viewers (who seemingly wanted to shine their flashlights everywhere - including the area we were working) as the temperatures began to plummet (we were at 4,000 feet). The lack of humanity helps to create a feeling of connectedness with nature. This is something I had never seen before (save for the previous evening photographing Kilauea's flow from further down the mountain). Running the risk of sounding cliche, I felt very small in the scheme of my surroundings.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 15 second F/2.8 ISO 400 16 mm

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