Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg
The island state of Hawaii boasts two national parks. Hawaii Volcanoes is on the Big Island and popular Haleakala National Park, the subject of this column, is found on Maui.
While Haleakala volcano, along with its vast flanks, dominates Maui, Haleakala National Park has just two access areas. The more popular and heavily visited is the slow, winding 38-mile drive up to the summit of the volcano. There, you stand on the very edge of the crater. Haleakala’s 10,000-foot summit is your prime destination for sunrise. The place will likely be crowded with couples wrapped in blankets hastily snatched from their hotel rooms.
Some suggestions to help you get the best possible sunrise shot:
- Scout the day before to identify your favorite composition. My pet spot is about 200 yards to the right of the small visitor center.
- Bring warm clothing. I know, it’s Hawaii. But up here at 10,000 feet, an hour before sunrise, it can get pretty chilly.
- When heading out for your sunrise shoot, get an early start. Even if you leave your hotel room around 2:30a.m., you will encounter a long procession of cars wending their way up the mountain.
- When you begin to see the sunlight shining off the ocean’s surface, get ready. The light will strike the crater very soon.
After sunrise, start working your way back down the mountain one pullout at a time.
If you feel like a fun hike, try the popular Silver Sands trail. All-in-all, this adventure will take a good part of the day.
Several outfitters offer guided bicycle rides down the mountain. Although it looks like real fun, I would rather photograph the riders than join them.
Once you have conquered the summit of the mighty volcano, it’s time for the scenic drive to Hana. With an early start, you will have the time to photograph some of the many lovely waterfalls along this narrow, tortuously twisting road. About ten miles past the tiny town of Hana is the Kipahulu—the east entrance to Haleakala National Park.
If you can find somewhere in Hana to spend the night, get back here early the next morning for sunrise in the Ohe’o Gulch. After that, walk over to the Sacred Pools and take the easy hike to the two waterfalls up the hill above the pools.
In addition to Haleakala, Maui boasts several other attractions worth your time. A good afternoon shot is Iao Valley State Park with the Iao Needle, a singular rock pinnacle, and its tumbling brook. Other worthwhile sights include the Old Lahaina harbor area, featuring whale-watching boat tours (best late November through early April) and the extensive Maui Ocean Center Aquarium.
In addition to the usual travel sources helpful in preparing for such a trip, I recommend the epic novel Hawaii by James Michener. It will provide yet another dimension of understanding that will enrich your visit.
Be aware that frequent cloudy afternoons often allow for a few extra hours of good shooting time in addition to the normal golden hours of morning and evening. Also, because of frequent rain showers and other atmospherics of Maui, rainbows can appear at almost any moment. A rainbow can turn an ordinary scene into something really special. So keep the sun at your back and stay alert for them.
Several airlines offer flights from the mainland right into Kahului Airport on Maui, which eliminates the need to first fly to Honolulu and then change for an inter-island flight. Even if your trip includes visits to other islands, a straight shot right into Maui is a real convenience.
There are an abundance of hotel rooms on Maui, as with all of the Hawaiian Islands, from top-rated resorts to lower-priced accommodations that are just fine. An online search of the various booking sites can yield some great bargains for the photographer who is not seeking a luxury vacation.
Jerry Ginsberg is a widely published freelance photographer whose images have graced the pages of hundreds of books and magazines. He has photographed all 59 U.S. national parks as well as most of South America with medium-format cameras. Jerry is also an artist-in-residence for 2015 at Petrified Forest National Park. More of Jerry’s work can be seen at www.JerryGinsberg.com. E mail – firstname.lastname@example.org.