Photographing lava at Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii's Big Island for Air Canada's enRoute | Zach Everson

Photographing lava at Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island for Air Canada’s enRoute

When I visited Hawaii’s Big Island during a six-week stay in the state in 2008, I had just one disappointment: I never saw an active lava flow (stupid nature, you erupt when I want you to). When I returned last August on assignment with Photo Safari Hawaii for enRoute, Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, however, the Kilauea Volcano cooperated. (Yes, that’s the same Kilauea Volcano’s that’s spewing lava 100 feet in the air today—that might be a bit too much cooperation.)

In February’s issue, I wrote about my day-long private photo ecotour with Photo Safari Hawaii:

Brian Ross, a fine art photographer and Photo Safari Hawaii’s owner, and Sian Olsen, one of his guides and the owner of Kohala Kayak, were not only excellent photography instructors, but their deep knowledge of the Big Island impressed as well. They were good company for 13 hours.

I’d taken a photography class previously with the Smithsonian Institution, but it centered on the mechanics of using the camera and got tedious. While they customize the experience for each group, Brian and Sian focus on the composition of fine art photography. This approach proved a lot more engaging—and provided plenty of fantastic photos of the Big Island, home to 10 of the Earth’s 15 types of climatic zones and the most diverse weather of any similarly sized area of land on the planet:

A map of my day with Photo Safari Hawaii created with MotionX iPhone GPS app.

A map of my day with Photo Safari Hawaii created with MotionX iPhone GPS app.

You can follow our travels on this map from the Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea, where I had a, um, great Hawaiian-style breakfast and turned on the MotionX iPhone GPS app at 7:28 a.m., to the Fairmont Orchid hotel, where I was dropped off at 8:52 p.m.

Access to the area where the lava from Kilauea Volcano was flowing was cut off during certain hours except for locals, some of whom still had houses there. One said we were with him and a security guard, who knew otherwise, let him drive us to where the lava was flowing.

It takes a certain type of guy to live near an active flow: in this case, think if Francis Ford Coppolla had cast Jack Nicholson as Dennis Hopper’s character from Apocalypse Now.

And it takes a different type of guy altogether to cultivate vegetation and create walking paths on top of the Kilauea’s volcanic ash: think Adrian Brody on speed playing the littlest nerd in Revenge of the Nerds.

In addition to Brian and Sian, mahalo to the Big Island Visitors Bureau and Jessica Ferracane and Becky Ryan at Irondog Communications for coordinating my visit, Jaisy Jardine at the Fairmont Orchid, and the local who got us close to the lava flow.

enRoute‘s Higher Learning section focuses on “an international crash course in anything from cheese making to scuba diving to ranching, told from a personal perspective but in such a way that it teaches the reader about both the activity and the place it’s taught. It’s a two-page section, 450-words (in English and in French) and includes a sidebar with suggestions for where to stay and eat.” If you have ideas for similar experiences, please let me know.

Photos: Zach Everson and courtesy Brian Ross and enRoute
Videos: Zach Everson
Map: Google Earth via MotionX iPhone GPS app

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