Little Surprises: Little Wailua Falls…Maui’s Subtle Hidden Treasure

One of the lessons I’ve (painfully) learned over the years, is to be open to the unexpected and unplanned.  Honestly, it isn’t an easy lesson for me.  By nature, I’m a planner..perhaps excessively so (at least my wife THINKS so!).   My perspective has always been:  This might be a once-in-a-lifetime trip…what if there is a killer photo op two miles away but I don’t know about it!  So often I leave on a trip with a twenty page itinerary complete with maps, notes, GPS coordinates and more.

On the other hand, I honestly have to admit that much of my best work has been the result of an unplanned opportunity (or flat-out, total mistakes).  Like this shot below:

Little Surprises:  Little Wailua Falls...Maui's Subtle Hidden Treasure

To see this shot in full resolution, just click on it with your mouse.

I love this photograph.  Of the dozens or so huge, magnificent, incredible waterfalls I photographed on a recent trip to Hawaii, this quiet, secluded, almost miniature cascade is by far my favorite.

It happened like this:  My wife and I had stayed overnight in Hana so I could get some sunrise shots.  I had planned to photograph Wailua Falls (about 7 1/2 miles south of Hana) since it was right on our the way to the trailhead for a hike we were making later that morning to Waimoku Falls (another 400′ tropical wonder). When we got to Wailua Falls (here is a link to a map on Google Earth) it was obvious that over 99% of the photographs falls are taken from the bridge which runs right in front of it.   So I decided to hike down to the base of the falls and get a shot with a different perspective…but I made a mistake.  I knew from my pre-trip research that there was trail from the bridge to the falls but I didn’t know where it started.  I looked around and spotted one just past the bridge (west) on the ocean side (south) of the road.  After ten minutes of slipping and sliding down a wet and muddy slope, I had worked my way back to the bridge…which is where I found this delightful little pool.  As it turns out, I couldn’t get any closer to the big falls from this trail (apparently, the correct trail is on the other (north) side of the road).

Little Surprises:  Little Wailua Falls...Maui's Subtle Hidden Treasure

View from the other side of the pool

And here is where I got my second unplanned gift.  The best thing (to me) about this shot are the streaks caused by the the swirling leaves in the pool.  I had seen this before in work done by other photographers, but I hadn’t ever done it myself.  Honestly, I didn’t even notice at the time that the leaves were moving. But since the spot was very dark, I took a series of seven bracketed shots hoping that HDR would be able to capture what little light there was.  A couple weeks later when I processed the shot with HDR , I was shocked to see that the slowly moving leaves were now wonderful looping swirls of color.  In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that that seven shots, taken over a two or three minute timeframe, would transform the languidly moving leaves into mesmorizing streaks of color.

So there.  I didn’t know this little falls even existed and I had no idea that the HDR would result in the beautiful leaf swirls.  Despite that, the result was far better than my hundreds of well-planned shots of other, more impressive and well-known waterfalls.

The moral of the story?  Planning is vital and it will dramatically increase your chances of great captures, but don’t be a slave to your plans or ‘pre-visualized’ shots.  Keep one eye open for the unexpected…and see what happens!

Have a great Holiday and may all your surprises be happy ones!
Jeff

PS: Here is a shot of Waimoku Falls from later that same morning.  It is an incredible vista (yes, that little green dot at the base of the falls is my long-suffering wife Anita waving at me)!

Little Surprises:  Little Wailua Falls...Maui's Subtle Hidden Treasure

A human figure sure helps you get a sense of scale! Click on the photo to see it in FULL resolution!

 Little Surprises:  Little Wailua Falls…Maui’s Subtle Hidden Treasure

 

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4 Comments

  1. Robin August 8, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    These are breath taking. I was wondering what cameras you used. I just have a cannon, x 10 18 pix, digital- and a samsung HD 18 x mag. will these be okay? I may not get to return for 5 yrs. it takes me along time on my budget. I want photo s to matter. thanks

    • Jeff Stamer August 12, 2014 at 9:54 am #

      Hi Robin,
      I’m very flattered that you enjoyed my photos…it is always nice to have all that hard work appreciated!
      My current camera is a Nikon D800E. It’s an incredible, full frame camera that can produce amazing images..but it is not exactly cheap.
      If I’m not mistaken, the two cameras you have are both point-n-shoots..correct? If so, I’d really recommend that you step up to a DSLR. I used point-n-shoot superzooms for years, but a quality DSLR can produce much better quality images…I’d suggest you ‘bite the bullet’ and upgrade.
      Both Nikon and Canon make excellent DSLRs. They have a number of models with APS-C sensors that produce outstanding images. Pricing is about $700.
      A couple suggestions:
      1) Consider buying a used camera. Manufacturers are constantly improving cameras and bringing out new models at reduced prices. You can pick up excellent used cameras on Amazon or Ebay often at half the price they sold for new
      2) Buy the best lenses you can afford. A high quality lens will last nearly forever and, unlike cameras, the technology is pretty stable.

      Good luck with your decision and let me know if I can help further!
      Jeff

  2. Ed Rosack December 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    Nice write-up and photos Jeff. And a good lesson!

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