Travel Photography

Travel: Kauai

Last month, I went to the Hawaiian island of Kauai, which is a bit away from the main islands and less touristy (especially in the Northern and Western parts). I stayed at the St. Regis in Princeville, which is very secluded and right at the Hanalei Bay, which offers stunning views at all times of day. One of the amazing things about this place is that you can see all kinds of weather systems coming through. Within two minutes you can go from a torrential rainfall to a clear and sunny sky.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay at Night

Another cool spot is Poipu Beach on the south side of the island. It's quite a bit more touristy, but still worth a visit, especially if you have children. Poipu Beach has a small bay and a coral reef that result in very calm waters and lots of colorful fish swimming around right below the surface.

Popiu Beach Sunset

On the north-west side of the island, you have the Napali Coastline, the Kalalau Valley, and the Waimea Canyon - all of which are worth a visit. When you look at a map, it looks like a short drive to get to the north-west but the entire north-west is a mountain range with canyons, so you have to drive around. Island traffic can be slow and congested around Lihue, so prepare for a 2-3 hour drive if you are coming from the north-east side.

Kalalau Valley

To get to the bottom of the Kalalau Valley (Kalalau Beach), you need to hike the entire length of the Kalalau Trail, which is considered one of the toughest hikes in the world with its steep and muddy slopes. I approached the first few miles of the trail and it's well worth it. Expect to camp overnight at Kalalau Beach since the 11+ mile hike will take you most of a day.

Kalalau Trail

After a little more than two miles on the trail (the easy portion), you get to Hanakapai'ai Stream and Hanakapai'ai Beach. The stream is great to just jump in for a quick refreshment, but don't even think about bathing at the beach. The tides and shore-break are strong and can pull you out quickly.

The Kalalau Trail starts at Ke'e Beach, which is all the way at the end of the road (literally). There is some street parking right by the beach that tends to fill up quickly during the day, but there is also a parking lot down the road.

Ke'e Beach

At Ke'e Beach, you can see the waves create some awesome shapes.

If you like to surf, a great place to go is Lumahai Beach. These pictures are just some screenshots from a GoPro video as the waves were pummeling me.

Unfortunately, I had less than a week on the island, so I didn't get to go to many of the places that I wanted to see. But hey, at least now I have an excuse to go back.

Los Angeles Stopover

On the way to Kauai (Hawaii), we made a quick stop in Los Angeles to spend some time in the city and on the beach.

Our first stop took us to Manhattan Beach for some time on the pier and dinner. If you have kids, the aquatic center on the pier is really worth a visit.

Manhattan Beach Pier during Sunset, Los Angeles

Considering the warm weather, I was surprised how much into Christmas Californians are. While everything was still bleak in DC, the houses and streets in Los Angeles were all ready for Christmas...

Christmas Time in Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles

The next day greeted us with an awesome sunrise and a trip to East Los Angeles...

Sunrise over Los Angeles as seen from the Sheraton Gateway LAX

And of course I never go to LA without driving on the PCH (Pacific-Cost Highway) and ending up at Matador Beach...

El Matador Beach, California

The pictures from Hawaii are coming soon. Stay tuned...

Landleben - Impressions from rural Germany

In May, I spent a few weeks with some friends and family in a very rural part of Germany. Here are some impressions.

Germany is very densely populated, so even the rural parts are developed enough to get some light pollution during night shots. The ones below were taken at my mum's beach house:

As you can see, the sky is pretty clear, but there is still a lot of light spill from the horizon line, making it look like the sun just set when it was in fact past midnight when I took these shots.

Rural in Germany means that it's about a 30-40 minute drive to the nearest bigger city and on the way there, the roads are lined with fields, occasionally interrupted by a small village or industrial area. Those of you who know me, know of my affinity for anything industrial, so you'll be surprised that I did not take any pictures of industrial buildings. The thing about industrial areas in rural Germany is that they don't look industrial at all, they look like your standard warehouses with everything industrial neatly hidden behind the walls. I have worked in a few of those when I was a teenager and trust me when I say that the production floor of any factory in Germany during production looks neater than your closet. If you want to see real industry, go to the cities. In any case, here are stock photos I took of some rye fields:

Aside from fields, what else do farms have to offer? Animals of course. My friend Martin and I were out hunting for an old wind mill that we remembered was somewhere in the area. What we found was even more exciting - a small herd of cows including a calf with a wind mill in the background:

And what would a trip to rural Germany be without having an all-you-can-eat right by the waterfront?


Sunrise in Washington D.C.

Last weekend, the photo sharing site Flickr and the United States Military invited a few photographers to come see the sun rise over Washington DC. Arlington National Cemetery opened early for us and we had a military escort accompany us to Arlington House to take pictures. Unfortunately, someone had forgotten to open the gates, so there wasn't much time left when we got to the location and everyone was scrambling to set up in time. (A big shout out to Flickr for providing coffee and donuts that early in the morning)

 Tele-Zoom of the Sunrise with the Washington Monument as a Silhouette

Tele-Zoom of the Sunrise with the Washington Monument as a Silhouette

 Wide-Angle of the Sunrise with the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument in View

Wide-Angle of the Sunrise with the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument in View

After catching a few sunrise shots, I was trying to catch some of the early morning mood over the graves, but unfortunately we were restricted as to where we could venture off and how long we could stay, so my friend Qiwu and I decided to head to Capitol Hill instead to catch some early morning views of the monuments. While waiting to get into our cars, Qiwu caught this picture of me:

 Looking a bit tired from getting up at 4am, but this is easily one of my favorite pictures of myself. All the credit goes to  Qiwu Liu  for making me look good.

Looking a bit tired from getting up at 4am, but this is easily one of my favorite pictures of myself. All the credit goes to Qiwu Liu for making me look good.

We first headed to the Jefferson Memorial, which was completely abandoned except for the odd runner of late night partier passing by. I have been trying to get some no-people shots of the memorial for a while. Now I know the trick: Be there on a Sunday morning before 7am. 

 Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C.

 Interior of the Jefferson Memorial

Interior of the Jefferson Memorial

Next we headed over to the Lincoln Memorial, where street parking was plentiful. It's nice to be in DC and not having to scramble for a parking spot or park several blocks away. By the time we arrived at the Lincoln, the first buses had started shipping in tourists, but I was glad to catch a good shot with only a few people that were easy to take out in Photoshop. Seems like 7.30am is already too late to get an undisturbed view.

 Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

 Interior of the Lincoln Memorial

Interior of the Lincoln Memorial

About two minutes after I got some fairly undisturbed shots of the interior, the first busloads of people started making their way up the stairs to the memorial. Less than a minute passed between my last undisturbed shot and this one, so timing is everything.

At this point, taking pictures without people in them had become a futile endeavor, so Qiwu and I decided to just sit on the steps by the Reflecting Pool and enjoy the weather while watching more or less attractive people pass us by at different velocities ranging from slow strolls to military runs, with most of them stopping to take their obligatory travel pictures and selfies - "Lauren checked in at the Reflecting Pool at 7.43am".

And here comes the interesting part. Someone invented the zoom-out selfie device, so your friends at home don't just see a frame-filling face of you, but also what's around you:

 As odd as it may look, it keeps you from asking strangers to take your picture just to find out that they were able to bend the laws of physics by having everything in front of you and behind you in focus, while you look like an out-of-focus blob

As odd as it may look, it keeps you from asking strangers to take your picture just to find out that they were able to bend the laws of physics by having everything in front of you and behind you in focus, while you look like an out-of-focus blob

While we were enjoying ourselves, we were lucky that some marines walked by:

On the way back to our cars, we passed by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. What we witnessed was an emotional scene of a man remembering his fallen comrades, saying each of their names while stroking over the engraving in the stone: