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In Search of Nemo

11th June 2013

Underwater Photography – Blllllrrrrrpppp!

For those of us who spend their winters in the frigid cold, surrounded by ice and snow for months at a time, a visit to the tropics is a blessing. To me, the mention of the tropics brings warmth and water to mind. And that’s precisely what we were after when we booked a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii.

The weather there is predictably warm so it’s easy to pack: a couple of bathing suits, a few pairs of shorts and several shirts. And don’t forget the snorkeling equipment! As an avid picture-taker, my luggage also includes a camera or two so that I can record the events that we may encounter.

The least enjoyable part of the trip is getting there. It’s an all day affair starting with a short hop from our home in Grand Rapids to Chicago followed by a very long, 9-hour flight from Chicago to Honolulu.

Clouds covered most of the flight path to the islands. These sparkling beaches of Oahu (to the right) are about the only sites that we see along the way and this only upon leaving Honolulu on a 45 minute connecting flight to Kona.

And owing to a six hour time difference, we arrive in time for dinner.

Being in the middle of the Pacific, there’s water galore everywhere. The next morning, with our snorkeling gear in tow we head down to one of the local beaches.

For this trip, I’ve taken a camera that can be used underwater. I’ve never invested the thousands of dollars needed for a “real” underwater outfit, but this Olympus Tough 6000 will do the trick.

The Big Island is surrounded by shallow reefs lined with coral. Many of the popular beaches attract bathers for this exact reason. The coral is teeming with tropical fish and wildlife just a few feet below the water’s surface.

Without heavy scuba equipment and expensive deep water photo gear, my small, relatively inexpensive camera makes it possible for me to record these amazing wonders of the ocean. Here’s some of my “catch” made simply by gently kicking my flippers, goggles and snorkel facing downward and camera in hand.

Colorful sea anemone among the coral.

We even spotted this mermaid among the coral!

Big Island Turtle – my wife captured this short video of a turtle that was swimming nearby.

A lovely sunset on the Big Island

So I returned home with a slight tan, a relaxed body and a nice set of photos of some spectacularly colorful fish. Of course these photos aren’t of the same quality that you’d expect from a full-blown underwater outfit. But I’m happy just the same having recorded some of nature’s gorgeous water landscapes with a very affordable camera.
Written by Arnie Lee


First Helicopter Ride

29th May 2013

Aerial Photography the Easy Way

For forty years I’ve traveled extensively for work, mostly by plane. For some, traveling is an exciting part of the job but for others it represents an unpleasant necessity.

For me, the “good” part is that I’ve accumulated enough frequent flyer miles to reach the 1 Million Mile Club. This means for the rest of my life I can travel on United with certain pleasantries. The “bad” part is that to achieve this milestone, I’ve spent way more than a full work-year(2000+ hours) on their aircraft – not counting the time at various airports. But since my occupation was related to flying, all of this traveling affords me a way to keep in contact with the aviation industry. Along with the miles, I’ve accumulated a sizable collection of aerial photographs. As a window seat passenger, I’ve enjoyed viewing and capturing some magnificent sites passing by at a one mile every six seconds clip.

Lately, I’ve scaled back on business trips. However, While vacationing in Hawaii last week, I couldn’t resist the chance to view the lava flows from the amazing Kilauea Volcano by air. With all the time I’ve spent in aircraft, you’d think that this would be just another routine trip. But this being my first flight by chopper, I was quite excited.

Our helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350 seats six plus the pilot. This aircraft has a generous amount of windows thereby offering a very good view out the surrounding.

We were happy to learn that our pilot was quite experienced. Before migrating to the Big Island, she flew Grand Canyon tours from Las Vegas for several years.

The flight begins at the Hilo airport on the east side of the Big Island (Hawaii). We pass over stands of macadamia trees. Macadamias are the main export of the Hawaiian islands.

It’s a 12 minute flight from Hilo to the volcanic coast. A few minutes before, we pass over a dreary, smokey, grey landscape. These are a few of the notable features of Kilauea Volcano.

Upon reaching the coast, our pilot maneuvers the helicopter so we can have an off-shore view of the volcanic activity.

The smoke is the result of 2200-degree lava emptying into the ocean. Since 1983, the lava flow has added about 500 acres of new land to the island.

We’re told that the lava solidifies very soon after it reaches the water.

The red areas of this photograph are the hot lava pouring into the Pacific.

These two hot spots are lava tubes which have poked their way through the caldera to the surface.

These are spent (expended) lava tubes which have crusted over.

Of course it’s possible to photograph the same sites from a small private aircraft. But shooting from a helicopter is certainly a superior way of accomplishing the same. With a skilled pilot such as ours, we were able to easily maneuver to locations that would require multiple passes with a private plane. And unlike a helicopter which is able to hover, an aircraft introduces 80 knots or more of shake to the photos. I’m happy to have taken the tour and capturing an unforgettable set of travel photographs.
Written by Arnie Lee