Photographing the sunrise at Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii
Picture: Sunrise as seen from the summit of Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii
My family recently returned from a summer vacation holiday trip to Maui. Months before, my wife had asked what I’d like to do for my fiftieth birthday. As an almost off-the-cuff remark I said, “Watching the sunrise from atop Haleakala.” Now mind you, the mountain or place itself wasn’t the point, as much as I was saying I simply wanted to be watching the sunrise atop a mountain; any mountain. Haleakala was simply the one that came blurting out of my mouth. But my wife wanted to go to Hawaii, so this became her excuse to start planning our vacation.
A couple weeks after my birthday, we arrived in Maui. The last time I’d been to the island was with my wife on our honeymoon, 24 years ago. Research indicated the best time to catch a sunrise on Haleakala was the morning after your arrival, since you’ll have a few hours of time difference working in your favor. My kids weren’t too thrilled about waking up at 3:30 am, but they endured. Our research had also indicated it would take about 1.5 hours to drive to the summit from our location in Kehei. (Plan on 2 hours from Lahaina or Kaanapali.) I figured to be safe we should plan on arriving about 45 minutes before sunrise.
Picture: The Big Island of Hawai’i as seen from the summit of Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii
My first hint of what was about to come was as we turned onto the Haleakala road at 4:15 in the morning, along with about 7-8 other vehicles. “Honey, it looks like we’re not the only ones heading up the mountain.” Understatement. Another line of cars greeted us we round the corner to the entrance station, where rangers were happily collecting entrance fees. Silly me forgot (read: didn’t think to bring) my National Parks Pass which was resting comfortably in my truck back home. As we snaked our way up the mountain, you could see a bead-string of car headlights working their way along the switchback road.
We arrived at the Visitor Center just as it was starting to get light. The photographer in me was suddenly confronted by a dual-problematic scenario. My wife was squirming and reminding me for the 15th time she needed a restroom just as I entered the traffic-jammed and already filled parking lot. (Note to self: Next time, leave even earlier.) People were parked double cars thick, and smack dab in front of signs that said No Parking Anytime. We eventually fled the area for the even higher elevation Observatory where we managed to find a parking spot. Thankfully, and although still crowded, this area was not the completely crowded madhouse back down at the Visitor Center.
Picture: Dawn over the observatory on the summit of Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii
When you’re photographing the sunrise at Haleakala National Park, one of the conditions you’ll want to hope for is a layer of tropical clouds off to the east and below the summit to provide a little extra visual drama, as well as providing a good subject to photograph in themselves. Because of the 10,000-foot elevation at the summit, you will also likely be treated to a vivid twilight wedge of color when looking in the opposite direction of the sun.
One of the best tips we got before our trip was to Read the rest of this post »