Since I had to drive back from Hilo anyway, may as well have some fun along the way. I had spent some time on Google maps the night before scouting a good set of waterfalls to drone and ended up choosing Kawainui… A good choice.
The Hamakua coast features hundreds upon hundreds of waterfalls, from modest cascades to spectacular falls hundreds of feet high. I wanted some good video footage of a classic Hawaiian Island waterfall.
I needed a waterfall that was big enough to be impressive and offer open airspace for the drone, not overhung with trees and branches to create flight hazards. I was looking for a falls that was not close to a house, no need to be rude and fly over someone’s back yard. I needed easy access from a road.
Kawainui stream fit all the criteria, with several waterfalls to choose from.
As I parked and walked out onto the bridge to get a look at the stream I met a young man just hanging out on the century old bridge. We struck up a conversation, as he rested, he and his friends had been jumping off the bridge into the deep pool below.
We chatted about the road, the railroad, the old sugar landings along the coast, the odd tunnel just above the bridge we stood on that was likely another relic of sugar. He gave me the layout of the falls and where to find the trails through the thick jungle. Growing up swimming in this stream he knew the area well.
A big falls was located just downstream from the bridge, my conversation confirming what I had seen in the satellite photos… A pretty waterfall that should provide a nice visual for photography. As I flew the drone over the edge the first time and spun it to look at the falls I was happy, just what I was looking for.
Governor Ige signed the new public access rules, drones would be illegal on the summit in ten more days.
With a deadline looming much sooner than I had contemplated there was a narrow window of opportunity. While I had wanted to fly the summit for a long time, I now had a few short days in which to do so. On January 23, 2020 the new rules would take effect.
The Office of Mauna Kea Management has attempted to restrict drone use on the summit by posting signs that drones are not allowed. Problem, they did this with no legal authority to do so. In conversations with OMKM staff I had pointed this out and received a quiet admission that it was true.
The new public access rules would change this… Flying a drone would be specifically prohibited on the science reserve, a civil offence with steep fines involved. With the governor’s signature those rules would be in force.
Not the first time I have attempted to take this photo, rather the fourth, or is it fifth?
I think I got it right this time…
The image is a two frame mosaic taken with the Mavic Air and stitched in Lightroom. The trick is catching the clouds at just the right place, and racing to launch the drone from close enough to take advantage of the clouds. Conditions change with remarkable speed and fluidity as the clouds move across the flank of the mauna, surging up the slope or dissipating quickly.
By now anyone reading the news will know that a drone sighting shut down a major metropolitan airport just days before Christmas. London’s Gatwick airport was intermittently closed to arrivals and departures during the busiest travel season of the year, leaving up to 140,000 travelers stranded and scrambling to make alternate travel arrangements.
What you may not have heard is that there may never have been a drone involved. This may have stemmed from one bad sighting and a classic case of mass hysteria leading to further drone sightings.
Even worse, authorities looking for anyone to blame arrested and detained an innocent couple for 36 hours. They were eventually released after no evidence was found and an alibi verified. During that time the couple was vilified by name in some major media outlets. The only saving grace here is that the couple is now likely to receive a substantial sum from those newspapers under British libel laws.
I have been flying a lot in the Saddle over the last few months. It helps that I can simply leave for work early, stop off and blow through some drone batteries, before heading on to Hale Pohaku where I meet the rest of the crew for a day on the summit. The process can be reversed on the way back down the mauna in the evening after work.
On these short days late in the year this means flying right at dawn and sunset, creating very dramatic light. The rich colors are simply great for photography of this beautiful area of lava flows and cinder cones.
What makes the are even more spectacular is the cloud layer. As you drive up the mauna you pass through the clouds. I love to stop and fly right at the top of the cloud layer, where the fog lays in against the mountain. I am sorely disappointed on those mornings that the fog is not there!
Of course a good video needs great music. I am indebted to Chris Stark, a local artist who graciously allowed me to use his track Dancing in the Rain as the backdrop for the video. I encourage you to head over to his website ChrisStark.com to check out his albums.