Once was not enough, I had to do it again. The allure of lava too much I planned yet another run across island in the middle of the night to see the lava at Kilauea.
This time Deb would come along, mistakenly agreeing to to 0130 alarm clock and possibly regretting it as she climbed out of bed. Thus we drove through the night passing through the park gates a little before 4am.
A larger crowd greeted us this time. The parking lot was lamost half full and there were more folks passing us on the walk out to the viewpoint.
This trip would feature a bit of moonlight over the caldera rather than the dark skies of two weeks ago, a quarter moon in the eastern sky. I had hoped for a few thin moonlit clouds to use in the compositions, but this did not happen. The morning was completely cloud free over the caldera, and nearly calm, the plume rising striaght up from the lava.
The usual plan… A 2am departure from the house, a 4am arrival at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, at the lava while it is still full dark, enjoy the show through the dawn, then go find breakfast.
Exiting the vehicle after the long drive I was greeted by a serene silence and bright stars. Orion and the Pleiades were bright and directly overhead. I had to pause and just breathe in the damp forest smells, gazing upwards to the heavens.
There were another half dozen vehicles in the large parking lot at Devastation Trail. I was not going to be alone at the viewpoint, but it was not going to be crowded either. Reports online have mentioned large crowds in the evening, with even the Park Service recommending a morning visit.
The lava burst forth from the crater wall just before Christmas. After two years of quiet the volcano has again erupted. Within hours the lake of water that had been slowly growing had been boiled away in a huge plume of steam.
I knew within minutes that an eruption had begun, tapped into the island grapevine. While I considered making a midnight run across island I had to bow to the needs of life and regretfully went to bed.
Now well into the new year I finally had a chance to photograph the new lava lake.
It is a bit redundant at this point to remark on how troublesome the year 2020 has been. Looking back at the year in photos I can note that I did not get out much. No big trip, mostly staying home, a few photos taken on local hikes just to get out of the house.
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.
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 run into a significant problem I did not expect.
I love to fly the drone in the Humuʻula Saddle in the morning and afternoon. It is an area that I find endlessly fascinating, with spectacular scenery in a dramatic landscape.
Even better, I need only stop off on the way to or from work at the summit to find time to fly here. Leave for work early, discharge a few flight batteries, join the rest of the crew for breakfast at Hale Pōhaku.
Just after dawn or just before sunset the light accentuates this dramatic landscape, intensifying the colors, the low sunlight angle creating shadows that reveals the stark terrain.
The low sunlight angle causes some problems as well. One I expected… The drone camera does not deal well with glare. Take an image pointing near the Sun and the image is often ruined by the glare. This is discussed in some of the review videos I watched before I bought the drone. Easy to avoid, just point away from the Sun before you start that panorama sequence.
The second major issue I did not expect… Many of the images feature a very bright spot directly opposite the Sun in the sky. This spot is intense, creating a peculiar feature in the photograph that I find distracting.