Hawaii Landscape Photo Trip Recap

In Photography by Matt K18 Comments

Well, it’s winter time and what better time to post some photos from some nice warm beaches? Toward the end of last summer I had the chance to take a trip to Hawaii and just realized that I never posted my photos from the trip. So I figured I’d post ’em now, and give everyone living in a cold place some warm thoughts to think of 🙂

The Gear
I tried to travel as light as I could. I have my main Canon landscape kit which consists of 1 body and the best 3-lens trio I know of. Besides some neutral density filters, that’s all I brought along in a small backpack.

• Camera Body: Canon 5D Mark III
• Lenses: Canon 16-35mm, Canon 24-70mm, and the magical Canon 70-200mm.
• Filters: Tiffen 2, 3, and 4 stop screw on filters as well as my 6-stop Lee Little Stopper
• Tripod/Ballhead: Really Right Stuff TVC-33 and the BH-55 ballhead

I did most of my research on 500px.com. That’s pretty much where I start every trip I take. I knew I was going to Oahu, so that’s what I started with as a search term. I found lots of inspiration and once I found a photo it usually had some good info about where it was taken. Some didn’t though but I actually emailed a couple of people (based on their 500px contact info), and they told me the locations they were at. Great community and I can’t say enough good things about it.

First Stop – China Walls
This was my first excursion. I had seen some great photos and loved the way the water cascades off the walls. There were surfers there too. Even though it’s quite a ways away from the shore, they jump in the water here, catch some of the waves toward shore (which still break far away from shore), then paddle back. The surf wasn’t crazy big, but there were definitely some huge waves at times. I was standing behind a wall I climbed up to and it was pretty intimidating to wait there to get a wave big enough to make this shot look good with water all around. I was protected by the wall, but it was still hard to stand there and watch this huge wave come up.

(click to see the photos larger)



(Taken with the Canon 5D Mark III and the Canon 24-70mm lens)

Meeting Up With a Photo Group
I met up with a photo group there that I got in contact with on Facebook (“dA Crazies”). They were awesome! It was a blast to meet all of them and go shooting. It started out with just a Saturday morning shoot they do every week. But they were so welcoming and we ended up going shooting a few more times that week as well.


Sandy’s Beach
Sandy’s Beach was next one morning. I had actually brought my kids there to try to boogey board, but much to their dismay the waves were way too big. There was absolutely no way I was letting them in the water. Even the life guard came up and showed some concern that we may go in, but I had already told ’em “not a chance in your life” before that ever happened 😉

Great location though. You could go there every day and get different photos. The waves, tides, rocks and everything just made every direction look different.


(Taken with the Canon 5D Mark III and the Canon 16-35mm lens)

Makapuʻu Beach
This was a lot like Sandy’s above, but just different rock formations. Again, it’s the kind of place you could go to all the time and I’m sure it would be way different. It did have this nice arched rock which I spent some time making some photos near.




(Taken with the Canon 5D Mark III and the Canon 24-70mm lens)

A Quick Note About Sharpness
I’ve had a few people ask me how the photos are so sharp, and how I get that kind of detail. A lot of questions I saw asked what kind of post-processing sharpening I’m doing. The answer is not much – just Lightroom mostly. A lot of it is done in-camera with Live View to focus. I use auto-focus a lot, but I usually just start there. I manually focus using Live View all the time. And I’ve made no secret in saying that the Canon 5D III LCDs are awesome for live view. It’s like a mini-HD screen and makes it so much easier to check sharpness when you zoom in. Also, I went over a lot of this in my KelbyOne class on How to Shoot Tack Sharp Photos if you want to learn more about it.

Lanai Point
This one required a little bit of a trek to get to. You had to scatter down this rocky area which wasn’t horrible, except it was kinda wet and slippery. Again, nothing too crazy as long as you were careful and moved slow.

Sadly, once I got down and set up my camera I realized I did something really dumb. My camera was in my cold air conditioned room all night. Then I got up for a short drive and pulled the gear out in the incredibly hot and humid weather. Well, you can guess what happened. Since I hadn’t acclimated the camera and lenses ahead of time, they all got fogged up instantly. And not foggy on the outside, but on the inside elements as well. It’s the most frustrating thing in the world because there’s nothing you can do but wait. And wait I did… I watched one of the prettiest sunrises all week happen right in front of me. I did snag a few photos but they still have some of that foggy haze to them.



(Taken with the Canon 5D Mark III and the Canon 24-70mm lens)

Shark’s Cove
One evening I met with the group at a place called Shark’s Cove. Interestingly enough, there’s not really any sharks there. But still a very cool place. It’s got this ledge that you can walk out on and the water comes in and forms little waterfalls in certain areas. The tide was pretty low, so it didn’t happen a lot, but I managed to snag a few photos of the water rolling in and out.

And it was a nice sunset with the clouds, so that ended up giving some nice reflections in the water that did pool in some of the rocky areas.






(Taken with the Canon 5D Mark III and the Canon 24-70mm or 16-35mm lens)

Post Processing
I didn’t really do that much work to these. Mostly Lightroom to start off with. Pulling out some details from the Shadows and pulling back on the highlights. I used a lot of the Graduated Filter too. Then I finished them off with onOne’s Perfect effects – mostly some Dynamic Contrast and some warming filters as well. I did replace the sky on one of the photos too, but that’s about it.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one!


  1. Hugh Roberts

    Interesting blog (as ever). Being in the UK I don’t really have too much of a problem with going from cold air conditioning to hot/humid climate – usually cold and wet 🙁 . What is the best way to get your gear acclimatised to the change in conditions?

    1. Author
      Matt K

      Thanks Hugh. I usually try to put my gear outside as soon as I wake up. So while I’m getting ready it’s getting acclimatized. Take it out and set it up as soon as you get to your location. For me, I had left it in my car (which was air conditioned) for a while, but I should have taken it out as soon as I arrived.

  2. Mike Wilson

    Good call on the Sandy Beach no swim zone rule. We almost lost our number one son there on a calm day. (the waves were no more than 1.5 feet) The ebb tides are very strong at Sandys. I was able to grab down under the water and grab the boy by the hair and haul him out of the water. He was moving fast toward Rabbit Island. Tell everyone you know that Sandy is not for kids. It is a beautiful place, however.

  3. Janet Clark

    We were happy to shoot with you while you were here and you are welcome back any time!!! Your shots turned out really nice and thank you for the focusing lesson!!! Please give my aloha to your family!

  4. Dennis Zito

    Matt, your photos are spectacular as always!! I’ve used your focusing tip ever since you first talked about it … even with the Canon 7D when I zoom in it stay very clear and not pixelated. Unfortunately, I won’t be at your seminar today … many thinks going on with the new house. 🙁 I know those that make it will be treated to some Great Training!


  5. Rachel

    Hi Matt,
    Great blog and thanks for sharing. Hawaii is a gorgeous place with such lovely beaches. The waterfalls are also beautiful. If I only I knew then what I know now when I travelled there a couple of years ago… 🙂 it’s amazing how quickly we can learn and grow (and continue to learn!). Take care! 🙂

  6. Gerry Slater

    Wonderful images Matt. Thanks for sharing them with us. I may be behind the curve on this, but I really would like to know when and why you use the various stop filters from Tiffen, and the Lee Little Stopper? Hope your transition to OnOne is going well, and all the best to you and your family for the Holidays.

  7. Hanspeter

    Hi Matt
    Great article and photos about your Hawai trip. May I ask you something ? When I enlarge the photos by clicking on them (iMac, 24″) I can see on photos 7, 8 and 15 (top down) very strong color noise or vertical color banding on the right side and right bottom corner. What is the reason for that ?
    If it is a Canon problem switch back to Nikon beacause I have never seen this on your (Nikon) photos 😉
    I am joking.

    1. Author
      Matt K

      I barely see it, even on a 27inch screen. I see a little, and it’s probably a result of me just being lazy and pushing the shadows slider up too far. If I have something that’s deep in the shadows, I’ll usually merge two exposures together (because I shoot everything bracketed). But these photos aren’t portfolio photos, so I didn’t spend a ton of time on them. Just some quick Lightroom adjustments and finishing touches.

  8. Ben Brodbeck

    Sorry if I missed it, but do you sell prints of these photos? I’d love to have these in my home!

  9. Steve F

    Outstanding work and great article Matt; I have been to Sharks Cove many times, and took a few shots with my Sony H-1 a few years back…the history of Sharks Cove is very unique ,,,

  10. Jon Schroeder

    As usual, outstanding photos and explainations. Question: Why the Canon 5D, and not the Nikon 810? I’m on the brink of a purchase and your opinion is valued (and will not be released to “hater” blogs)



  11. Joe Candrilli

    Look forward to your next visit. Plan a holiday vacation trip next time, North Shore waves are 15 feet this week, a true sight to see. Maybe March when the whales come back. Bring a dive housing for snorkeling with the whales maybe?

  12. Ralph Hightower

    On the Lanai Point photo series where you said you didn’t get the lens and camera acclimated to the humidity, Well, I prefer the top one over the second; both are visually stunning, that’s a great sunrise on top. But with those two photos, was there something that you saw that makes it different from what the camera captured?
    I had a personal project where I photographed the full moons of the year. During the winter, I put my camera and lenses in the car so they would be acclimated to the cold. I didn’t do that during the warm months as much; I wanted to minimize my time outside frigid weather.

    1. Author
      Matt K

      Hey Ralph – I’d say the only thing I saw was that there was more detail in the rocks and they weren’t silhouetted as much as they look in the photo. But because of the fog on the glass, I wasn’t able to push the shadows open any more because then the whole photo just looks hazy. That’s about it though.

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