If you are ever on the Island of Oahu in Hawaii, a short drive north will give a wonderfully dramatic view north towards Kaneohe and Kailua Bays. From downtown Honolulu, take 61 Pali Highway north-east for about 7 miles. It should be a 15 – 20 minute car trip depending on traffic. Look for a sign for the Pali Lookout from the highway. The lookout is accessible from both sides of the highway and the nice thing is you can use the lookout to turn around and head back south, if you don’t want to cross over the mountain range.
I first heard about and visited this scenic view 2 years ago during a family summer vacation. We were headed over to the north side of the island and on the way there I saw the sign for the Pali Lookout. Remembering some vague recommendation from a guidebook, we decided to stop and take a look. It was a fantastic view and I got a great snap-shot of my family by the wall at the overlook. Back then I was not into landscape photography, so a quick family snapshot was all I basically took. A fast-moving rain squall cut our visit short as we scrambled back to the car.
Cut to this summer, when my family and I were back in Hawaii. My desire for photographic landscapes has increased and I wanted to get a nice image from the Pali Lookout. This time, I was equipped with an upgraded camera, my Canon 7D, a super-wide lens, and a tripod. The weather cooperated this year and I spend more time taking in the view. And while I still took a family snap-shot, I also took a HDR landscape of this dramatic view. This year, they were collecting a small fee for parking but I think its well worth a quick stop here to take in the views. [Here is a blog post I found about the new parking fee] Of course, a mere photo does not do the place justice but hopefully you get an idea of the area from the image above. If I ever visit again, maybe I’ll do a panorama to capture the sweep of the mountains and the distant bays.
My Thought Process
I wanted to get a wide view of the scene so I used my widest available lens — a Sigma 10-20mm. While not as wide as a panorama, I think it still gives a nice view of this scenic vista. I took a bunch of images, each with the horizon placed at different heights. The clouds were nice as well as the landscape, so I made sure to get both. While I may usually frame the scene with a bit more of the ground and less sky (to follow the rule of thirds), I wanted to exclude some clutter from the bottom of the image. I also selected this scene to get it framed by the mountain on either side and use the greens in the park to act as leading lines towards the center of the image.
I knew I wanted an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image so I took 3 photographs on a tripod to make sure I get a steady alignment between the 3 images. The cameras set on Aperture priority mode and I used my typical exposures set to -2, 0 and +2 stops.
[Note: Click on the image for a larger version]
The image was taken with a Canon 7D with the Sigma 10-20mm lens. My standard HDR software process includes Photomatix to merge the 3 images, Pixelmator to blend parts of the original image to the HDR image. And as a final step, I use Aperture to sharpen and add color saturation.
The image above was created with 3 separate photographs shot at f13, with -2, 0 and +2 exposure compensation, ISO 100 at 10mm.