Two Views of the Waikiki Skyline


Waikiki Skyline at Sunset – Honolulu, Hawaii


Waikiki Skyline at Night – Honolulu, Hawaii

I took both photographs from the balcony of the Wyndam Condo in Waikiki. They were actually taken on two separate days. When I took the images, I was not planning to do a blog post comparing the two but after I saw both images in my library, I thought it would make an interesting comparison. You can tell that the framing is close but not exactly the same. The closer, tall building is the Embassy Suites Hotel and the taller structure in the back is the new Trump Tower in Waikiki. You can also see the ground level stores that are part of the Waikiki Beach Walk development. [Here is a view of the Waikiki Beach Walk from close to ground level]

I took the night shot first since I was mesmerized by view of the bright lights of a large downtown. While there has been a lot of downtown development in Austin, it still has ways to go to match the urban density of Waikiki and Honolulu. I think city skylines can really be neat at night as long as there is enough lit buildings to create enough ambient light. I’m not sure if Austin will ever achieve this density but until It does I will need to go to other larger cities to capture night cityscapes.

The sunset photograph was taken the next day. I was hoping for a dramatic sunset view and while the large buildings blocked the sun, I still managed to get some nice golden light, especially off the clouds. I took many images in order to capture the optimal color — this is key since the color and light change quite rapidly at this time of day. If I had the time, it would have been nice to take a Blue Hour image of this scene which would have occurred 15 – 30 minutes later. To capture the full color and range of light, I took the sunset photograph as a HDR (High Dynamic Range) image. The night photograph was also taken as a HDR to get the details of the Waikiki Beach Walk stores.

So which image do you like better? I think they both have their merits and while they both essentially have the same framing, they have a very different look and feel.

[View all of my images of Hawaii]

My Thought Process

I attempted to get a nice balance of buildings in the frame, including the two taller towers and the Beach Walk Stores. I purposely placed them off-center but also because I didn’t want to include the walls of the balcony. I also had to raise my tripod up higher than normal to not show the railing. I don’t think the skyline is optimally positioned but this is the best I can mange given the limitations in framing I had from my balcony. It would definitely be interesting if I can take these shots from a wide open area such as the roof. I’m sure it would allow me to get even better images of the skyline.

As mentioned above these images were taken as HDRs so I took 3 photographs each on a tripod to make sure I get a steady alignment between the 3 images. The camera is set on Aperture priority mode and I used my typical exposures set to -2, 0 and +2 stops.

[Note: Click on the images for a larger version]

Image Details

The images were 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 3 to sharpen and add color saturation.

Usually my landscapes are taken at f13 but for image 1, it was reduced to f7.1 to decrease the shutter speed. Since its dark, this was necessary to get a range of exposures necessary for HDR. I could have also increased the ISO to 200 but I resisted since I wanted the most noise free images. The HDR process tends to add additional noise and using ISO 100 reduces the noise as much as possible.

Image 1: f7.1, 3 exposures, -2, 0, +2 exposure compensation, ISO 100 at 10mm
Image 2: f13, 3 exposures, -2, 0, +2 exposure compensation, ISO 100 at 10mm

10 thoughts on “Two Views of the Waikiki Skyline

  1. I like the night scene best. In lower left part of the frame you can see a series of smaller roof lines that look like waves rolling in. Not sure if that is a walkway or a roof line for a smaller structure. At any rate, very nice work.

    Downtown Austin won’t develop this kind of density as the land value is not as high and doesn’t justify the expense.

    1. David, Thanks for your comments. I also like the night shot more. The curved structure is a glass canopy that decoratively covers the walkway.

      I’m not holding my breath for massive downtown development in Austin but I’m fairly happy with it the way it is.

    2. Aloha David – you are exactly correct. The glass canopies pictured were designed to reflect the ocean waves paying tribute to the voyaging Hawaiians. Our railings and other architectural features you see throughout the property were purposely designed to emulate the Hawaiian sense of place. Mahalo for your kind comments!

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