Maui All-Stars and Moon variations

March 23, 2019

Youshikazu Yamauchi points out stars with a green laser for his “Maui All-Stars” star gazing tour. (Click on image to enlarge).

The great thing about being in a national park is that you meet all sorts of visitors who come for all sorts of reasons. Three times I’ve met up with Yoshikazu Yamauchi, who runs a business called “Maui All-Stars”. His card says, “Haleakala Sunset & Stargazing”. I’ve seen Yoshi at the Kalahaku Overlook, my favorite spot and I think his, too. A few weeks ago I saw a telescope set up in the small parking area I usually go to and saw a van of people. I started talking to the driver and found out he is Japanese, but moved to Maui and now leads stargazing tours, mainly for Japanese tourists. I told him what I was doing and he seemed impressed I came all the way from New York and I think told the 8 or 10 visitors about me. (I think he was a little disappointed I didn’t speak Japanese).

A week later I saw him at the same spot, he was setting folding chairs out for everyone. After tending to his guests, he offered me a cup of hot green tea. He gives the tours in Japanese, all while soft, mainly Hawaiian music, plays from the van. I’m familiar with some of the sky, so I could follow a bit of what he was describing to the people. He uses a green laser to point out stars and objects in the sky. I looked through the telescope and binoculars Yoshi had set up and got some nice views of star clusters, a galaxy and the moon. I saw him and his group a third time a day before the full moon as they watched the sunset.

The moon rises and moon sets here are remarkable for many reasons. Usually clear views from the high altitudes and incredible colors in the sky are two. Standing high on a lone mountain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is another. The first two pictures below were taken on the vernal equinox, March 20, 12 hours and 8 minutes apart. Both show an amazing phenomenon of the shadow of the Haleakala mountain being projected to the direction opposite the rising or setting sun onto the hazy atmosphere of our Earth.

The first shot shows the moon setting early Wednesday morning at 6:30 am, tucking in behind the island of Lanai with the Haleakala shadow to the left. This is from the summit area, just below 10,000 feet in elevation, above the cloud layer. The second shot is that evening at 6:38 pm, from the Kalahaku overlook, the full moon just breaking the horizon, rising through the shadow of the mountain and the shadow of the Earth. Hanakauhi, the mist maker, is in the foreground. Fortunately, no mist to be seen. This is really a sight to be experienced.

A third moonrise shot taken minutes after the one above is more abstract and gives you the sense of how vast the environment is here.

March 20, 6:30 am, moon set from summit area. (Click on images to enlarge).

March 20, 6:38 pm, moon rise from Kalahaku Overlook.
March 20, moon rise from Kalahaku Overlook.
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Into the crater, Pt. 2

March 20, 2019

Our galaxy with a silhouetted lava formation. (click on images to enlarge)

Blog reader Lois said it best in a comment to the last post: “… I sense that all of the senses are keenly awakened by what you are experiencing in this unique adventure.” She is so right, this is an environment that fills all the senses all the time. The views, the subtle colors, the plant smells, the rain-like mist or sun and the sounds. The park information says inside the Haleakala crater is one of the quietest places in the world and it truly seems that way. It’s not silence, there is a quiet that lets you know there is an environment out there living and breathing. Often in the evenings I would hear distant sounds, just perceptible, almost a single noise, unsure of what it is. I realized it was the call of hundreds of ‘ua’u birds (“oooo ah oo”) nesting in the crevasses of the volcano walls.

After showing Ranger Honeygirl a selection of the photos I’ve shot, she said Hanakauhi, the mountain in the background of the ‘ahinahina image I posted last time, means “maker of mist” in Hawaiian.  A very descriptive name since clouds and mist seem to emanate directly from the mountain. In the crater I could sit and watch clouds form and dissipate and roll on by from the Holua cabin. It could be perfectly clear and two minutes later almost overcast. The clouds seem to move by as if I was watching a time-lapse film speeded up, though it was happening in real time in front of me.

Thought I would show other images from my time in the crater. The plants are remarkable looking in the light of a quarter moon, which provides all the landscape illumination in these photos.

‘Ahinahina plants (silversword). These plants bloom once in their lifetime, then die. Skeletons of dead plants lie where they were growing
(Click on images to enlarge)

‘Ahinahina lit by the moon.

‘Ili’ahi (sandalwood) tree, endemic (grows only in Haleakala) and rare. An upturned Big Dipper hovers overhead.
‘A’e (fern) growing out of lava formations. The bright stars are from left to right, Alphard (in Hydra), Procyon (Canis Minor) and Betelgeuse (Orion).
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Into the crater and Tom Wolfe

March 16, 2019

Me and my shadow hiking out of the crater.

(Click on images to enlarge)

If you are reading this, I’ve made it out of the crater alive! It was quite an adventure, hiking into and out of the Haleakala volcano going from 7,990 feet in elevation to 6,940 feet to Holua and back again. I stayed at the Holua “Hilton” as the ranger cabin is called. Also at the site is a visitor cabin with 12 bunks that can be reserved and a campground for tents, both with spectacular views of the valley in the crater. As artist-in-residence I was able to reserve nights in the ranger cabin, same as I did in Kipahulu last week.

My back pack might have weighed 35 pounds; carrying all my stuff (clothes, food, supplies) plus the camera equipment really added up. I didn’t need a tent or cooking utensils so that was a savings. From the Halemau’u trailhead to the cabin is 3.7 miles, which is about all I could think I could do. From the trailhead it is very steep, narrow and almost all rocky. Tuesday morning was part sun, part cloud that made the rocks wet and the mist seemed like rain.

Inside the crater is like a big valley, much greener than the summit area, but similar to the high deserts of the southwest. The environment is fascinating, part covered with lava flows from the past, hardened into dark rocks that can be quite sharp. Plant life grows between the cracks forming an interesting contrast.

The cabin is rustic, with 4 bunks, a counter/sink area for cooking and some storage bins. That’s about it. The water collected is non-potable but there is a large water filter that works by gravity on the counter. A two-burner propane stove heats water quickly. There are lots of pots, pans and utensils. I ate meals there, taking things like instant oats and camp meals that you only have to add boiling water to make.

The Holua Hilton, at the base of the crater rim.

The quiet is amazing, though the sounds of the ‘ua’u birds break that silence especially in the evening (“oooo ah oo” is the sound). Thousands of them must be calling, you hear them faintly in the distance. The inside of the crater is described as one of the quietest places on Earth.

After scouting out locations and subjects during the day, I spent two night photographing the ‘ahinahina plant, or silversword. It is silver in color to ward off the strong rays of the sun and looks quite alien day or night. It is one of the many plants endemic to Hawaii, Haleakala in particular. It is distantly related to the sunflower, which must have come here millennia ago.

The Milky Way was a sight at 3:00am, lying horizontal to the horizon and was worth waking up early. The third night I concentrated on the lava flows and plants, a first quarter moon was high lighting up the landscape.

Fortunately, Friday morning was clear and warm for the hike out. My pack was only a bit lighter, I ate almost all of the food but had to pack out the trash. It seemed like I was ascending straight up the side of the crater, though since I adjusted the straps on the pack, I was able to walk better and my pace was good. I ran into Tom Wolfe who was headed down the trail. Actually, a former New Yorker about 50 years old with a name he said is “hard to forget”. I was pretty exhausted when I reached the parking lot but glad I made it out.

A ‘ahinahina plant glowing under a nearly first quarter moon and Hanakauhi mountain in the distance.

(Click on images to enlarge)
Lava formation with a tipped Big Dipper above and Polaris, the North Star, to the left.
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Squished moon, above the clouds

March 11, 2019

Mahalo for all the comments! I forgot to mention, if you click on the photos you get a bigger version with more detail.

Up until today it’s been very windy at the summit area. Often a big cloud will come in from the east and suddenly it’s like you’re in a fog. Water comes horizontally with the wind and while it’s not really raining, the effect is the same. That and high clouds have cut down on the star photos the last few days. But the moon set on Saturday was amazing in that as it approached the horizon, atmospheric distortion caused the orb to be ‘squished’ in appearance. The crescent lit directly by the sun is almost ‘touching’ the cloud, the Earthshine on the unlit portion glows orange, like an orange sunrise or sunset.

“Squished” moon setting between lava rocks,

Yesterday’s sunset was pretty remarkable from the summit. I’m hoping to limit the sunsets/sunrises to one each to not bore you with the dazzling sky. As I’m walking from the parking lot I see a row of people on an overlook and decided that was an interesting photo. The sun is just creeping below the big cloud layer at the top and you can see the clouds below the summit that the light is reflecting off of. Most of the time driving up or down the mountain, you are above clouds, like in an airplane.

Tanya Ortega from the National Parks Arts Foundation got in touch with astronomers from the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, the group that runs the Haleakala Observatories at the summit. They put me in touch with Rob, a man who works at the observatories and would be my contact. I wanted to try to get some close-up photos of the telescope domes from angles that aren’t reached by the public viewpoints in the park. Rob showed me around the site last week and arranged for me to get access at night, which I’m very appreciative of. Couple of the big telescopes in the photos are the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, the latest in state-of-the-art solar ground-based observatories and PanSTARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) which searches for Near Earth Objects that may collide with us.

Tuesday morning I’m hiking into the volcano to the Holua ranger cabin, just under 4 miles, for a 3-day stay. Pretty challenging for me as I’ll be carrying about a 30-pound pack (maybe more) with clothes, food and cameras. Going in isn’t the hard part, coming out (up to the crater rim) will be tough. Aloha, see you in a few days.

Sunset from the summit.
The Milky Way rises over PanSTARRS and the Daniels K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) in the pre-dawn hours.
Orion and stars over DKIST.
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Kipahulu and Shrimp Truck

March 8, 2019

View from the bunkhouse on a sunny Thursday morning.

In the middle of the week I traveled to Kipahulu, the area of the park that is on the ocean. It is an entirely different ecosystem as you can imagine. It is at the base of the Haleakala mountain and is tropical. Most of the day I got there it sprinkled or rained hard. It’s much warmer in Kipahulu than at the summit area so it was nice to wear shorts. I stayed in the ranger “bunkhouse” basically a large one-room house with a large deck on three sides. Inside is a small kitchen area with refrigerator and propane stove. Two beds were set up and two cots were available. I was alone so I picked one of the beds. The bunkhouse is on the edge of a cliff so the view down to the water is spectacular. You hear the waves crashing on the shore day and night. Except when the rain pours down, then you hear that pretty loud on the metal roof of the house. There is an outdoor shower with the spectacular view and two ‘vault’ toilets a few feet away.

With the solid cloud layer, it didn’t look like there would be much stargazing that night. But when they say, “if you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes” they weren’t kidding. After dinner I looked out a window and saw a few stars. I ran out with my camera to see the sky fairly clear overhead. You could see stars winking out as the clouds moved around. Soon fewer stars were seen and the window overhead closed. But Thursday morning was bright and sunny!

The staff are great, I got so speak with some at the entrance station and the visitor center. Many are Maui-born and live nearby the park. Later in the month I return for two days so I’m looking forward to that.

I drove to Kahului the next day before heading back to the summit area. Ann found out about “shrimp trucks” by searching for Maui food and insisted I try one. 808 Plates Maui was in the parking lot of the Home Depot and served Hawaiian “plates”. Basically, a lunch plate with entrée and two sides. I got the garlic shrimp, which is sautéed and put over rice, your sides are salad and a scoop of rice. Really, really good. Good thing I listened to Ann.

Fortified, I did some grocery shopping at a nearby organic store and returned to the apartment up on the mountain.

Bunkhouse by day. Outdoor shower is the small thing on the right.
Bunkhouse by night under wispy clouds.
808 Plates Maui shrimp (and more) truck.
The garlic shrimp.
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House of the Sun

March 5, 2019

Sun halo at the summit.

Haleakala means “House of the Sun” from a tale of the demigod Maui who lassoed the sun and got it to go slower across the sky. While at the summit of the mountain yesterday, I looked up to see a giant halo surrounding the sun, as it made its slow journey across the sky. High clouds in the atmosphere that contain ice crystals cause the light to be refracted and reflected to form a circle. This can happen with a bright moon also. I like the small figure walking towards the summit building.

In addition to the lei, Ranger Honeygirl gave me a bag of books about all aspects of the park. So, I have lots of homework to do. It’s great to learn the history and culture of the park. This will also help with knowing the names of the plants I photograph.

On to the night sky. The first couple of days have been spectacular at night, hard to beat the views. I’ve been scouting and checking out different overlooks, all seem very good. Saturday night I went to the Kalahaku Overlook at 9,324 feet which several rangers said was their favorite. I wanted to photograph the zodiacal light, a phenomenon of sunlight reflecting off dust particles along the plane of our solar system, and from our perspective, along the constellations of the zodiac. In February and March it appears in the west after sunset from dark locations. Looking west from Kalahaku down below was most of Maui, all lit up. Despite that, the pyramid shaped zodiacal light shone very brightly and you could see stars almost to the horizon. In the photo, clouds well below the summit reflect the city and town lights.

After a few hours of sleep, I went back up the mountain to Kalahaku and looked east this time to see the Milky Way rising around 3:00 am Sunday morning. It was quite bright to the eye and showed up incredibly well in photos. A beautiful orange crescent moon rose 5:00am, trailing three planets and the bright star Antares in Scorpius. It was truly a sight against the backdrop of our galaxy. I’ll include an annotated version to point out the various objects.

My homework.
Zodiacal light over Maui (pyramid of light at left).
View east from Kalahaku, just after 5 am.
Annotated version.
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Haleakala National Park

March 3, 2019

Hello all, I have the honor to serve as the 2019 artist-in-residence at Haleakala National Park in Maui. Haleakala is an incredible park, ranging from sea level to 10,000 feet in altitude at the summit of the dormant volcano. I’ll be here for the month of March, for an entire lunar cycle. I arrived just before noon on March 1 and Interpretive Ranger “Honeygirl” Duman placed a beautiful green and black lei around my neck, welcoming me to the park. She made this lei and explained the diamond pattern represents each generation passing down their knowledge to the next one. She chose the colors- green for the national park and black for the night sky photos I’ll be taking! What a great gift and so carefully thought out. Honeygirl mentioned “mana’o”, the sharing of ideas or thoughts that the diamond pattern also represents. I’m settled into a small cabin in the staff housing area near the main visitor center at 7,000 feet. Wanting to acclimatize to the altitude I didn’t want to go far the first night. I walked down the road to the campground near us to shoot the stars. The sky is quite stunning, I’m not sure I’ve gotten so many stars in a photo. Should be a fun month!

And thanks to Tanya Ortega from the National Parks Arts Foundation for persevering for over a year to make this happen. Through a false start last year and government shutdown this year everything finally came together.

The lei given to me by ranger Honeygirl Duman.
The cabin the park assigned me. Very comfortable.
First night out. Hmm, more stars than in NY!
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SHAPE Gallery reception

May 20, 2018

Thanks to everyone at the SHAPE Gallery in Shippensburg, PA and Ann for a successful reception on April 6. Just getting around to posting photos of the evening. The exhibit looked great, it was hung nicely with really good lighting, thanks to Kurt. All at the gallery worked hard to put on this show, glad we were able to make it happen. There were 30 pictures in all, most of them the night sky photos and four space shuttle images, by request of the gallery. I think five sold, the rest are still available. If you are ever in central Pennsylvania, check the gallery out.

The SHAPE Gallery

Nice front window display.

Ann took a photo of me in the interior room.

Main gallery.

Interior room and main gallery.

Great lighting by Kurt.

Thanks to everyone that came to the reception.

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SHAPE Gallery exhibit!

April 3, 2018

Announcing a show of the night sky work at SHAPE Gallery in Shippensburg, PA. Thanks to Joshua, Kurt and Mark at the gallery for helping put the exhibit together at this very nice community gallery. We had a small show at SHAPE last April of work from students at Shippensburg University who took the Digital Photography Exploration class I taught for one semester. The final project photos looked great in the gallery. The opening reception for the Starlight show is Friday, April 6 and the show runs through April 28.


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New Corona

August 28, 2017

New corona: 8 different exposures combined for a detailed look. The star Regulus is seen at lower left.

Our trip is continuing! We’ve been at Rocky Mountain National Park the last few days, Stan has been teaching a night sky workshop with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. First off, I went back through my eclipse photos and found the series that was shot at varying exposures, in order to get the detail in the sun’s corona. Since it is bright near the sun’s disk and fainter farther away, short to long exposures are needed to show the wide range of brightness. I combined them together to get this amazingly detailed view of the corona during totality. It still doesn’t match what we saw with our own eyes up in the sky above Madras.

The night sky photography class went really well. Eight people signed up for the three-.ay workshop. We spent two nights in the park under the spectacular sky here. I shot some photos of the class at work on Saturday night. Here we are at the alpine Tundra Communities section, at an altitude of 12,000 feet. A crescent moon lights up the landscape and people, the glow of Denver can be seen in the lower right part of the photo.

The Night Sky Landscapes photography class at 12,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park.

One more shot from Boise: at the Hampton Inn breakfast we saw this display of miso soup and sticky rice! In Boise! And it was good. Farther down the road near Laramie, WY, Ann poses with the Sinclair dinosaur at a rest stop. We ‘discovered’ the Sinclair gas stations, which you don’t see back east. We liked the idea of the dinosaur logo.

Miso soup for breakfast! In Boise!

Ann and the Sinclair dinosaur.

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