For more than a quarter century the lava on Hawaii’s Big Island has continued to flow from the Pu’u O’o vent on the flanks of Kilauea down into the Pacific Ocean. A mesmerizing river of molten earth that is equally beautiful and terrifying as it slowly devours everything in it’s path, while adding acres to Hawaii’s newest Island.
Since ancient times Pele, the Goddess of Fire, has been a central figure of Hawaiian lore. “She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land” is often recounted in ancient Hawaiian chants, and today is the most visible of the Hawaiian deities.
In 1990 I witnessed the slow destruction of the nearby village of Kalapana and watched in amazement as the locals rolled the historic painted church down the road to safety, while the palms on the famous Kaimu black sand beach went up in flames. Pele is known to be a passionate goddess, yet volatile and capricious as evidenced by her destruction of the modern Wahaula visitor center while completely avoiding an ancient heiau in her path.
I’ve been back many times over the years to pay homage to Pele, and I’m always in awe of her powerful hand in shaping these Islands. Will Rogers once said, “buy real estate, they don’t make it any more”. But clearly he had never been to this part of the world!
June 8th is World Oceans Day – a chance to celebrate the bodies of water that make up 70% of our planet and provide food, recreation and place to rejuvenate the spirit. As home to an estimated 230,000 marine species, our oceans are a vast wilderness with ecosystems critically linked with our own. Unfortunately many of the earth’s inhabitants never see or experience our oceans, yet our impact through pollution and over-fishing has taken its toll.
Organizations such as the The Ocean Project provide a great opportunity to get directly involved in protecting the future of our oceans through personal and community involvement. Working with zoos, aquariums, and conservation groups, they sponsor beach cleanups, educational programs, art contests, film festivals, sustainable seafood events, and other activities that help to raise consciousness of how our lives depend on the oceans and what we can do to keep them healthy long into the future.
Madame Pele has re-awakened on the Big Island of Hawaii this past year sending a river of lava flowing into the sea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. For more than a quarter century the goddess of fire has let her temperament be known on this Pacific island creating one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and once again she is restless.
This image made in the pre-dawn hour shows the raw force of fire and water combining to form new land. It is an incredible spectacle to witness and one of the most challenging subjects I have ever photographed. In years past, walking across miles of a’a lava fields (the sharp brittle variety) in the dark and carefully setting up a tripod on a newly formed shelf above the sea was the only option. But now an ocean view provides a new perspective to this ever-changing scene.
In stark contrast to shooting the lush forests and beautiful beaches on the windward side of this same island, this is a land of raw earth and fire – and beauty of a different kind. The experience is intoxicating, and once you’ve caught your first glimpse of Pele’s glow the desire to return again and again is hard to resist.
Rocky coastline at Soberanes Point, Garrapata State Park, Big Sur, California (click for large view)
The Big Sur coast is one of those truly special locations that never fails to impress. The rocky shoreline and misty mountains are instantly recognizable the world over, yet her mood is constantly changing throughout the seasons providing a fresh perspective with each new visit.
From the early morning fog to the golden sunsets, this meeting of land and sea is in a constant state of flux. And as you make your way along that magical ribbon known as Highway 1, each turn reveals a slightly different scene that somehow seems more dramatic than the last.
For photographers, this perpetual change is ideal and the challenge of making fresh images (often faced in many other landmarks) is all but removed. The Big Sur coast is also part of the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary and its rich sea life, including Elephant Seals, otters. and migrating gray whales, provides yet another opportunity for great imagery.