Worlds Away on Hawaii’s Big Island

Umauma Falls along the lush Hamakua Coast, The Big Island, Hawaii
Umauma Falls along the lush Hamakua Coast, The Big Island, Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii is well-known for its active volcano, black sand beaches, and magical Kona sunsets, and that’s more than enough reason to visit this island paradise. But what many may not realize is that the eastern side of the island is a lush tropical landscape of cascading waterfalls and jungle-lined valleys in a primordial setting.

Traveling north from Hilo on the old Mamalahoa Highway is a journey back in time. Passing countless sugar cane fields, the primary industry here during the last century, the landscape soon enters the dense jungle as the road winds along the rugged Hamakua Coast. With constant views of the Pacific on the right, the highway passes countless verdant chasms lined with an amazing variety of plants and trees that fill every available space with green. Needless to say, you soon find yourself looking for every available pull-out.

Akaka Falls State Park is one of the highlights of the coast. A short nature trail leads through giant bamboo forests and tropical cascades before arriving at its namesake waterfall. Further north, just before the highway turns west towards the town of Waimea, a spur road leads through the sleepy hamlet of Honoka’a to the spectacular Waipio Valley.  The overlook at the end of the main road provides stunning views of this valley of the kings and the dramatic cliffs of the north coast, but traveling into the valley down the 25% grade (reported to be the steepest in the US) requires several hours and a guide or 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Boasting 4 out of the 5 major climate zones in the world, and 8 out of 13 of the sub-zones, the Big Isle really does have it all! Unlike the other Islands, which require less travel time, it takes a bit of planning to fully experience the largest of the Hawaiian Islands – but this is one part you don’t want to miss.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

The Emotion of Motion

Koi pond, Island of Kauai, Hawaii
Koi pond, Island of Kauai, Hawaii

There’s something fascinating about visual movement that stirs our souls and creates a visceral response. I’m not referring to the exhilaration of skydiving or skiing down a mountain, but the more subtle visual connections we make while witnessing a dance performed on a stage, watching clouds race across a desert sky, or simply viewing a photograph of a silky waterfall frozen in time.

As photographers we have the privilege of stopping time or even slowing it down just long enough to give our viewers a glimpse of a world that can never be seen with our own eyes. We can illustrate a repetitive process over time such as a series of waves washing upon a shore, or create an abstract vision of color and form that has no resemblance to the natural world.

At these moments, there is a bond that occurs between subject and viewer that’s hard to put into words. Perhaps it’s our secret desire to slow the inevitable march of time or just a sense of voyeurism at seeing something beautiful that we know we shouldn’t be able to. I like to think of it as the emotion of motion.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Backcountry Bliss


Backcountry skier under Banner and Ritter Peaks, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
Skier under Banner and Ritter Peaks, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Backcountry skiing in the Sierra Nevada is a perfect winter counterpart to the Desert Solitaire of Edward Abbey’s Utah. This popular and often crowded summer destination takes on another form during the shortest days of the year where deep in the wilderness that rare form of quiet is still plentiful.

Whether you want to ski your own private bowls or just enjoy the tranquility and unique photographic opportunities, it’s all there for the taking. Proper equipment and skills are obvious requirements and outdoor retailers like REI not only sell all the appropriate gear, but also offer classes in technique and safety. Enjoy the season!

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Grand Staircase-Escalante

Slot canyon in Spooky Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah USA (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)
Spooky Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

One of the largest yet least explored parks in the country, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a vast desert landscape of mesas, slot canyons, petrified sand dunes, archaeological treasures and American history. Divided by a single long ridge called the Kaiparowits Plateau, this remote region was the last place in the continental United States to be mapped and is a wonderful destination to find that desert solitude that Edward Abbey so passionately wrote about.

From the south, the Vermilion, White, Gray, and Pink cliffs rise to form the giant multi-hued terraces of the Grand Staircase. And to the east the Escalante Canyons are a labyrinth of geologic wonders slowly winding their way down to Lake Powell. Together these escarpments expose 200 million years of the earth’s history in a visual feast for the eyes, and contain the most continuous record of Late Cretaceous terrestrial life in the world.

For the photographer, the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument is a sublime location where the possibilities are endless and the light, which seems to glow from within, is worthy most anytime of day. I’ve often said you could spend your whole life in southern Utah and not see it all, but that might just be true of this very special park. The temptation to try is always present.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved