Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kula Adventure: Lavender Farm and Botanical Garden

No visit from mom is complete without a trip to some gardens. Keeping with our theme of exploring new places we ventured upcountry to the small town of Kula, nestled 4000ft up the side of Haleakala volcano.

  Here we found the lavender farms where you can find over forty kinds of lavender as well as many other flowers. The views from here are amazing. You overlook the entire valley below from Ma'alaea bay across to Kahului harbor.

After walking through the gardens we stopped at the gift shop to try some of their famous lavender tea and lavender scones. I could eat about a million and a half of those scones. But at $3.50 apiece I settled on splitting one with mom.

Jackson's chameleon strolling
 Our next spot was the botanical gardens. I was hoping to spot a wild Jackson's chameleon and was lucky enough to find one ambling across the top of this wooden fence. This one had three big horns identifying it as a male. These chameleons were introduced here in Maui by a pet store owner who released a few in his back yard. Now they seem quite at home here on the island. They can most often be found upcountry but I have spotted a couple all the way down at Twin Falls before.

The flowers at both the farm and the gardens were breathtaking. So many varieties and colors provide endless photo opportunities. And when your arm gets tired of holding up your camera you can sit back, nibble on a hot scone, and enjoy views like this one.

Overlook at the Lavender Farm

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Exploring NW Maui, from Wailuku to Lahaina

Early morning look at Haleakala volcano's South side

 Road 'round the West Maui Mtns, NW Maui
 One of the big adventures not often attempted here on Maui is the drive around the West Maui mountains. The road here can be driven by any type of car, however you need to be a confident driver as some of the turns are little more than one lane and on the precipice of a huge cliff. But like the more popular 'road to Hana' the sights along this drive are incredible. Huge canyons, distant waterfalls, tropical flowers, and ocean vistas try and pull your eyes off the road.
One of my favorite scenes, Big Beach

 My mom and I tackled this windy road after starting off the morning at the very end of the road, La Perouse Bay. Tucked back in the newest lava flows on Maui the road dead ends into a very beautiful but rugged bay where Admiral La Perouse landed his ship. Beautiful sandy beaches like Big Beach await travelers down in the Makena area with a few secret beaches still out there.
Small missionary church in Kahakuloa, 1892
Kahakuloa, the most isolated town in Maui
 Traveling across the island the rain clouds are usually there to greet you as they were this day. However the clouds would give way to blue skies and then return, only to disappear again as is typical out here in Hawaii. The weather changes so fast so if in doubt I always go just in case. Kahakuloa is a beautiful little town that emerges out of the twisting and turning of this road. This idyllic Hawaiian village is nestled in the green cliffs bordering the raging winter ocean. A small green and red church highlights the photogenic village known as Maui's most isolated village.

Might not want to swim in the Olivine Pools this day
Nakalele Blowhole firing
 On around the coast you come to the Olivine pools which on this day were not good for swimming/snorkeling as they were murky and wavy from huge crashing surf over the rocks. A few miles farther the famous blowhole was rocketing water up 40ft in the air as we watched from a safe distance away. Some of the waves nearby were nearly as high as you can see in the picture.
Overlooking Windmills surf break

La Perouse early morning

 As we rounded the corner back into civilization and good road we stopped at the overlook to Windmills
Rainbows over Lahaina town
 beach. This secluded spot is a great camping area and can hold giant barrels during winter swells. A quick stop overlooking Honolua Bay and a 'one and done' at the Maui Brew Pub brought us to Lahaina where we had a dinner cruise planned on one of the Pacific Whale boats.
What colors, all natural
Whales galore on the dinner cruise
 We stopped at Dan's greenhouse to look at all the plants and the Peter Lik gallery to check out the amazing photographs before boarding our boat for a two hour dinner cruise. It turned out to be dinner and a show with all the whales in town and a beautiful sunset to boot. Not a bad end to a big adventure day around the West Maui Mtns.

Sunset behind Lanai

Nice little secret spot in south Makena
Mom heading to the beach, Big Beach

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sunset Long Exposures with Heidi and Mom

Me and my mom
Walking on water
These pictures were taken with my Canon Rebel T4i with a multi-second shutter speed just after sunset. The shoreline of Maui boast endless opportunities for artistic and creative photos. It is easy to see why so many photographers wait for the magic hours around sunrise and sunset to do most of their work. I do love Hawaii.

Heidi and me taking in the after glow.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Incredible Nudibranch in the Tide Pool

  More tidepool finds! This Dendrodoris carbunculosa is a nudibranch that I have only seen in tidepools on Maui's South shore. It looks like a bouquet of flowers and goes to show why I spend so much time searching for nudibranchs. They have such incredible patterns and colors. Next time you pass a tidepool down by the ocean think twice about what you may be missing!
Dendrodoris carbunculosa

Monday, February 18, 2013

Flamenco Dancing in Tide Pools

This beautiful red-margin spanish dancer nudibranch (Hexabranchus pulchellus) put on a show in this shallow tide pool. Named after a flamenco dancer's skirt, these 'nudies' whirl and undulate as they swim through the water. This spanish dancer swam near the surface sometimes touching its own reflection.

   Even though this nudibranch looks like it might be very toxic with its bright coloration it only has slight toxin in its tissues. They are able to absorb some of the toxin from sponges that it eats. It certainly does not rely on camouflage to remain hidden from site. Instead spanish dancer nudibranchs are nocturnal, coming out at night when visibility is low. The egg masses of a spanish dancer look like velvet roses attached to rocks around the reef. The egg mass is protected from predation since the adult passes on the toxins to the mass.

  While most nudibranchs are very small, this one can someday grow to an amazing 15 inches! Our tidepool find happened to be a three inch juvenile, using the safety of the tidepools as a nursery until it is ready to live out in the open reef.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Maui Sunset

  In between all the adventures it's good to slow down and soak in your surroundings. This night the high winds and cloudy skies made for some great sunset viewing. This is why its always good to have your camera with you just in case.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I'm featured in the Maui Times newspaper

Check this link out. I am featured as one of the expert photographers giving tips about taking better photos of whales. I tell people that nothing will make you appreciate a beautiful whale picture more than coming out and trying to take one yourself. It has to be one of the most challenging styles of photography out there. Wildlife photography in general is very difficult. Add in the extra complication of being on a moving boat, in a restless ocean, trying to photograph an animal that only spends a tiny fraction of its life at the surface and you have the makings of a big challenge.

I have been leading a photo safari whale watch on Wednesdays lately which has been a great experience. There is always a good mix of photographers on board. Last week I had a woman with a little point and shoot camera and a professional photographer who had been featured in National Geographic.

Here's to many more photo opportunities to come...

-Dai Mar Tamarack

Searching for Frogfish at Makena, Maui

Saddleback Butterflyfish
Slate pencil urchin
   Diving at Makena Landing here on Maui is one of the easiest shore entries on the island. A calm, protected sandy beach lets you wade out until you are all geared up and ready to go. Usually I bypass this easy entrance for a quicker but more dangerous drop off the lava rocks but we had reports of baby frogfish on the Makena Landing side so that is where we headed. We swam by a shark and a few turtles while listening to humpback whales singing in the distance, but we were on a mission to find the elusive frogfish. With a little bit of searching and a great find from our friend Dav, we actually found two!

Both frogfish were adults, about the size of a small dinner plate. They have amazing camouflage and I am sure we swam by a few that we didn't see. I have gotten to the point where I can search for their eyes which can give away their location. Their body shape and fins are another clue. Luckily they trust their camouflage enough to just sit and pose for the camera. So I was able to snap a few pictures of this particularly cute frogfish.

Makena landing, or five graves as its locally known is a great place for nudibranchs as well. Although on this day the frogfish stole the show. I do still have the urge to go back and find those baby frogfish!

Monday, February 11, 2013

3 Day Hana Trip: Day 3

Outrigger Canoes at Hana Bay
Waterfall seen from the car
The last day in Hana is always bittersweet. You are leaving behind the peace and tranquility of this lush hidden corner of Maui but you have some incredible sites to take in on the drive, especially if you complete the loop and go back a different way than you came. We headed towards the Kipahulu and Kaupo areas on the less frequented East side of Haleakala Volcano. We saw waterfalls from the car and made our first stop at Seven Sacred Pools. This is where we hiked the day before but we saved the pools for this morning so Deedee could see them.

Deedee, Susie, Heidi, and me with a huge Banyan Tree
Seven Sacred Pools
It is a pretty easy loop trail to the pools with a big banyan tree along it. The pools have been closed due to flash flooding the past few times I've been here so I was pleased to see they were nice and calm today. I could really get in and around them for some good picture opportunities.

One of my favorite views on the island
As we continued on towards the usually dry, arid east coast I was amazed to see fields of green contrasting the blue ocean and black lava flows. The recent Kona winds from the south had brought in much needed rain to this part of the island and turned it lush and green.
I've never seen the East side so green!
Flash flooding over time causes huge canyons

I had never seen it this beautiful before. We even drove by fields filled with wildflowers. It would have been amazing to see water rushing down the huge canyons but then I remember we have to cross those dry streambeds in the car! Luckily Heidi drove from this point and I could just sit back and take in all the views.
Recent Kona storms brought rain to the usually dry side of Haleakala