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The Big Island of Hawaii was a whirlwind of crazy animal encounters, long drives in a bright red Jeep, and living in the shadow of the most active volcanoes on Earth. My friend Heather joined me, and let me tell you — having a professional photographer as a travel companion is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because she has so much knowledge to share and it’s inspiring to be around creative people, and a curse because sometimes I got lazy and barely bothered to shoot because I just told myself Heather would get better pictures anyway!

I can’t believe I used to narrow Photo of the Week down to just one photo! These days I’m more indecisive than ever. I need your votes to help me pick!

Photo A

Diving on The Big IslandThis week was like a non-stop episode from Animal Planet. We basked with sea turtles on a black sand beach, sailed through blue waters with dolphins playing aside our boat, hung out with a zebra (seriously), and went diving with all kinds of crazy sea creatures. Heather has been encouraging me to experiment with using my camera flash underwater. Loving the results!

Photo B

Big Island Manta Ray DiveSpeaking of Animal Planet experiences, this was the big one. We came to The Big Island with one major goal — to dive with manta rays. More than twenty came out to play with us, and it was one of the top experiences of my life. I can’t wait to share more!

Photo C

Big Island Road TripRenting a Jeep was a necessity on the Big Island, where public transit is lacking and distances are massive. But it was also great fun, allowing us to take tons of photo stops and explore hidden areas of the island.

Photo D

Big Island VolcanoThe two highlights of my Big Island trip took place at altitude — the manta dive, deep below the sea, and the helicopter ride I took above an active volcano! It was my first time riding in a helicopter and my first time seeing bubbling lava. Another unbelievable moment I can’t wait to tell you more about.

Photo E

Big Island Black Sand Some of the byproducts of all the volcanic activity on The Big Island are the fantastic black lava fields and black sand beaches. I’ve never seen anything like it!

Photo F

Big Island Palm TreesThese photos are classic Hawaii to me — surfboards, palm trees, and Polynesian imagery.

Photo G

Big Island WaterfallTraveling with a professional photographer definitely challenges me to experiment more technically. At this waterfall I tried playing with long exposures, and loved the results.

Photo H

Big Island FlowersI generally avoid photos of sunsets and flowers, which can be cheesy and overplayed. But when I saw the heart dangling above me on this tree I couldn’t help but snap away.

Which photo is your favorite, readers? See you next week for photos from Maui!

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48 Comments...
  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad
    October 8 2012

    I like photo E, it’s so cool to see the igneous rock up close like that. And I wish I knew how to do what you did in Photo G, that’s also a gorgeous picture! I decidedly need to learn a lot more about my camera.
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted..One Beer-filled Night in Brussels

    • Alex
      October 8 2012

      If you have manual controls on your camera, start by playing with aperture priority and shutter speed priority. I shot this by keeping the shutter open longer. Not easy without a tripod, but I think this one came out okay!

  • Elaine Burr - Gram E
    October 8 2012

    Photo D – and I don’t know why, I just do, Gram E

    • Alex
      October 8 2012

      If you look really closely I realized you can see another helicopter in the background 🙂

  • Sajith Anandan
    October 8 2012

    Photo G and F amazing prints……..

    • Alex
      October 8 2012

      I think F would be really cool prints on a wall! Thanks Sajith!

  • OrpingtonT
    October 8 2012

    From a first class selection, Photo A stands out for me. Amusing and unusual.

    • Alex
      October 8 2012

      Thanks for voting! Definitely the best eel photo I’ve ever taken!

  • Matthew Karsten
    October 8 2012

    Loving these photos Alex! Looks like the Big Island has a lot to offer. Did you do any hiking near the lava?
    Matthew Karsten recently posted..Smoked Meat Heaven: Schwartz’s Delicatessen

    • Alex
      October 8 2012

      I went hiking all over the lava! However, it was very much cold 🙂 To get near hot lava is pretty much impossible these days without shelling out the big bucks for a private tour. Luckily I got to see it from the air with my heli ride!

  • Gaelyn
    October 8 2012

    I love them all but A really captured me as I’m not a diver. Seems to me photography has a Huge learning curve.
    Gaelyn recently posted..1972 Downers Grove South Reunion

    • Alex
      October 8 2012

      Gaelyn, so funny that you went to Downer’s Grove South — I’ve been to DG many times as my very close cousin grew up there! Such a small world.

  • Gram
    October 8 2012

    A B G and H—–All fabulous! How can one decide???????

    • Alex
      October 8 2012

      Thanks Gram! I’m glad it’s hard for you, that’s a good sign 🙂 I hear you are coming for Thankgiving… YAY!!!

  • Cat
    October 8 2012

    I really like the jeep photo in C. Colors, angle, composition and shiny leaves and jeep. Also, can’t wait to hear more about diving with manta rays!! I would stare at them forever at the Georgia Aquarium so to also get to dive with them some day would be amazing.
    Cat recently posted..White – #FriFotos Theme

    • Alex
      October 10 2012

      It was absolutely one of the top experiences of my life. I can’t wait to write about it!

  • Alexa Hart
    October 8 2012

    Really hard to decide! Initially, I liked A the best because it can be so hard to get an underwater shot. The colors are so vibrant! But, I also really like D and E. Such talent!!
    Alexa Hart recently posted..EPISODE SLICE #10: Profile of Sam Sachs, Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine

    • Alex
      October 10 2012

      Thanks Alexa! I agree, I’m always prouder of my underwater shots because they are much harder won.

  • Nadia
    October 8 2012

    Manta Ray. Hands down. One of my all time favorite dives. Love these creatures!

    • Alex
      October 10 2012

      Ah, so you’ve been here and done it too? I agree, one of the top dives of my life!

  • Krista C.
    October 8 2012

    This is way too hard! Photo F or H or A. I love them all. In January 2014 I will be going to the Big Island for the first time, so I’m very excited to read your stories and see your photos. I have been to Maui and Kauai and loved both.
    Do you think it’s best to rent a vehicle like a Jeep versus a smaller cheaper compact car? I don’t want to miss anything but would prefer a cheaper rental vehicle.

    • Alex
      October 10 2012

      On the other islands you can totally get away with a small compact car, but on Big Island a Jeep is really best. To get to the top of Mauna Kea you’ll definitely need 4WD!

  • wes
    October 8 2012

    I am genetically wired to vote for mantas. But then i scrolled down to H. Absolutely fantastic shots.

    • Alex
      October 10 2012

      Thanks Wes! You’ve got to got to got to get to the Big Island to do this dive. One of the top dives of my life.

  • Molly Yonderblog
    October 9 2012

    I love the colours and angles in photo H!
    Molly Yonderblog recently posted..Bumboats & Bikes at Pulau Ubin

    • Alex
      October 10 2012

      Thanks Molly! It was one of my more creative shots this week 🙂

  • Dad
    October 9 2012

    D…love it!

    • Alex
      October 10 2012

      If you come back again, you’ve got to do the helicopter ride. It was unbelievable.

  • Rachel
    October 9 2012

    B is the coolest from a subject matter point of view, and H is the prettiest, in my opinion. Though I also love D. Some great pictures here!
    Rachel recently posted..This Month in Reading

    • Alex
      October 10 2012

      I like when its tough to choose — it means I was doing something right!

  • Not choosing they are ALL amazing!!!!!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Andi’s Pick: The King And Prince Beach & Golf Resort

    • Alex
      October 12 2012

      Haha, I love your refusal to vote 🙂

  • Ayngelina
    October 12 2012

    Photo A scares me, Photo E is much more up my alley!
    Ayngelina recently posted..Food Friday: Deep Fried Montana

    • Alex
      October 13 2012

      Yeah, Photo A is a little scary! I’ve been a little leery of eels every since watching The Little Mermaid.

  • Camels & Chocolate
    October 12 2012

    I love long exposures–Scott and I are a fan of the technique (+ using filters).

    I say either the waterfall, the moray or the volcano! Hey, at least I narrowed it down for you, even if I won’t choose, right? =)
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Rainy Days in Edinburgh

    • Alex
      October 13 2012

      What kind of filters do you guys use? Yeah, playing with long exposures is fun but kind of tricky since I’m too lazy to travel with a tripod! 🙂

      • Camels & Chocolate
        October 13 2012

        We have several different ones but love the ND the most. Though you absolutely have to have a tripod for that one (meaning we don’t use it that often as we hardly ever haul around our tripod!).
        Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Photo Friday: Brunei River, Brunei

  • Kent @ NVR
    October 12 2012

    I want to go back, and we were just there:)

    We just had someone else tell us that the manta ray experience is killer.
    Kent @ NVR recently posted..Shit Goes South in Shanghai

    • Alex
      October 13 2012

      Did you guys hit up the Big Island too or just Maui? I’m so in love with Hawaii… I just cancelled my return ticket home!

  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam
    October 13 2012

    Photo A definitely. Just because I think I’m gonna have nightmares about it. 🙂
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Offbeat Images: Toilet Signs in Oman

    • Alex
      October 13 2012

      They aren’t actually as menacing as they look… they breath by opening and closing their mouths like that 🙂

  • Erica
    October 13 2012

    I LOVE flower pictures (when it comes to small details).
    Erica recently posted..Photo Friday: Icelandic Horses

    • Alex
      October 13 2012

      You know, I stopped taking them for a long time because I was bored with them… now I try to look for something fresh like this! Not always easy!

  • Abby
    October 13 2012

    I am partial to A!! But the flower photos rock, too. I also love that played with long exposure.
    Abby recently posted..Ok, FINE, I’m a Jetsetter! (today)

    • Alex
      October 13 2012

      Thanks Abby! Got to keep competing with myself for these Photo of the Weeks 🙂

  • Jen
    October 13 2012

    The manta ray gets my vote; I choose B! But honestly, all of these make a gorgeous photo essay of the Big Island! You did an amazing job keeping up with your friend!

    • Alex
      October 13 2012

      Aw, thanks so much Jen! I appreciate it.

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