Kauai Skywatch

Skywatch – to observe the sky for celestial bodies or aircraft. With Kauai’s location in the middle of the Pacific ocean, there are not many aircraft to watch go by. In fact, the only aircraft we saw around the island were the helicopter tours taking visitors on a hour long aerial view of the island. I didn’t do the helicopter tour this year, but I did do it on our last trip and it was a blast! I chose a company that flies with the doors off which was great for taking photos along the way. What an exhilarating experience and one I recommend for any visitor to Kauai.

So if there are no aircraft to observe, then my skywatch must be for celestial bodies. Of course my favorite celestial body is the sun, especially as it is rising or setting. I love working sunrises and sunsets with my camera, and this trip was no exception. I have yet to find a spot on the island that I like for sunset. Part of that is because sunset in February comes about 6:30 which is when we usually find ourselves relaxing on the beach with an adult beverage. I need to find a good place for sunset, get my gear setup, then sit back and relax and let the camera do all the work. But I did find a spot for sunrises that I really liked. At Shipwreck Beach, there is a nice lava shelf that makes a great place to await the start of the day.

I shot the sunrise there several different days and I thought I would share some of my favorites with you. Click the images to view larger.

The first morning we were in our Condo in Poipu, I tried to get a sunrise from a rock outcropping not far from the condo. That didn’t turn out the way that I wanted as the angle to the sunrise was all wrong. Plus the clouds didn’t really cooperate with me. Still, I got a decent image as the sun rose higher in the sky and began to breakup a bit to provide some interesting drama in the sky.

Kauai Skywatch Sunrise
Kauai Skywatch Sunrise

The next morning I set out for a better vantage point. One of the great advantages of tools like Google maps and The Photographer’s Ephemeris, you can usually find a good spot for sunrise. The Photographer’s Ephemeris shows the sun angle for any day in the future overlaid on a map. So knowing where the sun will rise and what time, it’s just a matter of using Google maps to figure out how to get where you want and to analyze the terrain to see if you’ll have the composition you want.

Well, at least that’s how it works in theory. For me, the next morning was a complete dud. I picked the right beach and I was there in plenty of time, but I didn’t get to the right spot on the beach. I was so far off from where I wanted to be that I won’t even post a photo of the attempt. It was that bad. But as a consolation, I did see a Hawaiian monk seal haul itself out on the beach and start sunning itself. That was a great find … until you consider that all I had were short lenses with me. I didn’t bring the telephoto lenses since I was only going to shoot the sunrise. Lesson learned!

Hawaiian monk seal - Shipwreck Beach.
Hawaiian monk seal – Shipwreck Beach.

The next morning I returned to the same beach to try again. This time I hiked farther down where I had found a beautiful lava shelf the day before. The clouds still didn’t cooperate with me, but I did get some nice color in the sky.

Kauai Skywatch Sunrise
Kauai Skywatch Sunrise

I still didn’t have what I was looking for, so I went back again the next morning. It’s tough to get the clouds and the sun to cooperate with you. It doesn’t help when people step into your frame or when you find out later that there was an ugly rock in the composition. Doh!

Kauai Skywatch Sunrise
Kauai Skywatch Sunrise

Still not quite there yet, so on our last morning, I ventured out one more time. I was hoping that everything would come together for me. I didn’t have any more chances, so if the sun and sky didn’t cooperate this morning, it would be a long journey home and a long time before I could try again.

Kauai Skywatch Sunrise
Kauai Skywatch Sunrise

Fortunately I was able to get the shot I was looking for!

While my Kauai skywatch sunrises worked out for me, the sunsets did not. But I did take one selfie that I setup outside our condo. I really like this image and I think the smile on Faith’s face says it all about our trip.

The Happy Couple at sunset
The Happy Couple at sunset

Stay tuned for more. I think I’ve got one more post to wrap it all up.


  • Debbie Tubridy

    April 1, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Wow! Those images just blow my mind! Amazing captures of nature at its best!
    Looks like you and Faith had a fabulous time. Here’s to the next trip!

  • Don Weesner

    April 4, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Again great photos. Tell Faith hi for us. Hope to see you guys on Barbs 80th. I think I may be able to make it.
    Uncle Don