Copterific Tunnels Beach

Copterific Tunnels Beach

During my vacation in Kauai one of the things I was most looking forward to was a helicopter tour of the island. I had heard amazing things about this and we spent a while trying to figure out the best company to go with. In the end we went with Jack Harter Helicopters (the guys that started it on Kauai) and we had a fabulous experience. When I got off the ’copter someone mentioned ”that is the biggest smile I’ve ever seen” when they looked at me!

Below is the Tunnels Beach area. You can see the outer reef, in the area where the waves are crashing in the bottom center. Tunnels Beach is directly above the ”w” shape of the coral reef. Off to the right of Tunnels Beach is the Ha’ena Beach Park. To the left of Tunnels is Kepuhi Beach, and further left, in the very corner, is Wainiha Beach Park (looks like a small bay).

Above the beaches you may see a couple homes, some of which are built on stilts due to the fact that hurricanes can cause the water level to rise quite considerably!

Even further above you’ll notice the Kauai mountains, most specifically Mt. Wai’ale’ale, which is shrouded in clouds. This is the wettest spot on earth! The summit averages more than 426 inches of rain per year (in 1982 it got a record 683 inches of rain!). Due to the geography of the island, the steep cliffs cause the moisture-laden air to rise rapidly (3,000+ ft in less than ½ a mile) which causes the clouds to drop a large portion of its rain in one spot.

Note: Although I labeled this as an HDR, at this point it’s prob. not. I started with an HDR image but then almost completely merged one of the original photos back in. The HDR effect of the trees, mountains and clouds was just too fake looking. The only thing I liked about the HDR was a little bit more detail in the coral reef / water area. However, I actually liked the color of the water in the original RAW file better, so I ended up slightly blending that back in too.

Nikon D300s w/Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S:
17mm, f/10, ISO 500, Handheld in Helicopter w/open doors
HDR composed of 3 photos (1/250 sec, 1/500 sec, 1/125 sec) in Photomatix Pro and edited in Photoshop.

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Aaron M Written by:

Aaron Meyers is a landscape and wedding photographer living in Silicon Valley, CA. His love of the outdoors makes for frequent forays into the Californian wilds, where he delights in the stunning vistas of Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, and the Pacific Coast.