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KAPing Again!

Posted by Tom Benedict on 09/08/2013

I’ve had a couple of years now of almost no KAP at all. A combination of higher gas prices, pressures at work, my own personal issues, and an overall withdrawl from photography in general kept me out of the field. When I did get out, it was to go to Hapuna Beach with my family to do some incidental KAP in a convenient location. But cripes, I’ve photographed Hapuna to the point where I don’t even want to do sunset photography there. (Which is a sad statement to make… it’s a beautiful spot.)

During that time I’ve been upgrading my gear, trying to address every little irritation or disappointment I’ve run into in the nearly seven years I’ve been doing KAP. There’s one thing I can’t stand when it comes to photography: heading out to the field, pulling out your gear, and having it not work! Or having it not do what you need to get the photograph you had envisioned. This has been a strange process since I haven’t always tested the changes I’ve made before moving on to fixing the next problem. But I kept plugging away at it, sometimes tearing things apart and rebuilding them before I’d even tested my first solution, just because I knew it wouldn’t be good enough. Eventually, though, I reached a stopping point. I knew my gear was as close to what I wanted as I could get.

I think yesterday was the real payoff. The pressures at work let off long enough for me to take a week long vacation. Much of it was spent catching up on stuff I’d put on the back-burner. I re-programmed the radio for my planes. I made fruit preserves. I cleaned house. And I finally grabbed my gear and did some real KAP for a change. I went to Pololu Valley.

It’s been years since I’ve been in Pololu. The last time I was there was for the ill-fated Nokia N8 project. Back then the wetlands were dry, the forest was struggling, and I wasn’t sure how much longer before there was no green left in the valley at all. In retrospect this also probably played into my general malaise when it came to photography. We were in drought, so many of the places I enjoyed doing photography just weren’t photogenic. But a wet winter and a recent tropical storm brought a lot of green back to the islands. It was time to return to Pololu.

Pololu Cliff Trail 2

You reach Pololu Valley by driving the coastal road north past Hawi, past Kapa`au, and around to where the highway ends at the Pololu Valley Overlook. The valley is part of the forest reserve system, and has an excellent trail that leads from the parking area down about 500′ to the valley floor. There are three switchbacks, and several really good vantage points from which to see the valley. This is one of those rare spots where tripod photography will get you as good a view as that from a kite. (But I made this photograph from a kite anyway.)

Pololu Valley Southern Cliffs

To my delight, I saw that the recent rains had replenished the valley, and much that was brown or gray was once more green. The wetlands were back!

Pololu Valley Wetlands

Pololu Valley is the northernmost of the Kohala Mountain erosion valleys. At the mouth of all of these lies a black sand (or rock) beach. Pololu is no exception. There’s a truism regarding beach sand color in Hawaii: White sand beaches are safe to swim at. Black sand beaches are not. For the most part this is true. White sand beaches are made of crushed coral, typically coral that has passed through the digestive tract of a parrot fish. This means there’s an offshore reef that breaks up the incoming waves. Black sand beaches, on the other hand, are typically made from broken or eroded lava stone – as in the case of Pololu – or from lava that poured directly into the ocean and fractured as it cooled – as in the black sand beaches in the Puna District. Black sand beaches have no offshore reef, so there’s typically nothing stopping the full force of the ocean from hitting shore.

Pololu is one of the rare exceptions. The slope of the beach is so slight, the sand itself attenuates the force of the waves before they reach shore. The strength of the waves is no greater than those at Hapuna Beach. It’s one of the safest black sand beaches to swim at. But not having a reef, there is still a strong current that can sweep an unwary swimmer out into open water. So be careful!

I don’t often swim at Pololu. Swimming in shorts just saturates the cloth with saltwater. And with a 500′ climb at the end of the visit, it’s a great way to get chafed. I didn’t swim this time, choosing to focus on KAP instead.

Two and Two on a Black Sand Beach

Black sand beaches make fun KAP subjects. The unusual color of the sand can make for difficult metering with the camera, but the view is reward enough for the effort.

I did KAP in Pololu Valley for almost three straight hours. This was the most intensive test of my new system I’ve done to date. I brought two 500mAh batteries for the KAP rig and video transmitter (both powered off the same battery), one set of AA NiMH for my RC transmitter, and one 2650mAh battery for my video receiver and monitor (again, both powered off the same battery). In three hours I drew around 300mAh out of the transmitter battery (200 on one and 100 on the other for about 100mAh per hour of operation), and about 500 out of the video system. My RC transmitter batteries charged within an hour, so they were no more than 25% depleted. I’m pretty sure I could do an eight hour KAP session with my gear and not run out of power. This is really good to know.

I ended the day out on the beach at my original launch spot, packed my gear, and hiked back up. It was a strange hike. Previous to this session, every time I’ve hiked out I haven’t really known what I’d find on the camera when I got home. I tend not to check my photos in the field unless I have reason to believe something went wrong during the session. This time, thanks to the video downlink, I knew precisely what was on the camera. It made for a spring in my step as I hiked out.

Pololu Self Portrait

– Tom

One Response to “KAPing Again!”

  1. Great stuff Tom! I’m exploring autoKAP and leaving the VTx at home thise days: what a great reminder of the joy of it. Thank you!

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