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Gold Coast

The magic of Hawaii, and the reason to keep returning time and time again, lies beyond the well-manicured resorts and pristine sandy beaches. The spirit of the land, or aina as the natives call it, is in the towering cliffs, lush rainforests, volcanic rock-strewn black sand beaches, deep canyons, lava-spouting volcanoes and tall mountains. Most visitors don’t see the incredible diversity Hawaii has to offer, but to those willing to explore, including dedicated photographers, it’s literally a paradise. I will show you only a small part of that incredible natural beauty here in two images of Big Island’s wild coast.

On two mornings during our exploration of the Island of Hawaii, my wife and I rose earlier than we usually do. The driving times on the Big Island are pretty long, especially when going to places that are a bit off the map such as Pololu and Waipio Valleys from Waikoloa, where we chose to stay.  On both occasions, we were well rewarded. As we hiked down a rocky steep path into Pololu Valley with flashlights, it had begun dawning but it seemed that sunrise would be obscured by dense clouds. However, the further we descended, the more magnificent the view had become. Sheer cliffs rose out of the Pacific, enveloped by the orange light of a dawn breaking through parting clouds, as the waves crashed ashore below us. We almost ran down, navigated the black volcanic rocks and set up quickly, leaving our belongings scattered behind us. The first image, “Gold Coast,” shows the sight that unfolded before our eyes that morning. When shooting, I contained the bright sun by stopping down to f/18 and bracketing exposures but in processing the image, purposely allowed overexposure in the favor of the dramatic effect.

Waipio Morning

Our second journey to Waipio, the Valley of the Kings, was just as memorable and even more spiritual. Following an even longer drive, we had descended down a 25% grade looping one-way road in pitch-black darkness, to find ourselves by a wild stretch of shoreline sandwiched between imposing cliffs. Markings of ancient burial sites told the story of the generations of kings and their families that had been buried just behind us. As “Waipio Morning” shows, early light fell on an impressive cliff considered holy by the natives as the departure point for souls of the deceased as they float down into the afterlife (each island has one such place). In making this photograph, every time I tried to get closer to the water to capture its motion, I found my gear soaked by violently crashing waves.  As in the image above, I used my trusty Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM wide angle lens to encompass the entire scene. The seasoned photographers will notice that I used leading lines – in this case, the shape of the coastline – to direct the viewer’s eye into the distance.

I will bring you more from Hawaii in the post to come. Meanwhile, motivate yourself to explore the places you travel to – you will come away with a different impression than everyone else and chances are, you will be richly rewarded. Rise early, go to bed late. In the words of the great Galen Rowell: “You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn’t waste either.”

Alex Filatov is an internationally published professional nature and city fine art photographer. More of his work may be found on his website.


 Stormy Monday

Late every summer, nature photographers flock to the Pacific Northwest with the hope of capturing the majestic beauty of Mount Rainier and its gorgeous subalpine meadows. After much obsessive planning and conversations with photographers around Washington State, I was able to make my first trip to the region this year. My biggest concern was whether I would arrive on time to catch the peak wildflower bloom. The area experienced a warm spring and summer, and thus the wildflowers emerged earlier than expected. But, as luck would have it, that shouldn’t have been my primary worry.



As photographers, we often strive for that “perfect” image. Those who are most proficient in their art, in one way or another, pre-visualize the final photograph and strive to exercise the most possible control over all the variables involved in achieving the desired end result. The reality is that outside of the studio and particularly true in nature photography, all bets are off. The extensive planning and meticulous research performed prior to photographing a never before visited location may prove useful or lead to a near-fruitless and frustrating trip. The landscape artist cannot control light and precipitation and is always at the mercy of Mother Nature. Sometimes you have to come to terms with the fact that the iconic shot you saw in someone else’s portfolio will probably not be in yours. This is where you have the chance to prove your worth as a photographer by using your imagination and compositional skills to improvise and make the most out of the presented opportunities.

© 2013 Alex Filatov

© 2013 Alex Filatov



When Sigma offered me the chance to shoot with the flagship SD1 Merrill DSLR, I jumped on the opportunity to extensively explore the abilities of the Foveon X3 sensor at the heart of the camera. Knowing that my plans involved photographing the natural beauty of the mountainous American West allowed for the selection of several lenses from Sigma’s fine catalog most suited for that purpose – the 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM wide angle, the 24-70mm F2.8 IF EX DG HSM mid range zoom and the 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG OS APO HSM telephoto.

While shooting in the Montana and Wyoming high country known for unpredictable weather, the SD1 Merrill’s excellent build quality, tough magnesium alloy shell and weatherproofing shone through in spite of the rain and snow. The camera handles well and feels comfortable in-hand. With button controls for most significant functions, the SD1M proved intuitive to use.  Although the camera does not feature a Live View mode, I rarely use it on other cameras and found the SD1M’s clear, large viewfinder perfect for my photography. All the three lenses I have used provided fast autofocus speeds under demanding conditions.

© 2013 Alex Filatov | Camera: SD1 Merrill | Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM | Focal Length: 9mm | Shutter speed: 1/13 sec | Aperture: F13 | ISO: 100

© 2013 Alex Filatov | Camera: SD1 Merrill | Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM | Focal Length: 9mm | Shutter speed: 1/13 sec | Aperture: F13 | ISO: 100