What inspired you to pick up a camera for the first time?
The first thing that inspired me to pick up a camera was primary to capture the world that happens within the blink of an eye in a beautiful curling wave. Growing up in Hawaii as a body boarder and surfer my home was in the ocean. At the age of 16 – and because I couldn't afford a DSLR and water housing at the time – I would spend all my allowance on those Fuji waterproof cameras. I would swim out into the waves, get a few shots until I ran out of film and then turned it into the processing center eagerly, awaiting for the next day to see what I captured on film.
What important lessons have you learned as a wave and landscape photographer?
Starting off in the world of surf photography, composition is almost everything. Swimming around in small and larger surf and positioning yourself to get that perfect shot as a flock of seagulls fly overhead isn't easy.
Landscape photography is the same way, although it doesn't take so much physical strain on your body as capturing images in the surf. I go into a landscape shoot with an image in mind.
What is your attraction to the water?
It was a past time growing up in Hawaii, hanging out with family and friends, enjoying each others company at the beach and along the waters edge. Let's just say that it was a hard thing to escape from, even if I wanted to. It certainly was my favorite time of the week!
What is your favorite time of the day or night to shoot and why?
That will always be a hard question to ask. As I mature as a photographer, I keep finding myself in situations that I would never consider shooting even a month ago. If I had to choose, it would definitely have to be on a dark starry night. The night sky with a setting silver moon during the Milky Way season is truly breathtaking.
Also, it’s hard to beat that first crack of sunlight from the water edge or rising over an epic vista. That deep orange glow and soft rays of light is so warm and inviting – a truly epic way to start a new day.
The low-light capabilities of the new digital cameras have made astrophotography much more accessible. What draws you to that style of photography?
It's mind boggling how these cameras have progressed in the last four years. I now use the Sony A7r II and have been a Sony shooter for three years. With the dynamic range these cameras offer now, makes it possible to recover clean information out of the shadows.
What techniques do you feel you use most when shooting landscapes?
The proper use of filters is key! For the past few years I can't leave home without at least a Hoya HD2 or HD3 polarizer and Hoya ProND16. It is funny to think how naive I was to the fact that these filters made such a dramatic difference. The last time I was at Horseshoe bend in Arizona, I decided to use a polarizer and I was simply blown away with the results. You can get so much pop and contrast in the sky with a simple turn of the filter.
I also use the HDR technique. I usually capture 3 frames at different exposures. Again, with the awesome dynamic range from the Sony camera I hardly ever combine all 3 images. I use the image that works the best as I can pull out the shadows an enormous amount of detail.
Last but not least, I tend to shoot in AV mode. I always set the aperture at f/11 as I feel that's usually the sharpest setting for any lens, especially on a full-frame camera.
What is some of your favorite gear at the moment?
Like I mentioned above I can’t ever leave home without my set of HOYA filters. The Hoya HD3 is my favorite filter by far! Along with my Sony A7r II and favorite lens, the Tokina 24-70mm f/2.8.
I was always into primes or wider lenses until this 24-70mm came along. Wow! Excellent color rendering and so sharp. Attached to my Sony A7r II, via the Metabones Mark IV adapter, it is hard be beat. From 24mm, all the way to 70mm, it holds strong as a mid-telephoto lens.
Being an adventure photographer and constantly hiking into the back country I always look for ways to eliminate weight in my camera bag. I came back from a trip to Utah recently where only had the Tokina AT-X 24-70mm along with me, permanently attached to the camera. I didn't have any of my primes or wide angle lenses with me. This helped me eliminated at least 6 pounds from my back pack. That's huge! It’s a lens I can trust to produce what I want, 100% of the time.
For you astrophotgraphers out there, this lens has little to no blooming of the stars on the corners of the images, even wide open at f/2.8. That's a big deal for me. You usually achieve these results with prime lenses only.
What or who inspires you?
The feeling of adventuring to a new location, hiking for miles on end to get to a vista in the middle of nowhere to catch an epic sunset, or being incased by a monster wave – these are the things that really inspire me.
My mother, bless her soul, has also been a huge inspiration to me as she was the very first person to introduce me to the beauty of the night sky. Scraping up the pennies during my childhood years to purchase a telescope in order to view Halley's Comet. This was the game changer for me, flipping my entire world upside down. I never look up at the night sky without thinking about her.
How much preparation and planning do you do?
These days I do some pre-planning using apps such Google Earth or Stellarium. With how detailed Google Earth is these days, you can get a great idea of what your point of view will look like even before you get there. With Stellarium I can plot out where and when to be as the Milky Way makes its rise.
Do you arrive at a location with a specific picture in mind?
Yes! If you want to get it right, it's always best to stick with one idea. At least that's the way I go about capturing a specific picture these days.
Here is an example, a recent trip to Arches National Park in Utah, USA. I visited the same location three different times during the golden hour. The one day for a panoramic picture, the second day to record a time-lapse video and the last day to do HDR work. The fear of missing out is always there. But sticking to a plan always seems to be most beneficial in the long run.