The Washing Machine - Kauai

This is a shooting location that I would not normally journey to during the winter months and I must admit, I knew of the dangers.  According to Tom’s Barefoot Tours, this place is way "off the charts" dangerous. By any reasonable standard, the statistics of deaths and near drownings at Queen's Bath qualifies this place as a "slaughter house."

To be safe and successful here, you must study just about everything dealing with the local environment.  Daylight hours, sun angle, surge, tide, wave height and frequency are to name but a few.  Two days ago, everything came together for us, including a nice cloud bank in the distance.  Yes, I had been watching this very closely including getting some personal counsel from one of the Life Guards at Hanalei.  So off four of us went, taking extra care to remain on the dry rocks.  Any wet rock, represented an opportunity for a wave hit.  Kauai has these crazy ‘sneaker waves’ that come out of nowhere and simply take lives.  Safety is a must when shooting here.

A 20-minute trek down a steep and slippery slope, passing two waterfalls along the way, led us to the headworks of the lava beach.  Another short scramble across the sharp lava rocks had us in position to study the ocean.  We concluded that only one area was safe to shoot from, and that was high above both baths (King and Queen).  The sun angle made King’s Bath a better choice.  After looking at the image, it is no wonder the locals refer to this area as the washing machine.

Shooting details:  Hasselblad H6D50c, 28mm HCD, ISO 200, f/9.5 @ 3 seconds.  Lee .9 ND HS (reversed to form a very hard line at the horizon), and Little Stopper.   Two captures, for two different focus points.  Processed in LR and PS.  Yep, I need to re-shoot this to tweak it just a bit.  Why the crazy settings?  I have found that flowing water really makes for nice patterns between 2.5 and 4 seconds.  Any longer and you risk starting to turn water into milky looking streams and losing details.  By managing my exposure via the use of NDs and ISO, I was able to hit my desired shutter speed mark.