Photo: Sunset as seen from the Kona Magic Sands near White Sands Beach Park, Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

Picture: Sunset as seen from the Kona Magic Sands near White Sands Beach Park, Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

When people think about travel or nature photographers, often we think of someone zipping around from spot to spot, tripod slung over a shoulder as they chase the elusive next shot. Most of us do it without even thinking. But what do you do when there’s simply nowhere else to go?

Here’s a tip and a challenge that I’ll often try to teach photographers when discussing developing a personal vision. Pick one spot. Stay there and shoot as many photos as you can. Moving is easy. Looking and finding things from one singular vantage point is what pushes your vision and teaches you how to see. As a photographer, you should feel comfortable with the concept of being randomly placed anywhere, and without moving, be told to “Photograph,” and be able to produce pictures. They may not be world-class, National Geographic quality photos, but they should certainly be able to express what you saw from that one spot.

Such was the case on my first night on the Big Island of Hawai’i last month when my wife and I ditched our kids for the first time in 16 years as we zipped off to spend two weeks celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. Decidedly not a dedicated photo trip, my first Hawaiian sunset was shot from the solitary location that was our lanai (patio/deck). After a long day of travel, rental car acquisition, shopping at Costco and Safeway, and checking in to our first VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) location, the urge for food and a couple Mai-Tai cocktails left little energy, will, or desire to head out and photograph the sunset. But as that magic hour approached, the fact that I was going nowhere didn’t mean I couldn’t make a few worthy photos from that singular location.

Image: Sunset as seen from the Kona Magic Sands near White Sands Beach Park, Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

Image: Sunset as seen from the Kona Magic Sands near White Sands Beach Park, Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

Image: Sunset as seen from the Kona Magic Sands near White Sands Beach Park, Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

Image: Sunset as seen from the Kona Magic Sands near White Sands Beach Park, Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii


Image: Sunset as seen from the Kona Magic Sands near White Sands Beach Park, Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

Image: Sunset as seen from the Kona Magic Sands near White Sands Beach Park, Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

After shooting all of the above shots using my Nikon D800 camera, I decided to see just what my little ‘play camera’ could do with a particular scene. So after bagging up my primary camera, I pulled out my little Sony RX100mIII 20mp point-n-shoot and turned toward an earlier composition. For the techno-types, this was shot handheld at ISO 80 @ 1/400 sec. at f/5.6 with an equiv. focal length of 27mm. Not too shabby for a camera that can fit in your pocket. 🙂

Image: Sunset as seen from the Kona Magic Sands near White Sands Beach Park, Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

So do I feel bad that I couldn’t zip from one photo location to another? Nope, not at all. I think I got a few worthy shots from this one little spot. OK, fine… that fact that I may have been trapped in paradise could’ve helped. But hopefully you get the point I’m trying to make.



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Gary Crabbe is an award-winning commercial and editorial outdoor travel photographer and author based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. He has seven published books on California to his credit, including “Photographing California; v1-North”, which won the prestigious 2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal award as Best Regional title. His client and publication credits include the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, TIME, The North Face, Subaru, L.L. Bean, Victoria’s Secret, Sunset Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, and many more. Gary is also a photography instructor and consultant, offering both public and private photo workshops. He also works occasionally a professional freelance Photo Editor.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Richard Wong says:

    What a place Gary! You also did well photo-wise. Great advice.

  • Jacques says:

    Very true !
    My most challenging shoot-from-one-spot was done from a hospital bed after an emergency procedure. The doctor was baffled by my wife bringing me my camera the day after surgery, until he saw the images. Nothing special, but most other people would not even dream of trying it !

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