Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hawaii: The Beast

Our trip to Hawaii was woefully short (#firstworldproblem), and we only had two full days on the island. I elected to squander half of one of those days by gallivanting off on a rental bike. Sounds innocuous!

I had traveled with practically nothing, but some of the items I had brought included my bike shoes and pedals and a kit. I had also taken the leap of faith of renting a real road bike (!), not a beach cruiser, from a shop not too far from where we were staying. There's lots of good riding to do on Maui, but there's a looming giant that caught my eye.

She beckons as dark fades

That gentle-looking bump is not really that gentle: it rises from sea level to 10,000', and it's the longest paved climb in the world. It starts in the town of Paia and, well, climbs into the sky. There are much more interesting rides to do on Maui, but I was intrigued by the opportunity to climb for so long.

The rest of the work crew was woefully hung over (or still up) when I dragged Murphy out of the hotel room and set our rental car towards the behemoth. She saw me off in Paia and had the morning to explore all things Maui, and I just...pedaled.

This thing on?

Several of the seven of you will roll your eyes, but you'll have to believe me when I tell you that I was really out of shape. Like, really out of shape; I think I'd been on the bike roughly every other month for the year prior. Both fortunately and unfortunately, there's nothing really difficult about this climb; it's a remarkably constant gradient, and it's safe, and there's nowhere to get lost. As such, it might even be considered a little bit boring; you just have to grind away at it.


I mounted a GoPro with the intention of making a timelapse of the descent. I got greedy, though, and thought it'd survive the climb, which it didn't. Ironically, it lasted for just long enough of the climb that it would have lasted the entire descent had I not been so optimistic about its battery life. Live and learn.

Still pretty (repeat ad nauseam)

The cool thing about the climb is that you get to experience roughly 5 distinct climactic zones. As such, the view changes, which is awesome, and the consistency of the grade means that out-of-shape hacks can plug along without too much trouble.

There's not really too much else to say about the climb except that it's a lot cooler up top (hint: doesn't feel like Hawaii at 10,000') and that it took me a stitch over 4 hours. 4 hours of climbing affords one lots of time to do math with the elevation signs, and I'm pleased to say that I paced it pretty well. There are LOTS of switchbacks, and many different exposures to the prevailing wind, but aside from that, man, you just keep pedaling.

Much climb

Murphy met me at the top, and she was a welcome sight. I didn't hang out for too long as it was brisk, but that's just when it got interesting, anyway.

The descent down Haleakala back to Paia is UNREAL. I descended balls out for an hour and twelve minutes, railing corners, braking late, screaming along straights, and passing a few of the slower tourist cars. It was amazing. I think the longest sustained descent I'd ever done was more like 20 or 25 minutes, so this is just in another league. And fortunately, the road design and weather conspired to make it videogame-like instead of terrifying-Alps-descent-like. It was a roller coaster constructed just for me and I loved every last hands-quivering second of it.

Once reunited at the bottom (I beat Murphy down handily), I destroyed some food in Paia and we continued on with our day. Further, here are Murphy's photos from the morning, including some sweet ones from the summit and crater. Well done!

Green and steep


Thin ribbon

The bigger volcano



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hawaii: The Art of Flight

As long as I was pulling a fast one on Murphy, I decided to up the ante a bit more. Next stop: paragliding! Ethel had done it a couple times before, but I never had, and it's for very good reason: nope, not terrified. Worried about getting sucked into a new obsession...

Having heard the virtues of flight extolled by various figures in my life, and recognizing paragliding as a fairly organic and low barrier to entry approach, I've spent years plugging my ears and covering my eyes and pretending like it didn't exist.

Goddamn it, flight is rad.

We rocked up to Proflyght, owned by Grant's friend Paul, did all the safety stuff, and then endured the most dangerous part of the day: the van ride several thousand feet up the decomposing switchback road.

Run towards the edge

My pilot was a friendly dude named Chris. I promised him I'd run like hell at launch (probably the second most dangerous part of the day). Liftoff was effortless and freeing, and we settled in to the glorious equilibrium that is stable flight.

Sled ride

Unfortunately, conditions were pretty calm, so our trip was bound to be short. Chris did, however, ask if I was comfortable with having a little fun, to which I responded that he was free to operate however he chose. The next 45 seconds are shared below.


Landing was easy and without any awkward piles of man-on-man action. We let the adrenaline wear off, said our thanks and goodbyes, and then went for what is quite possibly the best sushi I've ever had in Makawao.

Caution indeed

Pretty awesome morning; thanks guys!


Monday, December 22, 2014

Hawaii: Jetlagged Dawn

Stepping back into the time machine from our quick trip to Hawaii last year...

It's no secret than many top-notch landscape photos are made either very early or very late. Like, OMG, either way, it's probably going to conflict with a decent night's sleep. As such, a few hours of jetlag/time zone difference is usually an elegant tool to get oneself awake at those unfriendly hours for some photo time.

So when I awoke at 4am or whatever on our first morning in Maui, instead of forcing myself back to sleep, I just scurried out with my camera and tripod. This part of Maui was so busy during the day with the whole tourist thing that having the opportunity for some peace and quiet was pretty golden.

Resorts still provide light (distant light is Molokai)

Silky ocean (Molokai again in distance)

Lanai awakens

Scourge of the high seas

I have to admit that I rather enjoyed just experiencing the night giving way to day. Light rose, activity increased, tide encroached, runners ran, artificial lights blinked out (finally), Murphy appeared, and I got hungry.

Tide approaches

Neon rock

And here's another photo for the purposes of some foreshadowing. That mountain in the back doesn't look that big as it's not steep, but it rises 10,000' from the sea. It's Haleakala and it's massive.

The behemoth looms

So more on that later.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Hawaii: Escaping Winter

OK, we're stepping into the time machine for a few posts. Yay for backlog! Next stop...February. Yikes.

It's not often I get to pull a fast one on Murphy. So when we got word at work that we were taking a company trip to Hawaii and we were allowed to bring our partners, it took every last bit of restraint for me to keep my trap shut and figure out what it was going to take to keep this secret.

The travel arrangements are the easy part. It's much much harder to avoid slip-ups in casual conversation, and harder yet to ask workmates to be mindful of what they're talking about if Ethel's around.

Long story short, she got the designated dates off work, I wouldn't even give up what our mode of transportation was but did offer some packing tips, and when we arrived at Rory's house the morning of the flight, I handed her a boarding pass to Maui. Fun stuff.

Murphy's Law, pun intended, however, made sure that it wouldn't be easy, as about the only winter storm we had last year threatened to keep us from our flight in Sacramento. After some tense moments over Donner Pass, we were cleared for takeoff, both literally and figuratively.

Rain is much nicer from behind a window

Next stop...not winter!

I've opined at length about my love for photoing during flights, so I'll stay off the soapbox. What I do notice is that the lighter I've packed, the more likely I am to have the camera out, and that held true here. My packing list for a 4-day trip to Hawaii is something like boardshorts-flipflops-sunnies-camera. And bike shoes and pedals, but more on that another day.

Creating new photo accessories

Sun halo!

Sun halos are awesome, by the way, and you can read more about them here.

Climbing higher

I'd be totally OK with making a side job out of in-flight photography.

Upon arrival in Maui, our first order of business was waiting an hour to get our five rental cars, followed by a descent into the maelstrom that is Costco. After stocking up on stuff to eat and drink in our condos, we finally traversed the island and got up to a whole lot of nothing.

Complaining about the length of the travel day or the chilly weather in the tropics are both pretty #firstworldproblems-ish, but the evening didn't hold much more for us than a big pile of tacos and a couple beers. And a couple obligatory dips in the ocean.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wakatipu, Slowly

OK, last post from current-land for a little while before I dig into the backlog...again.

Murphy and I took a quick excursion down to the water last week as the day waned, the light developed, and the wind kept us on our toes. It does that a lot, the wind.

Anyhow, Wakatipu is fascinating in most any weather or light, and this evening was no exception. I can see exploring this lakeshore with a camera turning into a pastime of sorts.

Lone sentinel


After playing around with a few compositions, I snapped to attention as the sun got perilously close to the horizon while the waves kept lashing the shore. A few frantic adjustments later:

Thank you, sun, water, and wind

I feel very fortunate to have this at my doorstep...


Tuesday, December 2, 2014


New Zealand makes a big deal of its biosecurity, which is really just a scary name for the concept of "if it didn't come from here, we don't want it here." Thankfully, their immigration policy is not the same. They're pretty strict about plants and animals in all their various forms entering the country, and it's this strictness that is to thank for the complete and utter lack of poisonous things here.

However, in the good ol' days, some stuff made it onto these shores, sometimes accidentally and frequently purposefully, and this stuff has had a rather pernicious way of taking hold. The list includes (but is not limited to):

etc etc etc
and 10 species of conifers, most of which are pines, and all of which are lumped into Wildings

The wildings are a clever bunch. As with most invasive species anywhere you go, they're free of the checks and balances that native species would be subject to, so they've dominated the landscape in places. Yes, trees are nice and all, but they've smothered native vegetation and run amok.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has several strategies in place to control the wildings, and fortunately, poison is at the bottom of their list. Feel free to read to your heart's content here. The tree-hugger in me cringes to witness the wholesale eradication of trees, but I can also equally respect biosecurity efforts, especially in island ecosystems.

I've seen photos of the Wakatipu area without trees, and it's a vastly different landscape. It's pretty obvious where heavy control has happened: it's like containing a forest fire except exactly opposite :)

Enough chatter; one of the areas nearby that has been controlled served up both an awesome vantage point and brilliant light as we were passing by the other day, and that resulted in this photo.


Good chance their days are numbered...


Monday, December 1, 2014

Hello Darling

Several [Ed. note: many] months ago, I had the opportunity to make some photographs inside Hello Darling, a beautiful salon along Riverside Drive, which is one of Reno's newly revitalized corridors (hint: it's right next door to The Hub). Heidi, who owns and operates it with her friend Jess, is an awesome woman and a good soul. She designed the space with usual suspect Paolo, overlord of the fine gentlemen at Tutto Ferro.

The ladies do their work

I've had the good fortune to feature Tutto Ferro's work here extensively in the past. I always enjoy photographing their creations because a) they're aesthetic, b) they're clean and precise, and c) it's a better way to spend a day than knitting beanies.

When I proofread that last sentence too quickly, I thought I had written "beaning kittens."


Reception swing

This latest example of architecture in the virtual refuge that is my blog is notable because it's a shockingly small space. Heidi and Paolo worked together to make use of complementary materials, clever design, and pleasing proportions to end up with a space that is eminently usable and attractive.

And sometimes there's wine involved

Of course, it wouldn't be a Tutto Ferro joint without ridiculous attention to detail. Paolo and his crew pored over a palette of materials that includes steel, concrete, stone, glass, wood, wire, and rope.

Display cases

Braided cord

Behind Door 3...

When all was said and done, we shared lots of laughs and a beer or two and some guacamole that saved me from certain death. Special thanks to Nate for his expert photo-assistant duties, to Paolo and the rest of the Tutto Ferro gents for knocking another one out of the park, and to Heidi and Jess for being so accommodating and taking the leap of faith to launch their ambitious venture!


Past Detritus