Behind the Scenes – Twin Falls, Maui Hawaii

Fine Art Photography

I thought I’d share with you a look behind the scene on one of my latest releases – Twin Falls. With the first snow of the season falling outside (its not even Thanksgiving yet!) and the temperature dropping because of the polar vortex or something or another, my mind has been wandering back to last year’s trip to to the Hawaiian island of Maui.

I hadn’t been back to Hawaii since I was born and even then I only spent four months there before my Dad was sent to Vietnam and my Mom moved us back to Connecticut to be closer to the support of family. It took me over 40 years to get back to the tropical islands of Hawaii and I made the most of our time there. We stayed on Maui and explored just about every inch of it from the top of Mt. Haleakala with wind driven hail filling up our ear cavities to the beautiful sandy beaches and muddy jungle trails.

The Hāna Highway is a 64.4-mile (103.6 km) long stretch of Hawaii Routes 36 and 360 which connects Kahului with the town of Hāna in east Maui. On the east after Kalepa Bridge, the highway continues to Kīpahulu as Hawaii Route 31 (the Piilani Highway). Although Hāna is only about 52 miles (84 km) from Kahului, it takes about 2.5 hours to drive when no stops are made as the highway is very winding and narrow and passes over 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one lane wide.[5] There are approximately 620 curves along Route 360 from just east of Kahului to Hāna, virtually all of it through lush, tropical rainforest. Many of the concrete and steel bridges date back to 1910 and all but one are still in use.

One of the first sites along the Road to Hana is Twin Falls.  Twin Falls is on private land owned by the Wailele Farm but is open to the public.  There is a small parking lot at the trail entrance as well as a cute little food stand selling smoothies and fresh coconuts.


In honor of the traditional uses of Ho’olawa valley, Wailele Farm – Twin Falls Maui is dedicated to keep free access open to the public as an inspiration for all.

The trail takes one to the first falls which we found full of swimmers so we decided to hike on to the second falls.

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When we finally reached Twin Falls, conditions were less than ideal and down right challenging.  Other hikers as well as the rough terrain of overground jungle and slippery rocks and mud made it tough to find a good composition that included decent foreground as well as keeping people out of the shot.  Bright sun lit the upper jungle canopy but created deep shadows round the pool.  Straight out of the camera, the RAW color version of the image is dull and lifeless.  Not exactly the mystical landscape quality I pre-visualized.


The before shot. This photograph has a lot of problems.

The before shot. This photograph has a lot of problems.

Here is a breakdown of some of the problems I had to overcome in in post processing.

1.  People.  A steady stream of hikers were coming and going from the spot.  Some of them ventured into the water but they were mostly likely to walk along the banks and have their picture taken under the waterfall.  They went right but I went left and positioned myself across from the waterfall finding a fallen tree as a good foreground subject.  The tree was nicely illuminated by a shaft of light which penetrated the deep jungle over the pool.  I was using a six second exposure to blur the waterfall and give the pool a calm feeling so it was almost inevitable that some would move into the frame during the exposure.  The frame I eventually used was the one after this one when the hikers were out of the frame.  In this shot you can see the hikers blurring as they move during the exposure.

2.  The dynamic range of the scene was high between the bright highlights on the water at the top of the falls and the deep dark cave under the falls.  I had to crop out some of the top as well as dodge and burn to lighten shadows and darken highlights.

3.  Despite using a tripod and trying to level the camera before the shot, the legs were sunk in jungle mud and managed to move out of level.  The “horizon” was leveled in post.

4. Leaves and debris.  I found the floating stuff on the water distracting so I removed most of it in post processing.

5. Muddy water.  The water in the pool was cloudy and rather uninviting.  Keep in mind that these waterfalls in a rainforest come and go during rainstorms and all sorts of mud and silt from the jungle finds its way into the water.  Plus human activity from walking around the water and swimming in the pools stirs up the muck.  By going with black and white the water becomes just a liquid and you don’t have the color cues to tell you its not crystal clear blue water.

6. What the heck is that?  Some weird shape in the lower left.  Either my lens cap wasn’t oriented correctly or something else crept into the frame.   I cropped to 8×10 aspect and eliminated this distracting element.

This image sat on my hard drive for about 10 months before I attempt to work on it.  The original just looked so terrible that I almost never saw its potential.  I’m glad I gave it a second look!


About the Hana Highway or The Road to Hana

Maui’s famous road of twist and turns and over 600 turns within 52 miles plus forty something one lane bridges makes for an adventure of a lifetime.  Every turn is another stunning view be it waterfall, jungle or seaside cliff plunging down into the ocean.  I’ve been on the Beartooth Highway in Montana which traverses a mountain range and I’ve driving up Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire but neither road prepared me for the crazy roller coaster ride that is the Hana Highway.  At some points the road has a posted speed limit of 10 miles an hour because you simply can not see what’s coming around the bend ahead of you.  Other times as the passenger you can literally stick your hand out the window and touch the cliff wall.  Add to this the limited parking at popular stops, the back up of cars behind you and the local flying down the road in late model pickup trucks full of coconuts and it adds up to the true white knuckle ride.

The maps all warn people not to travel beyond Hana.  But rather to stay over (very much recommended) or head back the way you came preferably before it gets dark.  Some rental car companies even state that you can’t take their cars on the other side.  Mostly I think because they don’t want to have to send a repair truck to find you if you get stuck.  We didn’t head the warning….

…Wanting to see the sun setting on other side of the island we headed out in our little lawnmower of a compact car and wished we had brought along some window cleaner.  One stretch of the road hugs a series of sea cliffs that plunge down to the ocean.  How anyone in their right mind thought they could build a road here is beyond me.  Besides the terror of the drop off and the rough road conditions, at one point we turned the corner to be blinded by the setting sun.  We couldn’t see a thing!  Right at the point of a hairpin turn.  Thank goodness no one was following us or they’d have slammed into the back of us and probably shoved us off the cliff.

I was glad we ventured on the backside because we were able to see this amazing church just as the sun was setting.

Hawaii Photography Prints