Critters: Challenging My Photography Skills in Hawaii

Photography - Main From farmers markets bursting with color to picturesque landscapes and rich sunsets, Hawaii offers endless opportunities for anyone passionate about photography. In order to not miss any great shots you need to keep your camera in hand at all times, which is exactly what I did when visiting the Big Island earlier this year. I had only been shooting in manual mode for a few months when we arrived and was anxious to apply the new things I had learned. Practicing my photography skills at both the crater floor in Hawaii’s Valcanoes National Park and the waterfalls in the Tropical Botanical Gardens challenged my understanding of lighting and exposure. It was the vast array of little critters however, that were the perfect subject for perfecting my understanding of aperture. For anyone unfamiliar with the term aperture here’s my attempt at an explanation. 

Photography 101 – Aperture

Aperture, or f/Stop on your camera setting, is what dictates the amount of light coming into your lens. How much light you allow through your lens impacts how much of your subject is in focus which is referred to as your depth of field. For instance when taking landscape pictures you most likely would choose a small aperture (larger f/stop number) which let’s in less light creating a larger depth of field. By choosing the smaller aperture the entire landscape remains in focus. For isolating a particular subject, such as my little critters in this example, you may want to use a larger aperture (smaller f/stop number) for a more shallow depth of field so that your subject is very clear and the background is out of focus or blurred.

Photography - Gecko These little guys are fast! Luckily I came across this one who seemed to be asleep or maybe just content with soaking in the sun. I was happy because it gave me time to take a few different shots with various settings to see which I liked the best.

Photography - Bird on Heinz This bird sang to us for some time over breakfast. If I didn’t know better I would have thought Heinz sent him to give us a sales pitch.

Photography - Cat in Japanese Garden I found this cat in the Japanese Gardens and had to stop and stare at him for a minute unsure if it was real or not. It did not move at all, except for a little flick of his whiskers, no matter how close I got to him.

Photography - Bird Reflection This bird was comical. He would hop back and forth along the pipe suddenly stopping from time to time and stare at his reflection. He would then sing a little melody as if to say “hello” and continue hopping. This went on for some time. For this particular shot I used a smaller aperture (again that’s a larger f/stop number on your camera setting) to make sure I had a  larger depth of field in order to capture his reflection clearly.

Photography - Crab in Sand It required a lot of patience to get a good shot of these fast little crabs. Lying flat on the sand, much like a hit man waiting patiently for his mark, I finally took the shot and was able to catch this guy. They pop in and out of the sand so quickly that I couldn’t figure out what it was they came to the surface for and why they would go back down what appeared to be another crabs hole. I could only image the vast underground mazes, they call home, just below me.

If you’re trying to better your photography, be sure to check out fellow travel bloggers at Beers & Beans.They offer one of the best how-to photography books I’ve read called Getting Out of Auto. With a perfect balance of written and visual examples this e-book is in-depth yet easy to understand. I refer to it all the time!

Say hello in the comments below and share which critter was your favorite!

This post is part of the 2014 A to Z April Blogging Challenge
A to Z Challenge

Sunday Traveler Link up with Sunday Traveler and visit the host A Southern Gypsy!

Share this adventure with friends around the world...


  1. duaba

    no matter how many blogs i read or how many photography intro seminars/lectures i go to, i always need to take a minute to get aperture & shutter speed figured out in my head. ur pictures are really great and the wait was worth it since u managed to capture incredible moments with those animals πŸ™‚

    1. Dsmythe

      Thanks Duaba! It definitely takes a lot of practice and I’m still working hard at it. I have found certain things to help me more than others like the book I mentioned. It’s fun to work at it… I enjoy seeing the progress.

    1. Dsmythe

      Jessica I love Hawaii as well and the Big Island of Hawaii was so different. Have you been there? There’s nothing wrong with auto although I’ve had fun experimenting with other settings. There’s so much to learn.

    1. Dsmythe

      Ah thanks Ashley!!! Forget the list and start peaking in the book. It’s set up perfectly so you can read little bits at a time and then practice for awhile. I love it. πŸ™‚

  2. Chris Boothman

    It’s always great to read a post where you learn something different and this one certainly has provided a great insight into some extra camera knowledge that I wasn’t aware of. I will admit that Heather is the expert in our family but I am always eager to learn a little more. We are actually in the market for a new DSLR, though Heather is an avid Nikon user so I doubt we will move away from that brand.

    Hawaii offers so many great photography opportunities for sure. This is a great post, looking forward to following the rest of your challenge and beyond.
    Chris Boothman recently posted…Dream Destinations – CroatiaMy Profile

    1. Dsmythe

      Glad you found it helpful Katie! You can’t go wrong buying a camera, grab a point and shoot and just start clicking away. You’ll be surprised how quickly you pic it up. πŸ™‚

  3. Lucy

    I have to say that I love the little bird that sang to you during breakfast… that is my favorite critter! You know I must be the only California resident that has never been to Hawaii! I gotta get there soon!

    1. Dsmythe

      Hi Adelina, so glad you visited from #SundayTraveler! Thanks for the compliment… I love a good challenge, especially while learning more about photography. Fun to spend a day focusing on one technique.

  4. Lauren

    Amazing photographs – I love all of them! I’d love to get some more practice with my camera and learn the ins and outs, so I’m going to look into getting the How-to guide you posted. I know some stuff already but some extra tips and tricks couldn’t hurt! I love your patience to get that crab photo. And that cat is so adorable and I can’t believe he didn’t move – so zen in the Japanese garden!
    Lauren recently posted…Caribbean Cruise Video – Sea Days on the Emerald PrincessMy Profile

    1. Dsmythe

      Lauren you definitely should get that book, it’s so good! I also like that you can read through it at your own pace and apply what you’ve learned. I think you’ll be happy with it. I think my patience in getting that shot of the crab drove my husband crazy but we laugh about it now.

  5. frankaboutcroatia

    Impressed with your learning curve. These photos came great. I am such a dummy when it comes to manual photography. I did try to understand it, read tones of books, but my brain just seems incapable of getting it. I think it’s because everything is confusingly opposite. The less aperture, the more stays in focus, the larger f stop, less light …. anyways, I’ll keep trying. You did an excellent job!
    frankaboutcroatia recently posted…Wineries in Istria worth a visitMy Profile

    1. Dsmythe

      Thanks Frank. You are very right about the opposites when it comes to manual mode. I also love shooting on the Aperture setting, that’s an easier way to practice than manual.

  6. Pingback: Sunday Traveler Favorites - ice cream and permafrost | ice cream and permafrost

Leave a Comment