Photographing Hawaii’s Big Island

Photographing Hawaii’s Big Island

For the Love of Lava

While there are many reasons to visit Hawaii, for me it was the lava. As someone who often gets a lot of peace out of the quiet, settled natural landscape of New Jersey, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that it was formed thousands of years ago by some powerful and violent forces of nature. Seeing lava flowing from active volcanos and what it does to the surrounding landscape was a way to experience and photograph that awesome raw power of nature first hand.

Our first lava experience was in Volcano National Park, looking down on the Halema’uma’u Crater, the most active volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. We started in the dark when all you could see were the stars and glow of the crater.  Daybreak revealed a harsh landscape devastated by the earth spewing forth its molten insides.

Halema’uma’u Crater By Starlight by Richard Lewis 2018


Halema’uma’u Crater At Dawn by Richard Lewis 2018


Halema’uma’u Crater Up Close by Richard Lewis 2018


This photograph shows how the flow of lava can utterly destroy and change the landscape it flows through.

Volcanic Desolation Hawaii

Volcanic Desolation by Richard Lewis 2018


To see the lava up close, we hiked over a dark landscape created by recently cooled lava in order to find the fresh flows. The Big Island of Hawaii is constantly being formed and reformed by lava. Sometimes, whole communities get uprooted and destroyed by the changing flow. Hiking across a lava field virtually devoid of vegetation is like being on an alien world.

Lava Flow by Richard Lewis 2018


Lava Field Glowing by Richard Lewis 2018


Lava Flow By The Sea by Richard Lewis 2018


Lava Glow by Richard Lewis 2018


Rainbow Over A Lava Flow by Richard Lewis 2018


Earth And Sky Light by Richard Lewis 2018


Lava Flow At Dusk Hawaii

Lava Flow At Dusk by Richard Lewis 2018


The Big Island Hawaiian Landscape

The Big Island of Hawaii is more than just lava. Well, actually the whole place is made of lava, but after that lava dries, the power of nature shows itself again as the vegetation returns to create a beautifully rugged volcanic landscape. The first 2 photographs below were made on top of the the almost 14,000 foot summit of Mauna Kea, the island’s highest mountain. From here you get to see an almost abstract world above the clouds.


World Above The Clouds by Richard Lewis 2018


Dusk On Mauna Kea by Richard Lewis 2018


Hawaii is known for spectacular sunrises and sunsets. The Big Island did not disappoint us.

Pololu Sea Sea Cliffs by Richard Lewis 2018


Big Island Sunset by Richard Lewis 2018


Volcano Afterglow by Richard Lewis 2018


I usually enjoy the meticulous planning that goes into a trip like this, however this time I signed up for a photography tour run by Backcountry Journeys. Although the following may sound like a commercial, I’m not getting any compensation for this endorsement. It is just my way of saying thanks to photographer Russ Nordstrand and his wife Crystal, who run Backcountry Journeys, for an amazingly well planned trip that showed us to the best of the unpredictable and ever changing beauty of the Big Island of Hawaii. Sometimes it is nice to concentrate more on creativity and less on finding those places to create.


Lava Beach by Richard Lewis 2018

See more of my photographs of Hawaii in my Gallery, and don’t forget to check out some awesome spring photography workshops.





2018-02-18T14:42:42+00:00January 28th, 2018|46 Comments


  1. Karen Johnson January 28, 2018 at 9:11 am - Reply

    These are beautiful Rich!

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 12:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks Karen. I appreciate it.

  2. daveblinder January 28, 2018 at 9:13 am - Reply

    Rich – Really stunning series. That must have been one heck of an adventure for you!

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 12:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks Dave. I appreciate the compliment. It was a really amazing adventure and a very different landscape from what we get to photograph here in the East.

  3. Ken Curtis January 28, 2018 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Beautiful photos, Rich. You made me want to go there. Hope you didn’t burn your feet getting these shots!

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 12:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ken. My feet faired fine, but the soles of hiking boots have been known to melt out there.

  4. Vince Rossi January 28, 2018 at 10:03 am - Reply

    Rich, I wish hiking was something I was able to do. You catch many great shots because of it. Especially this series.

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 12:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks Vince. I guess it’s good I can hike like this, but based on you’re work, there are a lot of great shots that don’t require hiking boots.

  5. eajackson January 28, 2018 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Now those are really unique and interesting images you dont see everyday. I have lots of question about the lava but I will ask when i see you. Beautiful exciting colection.

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 12:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the compliment. It was a really one of those amazing experiences that was so foreign to what we normally get exposed to around here. I’m happy to answer your questions from what I know, which is far from being an expert on lava.

  6. Anushka January 28, 2018 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Beautiful and Awesome!
    I think you should do a small detailed presentation about the making of these images. All our questions will be answered I guess…..

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 12:37 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anushka. I’m not sure if I have enough images to make a complete presentation. I’d be happy to do something to review the making of these images. It was an interesting adventure.

  7. Vivian Lewis January 28, 2018 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Beautiful and amazing shots! The rainbow –luck of the Irish?

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 12:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks. Not sure if it’s Irish luck, but it was very special to have that rainbow show up.

  8. Wesley G Vandegrift January 28, 2018 at 11:18 am - Reply


    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 12:33 pm - Reply

      You are welcome!

  9. Bruce Drazen January 28, 2018 at 11:31 am - Reply

    Rich, Thanks for posting your visit. Photographs with your commentary
    allowed me the pleasurable experience
    Of “sharing” your tour. As always, enjoy
    your creativity!!!

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 12:33 pm - Reply

      You are welcome Bruce. I appreciate your support of this blog and your compliments on my work.

  10. Jon January 28, 2018 at 11:34 am - Reply

    As usual fantastic photography. Thanks so much for sharing

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 12:32 pm - Reply

      You are very welcome Jon. I appreciate your comment.

  11. Joe Marcone January 28, 2018 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Wonderful shots of a magical place!

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 12:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks Joe. It was a very magical place.

  12. Sandra Rosenberger January 28, 2018 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful gift you have. Thank you for allowing me to enjoy such wondrous beauty.

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 5:36 pm - Reply

      Thank you Sandra. I’m so glad you are enjoying the photography on this blog. It’s my pleasure to share it with you.

  13. Stephen Robinson January 28, 2018 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    I have seen hundreds of shots of this area and can say without hesitation that your presentation is the best by far. Each of these photos captures the essence of the landscape, makes one feel like you are there and is also a beautiful photo that stands on its own. Well done

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 8:10 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for this amazing compliment on my work. I appreciate it and am honored that you feel this way. This is an amazingly beautiful landscape to photograph in.

  14. Tuxedo Sophisticated Cat January 28, 2018 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    Stunning photos.

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      Thank you very. I appreciate your compliment.

  15. Diane Nelson January 28, 2018 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Stunning photos Rich. You are quite the world traveler & photographer now. All your work is amazing.

    • Rich Lewis January 28, 2018 at 8:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks Diane. I really appreciate the compliment. I guess we are lucky to be able to travel a bit.

  16. Bonnie Rovere January 29, 2018 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Beautiful photos of a place we do not usually get to see.!

    • Rich Lewis January 29, 2018 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      Thanks Bonnie I’m happy to provide a window on the Big Island.

  17. Dante Fratto January 29, 2018 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    Beautiful shots Rich. Well done as usual. I have family in Honolulu. Someday I’ll make it there.

    • Rich Lewis January 29, 2018 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks Dante. Your compliment is really appreciated. I hope you make it out to Hawaii sometime soon. It’s a place you’d enjoy photographing.

  18. Ralph Berglund January 30, 2018 at 10:24 am - Reply

    Mahalo for this fine work. I love Hawaii for its people, its flowers, its music, and its scenery. What you captured on this trip is a major element of the scenery but there is so much beauty out there that you need to go back several times. Isn’t that nice?

    • Rich Lewis January 30, 2018 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      You are very welcome Ralph. Mahalo for the nice compliment. Hawaii is a great place and one I want to get back to. We just didn’t have time to get into all the great flowers that grow there.

  19. infraredrobert January 31, 2018 at 7:31 am - Reply

    Nice work…what lens were you using (focal length)?

    • Rich Lewis January 31, 2018 at 9:11 am - Reply

      Thanks for the compliment. All of these photos were shot with 1 of 3 lenses. 24-70, 70-200 and 100-400mm. All of the images, except for 1 were done on a Canon full frame camera. If you have a specific photograph(s) that you would like to know the actual focal length used, let me know and I’ll check the Raw file for you.

  20. Barry Nealis January 31, 2018 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Wow! They’re all beautiful! I especially like the Sea Cliff Sunset shot… I love the layering of the cliffs.

    • Rich Lewis January 31, 2018 at 1:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks Barry. The light that morning was pure magic and those cliffs were spectacular.

  21. southjerseytrails February 13, 2018 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    Amazing! You might have outdone yourself with these ones.

    Now if you can just find some lava flows in South Jersey somewhere for the rest of us to follow you to…

    • Rich Lewis February 15, 2018 at 12:37 pm - Reply

      Thanks. I do feel this place and I bonded rather quickly. I’ll do my best with the lava flows, but they are probably pretty far under the sand out there

  22. Otto von Münchow February 19, 2018 at 8:49 am - Reply

    Spectacular images!

    • Rich Lewis February 19, 2018 at 10:06 am - Reply

      Thank you very much Otto.

  23. David March 2, 2018 at 7:50 am - Reply

    As always awesome shots. You can have The Hawaii Tourism Bureau use them esp earth sky light wh/we would like to have on a magnet for the frig

    • Rich Lewis March 2, 2018 at 10:31 am - Reply

      Thanks for the compliment. That magnet could be arranged.

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