windward coast

  windward coast 
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Like Two-Sided Lake, this work looks at a wet-to-dry transition, incorporating images from Isabela Island in the Galapagos (the scene on the left) and Kauai, Hawaii (the remaining scenes).  I created the composition in a linear fashion, adding scenes as I imagined passing from one end to the other through the different environments.  Expectedly, other works dealing with ecological gradients tended to develop in the same way.  This one, though, ended up incorporating the longest string of images, emphasizing the sense of horizontal movement (like a filmstrip).  And while I've disrupted the pattern a bit in the center, the linear progression creates the sense that the journey could continue further in either direction.  Other similarly-themed but simpler compositions (like Two-Sided Lake) seem to hold together better - their boundaries come across as less arbitrary.      

The two shots on the right were taken not far from each other, from a trail running along Kauai's dramatic Na Pali Coast.  (The foreground plant in the view second-from-right is a pandanus, or "screw pine," known for the corkscrew-like arrangement of its leaves.  It's related to palms but is not one - many species, unlike almost all palms, naturally branch.)  The two middle images were shot in Kokee State Park, 4000 ft. above the coast and encompassing some of the wettest parts of the island.  The upper scene (the same as in Two-Sided Lake) is backed by cloud forest and shows the Kalalau Valley in the distance; the lower one is the Alakai Swamp, not far from the wettest spot on earth.  This boggy area, with near-constant rain and mist, is too wet to support trees more than waist-high...a boardwalk was installed recently but a hike through it used to require a slog through knee-deep mud. Saturated, mostly treeless landscapes are my favorite places...I'll talk more about them in later posts.  Even though I've placed this view at the bottom of the composition, it's meant to represent the summit - a mysterious world unto itself, set apart by a cover of mist.

The actual locations of the Kauai scenes exist in a similar progression as represented in the work - from wet coastline up through even wetter highland interior.  The island's quintessentially south-seas topography has a lot to do with the incredibly high rainfall around Mt. Waialeale (the purple in the center of the map above).  Steeply-walled valleys funnel the air upward so quickly that it releases its moisture all at once. The spot holds the world record, at almost 500 in. per year, and supposedly that measurement is probably too low.  For comparison, Washington's Olympic Peninsula receives about 100 in., and New York City half that amount.  

Mt, Waialeale, central Kauai

Mt, Waialeale, central Kauai

Mt. Waialeale crater with bog

Mt. Waialeale crater with bog

Though I've used an image from the Galapagos to represent the dry end of the moisture gradient, Kauai (like the other large Hawaiian islands) is much wetter on its eastern windward side than its western leeward side - noteworthy given the island's popular image as uniformly lush.  The Na Pali Coast itself turns brown as it runs westward, finally petering out into the cliffs backing Polihale Beach at the western end of the island (below).  I would have liked to incorporate a photograph of this beach, had I not neglected to take one myself; besides the relative starkness, it has an evocative end-of-the-earth quality.

Darren

Polihale Beach from above, western Kauai, Hawaii

Polihale Beach from above, western Kauai, Hawaii

Polihale Beach

Polihale Beach