Chance Encounter with Halema’uma’u

(Truth be told, this post sat in draft mode for a month an a half.  Yes, been a bit of a drought here on the blog thanks to the demands of working for a high growth technology company and being a Dad. During the past months I have personally experienced the fallacy of giving 110%, not possible.  One hundred percent is all you get; it’s all about how you allocate that 100.  I should be able to start taking back from one area and giving back to my photography soon.  You’ll know when that happens…)

Back in April, the Mrs and I were able to get a few days away from family life for a trip to Kona, Hawaii. While this trip wasn’t a photography focused trip, we did have a few days to ourselves and were able to make it to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  As we drove around the Big Island toward Hilo, we could see that the higher elevations at the center of the island were covered with clouds.  As we started our ascent from Hilo to the park entrance, the clouds and VOG (volcanic originating gas) got thicker, by the time we arrived at the park you had limited visibility.

We both were hoping to see the Kilauea Caldera but it appears that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate.  Following the advice of one of the Park Rangers, we headed down to the coast to catch sunset and then back up to the crater in hopes of seeing the red glow at night.  As we arrived at the Jaggar Museum and walked toward the lookout over the crater, I thought we were back in San Francisco.  The fog was so thick that you couldn’t see 20 feet in front of you!

Lucky for us the museum was still open.  We popped in and learned more about the history of the crater and watched an amazing thermal webcam of the crater for about 20 minutes.  As we walked out the museum doors, we were both shocked that there was no fog anymore, it had completely disappeared, the near full moon was showing thru the thin clouds, and there in front of us was the glowing red vent of the Halema’uma’u Crater!

Volcanic Gas Plume from Halema'uma'u Crater in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Kona, Hawai'i. (Greg A. Lato /

Volcanic Gas Plume from Halema'uma'u Crater in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Kona, Hawai'i. (Greg A. Lato /

Of course, we all know what I did…grabbed the camera gear from the car and turned the Mrs. into a photography widow for the next hour. As you stood watching the crater, the glow from the lava would get brighter and dimmer as the lava would rise or lower within the vent.  Between my own photos, I also ended up teaching an impromptu night time photography class for all the other visitors who were trying to photograph the spectacle. The German couple who just bought their new camera 2 days before leaving on their trip was much appreciative of that.  As was the gentleman with the the Wounded Warrior Project group that ended up with a few great photos for the solders to use as mementos of the trip.

Another great example of the core tenant of landscape photography…the weather changes, so don’t be afraid to wait it out for a photograph. Sometimes, the wait is worth it.

(This photo is part of my new Hawaii Volcanoes NP gallery where it can be purchased as an Art Print or licensed for stock usage.)

7 Replies to “Chance Encounter with Halema’uma’u”

  1. That is pretty cool, Greg. How far away from the actual flows were you?


    latoga Reply:

    When I was there, there was no lava flowing. 🙁 A few months prior the tube that was channeling the lava toward the ocean collapsed and all flows stopped. The volcanologists knew it was a matter of time before the lava built up somewhere and broke thru again. Just a month ago or so I noticed from the website that one of the smaller caldera’s near that lava tube started to rise and eventually broke open.


  2. Hey Greg. Wow, I guess it has been awhile since I stopped by. The new site design looks great, not sure when you did it, but thought I would pass that along.

    I would love to have the resources and time availability to get a call from Hawaii saying “The lava’s flowing!”. 🙂


    latoga Reply:

    Thanks Mark, the website update was started last December and reached the 90% complete point and then got sidetracked. Guess I never even formally mentioned the redesign.

    I would love to spend more time in Hawaii. Bit easier to get there from west coast but still the cost issue. Doing the trip on OPM is always ideal. 🙂


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