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3 shot pano: Being inside the sunset on Maui, Hawaii

I’ve seen plenty of sunsets in my time, but never before have I been INSIDE one! Being at over 3,000 feet and having stunning orange and red clouds all around me at my level, and so close I could walk in to them, that’s exactly what it felt like taking this three shot panoramic from up the side of the Haleakala Volcano, on Maui. Being so high you can clearly see both the North side of the island now in shade to the right, and to the left, the South side bathed in that glorious glow from the setting sun.

We had driven to the top of the Haleakala Volcano in the hope of some good sunset views, but there had been cloud cover all day and the summit was down to about 20 foot visibility. So, we packed up and headed back down, but on the way the clouds off in the distance began to clear, so I decided to hedge my bets and pull over at around 3,500 feet to wait and see what would happen. And wow, I was glad I did. As the sun set the clouds before us opened up just enough to let the golden rays through, and in doing so the entire mountain side and all the clouds around us were bathed in the most intense glow. If you’ve been to Hawaii before you’ll know exactly the type of incredible light I’m talking about! And when it hits those clouds, the colours are just incredible. Don’t let the picture fool you though, it was freezing cold! It can be 30 degrees at sea level and 5 degrees at the top of the 10,000ft summit of the Volcano. We may have been less than half way up but I was practically dressed for the beach!

Photo details
Number of images: 3
Lens: Nikon 16-35 VR (read my review here)
Camera: Nikon D3s
Settings: 24mm, 1/400s, f9
Extras: Gitzo GT 5541 LS tripod (read my review), Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead (read my review)

Being so close to the clouds made for a very surreal experience, as usually when you see a sunset the clouds are miles way from you up in the sky, yet here they were now surrounding me from all sides with an orange wall of it right behind me, and some close enough that I could have walked across the field and got lost in them! And that blanket across the top of the image wasn’t thousands of feet up, it was only a couple of hundred at most, and went right over our head and connected with the wall of cloud behind that was running across the fields. We were truly engulfed in the sunset and what a stunning and memorable experience it was. I really wanted to try and capture the sense of being engulfed that I felt being there, so I opted for a three shot panoramic, and so I hope that feeling comes across in some part with the image I captured!

16-35 VR: 3 image stitch. Sunset from 3000 feet, Maui, Hawaii

16-35 VR: 3 image stitch. Sunset from 3000 feet, Maui, Hawaii

See the bigger picture
The version above is only 900 pixels wide, if you have a higher resolution screen then click the version below to see it at 1800 pixels wide and really take in some of the extra detail. You can see both sides of the island with Maui’s thinnest section leading you from the Kihei area to the left and on the South side of the island, across to the  town of Kahului and the shaded North side of the island to the far right. The summit of the West Maui mountains are shrouded in cloud cover off in the distance.

Sunset from over 3000 feet up Haleakala Volcano, Maui, Hawaii

Click to view at 1800 pixels wide

About the author

Richard Peters is a Surrey based professional wildlife photographer, Nikon Ambassador, and one of the few British photographers to receive the accolade of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He is known for a style that often favours dramatic use of light, runs wildlife photography workshops and, from camera clubs to big industry events, holds talks about his work.

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