The beaches of The Big Island are kind of like people; they come in all different shapes and sizes. There are black, green and white sand beaches (albeit not at the same beach!). There are remote beaches you have to hike to and beaches that are easily accessible by car. There are calm, family friendly beaches, and then there are turbulent and rock loaded surfer only beaches.
From a photography perspective I found the biggest difference (on the big island anyway) to be whether the beach was east or west facing. The east facing beaches, on the Hilo side of the island, tended to have less tourists but more clouds. The west facing beaches, on the Hapuna / Kona side of the island, were the more pristine white sand beaches and thus tended to have more large groups of tourists present. Also, the black and green sand beaches were on the east side of the island.
The weather conditions didn't set up as well as I would have liked during my stay on the big island. On the east side of the island I never once was ever able to actually see the sun break the horizon as it rose (big sad face here) due to heavy cloud cover. But the one night I was able to spend on the west side of the island was absolutely gorgeous, so that almost made up for it (smile).
Black Sand Beach
This creatively named beach is known for it's sea turtles. When we were there at least 5-10 turtles were either on shore or making their way to the shore. Early in the day (around sunrise) there was little traffic on the beach, but it definitely changed as the day got hotter.
Really would have liked to have had a wider lens with me at the time. I was shooting with a cropped sensor at 18mm for most shots. I continually felt like I was missing the essence of the beach. For the turtles I broke out the 70-200mm lens and enjoyed trying to capture an expression on their face; which was not always possible.
Overall I really enjoyed photographing this beach, but would really like to make it back there when there isn't such heavy cloud cover.
The final picture in the collage to the right is an HDR image. Put it together this way to try and bring out the little color there was in the sky. Again, really wish those clouds weren't so think on the horizon.
This beach is definitely the most pristine and picturesque one I was able to travel to during my time on the Big Island. The waves are calm and great for kids, and the side is fine and deep. When most people think of a Hawaiian beach, this is what they picture in their dreams. Power soft sand, with slow flowing calm waves that never end.
I tried to experiment with different foregrounds that will call out to the viewer "This is a beach in Hawaii" and not just "This is a great beach". To do this I tried to incorporate as many lava rocks and mangrove trees as I could in the foreground. To me these items make the photos more uniquely Hawaiian.
Also as the sun was setting I was able to play around with some longer exposure photos, and you can see this in the photo that I took after the sun went down. The water is more smooth, and it is reflecting the silver color of the sky.
Overall this sunset and setting was right up there with Santorini's sunset from Ia on the north side of the island; this is often touted as one of the more beautiful sunsets in the world.