Best Places to shoot Big Island Hawaii?
The volcano viewing is not the best at the moment. Check this site: http://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/lava2.htm. There are three types of volcano/lava experiences I have seen: Surface flows, ocean entry and the Halema'uma'u Crater.
There are surface flows, but they are not easy to access at the moment. A distinction must be made between flows on State of Hawaii land and federal park land. The state attempts to keep you quite far away from any flows (but enforcement is lax). Park rangers allow you to get within a few feet of it. Viewing is best at night (bring a flashlight for each person and a tripod for you), if access is possible.
Ocean entry can be spectacular as the 2100 degree lava hits 80 degree ocean water. The state and federal distinction applies here, too. I've only seen ocean entry on state land, so I don't know how the rangers handle it on federal land. The state keeps you about a mile away, but as I said, enforcement is lax and I got close enough that a 28mm lens just barely captured the entry and some of the plume. Note that this is dangerous. Really.
The last time I was there, September 2012, the overlook at the Jaggar Museum was nice at night. The crater is spewing steam 24 hours a day, but at night, the plume is lit from below by a lava lake. You can't usually see the lake, but it causes a nice glow to the plume. You definitely need a tripod and a remote release to use the bulb setting. 70mm on FF got me a little too close to this photo op. Go at sunset, set up and take pictures over the next hour or two. Once it gets dark, notice all of the stars you can see. You can park right by the museum. Dress warmly.
Last September was not the best for volcano viewing, so I took a helicopter tour out of Hilo. It was my first time in a helicopter and it was pretty spectacular. The main viewing attractions were surface lava flows and the Pu'u 'O'o Crater, the source of the eruption since 1983. You can't really see this on foot, so helicopter is the only way. You want a very high shutter speed with your back not touching any part of the aircraft. I recommend a Hughes 500D with no doors (paradise tours). You pay extra to go "no doors" but it is worth it. Dress warmly.
Go to the top of Mauna Kea -- during the day or at sunset. It's really a different world up there. Kind of a moonscape above the clouds. I don't listen to the hysterical warnings in travel guides about saddle road and the dirt portions of the road to Mauna Kea. The road to Mauna Kea is graded and if you take it easy, it is no problem. I haven't been up there when it is wet or snowing, so all bets are off if that is the case. Saddle road is no issue, as it is a well maintained road. You can also take a tour. It's quite an experience to go from sea level to 13,700 ft in an hour. Dress warmly and look for signs of altitude sickness.
The Puna District -- south of Hilo -- has some volcanically heated tidal pools that area great for swimming or snorkeling (depending of the site) and you might even swim with a sea turtle in one (champagne pond), but don't touch them, violation of federal law, etc., etc. An underwater P&S can be good here.
If I had to do one hike, I would pick the Kilauea Iki hike. It's about 3 miles and it goes through a crater that was a lava lake 50 years ago. 300 feet down, it's still hot lava, so steam often rises of the floor; more so, if it rains. It's really amazing. I've done it twice and will do it again. Oh yeah, bring a rain poncho when visiting the volcano and dress warmly (did I say that already?).
My recommendation for a travel guide: Hawaii Revealed by Doughty. It has no peer.
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