Large, warm drops of rain drummed on the canopy of the lanai of Hotel Dolphin Bay in Hilo. It felt as if a naughty child was using my balcony for water-balloon target practice. The lush tropical greenery around me shimmered happily in the downpour. Nursing a mug of lukewarm coffee, thumbing a magazine that showed acres of sundrenched beaches, I was a big black thundercloud myself. I was positively fuming. The decision to leave behind the baking golden sands of Kona to come to Hilo to experience the tropical forest seemed idiotic not knowing a storm was backing into the bay from the pacific. Drip, drip, drip – I might as well be back in Seattle.
Then it struck me! On my drive along the Kohala coast, the highway dipping south hugging the eastern coastline of the Big Island of Hawaii, I had driven to the Akaka falls and driven out immediately after seeing the parking lots teeming with cars. Who would go there on a day like this? Plus, under such an overcast sky and the ensuing diffused light, I might not have to struggle too much to “stop down” the light to be able to show the shutter speed. I cursed myself. How could I have forgotten the most important of the Shinde’s Laws of Vacation, the one that forbids travellers from complaining about anything while on vacation strongly imploring them to “use every prevailing condition to further the cause of enjoyment?”
I was galvanized into a flurry of activity during which my camera gear was packed and stacked into the rented Wrangler and I was soon hurtling down state highway 22. I was sufficiently gratified when I pulled into an almost empty parking lot of the Akaka State Falls. Grinning ear to ear, unmindful of being drenched, I took to the trail with a light gait. The viscous humidity, the enchanting smell of a wet jungle and the roar of falling water hit me just before I had my first breathtaking glimpse of the famous waterfall – a cylindrical valley covered in thick green foliage, a circular basin at the bottom, a tiny outpour four hundred twenty two feet above and thousands of gallons of water falling down in a steady milky stream.
It took my eye less than a second to make and store that image.
It is an entirely different matter that after ninety minutes of struggling to shield my tripod mounted camera with a flimsy umbrella, manipulating wet dials with wet fingers, swatting mosquitoes feasting on my legs and repeatedly wiping the precipitation off the lens; I barely managed one exposure that I would not mind putting my name on, give or take the couple of blemishes it has.
As if a giant hand switched off a giant faucet, the rain stopped almost as soon as I was done with my last shot. Within a minute trouped down the trail a thick mass of humanity sheathed in polychromatic radiant parkas, carrying cameras of all form factors. Behind them, their kids followed, feet dragging, not knowing what all the fuss was about…