Landscape photographer Susan Seubert on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine

It is with great pleasure to announce the best holiday gift ever : the cover story for Smithsonian’s December 2011 issue.  In early October, I was assigned by the magazine to cover a story about the crater of Haleakala, located on the island of Maui.  Also available online is a multimedia piece which was edited in Washington D.C. at the magazine’s headquarters.  I provided the raw video and audio and the good people at Smithsonian put together a video featuring the park’s superintendent, Sarah Creachbaum. There is also a slideshow online of some more photos here.

This adventure into the volcano was a test of both my technical and physical capabilities.  My assistant and I covered approximately thirty miles of rough terrain, dealing with gusty winds, yellowjackets and the occasional passing rain shower.  We spent three days and two nights shooting as much of the landscape and volunteer work as possible.  We also shot video and collected audio as we simultaneously tried to shoot stills and keep up with the volunteer group, who had allowed us to tag along and stay with them in two of the three cabins located within the crater.

The eastern flank of this erosional depression is a cloud forest, essentially the top of Hana, an area famous for its rainforests and waterfalls.  If time had allowed, we would have hiked farther into the Kaupo Gap, a lush area filled with native Ohia trees and the chirping of native birds such as the I’iwi and the Apapane.  We saw plenty of Nene, the Native Hawaiian Goose, mostly around the cabins.  Although it’s illegal to feed them, they clearly understand that humans are a source of food, as they would brazenly approach anyone eating a snack.  At the end of the three day hike, we faced climbing out of the volcano up the Halemau’u trail that has an elevation gain of just over 1,000 feet in under 3 miles.  That was a difficult task as we were pretty exhausted by that point, having covered so much ground in such a short period of time.  The most challenging part of photographing was attempting to visually describe the vast landscape.  This was indeed an assignment of a lifetime.  I encourage anyone, who is ambulatory enough, to take the shorter 11 mile hike down the Keonehe’ehe’e, (Sliding Sands), trail.  It’s physically challenging, but to partake in this landscape is to witness the earth at its most primal.  A hui ho!

The Keonehe'ehe'e (Sliding Sands) trail, as seen from near the top of Haleakala, below the visitor's center, featured on the cover of the December 2011 issue of Smithsonian 🙂
Pele's Paintpot, located within the crater of Haleakala, features several different colors of lava rock. Off in the distance, in the far left-hand corner of the image on the crater rim, you can barely make out the Visitor's Center.

All the images and video were shot with Canon 5D Mark II Cameras, the Canon 24-105 F4L IS USM lens, the Canon 70-200mmL IS USM lens, (plus various others), all the images were processed using Adobe’s Lightroom software.  The audio was captured using a Zoom H4n Handy Recorder with an Audiotechnica condenser mic covered with a dead-cat windscreen.

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