Terra Galleria Photography

Green Sand Beach, Hawaii – ND filters


For a change from working in the rain in Hawaii Volcanoes NP, I drove to South Point, the southern tip of the island of Hawaii.

The access to Papakolea Beach consisted of a maze of badly rutted vehicle tracks, along the coast, alternatively sandy and rocky. A four wheel drive was definitively necessary. Hiking would have been 6mi round-trip with no shade.

Papakolea Bay is a collapsed cinder cone. Olivine crystals within the cone give the beach its green color. There are only two such beaches in the US (the other is in Guam).

I tried different exposure times. The two images above were shot with just a polarizing filter, resulting in fast exposure times (1/125s and 1/50s respectively).

To better capture the surf movement, I added a 1.2 (4 stop) neutral density filter, exposure time 0.5s.

The 10 f-stop “big stopper” neutral density filter from Lee rendered the water as a dreamy blur in an exposure time of 25s.

I then went to the southernmost point in the United States.

There was not even a marker, only a light and the ruins of an ancient Hawaiian temple.

More images of Hawaii South Point.


  1. Cool! I love South Point. I got bit by a centipede while camping near here in 2000. It was so painful that I had to go to the hospital.

  2. Russ Bishop says:

    Great images QT. I’ve been to South Point as well and did the hike! Very cool place.

  3. Greg Russell says:

    Beautiful images–all of them. I’d love to go to Hawaii some day.

    Regarding the image made with the Big Stopper–I like the water movement a lot, but I prefer the WB in the 0.5s image. Do you notice a shift in WB, or a color cast with Lee’s filter?

    Also, if I may ask, which 4-stop ND did you use?

  4. QT Luong says:

    Yes, the Big Stopper yields an image with a blue cast, at least when used in AWB. I have reduced it a bit but not eliminated it entirely (although it would be a single eyedropper click on the ocean foam) because we are used to associate long exposures with dawn/dusk, which produces that kind of WB. My other filter is the Hi-Tech 4 inch square which fits in the same holder as the Lee.

  5. Ben Chase says:

    QT – Great shots, I like the 0.5 second one the best.

  6. I like that your imagery is not necessarily just about chasing down pretty pictures but that you seek out subject matter that photographers with a less developed eye might pass up. I prefer #3 over #4, but also like #5 and #6 especially since it breaks the rule.

  7. QT Luong says:

    Thanks David for the kind words. Indeed I am less after the “epic” shot than capturing some mood and truth about the places I am fortunate to visit, even if this results in images that can sometimes appear unassuming.

  8. Rachel Cohen says:

    Hi Tuan, I love all the images! As for the Poll, I’d have to say the 0.5 second is the best.

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