Pele's Chair Milky Way

Hawaii Starscapes III: Mokuleia, Pele’s Chair, and Eternity Beach Astrophotography

With the Milky Way (Hokunohoaupuni) shooting season coming to an end for the year, Jose and I decided to check out a few new spots to see if we could catch it in novel locations. Last month, we would go to the Kaena Point parking lot on the Mokuleia side which would offer the darkest spot we’ve come across on the island so far. Recently, we checked out Pele’s Chair and Eternity Beach on the East coast. While the latter two are not the darkest spots on the island, it offered interesting landmarks to be coupled with the Milky Way.

The drive to Keana Point is considerable for most even on this small island but the reward is the darkest sky possible on Oahu in addition to a wide open sky view. Jose and I would arrive at the parking lot in time to catch the sunset and it soon became very dark. Unlike the Leeward side of Kaena Point where it took a couple hours post-sunset to be interestingly dark, we were surrounded by bright stars as soon as the sunlight ended. The darkness here I would say is equivalent to that found on neighbor islands.

Mokuleia, Oahu, Hawaii Milky Way

In order to take a picture of Jose, I had him hold a headlamp so I could auto focus on his position before firing off my flash. I would take two practice shots that came out well that turned into the two frame animation seen below. The individual pictures consists of two different images, one shot for the sky and mountain and one for Jose and the sand that the flash hit.

Mokuleia, Oahu, Hawaii Milky Way

Mokuleia, Oahu, Hawaii Milky Way

Similar to the other trip to Kaena, I made a traditional panorama including the Milky Way along with a vertical panorama using horizontal shots taken with my short telephoto lens.

Mokuleia, Oahu, Hawaii Milky Way

Mokuleia, Oahu, Hawaii Milky Way

As I was taking pictures, Jose fell asleep.

Mokuleia, Oahu, Hawaii Milky Way

Shooting the Milky Way at Pele’s Chair (Kapaliokamoa) was originally Will’s idea but el tio was never able to join us. The walk to the chair at night proved to be confusing as we ended up at the beach first but it was a short walk up to the Chair and we were able to make a loop out of our night hike.

I would set up in one spot for most of our time there while getting the majority of the chair, Koko Crater, and the Milky Way in the frame. First I took some pics of the sky (20s, F1.4 – 2, and ISO 1600 – 2000) and then a few to expose the chair without any external light sources (2.5m, F2, and ISO 1600). Soon afterwards, Jose would climb up to the top and stand around for 30s pointing a light gun at the Milky Way.

Pele's Chair, Oahu, Hawaii, Milky Way

I would later also play around with Light Graffiti with my headlamp to spell out Pele’s Chair in Bulb mode to add to other images. I would also put my 3 years of High School Spanish to use.

Pele's Chair, Oahu, Hawaii, Milky Way

Later, we would try to make a composite climbing picture where I would take pictures of Jose at different spots on the chair then stack them to show the progress. I would use my light gun to illuminate him resulting in blurry images but the four frame animation came out well.

Pele's Chair, Oahu, Hawaii, Milky Way

Pele's Chair, Oahu, Hawaii, Milky Way

Towards the end, I would move around the area taking pictures of views so this post would have some filler material. Koko Crater was well illuminated with all the night traffic, but the Milky Way was still available.

Koko Crater, Oahu, Hawaii, Milky Way

Looking towards the Ocean, Jose and I would observe a ‘fireball’. Which is a meteor/shooting star (Hokulele) that is brighter than usual. Note that the higher streak is the fireball while the lower one is a plane.

Hokulele Fireball

Looking back towards the Lighthouse provided a view of our closest galaxy, Andromeda (just left of the center)


We then stopped by Eternity Beach to stargaze in one last spot. For this time of the year, the Milky Way had moved too far towards the city lights to take detailed images of it. But here was a good chance to make an astro pano of Eternity Beach.

Eternity Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, Milky Way

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments here.

All pictures by Marvin Chandra.

Also see: Starscapes [Vol. 1], [Vol. 2]

About Marvin

Endurance hiker and our resident daredevil with a heart of gold. Extreme chocolate raisin eater and master of sensory dominance.


    • Hey Malia, darkest days of the month is around the 18th the next few months. 4-5 days before and after the 18th will be best. Right now the Milky Way rises around midnight and will rise about 30 mins earlier every week going forward. Kaena and East Coast are your best spots on Oahu but try neighbor islands for even better opportunities

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