Hawaii has 10 of the 14 climate zones—including the forbidden waterfalls of Hilo, the vast lava fields of Kalapana, the crater of Kilauea Volcano—and is the most remote center of population in the world. I’ve been documenting the islands throughout my life, but this time, I knew it was going to be different.
From the start, due to the coronavirus pandemic, a mandatory 14-day quarantine was required of anyone arriving from the mainland to Honolulu. Such necessary restrictions cut the tourism flux by 95 percent, allowing me to explore its vast network of ecosystems undisturbed—like traveling back in time.
During lockdown, I could see nature outside my window, just out of reach. As I looked out, my mind drifted through photographs I’d taken in the past and visions of places I wanted to see. Finally, I left Oahu and headed straight to the Big Island. For the remaining weeks, I drove around the island three times, swimming with dolphins at the bottom of Kealakekua Bay, watching meteor showers atop Mauna Kea mountain, and jumping off a lava cliff into the sea at a place called “the End of the World.”
It’s said that life surrounded by the ocean creates a temporal vacuum—“island time”—in which slowness becomes the natural pace, similar to the one put into place by the pandemic this year, which has brought human activity to a standstill.
Hawaii is a powerful place: It paints images of paradise in your imagination, secret beaches with waterfalls and rainbows. Then, in a blink, it unleashes its raw elements with gigantic waves, hurricanes, and rivers of deadly lava—a reminder of the forces that have always shaped our world.