Photographing the Night Sky | Air and Light Pollution in Makena Maui
As most know, clear skies are key to viewing the stars and constellations. This includes multiple factors such as air pollution, light pollution, and population density. One of my favorite hobbies is enjoying the top-notch conditions of Maui‘s environment by capturing images of the night sky. Even on Maui, there are some areas that are better than others for long exposures and clear views.
Using The State of Air, you can see that Maui ranks in their system with a “B” due to the volcano eruption on the Big Island (not Maui) a few years back, but besides that time frame, Maui has impeccable air quality. I find that when I am in areas with high air pollution, such as California, I have a hard time focusing on the night sky. This could be a problem unique to me, but I’ve had this issue with both my Canon 5D Mark ii and 5D Mark iv. I also notice that my photos are not quite as crisp when I am in locations that frequent high particle content.
There are a number of areas with low light pollution on Maui; it just depends on what you’re looking for and where you can find the best chance of getting a clear night sky. Here is a great map of US light pollution. As you can see the highest light pollution areas are in Central Maui (Wailuku and Kahului). There is also a common theme of higher light pollution in areas where they allow smaller lot sizes and density (Wailea, Kahului, Wailuku, Pukalani, Makawao, Lahaina, Kaanapali, etc.) I live on the North Shore in Haiku, which is actually a great spot for low light pollution and wonderful nightscapes. The only drawback is the frequent evening rain, being that the night exposures take some time you have a reoccurring situation of passing clouds and showers. Many of the photos taken in this blog are from 7381 Makena Rd, which has the benefit of low rainfall and less of a chance of evening cloud cover so you have the maximum opportunity to enjoy the constellations.
Here is a map from County Wise that depicts the population density across Hawaii and Maui. For the reasons that are mentioned above, the lower the density, the better the view. You can see the higher density is located in developed regions like Central Maui and Kihei, which can mean higher light pollution from houses or passing cars. Furthermore, in areas that have the benefit of lower population, you quite possibly have a cleaner line of sight if you’re not close to your neighbors’ landscaping. Not to mention, it’s nice to have privacy while you’re enjoying the outdoors here on Maui.
If you want to chat about Maui’s nuances please feel free to reach out.