Vog, Sunsets And Smartphones

A postcard-perfect Waikiki sunset. Ron Mizutani photo

When technology and nature meet, the result can be quite beautiful, and these days the rest of world almost instantly can enjoy the spectacular moment as well.

It happens every time someone takes a picture of a Hawaiian sunrise or sunset on a smartphone and shares the photo on a social networking site. And those memorable moments increase whenever southerly winds blow and the vog rolls into town.

“Hurry, Dave, the sun is setting,” says Amanda Garibaldi, pointing to the horizon off Waikiki. Garibaldi was one of more than three dozen people sitting on the seawall outside the Hilton Hawaiian Village, watching a picturesque sunset. “It looks like the sky is on fire. Did you get the shot? This is absolutely beautiful!”

And it only got prettier once the sun disappeared. The bright-orange clouds briefly turned a fiery red before eventually giving way to dusk and a deep-blue skyline. Like most of the visitors and local residents enjoying the weather and nature show, Garibaldi quickly shared the moment with friends across the country.

“I already have 43 likes, 14 comments and four shares,” gushes Garibaldi, who posted more than a half-dozen photos on Instagram and her Facebook page. “Look at all the different colors. Wait till they see this one!”

While many of us suffer headaches and breathing problems when Kona winds bring toxic volcanic gas from Kilauea volcano on the Island of Hawaii, there is a silver lining to it all. The steam plumes of hydrochloric acid and the sulfur dust particles that fill the atmosphere and blanket the island chain also create some of the most amazing sunrises and sunsets you’ll ever see anywhere.

“Wow, where does that red glow come from?” asks David Garibaldi. “Simply gorgeous.”

Besides lighting up our skies with amazing vibrant colors, the thick vog acts like a shield from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. On some nights (and mornings) you literally can see why scientists, who have conducted precise measurements of the sun’s dimensions, say the sun is the most perfectly round natural object known in the universe.

“You can actually see a circle,” says David. “I’ve been all around the world and I’ve seen many sunsets, but I’ve never seen anything like this before.” (While it may appear to be safe, astronomers warn people never to look directly at the sun.)

Most Hawaii residents can’t pinpoint when these awesome sunset and sunrise shows started. Some say it began when a new gas vent in Halemaumau Crater opened in March 2008, while others insist it’s always been this way – we’re just more aware of it now than ever before.

What we do know is, thanks to technology, many of us are becoming experts in nature photography. And with the influx of social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, millions of people all around the world are seeing pictures of Hawaii’s remarkable vog-induced sunrises and sunsets as they happen, essentially turning a negative into something extremely positive.

Picture-perfect postcards from Hawaii, courtesy of mobile devices and our pesky vog showcase Mother Nature at her best, even when she’s rearing her ugly head.