Glowing Silversword

Glowing Silversword

20×20 prints are $1,250
30×30 prints are $2,500

In 1996 Ruth and I traveled to Hawaii for three weeks to photograph. We photographed for six days and snorkeled for one day on Kawaii, Maui and the Big Island. We brought my 8x10 camera and Hasselblad outfits.

When we were on Maui we visited Haleakalā National Park where there exists a rare species of Silversword plants that live only on the slopes of Haleakalā mountain. We found this particular Silversword that was just beginning to bloom in a raised planting bed by the visitor center.

I was amazed at the glowing light surrounding the central stalk of the plant. This unique glow came from the reflection and transmission of sunlight by small reflective hairs on each small branch. This focused light and heat to the plant’s core, which allowed it to live in the rarefied air on the mountain, above the 7,000’ elevation.

I found the best composition to show this glowing light by using my Zeiss 250mm Superachromat lens combined with a Zeiss 2X teleconverter, which effectively made a 500mm telephoto lens. I made this photograph on Velvia 50 film. The exposure had to be carefully calculated because of the wide range of light values which are at the upper range of the film’s ability to record all of the values.

Printing the image is not easy; it’s necessary to control the contrast but at the same time allow for maximum luminosity of the glowing areas and full detail in the bright, delicate whites. Cibachrome is the perfect printing material to convey the dramatic, glowing light which emanates from the center of this Silversword… the primary subject matter in this photograph is light itself.

To me, it feels as though we may have been allowed a brief peek into a profound mystery of light and life itself. A fitting tribute for Haleakalā, which translates to “house of the sun.” No wonder this is the only place in the world where Silverswords exist.

Format: Medium (square)
Location: Hawaii
Reference key: gs