Photographing the Milky Way

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Bruce Omori wins International Photography Award with ‘Volcanic Vortices’

By Lee Sadler on May 23rd 2013

bruce1 (2)

Volcanic Vortices

Bruce Omori is a photographer based in Hilo, Hawaii, and one of his images earned the Windland Smith Rice International Award and will be displayed in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History beginning in June.

Bruce describes his winning photo (top):

“On an early morning shoot at the Waikupanaha ocean entry, lava from the Kilauea volcano poured into the sea. This created a huge escape of steam, and as it rose, multiple vortices began spinning off of the huge plume.  A vortex or two is a pretty rare sight—but when one after another kept forming, my fumbling with the lenses turned into a panicked rush to switch my telephoto to wide angle lens to capture this awesome scene of seven vortices in a row.”

20080704 - Kalapana Lava FlowCopyright 2010 ExtremeExposure

Bursting Fourth



Bruce’s work is nothing short of spectacular. He works with his friend and business partner Tom Kuali’i and together they own the ‘Extreme Exposure Fine Art Gallery’ in Hilo, Hawaii. As a team, their work has been featured in various magazines, newspapers, and websites such as National Geographic, Time Magazine, Chicago Sun-Times, and many others.

Bruce has been an enthusiast photographer since childhood, and after quitting his job in corporate America and moving back to his home town of Hilo where he re-discovered his passion for photography he began shooting the natural landscape around him full-time.

So much of photography is about following one’s passions.  Passion, creative vision, and technical know-how will take you a long way.  All of this takes work, so be inspired to wake up early, travel near and far, and persevere in adverse conditions.


The Birth of a Beach


Temporary Solitude

Bruce share’s this anecdote:

About two weeks prior to capturing those vortices, as Tom and I were hiking back from shooting the lava, I looked up to see more than a dozen vortices in a row, nicely positioned and backlit by the morning sun.  Having seen these dissipate after a few seconds, I thought there was no chance in capturing the scene, as all my gear was nicely packed away in my backpack.  After drooling over the scene for about 30 seconds, I realized an eternity had passed and started tearing my gear out of the pack…  of course, it was futile effort, as the vortices had long disappeared by the time I had my tripod setup.  I felt sick to my stomach, as I had missed a once-in-a-lifetime shot.  Every day I’d wake up thinking about that missed shot!  Two weeks later, I had my second chance!  Lesson learned:  Expect the unexpected…  so you don’t have to count on second chances for that once-in-a-lifetime shot!

Visit Bruce and Tom’s Extreme Exposure Fine Art Gallery.

Learn more about the Windland Smith Rice award at Nature’s Best Photography and Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Work hard, and follow your heart!

Did you enjoy Bruce’s images? Which ones are your favorite, and why?  We’d love to hear your comments below, and be sure to drop a kind word for Bruce and his team!

Copyright 2010 ExtremeExposure

Fiery Elegance


Terra . . . not so Firma


The Beach Factory

All photographs are Copyright Bruce Omori and were used with permission.


I am a photographer and writer based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Landscape is my primary focus, but I love to dabble and experiment in all forms. You can find me on my website or connect with me on Google+.

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