Easter Island

Destination Introduction

Coastal Moai
A moai with an 'ahu' behind

Easter Island (also known as Isla de Pascua) lies in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it is the most isolated populated place on earth. The island belongs to Chile and is famous for its ‘moai’ (numbering almost 900) – huge statues up to eight metres high, many of which are looking out to sea. There is a great deal of mystery associated with the island and its history however it is believed that the local people the Rapanui were formerly from Polynesia and sailed over in small boats. The precise meaning of the statues is unknown. Photographs of the island and its moai can capture a sense of real intrepidness!

Photographic Subjects

Moai Silhouette
A silhouette of a moai

There are various moai scattered all around the island of 171 km2 which vary in size. Some of the moai have been re-erected on their platforms (ahu) – the islanders toppled the moai during years of dispute between each other, possibly due to decline in resources. Moai can be found in different settings: buried on hillsides, standing on platforms looking out to sea or even in the stage of being quarried at Rano Raraku. This offers unlimited opportunities to capture interesting photographs. The ‘ahu’ vary in size and in the amount of moai standing upon them. Some of the moai have had their white coral eyes re-set along with black obsidian pupils placed within. The island is made up in the shape of a triangle with three volcano craters at each corner. The most photogenic of these is the Orongo crater which contains a variety of flora within. Near this crater one can find petroglyphs on the rocks which can make very good photographic subjects. Here also are some earth and stone shelters in which the original indigenous people lived. One of the best places for photography on the island is the moai quarry at Rano Raraku. Here one can see many moai still in the process of being cut out of the rock or scattered on the hillside awaiting transportation. The volcano crater can provide an impressive backdrop.

Photography Tips

Rano Raraku
An unfinished moai at the quarry

It is a good idea to visit moai at different times of day, when the shadows and light upon them are different. The best time of day to photograph the petroglyphs is in the evening or morning when the sun is low and casts a shadow over the texture, making the images on the stone more contrasted. One can also try taking silhouette photographs of moai by spot-metering on a bright area thereby under-exposing the moai itself. This can give a more creative result. Often, a person in the frame can help provide a sense of scale that is sometimes lacking in many photos. Try to experiment with the angles from which you photograph the moai in order to capture their magnificence.