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ocean wave
“Dreamcatcher” by Danny Sepkowski

A wall of cerulean blue water rippling with energy, with just a hint of it about to crest, as the sunset colors the grey-clouded sky beyond it. That is the image University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa graduate Danny Sepkowski captured one afternoon at Sandy Beach on Oʻahu.

That image, “Dreamcatcher,” earned Sepkowski second place in National Geographic’s popular annual travel photo contest in the nature category.

person wearing a wetsuit in the ocean
Danny Sepkowski
dolphins underwater
“Ohana” by Danny Sepkowski
wave on beach
“Rainbow Curl” by Danny Sepkowski

The psychology graduate who also earned a masters in education administration in higher education from UH Mānoa said he has a passion for photographing the waves at that spot.

“Last year, I went on a mission to capture images of waves before they break,” Sepkowski said. “I noticed every photographer would go to Sandy Beach for the sunrise but the crowds were too much for me. It became a routine for me to go shoot Sandy Beach for the sunset, which I honestly think is better because no one else is shooting.”

He says his love of nature and ties to National Geographic dates back to his childhood when his grandfather bought him a subscription to National Geographic Kids Magazine.

“I used to read the magazines religiously, and it sparked my interest in nature,” he said. “Fast forward to the beginning of my photography career, inspiration and motivation from National Geographic turned into reality. I started to submit to the contest because I felt that it would push me to be a better photographer.”

Besides earning a coveted spot on the winner’s list for the contest, Sepkowski’s work has been featured in a National Geographic story of the photography community: “Beauty and Awe.” His partially submerged image “ʻOhana” shows a pod of dolphins swimming close to shore.

He credits UH with being a big factor in his life.

“It influenced me to not stop, and adapting to change is key in today’s fast-pace society,” Sepkowski said.

He is now pursuing his passion to create images like the ones that have captured the attention of National Geographic.

His images are captivating and give you a sense of his strong appreciation for nature, whether it is a chance encounter with a humpback whale in Tahiti or a perfectly timed shorebreak with a rainbow in Hawaiʻi, that feeling of awe shines through.

You can find his photographic art at and his popular Instagram account @hawaiiwaveimages.

lava flowing
“Aina; by Danny Sepkowski
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