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We recently returned from a family vacation to Hawaii, specifically to the island of Oahu. It was an amazing week (plus a day) of sun, shared experiences with the family and of course, photography.
Like many other photographers, family vacations for me have always been a struggle between sharing the trip with my family, but also wanting to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right gear, to capture a great image. Planning for this trip was helped greatly by a series David Hobby and Andrew Tomasino have on Lynda.com called The Traveling Photographer. In that series, David talks about striking the right balance between being a photographer and being a husband and father.
I’ll tell you right now this is not always the easiest thing to do. Creative people have a desire to…. well…. create. The true definition of photography is to write with light, and the best light often comes right when it would make sense to schedule and plan a family activity. Thank god for my understanding wife and daughter, who always encourage me to go out with a camera and spend time alone capturing moments like these:
For this trip I packed relatively light, taking the Fuji X-T1 with two lenses: A 10-24mm wide angle and a 55-200mm zoom. Throw in my ever present Fuji X100T and a few miscellaneous items and I had a small, but versatile, bag I could take anywhere on the trip. Before I left I wrote about my gear selection on the Mirrorless Minutes website:
When we first arrived in Hawaii it was cloudy and overcast. I got a chuckle out of some of the locals who apologized for the weather (it was 24 degrees Celsius at the time). On our first full day there I woke up very early (thank you time zone change), which allowed me to head out and shoot as the sun rose. The clouds prevented me from getting a true sunrise photo, but the soft light diffused by the clouds created an amazing colour palette:
This set the tone for many mornings; I would get up before the family and wander Waikiki from one end to the other, shooting as the sun rose:
And, whenever time allowed around family activities, throughout the day too:
When the missus and my daughter were shopping, I would head out for some street photography in “downtown” Waikiki. There is no shortage of interesting and amazing people on the streets and beaches of Waikiki, and I will have a separate blog post soon full of street images from there.
The sunrise in Waikiki at this time of year is amazing. It comes over the city, casting beautiful light out toward the water. It is the perfect time to put on a long lens and watch the beach come alive. I love the way the light is hitting this surfer from the side as the sun rises in the sky.
We spent a lot of time near, and on, the water. Whales breached near a boat we were sailing on. Surfers were in the waves. It was incredibly relaxing.
The Honolulu and Waikiki skylines are amazing in the evening too, especially at dusk and through what photographers call the “blue hour”, that brief period where the sun has set but there is still light in the sky:
Oahu, however, is not just Waikiki and I toured the entire island twice. The first time I booked a photography tour with Oahu Photography Tours. They were an amazing company to work with and Chris, our guide, had us entertained all day long as we worked our way around the island.
Unfortunately, this was the worst day of weather we had during our trip with 100% cloud cover. Rather than shoot scenic blue skies I focused instead on clouds and long exposures:
The beauty of this tour (besides the new friends I made) was that it gave me the lay of the land. Later in the week we rented a car for a day and re-visited many of the same spots Chris took us to, as well as to many others.
Our first stop was to the lookout over Hanauma Bay, a popular reef for snorkeling. I swam this over 20 years ago, but this trip we just stopped for the view:
Our next stop was to swing by a beach called Waimanalo Bay. If Chris hadn’t taken us here I wouldn’t have had a clue how to get to it, which would have been a shame.
The beaches on the side of the island opposite Waikiki are so much prettier than Waikiki Beach, and much quieter:
The waves are amazing here and my daughter spent a ton of time leaping in the water and, a couple of times I’m sure, almost drowning. She is fearless!
We then made our way up to the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. I highly recommend this spot if you like scenic vistas:
And from there down into the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 10-24mm lens)
The rest of this day was just as much fun, stopping at the Byodo-In Temple:
Heading north we saw sea turtles as they came out of the ocean and laid on the beach:
And, as we drove past the Dole Plantation, we saw the sun’s rays burst through a cloud over the pineapple fields:
Many days were spent at the beach or around one of the four pools at our resort(!), but I won’t bore you with 500 pictures of my daughter (as beautiful as she may be).
Instead, let’s talk about a few shorter day trips we took from Waikiki, including both Sea Life Park:
And the Honolulu Zoo:
I should say this though:
For those of you who travel extensively and have been to some of the great zoos and aquariums like The Bronx Zoo, Monterey Bay, Sea World, The Smithsonian Zoo, etc I will say to temper your expectations here slightly: Sea Life Park and the Honolulu Zoo are not on par with those places.
Having said that, I enjoyed both a lot. Sea Life Park has many interactive activities (my daughter spent 30 minutes in the water with a dolphin), and the zoo is a good way to spend 2-3 hours.
Depending on your interests, Pearl Harbour is also a great way to spend a day:
Those are the main guns on the USS Missouri, which is now at anchor near the USS Arizona Memorial. For those of you who love history you can literally stand in the place where America entered World War Two, and also where (literally) the Japanese signed the instrument of surrender which ended the war.
Amazing. I will have a blog post about Pearl Harbour coming in the future.
For me though, some of the best memories from this trip will be of wandering the Waikiki area with a camera and no agenda. One night after dinner, while my family was in the pool, I spent a fabulous evening at Magic Island shooting as the sun went down, and then through blue hour:
Finally, here is an image from my favourite moment of the trip. We were sitting outside of our hotel (the Hilton Hawaiian Village) waiting for their Friday night fireworks display to start. The sun had set, and the sky came alive with the most beautiful colours:
This trip stands out as one of my favourites. It will be hard to beat. I got to spend an amazing amount of quality time with my family. I got to return to a place I hadn’t been to in over 20 years. I got to watch my daughter experience bucket list items like watching wild sea turtles on the beach and swimming with a dolphin.
And, I got be a photographer in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
I have so much more to write about from this trip: A project I did with my daughter and Fuji’s wonderful little Instax printer. My trip to Pearl Harbour. Waikiki street photography. Some other Fuji gear reviews.
I’d like to end this post by saying two things:
For you gear heads, try traveling with a small mirrorless camera kit. I can’t describe how great it was to travel with my small bag of Fuji gear. Totally liberating.
And, much more importantly:
In the Traveling Photographer David Hobby makes the statement that “travel changes you”.
I totally agree with this. It gets you out of your bubble and shows you that the world around us is full of beauty. It exposes you to new ideas, new people, and it helps put your own life into perspective. I believe that the best time to travel is right now. The second best time is probably tomorrow. It is so worth it. I just paid off my credit card from this trip (ouch), and when I think of different ways I could have spent that money I keep coming back to the fact that I wouldn’t trade these memories and experiences for anything. I am better for them, and I look forward to our next adventure.
You should too. Find a way to make it happen.