Visiting Pearl Harbor

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Pearl Harbor, located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, is a United States deep water naval base and home to the United States Pacific Fleet.   As most people know it was also the location of a surprise attack by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941.  This attack was the catalyst that brought the United States into World War 2.

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I have visited Pearl Harbor several times, most recently on my trip to Hawaii in March, and it never fails to impress.   Two of its attractions are of significant historical importance:  The USS Arizona Memorial, and the USS Missouri.  In a few hours you go from floating on the water above a sunken battleship, a permanent reminder of the horrors of the December 7th attack, to standing in the spot where the Japanese signed the Instrument of Surrender 4 years later.

It is important to note that, being an active military base, there are strict security policies when visiting which include a “no bag” rule.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  To the photography enthusiast, that means no camera bag. I was fine with this, as I planned on shooting this photo essay of Pearl Harbor with my beloved Fuji X100T.  All the pictures you see in this post were taken with this camera, with and without the WCL-X100 wide angle adapter.

As always, click on the photos to view large and without WordPress compression!

One final tip:   buy your tickets online before your trip.  You won’t regret it (but may regret it if you don’t).

Your tour of Pearl Harbour begins at the Pearl Harbour Visitor’s Center:

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When I arrived a very helpful staff member directed me to start with the USS Arizona Memorial (time stamped on my ticket), then do the USS Missouri Memorial, the Pacific Aviation Museum, and finally the USS Bowfin.  The order you view the attractions in will of course be determined by the time of your visit to the USS Arizona.

The USS Arizona MEMORIAL

The USS Arizona, a Pennsylvania class battleship,  was launched in 1916 and served until it’s destruction in the attack on Pearl Harbor. On the morning of December 7th, shortly after 8am, the Arizona was attacked by 10 Japanese torpedo bombers.  The aircraft scored 4 direct hits, including the last one that struck at 8:06am.  It is believed that this bomb penetrated the armoured decking and caused forward ammunition magazines to explode.  What is known is that approximately 7 seconds after being hit there was a massive explosion that destroyed the Arizona.   This explosion killed 1,177 crewmen (of 1,512 who were on board at the time).

The USS Arizona Memorial starts with a self guided tour through a small museum that lays out the history leading up to the December 7th attack:

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This includes president Roosevelt’s famous speech that was delivered to congress on December 8th, 1941:

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After the museum you proceed to a theatre where you watch a 23 minute video that shows the attack on Pearl Harbor in graphic detail.  Once done, you board a boat that takes you out to the USS Arizona Memorial:

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Here is a picture (SOURCE:  Wikipedia) that shows the Memorial floating above the wreckage of the USS Arizona:

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Time spent on the memorial is solemn, knowing that you stand above a war grave.  On board the memorial the names of all those killed during the attack are listed:

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You can see part of the wreck from the Memorial, and the oil that is still, to this day, leaking out of the wreckage:

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I learned a new fact on this trip:  Crew members of the USS Arizona who survived the December 7th attack can have their ashes placed within the ship when they pass away.  Veterans who served aboard the ship at other times can have their ashes scattered above the ship too.

Sailing away from the USS Arizona Memorial I saw the USS Missouri, framed by the American Flag.  I love this picture:

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The USS Arizona is a now a National Historic Landmark, and an important part of American history.

THE USS MISSOURI MEMORIAL

From the USS Arizona I proceeded to the USS Missouri.  Access to the USS Missouri is restricted due to its location on the base, so you travel over on a bus and enter through a fenced area.  

When you disembark from the bus you are literally standing right next to the “Mighty Mo”:

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I have to admit to feeling a sense of awe while taking this photograph.  The USS Missouri has an amazing history.  Commissioned in 1944, the USS Missouri fought in World War 2 (including the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa), in the Korean War, spent some time decommissioned, then was reactivated and fought in Gulf War 1 in 1991.  She was finally decommissioned for good in 1992, and was donated in 1998 to the US Missouri Memorial Association where she became a museum ship at Pearl Harbor.

When you board the ship you walk out onto the main deck, and in no time at all are standing under the main guns of the USS Missouri:  16 inch guns which could fire 2,700lb shells up to 20 miles:

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When she was re-activated in 1984, the USS Missouri also gained the ability to fire Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles.  It was an amazing feeling to stand under those guns, and to realize that this exact vessel fought in some of history’s most important battles. A short walk along the deck and you are standing, literally, at the spot where the Japanese signed the Instrument of Surrender that brought WW2 to a close:

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This was a powerful moment for me.  Both of my grandparents fought in WW2 so I do have a historical connection to it, but more importantly life is about so much more than our own little corner of the world.   To look down on the USS Arizona, then to stand right where World War 2 officially ended, created a connection for me that was so strong.  I admit I stood in that spot for a while just thinking and shooting.

Touring below decks gives you a good sense of what life aboard the ship was like:

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The USS Missouri now sits facing the USS Arizona Memorial, some say to stand guard over the remains of the Arizona, forever protecting those interred within the USS Arizona’s Hull.

THE PACIFIC AVIATION MUSEUM

From the Missouri you hop back onto the bus for a short ride over to the Pacific Aviation Museum. The Museum, opened on December 7th, 2006, is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Affiliates program.  On April 4th, 2013 it received its 1,000,000th visitor.   There are 43 aircraft on exhibit at the Museum:

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Once you are done you catch the bus back to the Visitor’s Center.  The final attraction of the day for me was the USS Bowfin.

THE USS BOWFIN

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I was very excited about this, for no other reason than I am a boy, and we think submarines are cool.   Seriously, have you ever seen a bad submarine movie (well, besides Down Periscope)? The USS Bowfin launched on December 7th, 1942 (one year to the day after the Pearl Harbor attack).  It had an illustrious record, completing 9 patrols and engaging the enemy on numerous occasions.

You realize immediately when you descend the ladder into the sub that life on board was all about functionality.  The first thing you see are the torpedo tubes:

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As you work your way through the sub you realize just how tight life was for the sailors who worked aboard this vessel:

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The USS Bowfin was decommissioned on February 12th, 1947 and placed in reserve, only to be reactivated for service during the Korean War.  After serving as a training submarine, the USS Bowfin was officially struck from the US Navy list in December, 1971 and now serves as a memorial at Pearl Harbor.

SUMMARY

That completed my visit to Pearl Harbor.  One of the final things I saw as I was leaving was the anchor from the USS Arizona, recovered from the ocean floor:

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I think this is a fitting final photo for this post, because of what it implies.

Gandhi said:

“Strength does not come from physical capacity.  It comes from an indomitable will.”

Seeing this anchor here, standing firmly in place, says something about the spirit of a country that rises up in defence of its people.  It is a reminder that life’s challenges make us stronger if we overcome them. Visiting Pearl Harbor is a fabulous way to spend a day in Hawaii, and to connect with the history that helped shaped the world we live in.  It is a reminder that brave men and women from nations all over the world dedicate their lives to protecting us, so we can have the freedom to go about our lives as we please.

If you have a chance go.  Honour the men and women that faced great adversity and experience a piece of our history.

Waikiki Street Photography

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Note:  All images can be clicked to view larger! 

I recently spent time vacationing in Hawaii, staying predominantly in the Waikiki area. Waikiki is a beautiful beachfront area of Honolulu, located on the south shore of O’ahu, Hawaii.  Originally a retreat for Hawaiian royalty, it is now defined by its sandy beaches, restaurants, numerous hotels, and of course, tourists!

Mornings in Waikiki always start off peacefully:

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…but in no time the beaches and streets come alive.  It usually starts with the surfers and fisherman:

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People who frequently travel to Hawaii seem to have a love / hate relationship with Waikiki.  For some it is not the “real” Hawaii.  Waikiki is a melting pot of differing cultures and people.  Locals and tourists from all over the world pack the streets and beaches, and many people prefer the quieter islands to the hustle and bustle of Waikiki.

For a street photographer, however, it is an amazing place to shoot!  I only had one afternoon to focus on street photography on this last trip, but I managed to spend a few hours with my Fuji X100T just focusing on the people of Waikiki.  I mean, really, where else will you see a parade of hat people walking by in swimwear?

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People usually travel to Hawaii with family, with friends, with loved ones.  You often see the love on people’s faces:

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On the other hand, long vacation days can test even the strongest relationships.  🙂

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In the same way that uniforms tend to make all people equal, beachwear and other vacation clothing does the same.  I often see people like these and think:   Who are they in “real” life?

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Like many places though, the locals are quite often the biggest characters of all:

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And then, of course, there are the things you see where you just aren’t sure:

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🙂

For all the effort I put into learning the craft of formal portraiture and landscape photography, the truth is that it is street photography that feeds my soul.  I love people, and wandering the streets of a city by myself for a few hours allows me to observe and interact with people I would otherwise never meet.  The camera becomes a passport to the world, and we should all take advantage of that.

8 Days in Hawaii

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Note:  This is a photo heavy post, please allow appropriate time for loading.   Also, WordPress compression is less than kind so please click each image to view large.

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:

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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:

http://mirrorlessminutes.com/traveling-light-with-mirrorless-cameras-small-kit-unlimited-options/

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:

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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:

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And, whenever time allowed around family activities, throughout the day too:

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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 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:

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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:

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 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:

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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:

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And from there down into the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens:

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(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 10-24mm lens)

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The rest of this day was just as much fun, stopping at the Byodo-In Temple:

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Heading north we saw sea turtles as they came out of the ocean and laid on the beach:

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And, as we drove past the Dole Plantation, we saw the sun’s rays burst through a cloud over the pineapple fields:

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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:

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And the Honolulu Zoo:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.