16,000 likes via the New York Times

A surfer falls of the lip of a huge wave at Peahi, Maui. 16,000+ Likes on the New York Times Instagram page!
A surfer falls of the lip of a huge wave at Peahi, Maui. 16,000+ Likes on the New York Times Instagram page!

Its been a great week for work this week as I’ve had two big travel stories on the Big Island and Maui run in the New York Times and the Associated Press released my writing and pictures on a trip to Kalaupapa on Molokai.

But if anyone takes likes as a measure of fulfillment, the shot of the surfer flying off his board at Jaws on Maui got over 16,000 likes on the @nytimestravel instagram page.  Impressive!

But more impressive for myself is my new career of writing.  In college I wanted to be a writer and took a few classes  but didn’t take myself seriously to follow through with any of it.  I doodled in diaries and mailed long love letters during my travels in Latin America and Asia.  But its only been in the last few years that I’ve gotten acknowledged as a writer and published.  Taking pictures has become second nature for me but writing is still the great frontier.

The Molokai story is linked here.

Anyone recognize this hiker?

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Here are the New York Times tears from the last few weeks.

nyt layouts

The Big Island story is here and Maui is here.

The blue-green “see” from a different angle.

The blue-green

After living in Hawaii for sometime, its easy to forget about the beauty that surrounds us.  The blue-green sea, the white (eroding) sandy beaches, the food, the weather, the mountains…I can go on and on describing wonderful Hawaii.  So its always a challenge when clients ask for something slightly different for as an opening shot.

At any moment, somewhere somehow is snapping a picture, whether it is a family shot or professional shot, around Waikiki.  It is one of the most photographed pieces of real estate in the world.  There are thousands of professional pictures available on line and clients can easily pick a beautiful stock shot for pennies over a custom shot (uhhhh….for pennies—I digress!)  Why hire when there is so much available?  Because a custom shot gets you a unique, dare I say signature, vision from a professional photographer that no other client will have.

The Los Angeles Times asked me to shoot a full page image of Waikiki for their travel story illustrating a budget friendly vacation in Honolulu.  The editor sent along few images taken by the writer and wanted me to capture a similar feel.  My only parameters were to shoot from above, keep it vertical, and ensure I had a killer image at the end of the day.  Jobs like this really get me fired up because no amount of money really accounts for all the time and effort it takes in finding a shot as such.  But the outcome is completely worth the input.  I couldn’t imagine doing anything else as the challenge of my craft is not work, it is just an extension of my life.

The pictures taken by the writer were photographed from one of the better hotel balconies on the beach.  All the elements lined up and and made a pretty different view of Waikiki.  Oddly enough it seemed the picture wasn’t from one of the budget hotels in the story so my challenge was not to present my image as such.  The art direction was to capture Waikiki, not illustrate the story.

Fabulous views command big money and hotels rates are based on the amount of ocean and beach seen from the room.  I could easily have called up one of the beach front hotels and asked to shoot from a room but hotels tend not to help you unless the story relates directly to them.  I don’t have the budget to shoot from a rented hotel room and a helicopter view was not the perspective the client was after.

After living here for some time, I learned it is possible to enjoy Hawaii without blowing too much diñero and having a great time along with tourist who are taping out their credit cards.  I also know how to find the big dollar views without having to shell out big money for hotel rooms or fancy restaurants.  Sometimes just wandering around a big hotel looking like a tourist can help you gain access to views you might not be able to if you wandered in full camera regalia and reeked of the decisive moment.  Looking like a clueless tourist with a Best Buy camera bag will keep housekeepers and bell hops off your tail.

So without revealing too many tricks of my clandestine trade, I got into a hotel, shot down at the beach and made a marvellous shot.  I won’t reveal my location but a Waikiki sleuth might be able to pick it out based on what is in front of them.  Needless to say, the Times editor Tears for Fears (I’m feeling overly cheeky tonight!) over the images as she had a large variety  to choose.   In an email after the article published, she stated “everyone LOVED the photos.”

That kind of praise makes the hours and time put in completely worth it.  Again, it doesn’t take much to sea…err…see things from a different perspective.  I just awaken  my paradise slumber and look around.

Take Monday Off!

Take Monday Off!

I’m not sure if you can, but according to the Wall St. Journal’s late December travel piece (shot by me of course) you can manage to see Oahu in three days!

See article here.

I’ve often thought travel to Hawaii is tough as we are a long way from “da mainland” so considering flight times, jet lag, Oahu traffic, etc, it seems like a tough path to follow.  However, the story lays out a great argument of what you can see and do on Oahu in a short period of time.

I had a helluva time shooting the job all considering it rained during the entire commissioned time to work. I had to dodge rain, clouds, and gloomy seas but I was able to produce wonderful telling images of Oahu.

The WSJ article produced a really nice video with all my images which can be seen on their website here… Take Monday Off

Of the wonderful Oahu spots, Iolani Palace is one of those places that lots of tourist seem to visit from the outside but hardly go in.  The interior shows the elegant side of Hawaii’s Royal Family with 18th-19th century imported indulgences giving the Royals that touch of European royal class.

Waimea Bay without waves can be boring as most tourist expect big waves and surfers but when the water is flat, its like swimming in a big lake.  Brilliant place to spend the afternoon and see the sunset…if you can park!

And of course the not well visited Doris Duke’s Islamic shrine, Shangri-La.  Duke, the trust funded daughter of a super rich tobacco tycoon, used her wealth to import only the best art, furniture, and artifacts from all over the Islamic World.  The home is now a museum with limited access.  The ocean side estate is a Pacific mecca of Islamic art and architect bringing scholars from around the world to study and conserve the many artifacts and pieces on the estate .  Although some may see controversy as Duke purchased priceless art and pieces throughout the Middle East, including having an entire room (floor to ceiling) imported from Turkey, she helped preserved parts of Islamic culture that might have been lost dude to neglect or theft, or sadly zealots.  Imperialism aside, Shangri-La is fantastic and well worth the time to visit the home.

Hot, sweaty and dirty

Hot, sweaty and dirty

Japan is really hot in the summer.  Unbearable.  Even the locals said the summer heat was the worst in years.  Little did I know I would encounter weather so bad.

It was really hot.  Anyway…I traveled to Japan this past August for a guidebook and photographed just about every tourist site in 13 cities across southern Japan including Tokyo.  I flew into Tokyo and traveled to Shimonoseki, Hiroshima, Kurashiki, Kobe, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, and Nagoya.  Spend a few days in Tokyo and decided (and was pushed by an aggressive editor) to go back to Kyushu and covered Fukuoka, Kagoshima, and Kuamamoto.  I spent loads of time staring out the window of the Shinkansen bullet train watching the world blur by.

I’ve been to Japan many times in the past for both pleasure and family as well as work.  I shot my way across the Noto Peninsula for a bicycling magazine and I’ve done many a project on my own throughout Tokyo and surrounding areas.  Japan isn’t new to me but its always an adventure.  Karaoke (yes, I sang), hot baths (no…too darn hot), rotating sushi bars (pretty cool), sake (need you ask), yukatas (if I can find one that fits) and Godzilla (grrrrr!)  But this trip wasn’t just about badly howling Frank Sinatra songs and tossing empty beer cans into the street because heaven forbid the Japanese make throwing trash away easy…it was about taking pictures…and let me tell you I took some pictures.  I think I captured on an average about 2000 images a day and that equals about 50,000 images…and thats on the conservative side.

Seems all I did was have my face buried behind my camera snapping away.  And when I wasn’t taking a picture, I spent most of my Tokyo time (and for that matter in every city I traveled to) drinking Pocari Sweat, the Japanese version of Gatorade (and neither taste better than the other) while standing and sweating over a vending machine.  The heat and humidity just about killed me.  On one of my last days in Kyushu, I just about fell to heat exhaustion.  I don’t think I’ve ever been that hot.  Not even after a tough workout class with my iron-butt trainer have I had salt stains ring my shirts and socks that seemed as if they came out of a washing machine.

So I was a hot, sweaty travel photographer.  Glamorous?  Well, I got to travel to these exotic and foreign destinations visiting tourists spots and restaurants but its hard to enjoy.  You are there to capture, as best as you can, the essence and feeling of that location, the taste of this food, or the peace in that temple.  All of this has to be done on a frame or two and done within an extreme short period of time.  In most cities, I had only a day or two to cover what most tourists would cover in a week.  I mean from train station to museum to park to castle to museum to restaurant to store to museum to temple to shrine to restaurant to scenic area to historic spot to statue to ferry to train to bus to hotel and so forth all the while you’re deciphering a map written in Japanese hoping for a moment of brilliance that never comes.  From sunrise to sundown for close to a month.  You get very little sleep, rest, or time to enjoy anything.  And talk about the walking.  I walked so much I wore the rubber off my new Lacoste sneakers within the first two weeks.  And did I mention the heat?

There is also the amount of equipment I have to carry.  Multiple cameras, lenses, laptop, cords, cases, hard drives, more cords, flash cards, cases, bags, zip locks, and even more cords.  Also clothes.  Its not fun.  The fact that you are always fearing a hard drive (although I had four of them) would go down loosing thousands of images is enough to make you stay up at night.  It was no different in the old days with film but digital seems to be tougher as there is just so many more accessories to carry around.  You could still in one way or another loose your film.   In my college days, I back packed through Central America and Southeast Asia.  I carried a film camera, a few lenses, and a few rolls of film.  Once my kit (camera, film, passport, etc..) got left behind at a bus station in Saigon because a porter forgot to load it onto our bus.  It arrived the next day, no problems asked.  I sweated that one.  Now…its a different story.  Way too much on the line.  Yet, today I feel like I am just a walking byte.

You also have to do all the logistics and planning, deal with the  language barriers, read maps and outdated guidebooks, try to communicate with unfriendly locals who don’t want their picture taken.  Cloudy weather when you need sun, dirty clothes that need a wash, and raincoats that never fold small enough to carry comfortably.  Train schedules, flights, tickets, overhead baggage.  Odd sized money, coins, vending machines, strange foods… travel photography isn’t what you think it is.  Its not walking up an noon with a foreign beer hangover and going to make epic photos of a group of monks at an ancient temple.  Its waking up at 5am with a foreign beer hangover hoping some monk won’t scream bloody hell at you because you forgot to take off your shoes when you entered…or how you walked in circles trying to find some obscure cafe some writer wrote about but never went to…or trying to explain to someone who doesn’t speak English who doesn’t understand my bad Japanese or pantomime hoping they’d explain where the hell I am on a map that isn’t written in English.

Travel is tough.