Disneyland is often called “The Happiest Place On Earth.” However, I’ve waited in line for an hour to ride “It’s A Small World” and frankly I’ve been happier in a dentist’s office. My happy place is more on the lines of tropical paradise and there isn’t much more of a tropical paradise than Hawaii. Last summer my wife, daughter and I took a wonderful week-long vacation in Maui.
Maui (or pretty much any of the Hawaiian Islands) is a photographer’s paradise. Amazing sunsets, rugged seascapes (usually complete with freaking rainbows), breaching whales, and stunning sunsets are plentiful. I kept my camera ready, and left the lens cap off the whole week – I always wanted to be ready to shoot. For this trip I had a smaller Canon XSI body, with my 24-105 f4L lens. I was trying to minimize space and not bring too much gear. I did also bring an external flash and a gorilla-type mini tripod. I guess if I had it to do over, I’d bring my 5D mk II body and a full-size tripod. The 24-105 lens was perfect. We weren’t there for whale season. If we were, I would have wanted a longer lens.
Maui is expensive. It's expensive to get there, it's expensive to stay there, and it's expensive to eat there. Fortunately, I travel a bunch with my other job (I'm a corporate pilot) and I had a ton of airline miles and hotel points. I was able to fly the 3 of us out there on airline miles and stay for a week at the Wailea Marriott on hotel points. We hit up the Maui Costco after landing to stock up on breakfast foods, snacks, drinks (ie wine..) and some lunch stuff. That saved us a bunch. The up front savings made it easier to splurge on some nice dinners later in the week.
We spent most of our time on the beach snorkeling, swimming and kayaking; it was truly awesome. My daughter especially loved it – here she is jumping for joy. (That is the Wailea Marriott in the background.)
One photographic technique I wanted to work on while I was there was taking sunset portraits. Normally if you tried to take a shot like the one above, the people would be dark silhouettes. To light the subjects (in this case us) I needed to use a flash. With no modification the flash would normally appear too bright and too cool. (Color temperature.) To warm up the flash color I used a ¼ CTO gel on the flash and lowered the flash output almost a stop using flash exposure compensation. (FEC) After tweaking the settings to match the current light condition I was able to get some decent results. (A friend of ours, Beth, took this shot for us.) To get more saturation out of the sunset, I metered for the sunset, then reduced the exposure by 2/3 of a stop. (Exposure compensation.)
A pet peeve of mine is when I see sunset or seascape shots and the horizon is not level. I’m not OCD at all – I don’t get upset when my pencils aren’t lined up on my desk or anything like that, but an uneven horizon really bugs me. (I think it goes back to flying, and learning to fly using the horizon as a reference. A level horizon is a happy horizon.) Using a tripod is a good way to ensure a level horizon, but we know that isn’t always practical. Dragging around a tripod can be an inconvenience. If you shoot hand-held inevitably tilt is going to find its way into some images. I usually do the best I can in the field, and then fix the horizon in post-production. (Apple Aperture in my case.) The horizon fix is easy using today’s software. The level horizon thing is powerful – once you start seeing uneven ones, you will notice them everywhere. I even noticed crooked images in some of the higher end galleries on the island. Maybe I’m just weird..
I was able to shoot some local surfers riding the white water at Big Beach. This was one time I could have used a longer lens.
The LONG drive to Hana yielded some great photo ops..
We really enjoyed our Maui vacation. We’re itching to go back, but I’m going to wait until my miles and points build up again…. Aloha!