Kathy & I have very fond memories of our visit to Maui last year, and one of our favorite places was the town of Lahaina. It’s heartbreaking to realize that everything we saw there is now gone, lost to fire. Some of the structures there were over 100 years old, including the old courthouse and the historic Pioneer Inn. Aerial views of the waterfront show only the walls of the courthouse building still standing. Our hearts go out to the people there.
Often, a non-photographer will ask me if I “Photoshop” my photos. My answer is usually something like “I don’t use Photoshop, but I do process my photos.” The follow up is usually some version of “why.”
As we photographers know, cameras today give us lots of latitude for exposure adjustments, which is what I use the most, along with straightening horizons (a lot!), removing dust spots (almost as much!), cropping, contrast & saturation adjustment, and more. And while it is possible to get way beyond reality, I tend to try – as we all do – to improve upon reality just a bit.
Ansel Adams is credited with the words “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” A bit modest, perhaps, but that pretty much summarizes – with a bit of humor – what we do and why.
Here are 4 photos I made at the summit of Haleakala that show what I mean. The ideal time to get even lighting in the crater is when the sun is directly overhead. But that unfortunately is one of the hardest conditions to photograph anything else! So I did my best to counteract the highlights and shadows in order to bring everything back to what my eye was able to perceive.
There are a number of professions I have always been thankful to not have experienced. Anything requiring a safety harness or hard hat would fall into that category. Climbing trees with a machete hanging from my belt would double my resolve!
One day at our hotel we received notice that a crew would be trimming the palm trees the next day. As it turned out, they started working right outside our room as we were enjoying our morning coffee. It was interesting to watch, but I wasn’t about to consider a return to the work force.
One of the fascinating things about digital photography is that it is possible to take way too many photographs, edit them down to a reasonable number and still have multiples of the number of photographs we would have had in the film days. That holds true for our traveling, and especially true for our trip to Maui.
According to my Lightroom catalog I took 4,654 photos with my Fuji camera, 160 with my Olympus point & shoot – exclusively out of the airplane window, plus about 78 with my phone. I typically use the phone only for food, wine, airplane window shots, etc. But they back up into Lightroom and get stored there. I have mostly gotten away from other storage methods like Gooble.
Out of those nearly 4,900 photos I processed 749 “picks.” Why such a difference? Because out of those 4,900 photos, many of them were “burst shots” of action, like crashing waves, elusive whales, or dancers at a luau. I generally chose the “best” one out of each burst, and while some of the others might be photo-worthy, there isn’t a lot of point in saving multiple photos with slightly different splashes, poses or expressions.
Out of those 749 processed photos, I have posted a gallery of about half of them – on my Adobe Portfolio page. And those 330 or so photos are still the equivalent of 10 rolls of 36-exposure film, probably about the amount I would have carried back in the Dark Ages!
So if you are really desperate for entertainment, feel free to check out my gallery. The page also contains links to photos from our other travels from the last several years!
Another “must do” in Maui is what has come to be known as “The Road to Hana.” It is marketed as some kind of scary beast that terrifies drivers and leaves them shaking in their seat belts. I suppose that might be true if the only roads you ever drive are 4 lane roads to the mall or interstate highways, but for the most part it wasn’t what I could call “scary.” Of course, (a) I didn’t drive, and (b) I have driven a few roads that I would consider scary! What the Road to Hana is, however, is quite beautiful.
The Road to Hana is actually a series of roads, only one of which is called Hana Highway. The loop essentially circles east side of the island of Maui which is formed by the Haleakala volcano. The loop is 52 miles long and reportedly (I didn’t count them!) contains 617 hairpin curves and 59 one-lane bridges. Hana is a town located on the eastern tip of Maui. We drove through Hana but didn’t stop, as it is mostly a little village with a few shops, restaurants and small motel. We did stop at quite a few places, including a black sand beach and several waterfalls. Along the roads are little villages, shops, roadside stands selling food and local crafts, waterfalls, beaches, scenic overlooks and much more.
We took a tour with a company called Hawaiian Style. They are locally owned and operated by a Maui native and his family. The tour was nice because our driver, although he was a transplant from Idaho, had lived on Maui long enough to have a lot of “native knowledge.” Our driver and the company in general display a lot of respect for local customs, and go out of their way to yield to “locals” in order to earn their trust. It would have been possible to drive at least a portion of the road ourselves, but most rental car agreements expressly prohibit driving a rental car on the “back side” of Haleakala, where the road is rough and unpaved in sections, there are many places where the road narrows to one lane, and several spots that are subject to flash flooding. Plus, I wanted to be able to look out the window! I was fortunate to be able to sit in the front seat, and although that left Kathy not sitting with me, she did have her own window seat farther back in the van. She liked it because she didn’t have to navigate! I got some nice “out the window” photos of the road that I would not have gotten otherwise.
Touring the Road to Hana with an experienced operator is really the way to go. I might opt for a 4×4 tour where we were the only passengers, in order to be able to stop at more of the photo spots that could not accommodate a larger vehicle. We swapped places on the road with a number of them, and frequently saw them pulled off in places that would have made for great viewpoints. It’s all part of the compromise of travel, and overall we had a great tour and it was a fun and educational experience!
At first glance, Hawaiian words, especially names, can be difficult to grasp. I’m still no expert, but it’s actually pretty easy when you pay attention. All of the letters are pronounced, and the vowels are pronounced only one way. The hardest part was parsing out a name like “Alanui Ke’ali’i” (ala-NEW-e kay-ah-LI-i) or “Upper Hamakuapoko Road” (hama-kua-PO-ko) in the 5 seconds between when you could read it on the road sign and when you passed it!
When we first started planning our trip, we knew that there were several places we wanted to visit around a place called Hali’imaile. We jokingly referred to it as “Holy Moly,” but not wanting to sound like ignorant tourists we decided to make an effort to learn how to pronounce the words property. Of course most of these Hawaiian words also have significant meaning, but we weren’t prepared to figure that out. When it mattered, a driver or guide would tell us the meaning!
So what is in Hali’imaile? First, it is the home of Maui Gold Pineapple Company. They are very proud of their home-grown pineapple in Maui, to the extent that they generally don’t sell beyond the island. Their fruit is sold all over the island, and wherever someone served pineapple, it was likely Maui Gold. But their picking method requires that the fruit be sold and used within 5 days for optimum freshness. Beyond that it gets turned into juice and used at the distillery that is conveniently right across the street! Ever had pineapple vodka? It’s pretty good!
We did a tour of the Maui Gold Pineapple Farm with a guide named Mo, who has lived in Maui for about 20 years, moving from California. A lot of people in Hawaii are from elsewhere, and now we know why! Mo talked with a confidence that sounded like he could be one of the owners, but I suspect that he is just a knowledgeable and enthusiastic employee. He did a nice tour, showing us pineapples in various stages of growth, how to make new plants from old pineapples, and slicing a fresh picked pineapple for us to taste. Yummy! After the tour, we were all offered pre-boxed pineapples that were carry-on friendly. We declined since we weren’t leaving for over a week. And we got plenty of already-cut pineapple in other places!
After the pineapple farm tour we visited the Hali’imaile Distilling Company. Their main product is vodka made from pineapple juice. Because vodka is generally odorless with a neutral flavor, it can be hard to distinguish tastes, but the Pau Vodka had just a hint of pineapple sweetness. Even the Bourbon Girl liked it! They also make a flavored rum using local ingredients including Kona coffee, a whiskey that is made from blending Kentucky Bourbon with some local hooch, and a gin made with Hawaiian botanicals. We didn’t bring home any of their souvenirs, although we did make a point of seeking out cocktails made from their spirits!
Also in Hali’imaile is the Hali’imaile General Store. No longer an actual store, it is the name of a restaurant owned by James Beard Award recipient and celebrity chef Bev Gannon. We had lunch there and the poke’ was excellent! 😉
So how do you say Hali’imaile? Sound it out: holly-e-ma-EE-lay. Now you know Hawaiian! 🙂
We had 5 specific things we wanted to do in Maui, besides lounge by the pool and have Tiki drinks. 😉 We wanted to go to a Luau, see sunset on Haleakala, go on a whale watch, drive (ride!) the Road to Hana, and see the big waves on the North Coast. Anything else we did would be a bonus. We did a lot!
Luaus are very popular with tourists to Hawaii, and there are many to choose from. Our travel agent recommended the Myths of Maui Luau, which from what I could gather is a smaller event, but still very good. We heard lots of comments from folks on our other tours, and of course everyone chose the one they chose for some reason, and generally thought theirs was the best. But I’m pretty sure they are all good!
All luaus will have food, and although the authenticity of the food may vary a bit, it is all pretty good. The pork that was served at our dinner was pit cooked, as they do in Hawaii. The fish, though, was not local. It was some kind of Asian fish that is common to the island, but it was not caught off the shores of any Hawaiian island. Oh, well.
The performers were excellent. There were only a dozen or so, and with costume and prop changes that managed to tell a number of the stories that make up the history and culture of Maui. The narrator explained what they were doing and why, and that made it very interesting.
We had sprung for ‘VIP’ seating, which gave us a table that was literally ‘front and center.’ It was a perfect spot to photograph the performers, although there were times when I could have used a wider lens – they were that close!
We really enjoyed the show. I took lots of pictures, especially at the end with the fire performance. It was quite impressive – we could feel the heat coming off the torches – I can only imagine how hot they would have been to hold. I have no idea how one would learn to do that, but am certain that it involves lots of practice, and more than a few burned limbs!
We’re home again and doing all of our usual “just got home stuff.” I’ll be working on photos over the coming weeks but have a small collection that I worked on but hadn’t posted yet.
This series is from time we spent at Ho’okipa Lookout near Paia, Hawaii. The waves there are often huge, and as large as they were on the day we visited, there are times when we can’t stand where we were standing. As it was, our sunglasses and my camera were covered in fine salt spray by the time we got back to the car.
I don’t know for sure, but would estimate some of the waves at 20-30 feet high! And if you look closely on some of the photos you will see windsurfers and parasailers on the water.
I’ve had a couple of portrait sessions with this tree, located just north of our resort along the shore. It’s got a nice shape, and situated on a little peninsula makes it a nice subject.
One of hundreds of photos from our tour of the famous Road to Hana.