“Somehow, the love of the islands, like the love of a woman, just happens. One cannot determine in advance to love a particular woman, nor can one so determine to love Hawaii.” ~ Jack London
All my life, I’ve heard of the beauty and allure of Hawaii. From the classic war movies I used to watch as a kid on Saturday afternoons to the music of the hula dance and surfer culture that has become a part of our society. I see stickers on the back of mini-vans of the Hawaiian hibiscus flower and the shaka hand gesture. Many times I wondered if I would ever get to experience Hawaii for myself. It didn’t seem to be part of my destiny.
That all changed when I was commissioned to photograph Stephanie and Josh’s intimate beach wedding on the island of Maui. The time had finally come for me to experience Hawaii. My dear friend Karen is a therapist who’s worked with native Hawaiians for years. I’ve heard many stories of the energy on the islands and the culture of the indigenous people. Karen always told me that the islands choose you—that most people connect to one island more than another.
Shortly after this trip was finalized, I also finalized plans to return to Hawaii, a month later, to teach a natural lighting class at a workshop by Hawaiian photographer, Randy Jay Braun. So, it seemed that Maui had chosen me and that I was in for the adventure of a lifetime. Little did I know how much Maui would permeate my soul.
My wife and I have always dreamed of traveling to Hawaii together. When she found out I was shooting a wedding on Maui, she said there was no way I was going by myself. We decided to extend our trip and bring along two of our daughters to enjoy Hawaii as a family.
The mother of my oldest daughter (my ex-wife) fought a very difficult, 2 year battle with liver cancer that she lost on Valentine’s Day. She had always promised our daughter a trip to Maui, and sadly ran out of time. Being able to do that for my daughter was powerful beyond words. So many things coming together at this point in my life. It’s hard to imagine people not believing in a higher power. Call it what you want— destiny, fate, serendipity, chance or the hand of God. It was powerful in making this happen.
Flying to Maui was a trip. Literally. Full of thoughts on what I could expect to find, my imagination was running wild. Flying over thousands of miles of ocean, I was in awe of the vast expanses of water covering our planet. Fascinated by the technology that allows a plane to locate a little island in the vast oceans of the Pacific.
Finally, after hours of endless ocean, Maui appeared. We flew over beautiful tracts of land, full of rich and vibrant color as we made our final approach to land. Stepping off the plane, I was at once struck by the heat and humidity. I filled my lungs with the island air. It was exactly what I imagined and completely different at the same time.
After the wedding, Stephanie, Josh and I traveled all over the island taking pictures, high on love and life. Later that afternoon, Tammy and I enjoyed a luau with their families and many Mai Tai’s. We spent the rest of the week sunbathing, eating everything new and different we could find and swimming. Our favorite city on the island was Lahaina. You can almost imagine going back in time as you walk the streets, filled with timeless charm and historic buildings. A reflection of a different time of life.
My daughter and I started out early one morning and drove the famous road to Hana. It was amazing, to say the least. The crazy, winding roads through the rain forest. Sun, then rain, and more sun. The humidity, the bamboo forests, the rainbow eucalyptus trees and the breathtaking views along the way. The pure and untainted air was good for soul and body. Fresh banana bread and coconut milk. Yes, life was good.
The highlight of the trip was finding the Maui Surfboard Fence. I’d seen posters of it all over the island and wanted to photograph this mystical place for myself. My daughter and I drove all over trying to find it. Quite an adventure that was marked with a lunch and many stops along the way talking to the people who lived there, listening to their stories and amazed that no one actually knew where it was located.
Quite by accident, we suddenly came up on it and excitedly stopped the car. As we approached the property, I saw some people sitting on the porch of the house and approached to ask if I could walk around and take pictures. Ends up, it was the man himself, Donald “DJ” Dettloff. He thanked me for taking the time to ask before walking onto his property and start shooting. He said you’d be amazed at how many people just walk onto his property and act like they have the right to be there. He’s been woken up, early in the morning by photographers walking around taking pictures.
He’s an interesting character and my daughter and I spent a good hour talking to him about the fence, how it all got started, where he gets all the boards and about living on Maui. They even filmed a recent Great Race episode on his property. He told us how they brought in a crane and made huge piles of old surfboards to beef up the shots for television.
The time we spent on Maui added many wonderful stories to our lives. It was the trip of a lifetime and in the end, I left with a deep sense of belonging and connection. No matter what you believe in, there is no denying that you are closer to it in Hawaii than anywhere else. The Spirit of the islands, the Spirit of Aloha. The islands pick you.
Inspire a conversation by leaving a comment. I enjoy hearing from you! Have you ever been to Hawaii? What island is calling your name? What was your experience?