Back from Nine Days in Hawaii

Above: Shot with a Nikon D3, with a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens (at 15mm) at ISO 200, at f/7.1 at 1/5 of a second so I could capture a little movement while he was spinning the fire sticks. Click on it for a larger view).

Hi Gang: I just got back yesterday from a nine-day vacation with my family in Maui, Hawaii, and I’m tan, rested, and ready to tackle the busy end of an amazing year (OK, the tan part is a bit of a stretch. I spent most of my time tucked safely under an umbrella poolside or by the ocean).

I didn’t do a lick of work while I was out there (Matt, RC, and Brad covered for me on the blog), and so I just hung out, relaxed with the wifey and kids (and my brother who came along), read a book on my iPad (“At Home in Mitford” by Jan Karon—a really terrific book—the first in a series of Mitford books).

In fact, I relaxed so much, I hardly took any photos (except of the kids, of course, mostly with my new 85 f/1.4 which is just flat out amazing). I did go out shooting twice while I was there. Once with my buddy Randy Jay Braun, who is a fantastic Maui-based photographer (if you see a really amazing post card in any store in Maui, it’s almost a lock Randy took it—at least, everyone cool one I picked up was taken by Randy. Here’s a link to Randy’s site).

Randy lined up a sunset shoot featuring traditional Hawaii hula dancer and a Hawaii Fire Dancer. The original guy Randy had lined up, couldn’t make it, but we got incredibly lucky to wind up with Martin Tevega, a two-time champion, and amazing Fire dancer (and one bad dude, who was actually incredibly nice and fun). (Above: I took this portrait of Martin before we really got into the shoot, using an 85 f/1.4 lens at f/1.4).

(Above: 14-24mm f/2.8 lens (at 14mm) at ISO 200, at f/7.1 at 1/200 of a second).

Now, Randy freaked me out by saying “Hey, we should try something like Joe McNally did with a flash using a rear sync and a slow shutter speed for the cover of his “Hot Shoe Diaries” book.” I just had to shake my head and laugh, ’cause only Joe McNally can pull off Joe McNally type of shots. So, I steered pretty clear of that, and came up with the shot you see at the top of this post, and the one above, lit with just one SB-900 flash, mounted on a light stand, with just a diffusion dome over the flash head (no softbox or umbrella) with a 1/2 cut of CTO gel on the flash.

It was kind of tricky, because although we were lucky to have Randy’s assistant Mohalapua (“Mo” for short”)  helping us, it was Randy, his friend Jason, and I all sharing one SB-900 flash (I had to use the second flash to trigger the one flash we had on Martin), but Jason and Randy were able to use the pop-up flashes on their camera’s to trigger the SB-900 (D3’s don’t have a built-in pop-up flash). So, one of us would shoot, then the next, then the next, and of course sometimes we’d accidentally trip the others flash, and well….it limited how many photos we could take, as we raced the sunset, and two different subjects.

(Above: This was shot with my 85mm f/1.4 lens, at f/1.4 using natural light, and a gold reflector, held by Mo, just off to the left to fill in some shadow areas. You can see the effect of the reflector when you click on the photo to see a larger version. Nothing really done in post production but sharpening).

Before Martin got there, Randy arranged to have one of his favorite subjects, Kamie, there so we could shoot her doing some traditional Hawaii dances on the beach. At this point, we were just using natural light and a gold reflector to match the color of the light from the setting sun.

Above: Same lens, but I wanted the background in focus so I changed my Aperture to f/10.

Post Processing:
I only did three things for the post processing of the silhouette shot above:

(1) I applied the Lightroom Develop module preset “Color Creative – Yesteryear 1” that comes with Lightroom.

(2) I lowered the Brightness slider amount a bit

(3) I cropped the photo using my “Cinematic Style Cropping Technique” (link).

Thanks to Randy and Mo, for setting up such a great shoot, and to Kamie and Martin for being such wonderful, and patient subjects for our portraits.

My Other Shoot
On the way to dinner at Maui’s famous “Mama’s Fish House,” (my wife’s favorite) I passed a line of trees on the side of the road, and I made note of where they were so I could go back and photograph the first one in one of the rows, so I could isolate it from the others.

Here’s the shot I got, cropped once again using my Cinematic Style cropping.

Luckily, I did think to take a couple of shots (seen below) from where I took the shot, so you could see how glamorous this type of location shooting can be. ;-)  We stopped across the road from the tree I wanted to shoot (seen below), and I set up my tripod amid the very windy conditions that day, and spent about five minutes taking the shots.

(Above: This is the view from where I was shooting. From this point, it was just composing the shot so you didn’t see the tree to the right of the tree on the end. In post, I didn’t like my in-camera white balance, so I dragged the WB tint slider to the right, and increased the Recovery slider to 100 to bring back detail in the sky I also lowered the Midtones quite a bit to darken the sky).

So, from the two shots, I got a few shots I kinda like, but honestly I enjoyed my time doing pretty much nothing but reading my book, hanging with the family (We took breaks from the pool/beach and saw Disney’s “Tangled” which was awesome), and I played a round of golf at a really great course; the King Kamehameha course. We pretty much had the course all to ourselves, and it was just about a perfect day of golf.

(Above: Walking back from taking photos of the kids, I saw this water lily in a pond on the hotel property, so I snapped a few quick ones. Turned out better than I thought).

Printing from the Airport
As we’re sitting in LAX, my brother shows me a photo he took on our last family vacation with his Canon EOS Rebel 2Ti DSLR.

It was a simple ocean shot (shown above), and he wanted to print it big on canvas (60″x 40″), and he was thinking of sending it to some canvas printing place I had never used, so I told him he had to send it to Artistic Photo Canvas. I had him email me his shot, and I uploaded it to APC while we’re sitting there in the airport, waiting to board our flight to Hawaii.

When we got home yesterday, the printed Canvas had already arrived, and he sent me this iPhone photo of it hanging on his wall. He absolutely loves it, and said APC did a fantastic job—as I knew they would (APC did all the prepping of the photo for printing on canvas, including all the edge work, and shipped it directly to my brother).

All Good Things….
As much fun as it was to go, it’s always great to get back home, and I’m back at work today after a wonderful, restful vacation. The kids had a ball. My wife had a ball. I won a buck off my brother at golf (of course, he gave me some strokes), and overall had an absolutely relaxing, fun, wonderful time with lots of laughs, and lots of hugs from the kids. Now, it’s back to work—I’ve got a book to finish! :-)

  1. Scott, glad your rested. I like the Hawaian version of Vanelli, was that you security guy? They guys kept things together great while you were playing! Did you take your 28-300?
    Glad you and the family are back safe.

  2. Definitely somewhere I need to visit in the future!
    Scott, glad to hear that you’ve recharged the batteries and spent some quality time with the family.

    Great job with the photos you did get out and take; loving the sunset shot on the beach and the shot of the woman using the new 85mm (question is, is it worth upgrading???)

    All the best to you,

    1. Glyn,
      I used the old 85 quite a bit via rentals and borrowing from people. I’ve got the new one and I have to say (and I’ve heard the same thing from several other photographers), the new lens is freakin’ sharp man. Definitely seems sharper than the old one.

      Hope you’re doing well.

  3. Sounds like you had a great vacation, Scott. One that I am sure was most deserved! Great photos…I love the shot of the lone tree!

    Your brother’s canvas print looks like it came out great, too. But tell him he needs to invest in a universal remote control so he can clean up the clutter on his table! :D


      1. I noticed that the lens support was updated but the Nikon 24-120 VR F4.0 is either not listed or incorrectly being stated and recognized as the 24-120 VR 3.5-5.6. Is this a miss print by Adobe?

  4. Glad you could get away and take some time for your family.

    I would really love to know how you manage to get so much done. People always tell me I’m doing more than most humans but you seem to be on a much higher plane. It would be great to see your calendar for a week – or even a month – just to see what kind of mad time management skills you’ve developed. From my calculations I can’t see you getting more than twenty-six seconds per night! ;-)

  5. I’m kinda disappointed you didn’t make one of those classic “scott kelby” book layouts of your trip. something about seeing them in layout-format, ready to print is really inspirational!

    anyway, im glad you had a good trip!

    1. Hi Nick:
      Unfortunately, with only two brief shoots, I didn’t have enough photos to make a book layout (the shots were all pretty much the same. You’d get pretty tired of seeing that tree on every page). ;-)



  6. Thanks for sharing the details on how you shoot the fire knife dancer, the pictures are amazing. I wish I had this info a few months back. I was on assignment for the Polynesian Cultural Center to document the world fire knife championship and I was not allowed to use a flash. it was very difficult to freeze the dancer and keep the fire moving. you can see some of the shoots on my blog.

  7. Hey Scott

    Glad you and the family had a great vacation. Some awesome shots posted too. Absolutely love the water lily shot and the shots of the traditional Hawaii hula dancer and Hawaii Fire Dancer.

    Some of those shots would make great post cards I reckon.

    Keep up the great work!


  8. When you say “diffusion cover” on the SB-900, was it just like a Sto-Fen or a handheld diffuser? Did you use CTO gel? Thanks for sharing these shots, great inspiration. Should have no problem getting the “wifey” on board for a trip to Hawaii.

  9. Hello,
    Wonderful shots. I love the tree shot with great cloud line in the background.

    Thanks for the tech-specs as always. Was looking forward for the album sort of the layouts like your earlier holiday shoots.

  10. Thank you for sharing these great photos and explaining how you got them. It really helps people new to the craft. Sounds like you had a relaxing vacation which you so deserve.

  11. I’m most impressed with the fact you went to Mama’s Fish House. I love that place. Great food and a beautiful location. Glad you enjoyed Maui. It is one of the most gorgeous places on earth.

  12. Scott,

    I noticed you take your brother on a lot of your family vacations. I love that. Family is so important…and not just wife and kids…”original” family also.

    We spent the weekend in Cleveland and visited the Christmas Story house and Museum with my parents. It was great…mostly because we were all together!


  13. Far and few between do I see a landscape shot that makes me stop and pause but you did it brother….that shot of the tree was freakin awesome.

    Thanks for sharing so much with us man, I can’t tell you how many times your info has helped me out. I have a special place in my brain that I now refer to as my Kelby lobe. Whenever I’m stuck with a photo problem, the Kelby lobe kicks in and works out great!

  14. I’m a big fan of Randy’s work. I purchased a couple of his prints on my trip to Maui several years ago. We even stopped by his gallery on the way back from Haleakela. Incredible images. I would love to have done a similar shoot. When I go back, I need to line something up. Got to start saving up for a trip though.

    I totally agree on “Mama’s Fish House”. Highly recommend it. It’s also a great location to shoot some pics while you wait on your table.

  15. No wonder you were the only one on the golf course — it’s a private course (only one on Maui). Who got you onto the course?

    Too bad you didn’t get a chance to shoot a sunrise from the top of Haleakala (well worth getting up at 3a for a sunrise photo at 10,000ft) or the ‘ahinahina (silversword) plant that only grows there, the Kaihalulu Beach (‘Red Sand Beach’) in Hana, or the Nakalele Blowhole at Poelua Bay (about 10mi north of Kapalua).

  16. That’s one place I would love to visit (I also met Randy in the check-in queue at Mandalay Bay for PSW, lovely bloke) but sadly the Hawaiian skies are not grey enough and it looked far too warm, even the sea was too blue, not the inspiring wastewater brown of the Thames.
    I think you are just pretending you had a good time ;)


  17. What a setting to rest and recharge! Reading your recap made for a welcome day-dreamy mid-morning respite. And thank you so much for recommending Artistic Photo Canvas to your brother and for the shout out on your blog. We’re loving the setting your brother chose for hanging his ginormous 40×60 gallery wrap. Perfect!

    I don’t know if your readers noticed, but we swear there’s something mysterious lurking below the surface in the foreground of the shot. As photo editor Camille worked with his image, the staff was gathering around her monitor fielding guesses as to what it was (and pondering how hard to try to bring “it” out.) Theories ranged from ray to dolphin to shark to the last person who tried to get in the way of a Kelby family photo shoot. ;-)

    Seriously, though, we were struck by your brother’s vision for the piece. So much atmosphere created by such an uncomplicated shot and subject. Thank you for sharing the outcome. Team APC is delighted to hear he loves his canvas as much as we loved working on it.

    Here’s to happy travels and the memories we make in the process!

  18. I love Hawaii, the air there must have relax molecules in it. I’m happy for you that you had such a wonderful time with your family. Family time and some camera time, it’s the best of both worlds. I love the Mitford books.

  19. Man, I’m so jealous! Hawaii is my favorite place on the planet (OK, I haven’t been everywhere, but I love it THAT much). Since my wife and I just had our first child last month, I don’t think we’ll be back for quite some time. Guess I’ll have to live vicariously through you!

    Great photos by the way, as usual! Were any of them taken at the beach in front of the Makena Beach & Golf Resort? My wife and I stayed there during three trips to Maui and it looks like the view from that beach might’ve been the backdrop.

  20. Scott, i really wanted to read this entire post but the “aniMoto” ads on the screen constantly changing are driving my eyes crazy. Really enjoy your work though.

  21. The Kanaka Maoli in the second picture causes me more visual impact than the one of the Hotshoe diaries. Almost the same subject, somewhat different approaches. I especially like the way the flash hits his skin. Very smoothly

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