The thing with photography is that sometimes fun things happen with no warning whatsoever and for no apparent reason. Dumb luck, I suppose. So it was when I was on Molokai, Hawaii last week.
I was photographing in a fairly remote section of Molokai, a relatively small island off the coast of Maui. Molokai draws people from around the world due to its laid-back, original Hawaiian culture and its historic former leper colony, made famous by recently sainted Father Damien, a Jesuit priest who came here to minister to its people. But for photographers Molokai holds a wholly different appeal. It is home to the highest towering seaside cliffs in the world and world-class, pristine beaches.
It is a bit of a hassle getting to Molokai. You can get there by small plane, but most people arrive via a 1-1⁄2 to 2-hour ferry ride from Lahaina, Maui. You have to be at the ferry terminal at 5:30 AM and seas are often choppy, making one especially overjoyed to reach Molokai’s rock-solid shores.
Once off the boat on this visit, my first stop was at the popular Paddler’s Inn, not to eat, but to visit with Al Mercel, a senior Hawaiian gentleman who is a legendary bonsai master. I am into bonsai (the art of miniature Japanese trees) myself, so my wife and I had a grand time spending a couple of hours with Al and Paddler’s Inn owner Jerry. I love learning from experienced bonsai masters and Al fit the bill perfectly. Al’s masterpieces are on display in the restaurant/bar and get lots of attention. Can’t wait to see him next year.
On we went to Halawa Valley on the island’s far east coast. This is not a trip for the faint-hearted, as the road hugs the coastal cliffs and winds its way to the spectacularly beautiful Halawa Valley park. The scenery is spectacular, but we were on Molokai only for a day visit this time, so I was conscious of the ferry’s ticking clock and my need to keep moving.
Luminous Landscapes Indeed
While I was photographing the amazing scenery looking into the valley, luminous in itself, I noticed a couple also meandering along the seashore. Noticing each other’s pro equipment, we started to chat and much to my amazement, I found myself face-to-face with Kevin Raber, the publisher of the Luminous Landscapes (LL) website, one of the finest photography websites on the Internet. I have loved LL for years and have regularly depended on Kevin’s and LL founder Michael Reichman’s equipment reviews and astute comments on the trends in photography, as well as Jeff Schewe’s excellent tutorials on Lightroom.
Kevin and his lovely wife, Debra, have had an exciting year, having been married in Antarctica last Fall. Our relatively short conversation reinforced for me Kevin’s breadth and depth of knowledge of the current state of photography. Kevin was formerly with Phase One camera systems, so we had medium format experience in common, as I used to shoot Hasselblad digital (by the way, Kevin, think you could get me a new Phase One XF 100MP camera for, say, y’know… cheap? Okay, I didn’t think so.).
As I was about to move to another site Kevin mentioned that one of the things he was doing on this trip was testing the newest Leica X-U, their first waterproof camera. I couldn’t resist photographing Kevin performing the history-making, first Leica “dunk test” ever done on Molokai. I’m pretty sure that’s a fact.
Anyway, I look forward to future contacts with Kevin. As soon as I got back to Maui I re-upped my membership in LL (a very thrifty $12.00/year). For the past week I’ve been catching up on the dozens of excellent videos on the site and have already learned a few things that I intend to incorporate into my workflow.
I look forward to cultivating our new friendship. In the meantime, as Kevin and I often do workshops in the same places, I also look forward to bumping into him again. Iceland, anyone?