We arrived in Nawiliwili a little before 8am and decided to sleep in a bit before our 9:30am meeting time for our Kauai Photo Tour. We met up with our driver and made our way north and east to Kapa’a town, where the Photo shop was based out of and where we would meet our driver and guide for the day.
The staff at the shop are incredibly friendly and they are certainly true to the “Ohana” spirit in Hawaii, where each of the employees is a member of the “family” and all of the customers are a part of the group too, with lots of hugs provided by Michele, the grandmaster coordinator and today’s tour handler.
Once we got all of the paperwork and information handled, we met Damon Moss, our guide for the day, and we could immediately tell that his only goal for the day was to make our day a truly enjoyable and successful one, and he delivered flawlessly.
The main rule of the day is that the driver and guide is there to support the tour members. Advice is shared on photography, but never forced. Questions are always answered and critiques and analysis are provided, if so desired. The careful balance between shared knowledge and support, while never being overbearing or condescending, is a welcome and appreciated element that added more to the day and made Damon more like a part of the group, seeing and engaging the sights along with each of us.
The van was a very comfortable 8 passenger setup with seat-belts for all and a “JetBlue” style basket filled with snacks that passengers could grab at any time. In addition, there was a cooler in the back, available at every stop, with waters, juices, and sodas, again that could be grabbed at any time.
Damon was very knowledgeable about the local area, as well as the flora and fauna of the region. This just added to our photo stops made throughout the day, as he could point out a bird or plant that provided an interesting photo subject or gave us a “project” to play around with framing the subject and taking the pictures during the day. Again, at no point did it seem like a class or workshop, but rather a presentation of some amazing subject matter and the ability to capitalize on the ability to capture it with our cameras.
The van made its way to a number of different locations, some with a stop of less than a few minutes, where others we walked around for upwards of a half hour. The schedule was flexible to the tour group’s needs, the give and take of the weather, and the advice and suggestions of our guide.
Many of the locations were “secret” spots where not another soul would be found and made for beautiful scenery shots with nothing to distract. A few of our locations are the “tourist must-sees” and, though there were plenty of people and chaos, it allowed for practice on moving subjects like boats, surfers, and finding hidden gems amongst all of the people and activity.
The time flew by (in a really good way), and before we knew it, we had already visited 8 amazing spots before lunch! This brought us to the town of Hanalei and to our local lunch spot of the Hanalei Taro and Juice Company. This lunch spot was literally a rolling lunch cart on a trailer hitch that is open 6 days a week only from 11am – 3pm. The menu has exactly 8 items, but is all made with local, organic ingredients at very reasonable prices.
Natalie picked up a small pulled pork lunch plate with ginger lemonade and Darin got the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich with a Mixed Berry Taro Smoothie. Everything was amazing and we enjoyed our meal with our tour-mates and Damon under sun protected picnic tables with a nice breeze.
Following lunch, we visited another 6 photo sites, each bringing something new, interesting, and unique to capture. All the while, Damon was knowledgeable, friendly, and easy to work with. He ensured ample time at each location, and made sure that we could keep to a schedule that would let us see as much as we could. When all was said and done, we had been to beaches and bays, overlooks, piers, lighthouses, churches, taro fields, and even a funny looking tree with a rope swing (had to be there to appreciate it!) and soon our day was complete.
Michele met us back at the shop and provided us with transportation back to the ship. It was a wonderful day and one that we would do again in a heartbeat. As we said our goodbyes, Michele gave everyone hugs and added us to her Ohana. We hope that we can somehow return the favor for such a great day to her, Vincent, and the shop. (And we have some ideas on just how to do that!)
Back to the ship and the packing begins as we disembark tomorrow. We headed to dinner and were fortunate to see our table-mates again for the final dinner (it had been some time since our last dinner together between conflicting schedules, specialty dining, and some schedule disruptions due to the ship movement), but it was a great night of catching up and sharing photos and contact information. We look forward to staying in touch in the future.
We said goodbyes to all of our wait staff and headed off to bed, as tomorrow is our disembarkation in Honolulu.
Tomorrow — Oahu!