Trip Dates: February 25-28, 2017
Kaua'i, known as the "Garden Isle" and the oldest of the major Hawaiian islands, is one of the most beautiful and tropical places on earth. When our close friends, Maggie and Nathan Elliott, invited us to be a part of a photoshoot by the talented husband and wife duo from Portland, Oregon, Ellie & Will McMakin of Ellie Asher Photography, we couldn't resist the urge to say "YES!"
My husband, Danny, and I hopped on a plane on Saturday, Feb. 25th from San Diego to Oahu, where we ended up spending the rest of the day to unwind after a 6 hour flight. The following day, we took off to Lihue, Kaua'i, where we met up with Maggie and Nathan...
Day 1 on Kaua'i
The Elliott's live in Portland, Oregon, and Danny and I share our time between Huntington Beach, California, and Hawaii. So in the rare event that we get to see each other, we celebrate. As soon as we got settled into our hotel room at The Courtyard Kaua'i by Marriott at Coconut Beach, we hit the bar for a quick cocktail before heading down the street to supposedly the 'only local bar open late in town' called Big Wave Dave's. Maggie and I sipped on iced water the whole night to stay hydrated and awake (we couldn't wait to sleep), and kept our husbands company while they sang karaoke with cocktails in hand. With all the excitement of being in the same place, we didn't get to bed till 1:30 am.
Day 2 - Princeville, Kōloa, & Hāʻena
Early that morning, Maggie and Nathan had to wake up at 3:30/4am to prepare for a sunrise photoshoot. (They were modeling for Ellie and Will that day; our session was scheduled for sunset the next day.) I remember hearing Maggie roll out of bed after getting only two hours of rest. While I lingered back to sleep hoping to get one more hour of rest, I thought to myself, "This feels all so familiar!" (I was reminded of the shoots I had done during sunrise hour and how very little sleep I would get the night before. Usually, it was because I worried that I wouldn't hear my alarm, which has never happened to me yet, thankfully!) Just before 5:30am, when the McMakin's arrived at our hotel room, Danny and I awoke to freshen up. Kaua'i was waiting for us, and our time there was very limited. The last thing we wanted to do was sleep our day away.
Our destination that morning was Queen's Bath in Princeville. The sun was set to rise just before 7am. When we finally reached Princeville, we had to hike 10-15 minutes down a trail towards the ocean. Ellie made her way ahead of us to scout the location. We had made it just in time to watch the sun rise above the horizon and peak over the cliffs.
Here is a beautiful time lapse by Nathan Elliott, filmed that morning on his iPhone:
Ellie and Will capturing moments with the Elliott's during sunrise...
Images taken with my iPhone and edited in Afterlight (just for fun!) I can't wait to revisit this place...
We also had an amazing and talented florist, Susanna Luck Flowers, join us this day. While I don't have any photographs of her or her work, here are some shots taken of her beautiful bouquet made especially for Ellie's photoshoot:
I also did a little exploring on my own. While standing at the foot of a small waterfall, I prayed that we would get to move back home soon, and perhaps one day even have a place of our own on Kaua'i. Anything is possible.
Nature has a way of rejuvenating the soul.
After their photoshoot, we headed back towards Kapa'a for coffee and chai at Java Kai, one of the best breakfast spots and coffeeshops in town. I fueled up with an acai bowl and a soy chai, while the others ordered their coffee, delicious omelettes, and avocado toast. To our surprise, it wasn't even 10am by the time we got back to the hotel. Maggie went straight to bed to rest before their 2nd shoot at sunset. Danny and I took a 30 minute power nap, while Nathan kept himself busy.
We had planned to fill the afternoon hours driving out to Koloa, just south of Kapa'a. We stopped over at the Koloa Rum Company distillery before venturing out to Oma'o Ranch Lands to visit Danny's local friend, Daryl Kaneshiro. This was my first time at the ranch and meeting Daryl, who was very kind to us and gave us a warm welcome. Daryl took us on a tour through the ranch, telling us his stories of buying the land and turning it into what it is today. The views from his property of Koloa and beyond were breathtaking. Being in his company and hearing him speak passionately about his home, his family, the land, and his ideas for the future made our Kaua'i experience all the better. We spent a couple hours with him before having to make our way back to the hotel.
The 2nd part of the Elliott's shoot was suppose to happen at the same location in Princeville, but an unexpected storm hit Kaua'i and we had to move the shoot to a different location. Danny checked the weather report and suggested we drive to the north shore towards Ha'ena for sunlight and clear skies. We experienced heavy rains on our way there, but it began to clear up as we drove through Wainiha Valley. We finally got to Ke'e beach, at the start of the Kalalau trail. The weather was ideal with no signs of rain. Danny led us half a mile up the trail to a gorgeous view of the Na Pali Coast, the perfect backdrop to end the day.
Half a mile up the Kalalau Trail...
An image from Ellie Asher Photo of Maggie and Nathan, sitting at the edge.
Day 3 - Waimea Canyon
This particular day turned out to be unexpectedly spontaneous. The Elliott's had an afternoon flight to catch, so we spent the morning having breakfast again at Java Kai before taking them to the airport. We packed our bags after breakfast and checked out before 1pm. I had already started getting ready for our sunset shoot, which we eventually moved up to 2pm just in case the weather decided to take a turn for the worst.
The weather forecast showed a large percentage of the island covered in rain by sundown. We were already seeing signs of the storm forming as we drove out towards Waimea Canyon. Danny and I made our way up Waimea Canyon Drive, scouting the area for Ellie and Will who was roughly 30 minutes behind us. As we reached a higher elevation, the visibility in front of our car became less and less. We could barely see through the thickness of the fog. The weather conditions were not getting any better and our cell reception had started to cut out the further we drove into the canyon. We backtracked until we were able to reconnect. Then we met up with the McMakin's back at the bottom of the mountain to discuss their plans. At first, we thought about driving out west, but then Ellie decided to give the canyon a shot in hopes to find at least one dry area with a stunning backdrop. Even though that was very unlikely judging by the downpour, we went for it anyway! We drove back up to the canyon and parked on the side of the road. Danny and I got dressed in our full wedding attire while the creative couple scouted for a location. They had found a red dirt cliff just down the road from where we had parked. We waited until they were ready for us before getting out of our car. Then, we all went for it...
"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... It's about learning to dance in the rain."
- Vivian Greene
We spent 10 minutes shooting photos with Ellie and Will out in the rain. While we didn't get to see the spectacular canyon views we were hoping for, the location still made for a dreamy and unique backdrop. The creative couple braved the storm with their camera gear while soaking wet in their jeans and jackets. I wish I had behind-the-scenes footage of them working around us! The things photographers do to get "the shot" is also another thing I'm very familiar with. I've shot in the rain countless times to understand what was probably going on in their heads during the shoot. Ellie was off in the distance getting different angles while also directing our poses and expressions. Will was getting close-up shots of us and gave us positive feedback and encouragement along the way. Even though we stood there shivering in the cold wind and rain, we felt completely comfortable in front of their lenses, trusting their creative instincts. The experience was one we'll never forget.
After our shoot, we went our separate ways. Ellie and Will headed back towards Kapa'a to spend time with their family. Danny and I decided to end our trip early due to the storm, so we caught an early evening flight back to Oahu. At that point, we were so drained and tired from all that traveling. Danny's sister picked us up from the airport and brought us back to their family home in Kailua. We ate a quick dinner and went straight to bed.
Now, we wait patiently to see the McMakin's final images and their Kaua'i blog up on EllieAsher.com!
It was an honor getting to work with the talented and creative couple.
Here are some photos from Danny's iPhone: