Maui Photo Festival ’09 Review and Photos

Posted on 27. Oct, 2009 by in Blog

Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s already been a month since the first annual Maui Photo Festival and Workshops. There’s already been so many great things said about this year’s event by some pretty neat folks, so I’m not going to re-invent that wheel. You can find links to those other reviews and comments at the end of this post.

A Single Sailboat in Honolua Bay

A Single Sailboat in Honolua Bay

Suffice it to say that the ’09 MPF was everything I had expected, and then some. I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the excursions I went on, share some of those photos and stories, and hopefully help try to convince you why you really need to come out to next year’s event, too.

The general structure of the 4 day event consisted of:

  • A 6am golden hour excusion,
  • Followed by two keynote sessions in the grand ballroom,
  • Then two 50 minute breakout sessions before lunch, divided into 3 groups to cover enough variety for all areas of focus and skill level.
  • After lunch, two 2-hour breakout sessions with more thorough discussions of various photography and post-production topics.
  • And capping off each night were outdoor presentations from festival presenters from 7pm – 10pm at the Paradise Cinema, setup just feet from the beach and the ocean.

That may seem like a lot to cram into a single day and repeating it for 3 straight days, and believe me, it was. :)

Yet, at the same time, you were meeting so many great people, both attendees and presenters alike, and learning so much that the excursions and the sessions seemed to fly by.

Thursday Golden Hour Excursion – Canoe Beach

The first golden hour excursion I attended was a stroll down to Canoe Beach, the stretch of sand walking distance from the Hyatt Regency Maui. Our instructor there was the very talented Clark Little. His unique style of surf photography was truly remarkable, and while we didn’t have the waves or the gear for us to try and replicate his efforts, he gave us a nice intro into what he does and what it takes to get great shots out on the water.

The main focus of that golden hour shoot were canoe teams from the Lahaina Canoe Club that went out in the water for us.

Canoe team out on the water

Canoe team out on the water

From the Canoe Beach Shoot Canoe Beach Shoot

Thursday’s Keynotes

The first two keynote sessions of the festival were from the well known photographers Scott Bourne and photographer/author Rick Sammon, who also team up on the popular photography podcast and blog, Photofocus.

Both were very great presentations. Scott focused on the idea of previsualization, the challenge of thinking of the scene you want to capture before you even take your camera out of the bag. That was something I certainly never considered consciously before, and I was eager to put it to work as early as the next morning when we went up to Haleakala for the sunrise.

Rick’s presentation was entitled “Awaken the Artist Within,” and was a great eye-opener for me as well. Up to now, most of my focus has been around capturing something as I see it, and not really with an artistic eye. He also gave a good intro to HDR, as well as doing panoramic HDR, which I’m still starting to play around with. Very cool stuff.

Thursday Afternoon Sessions

The first afternoon session I attended on Thursday was an informative look at selling your photographs in the high-end fine-art market with Michael Gilbert. It was very insightful, and probably more than I’ll ever be able to accomplish, but I still found it worthwhile.

Shortly after that, I found myself in a session with Dr. Russell Brown, Sr. Creative Director at Adobe and all around Photoshop master. He was showing off the new features of Photoshop CS4, many of which were over my head. He’s pretty entertaining, to say the least, and while I’ve yet to tap into most of what he was teaching, those that were following along seemed to be gaining quite a few great tips based on the “oohs and aahs” in the room.

Friday’s Golden Hour Excursion

Myself and 7 other early risers took advantage of the Haleakala Sunrise excursion offered as part of the workshops, and left for the volcano at the early, early hour of 3am. It was my second trip up to Haleakala for the sunrise, so I knew what to expect and therefore was still pretty excited.

When we made it to the top, we ran into one of the high school scholarship winners and his father, who had driven up on their own. They took a few of us up to White Hill near the summit, and it was way cool that they did that for us. I ran into them a few more times during the event, and they are really great people.

The true meaning of Golden Hour

The true meaning of Golden Hour

On the way down the mountain, we stopped to discover the rare and endemic Nene goose, which just happened to be the state bird of Hawaii. I took that chance to grab a few shots and walked away from the group looking for other shots.

The protected Nene goose found on Haleakala

The protected Nene goose found on Haleakala

8,000 Feet to the Bottom

8,000 Feet to the Bottom

For such an early morning, it was well worth it.

Special Excursion – Doors Off Helicopter Tour

One of the main reasons I worked so hard to get to Maui for a 2nd trip this year was the excursion they worked out to fly over Maui and photograph in a helicopter with the doors off.

Look Ma, No Doors!

Look Ma, No Doors!

That happened to be the same day, and just hours after we returned from Haleakala, so there weren’t much time for other sessions that day. Aerial combat photographers, and some of the nicest folks I met at MPF, Stacy Pearsall and Andy Dunaway (their website) led the instruction and gave us great tips on what and how to shoot. It was by far my favorite part of the event, for sure.

Roadway to Wailuku just after takeoff Cliff found in Northwest Maui Kapalua Bay from Above Looking down at the Iao Valley State Park

Friday’s Paradise Cinema Presentations

Seeing how long of a day it was already, getting up at 3am for the Haleakala Sunrise and then the adrenaline rush of flying in a helicopter without doors, I was surprised that I was still up and moving come time for the evening’s presenters. And I’m glad I did because the first presentation was “Preparing for Combat” by Andy and Stacy mentioned above. The slideshow that they presented before their Q&A session was by far, the most powerful set of images that were displayed the entire week. The shots from their tours of duty were intense, thought provoking, emotional, and also included a nice mixture of light-heartened and humorous shots, too. Everyone I talked to agreed that was the best presentation of the group.

Saturday’s Golden Hour Excursion – Honolua Bay

Compared to 3am on Friday, Saturday’s golden hour session with Clark Little at 6am felt like sleeping in. 😉

Panoramic View of Honolua Bay

Panoramic View of Honolua Bay

Our effort again was to go in search of waves, and we were off to Honolua Bay in West Maui. While it is a popular surfing spot, the waves that early weren’t impressive enough for us, so shooting wasn’t the best. What was cool about this excursion, however, was chatting with some of the other attendees. It was so neat networking and talking story with other attendees, some from the islands and some from the mainland. Relationships made that morning have resulted in good friendships and correspondence since then that will no doubt continue until next year’s event.

Saturday’s Sessions

Like a few of the photographers I had met so far on the trip, we had more than a few photos by now that we needed to edit and submit to the photo contest being held by the event organizers. That meant, for me at least, skipping out on the morning keynote sessions and instead hanging down by the conference area with my fellow photographers busy in Photoshop.

I also had a portfolio review session (1 of 2) with ISLANDS magazine‘s photography editor, Lori Barbely. It was another great benefit of the event, and although they were limited to only 15 minutes to accommodate all the interested attendees, I received some really great tips to help me improve what I do.

My afternoon schedule consisted of a quick breakout session with photographer Andy Katz for a little insight on photo book publishing, followed by a longer portfolio session, group style, with Andy and Stacy (mentioned earlier). The group portfolio session was another one of my favorite sessions because there were about 20 of us showing our photos and getting tips on what to try differently. I left the 2 hour session with a ton more notes from any other of the sessions, and a good appreciation where my photos stood against some of the other participants.

One last note on the group portfolio review, one of the attendees was the very talented Natalie Brown, who we hired for our vacation portraits last February and who did a very marvelous job. Stacy had nothing but praise for Natalie’s work, and that gave me a reason to smile knowing that we had chosen one of the top talents on Maui for our portraits.

Saturday’s Sunset Hula Session

Trailing closely behind the doors-off helicopter tour as the top photographic opportunity as part of the workshops (in my opinion) had to be the Sunset Hula Session with Maui photographer Randy Jay Braun.

Dancers from the Sunset Hula Session

Dancers from the Sunset Hula Session

Randy had arranged for a very lovely, private hula session with eight beautiful young ladies who volunteered their time and effort for this photo shoot. While I don’t consider myself a portrait photographer by any means, it was fun (and a little challenging) trying to get the right shots, and there were easily 50+ photographers at the workshops that really knew what they were doing and were very appreciative of such a unique opportunity.

Graceful Hula Dancer A Sunset Hula Dance

Saturday’s Paradise Cinema

Capping off the last full day of the first year’s festival was a very entertaining and insightful look at the work of Clark Little and his surf photography. Him and his team put together a 30 minute video that was really cool, and followed that up with a Q&A session. Clark is working on a book that is expected to be released later this year, and is certainly something I recommend checking out.

Under the Stars

With some of the nicest nighttime skies I have seen on our trips to Maui, and with the brilliant Paradise Cinema idea having us outside in the evening, I knew I had to get one more session under the stars before the trip was over. I got to shoot with one of the new friends I made up on Haleakala and the helicopter tour, giving him a few of the tips that I had picked up over the years for capturing the heavens at night.

Me and the Milky Way

Me and the Milky Way

Sunday’s Golder Hour Excursion – Lahaina Town

The final golden hour session of the event was a photo walk down in Lahaina Town. Front Street in Lahaina is easily a favorite place of ours to walk around, shop, and eat, with numerous visits each time we vacation on Maui. I knew there were going to be some great photos to be had there.

I, however, decided to opt out and do a little shooting on my own. Nothing too serious, just around some of the areas at the Hyatt Regency Maui where we were staying. Call it a decompressing period, just shooting to have a little fun without too much pressure or worrying about getting “the shot.” I felt it was a nice way to end my shooting for the trip.

Here are a few shots from my own little shoot around the Hyatt.

Photoshop'd stream along the Hyatt garden path Small Waterfall at the Hyatt The Hyatt Swan Court with the help of a little HDR processing Shy Hyatt Penguin in Paradise

Sunday’s Final Awards Ceremony

The workshops ended with a little awards ceremony on Sunday morning, and it was neat to have all (or most) of the attendees and presenters in the main ballroom one last time. With so much that had taken place in just those 4 days between all the keynotes, the breakout sessions, excursions, and the Paradise Cinema presentations, the entire event just seemed to be over in no time. Awards were given out in numerous categories for photos taken during the workshops, and the folks behind the Maui Photo Festival put together the following slideshow with the winners.

2009 Maui Photo Festival Best of the Fest Winners by mauiphotofestival on YouTube.

Read the Reviews

As I mentioned at the start of this post, there are already great reviews out there from attendees and presenters alike that are also showing their Aloha for this first annual Maui Photo Festival and Workshops. Be sure to check them out below.

You can also check out more photos from this year’s attendees, or share you own, at the official Maui Photo Festival 2009 Flickr Group or the unofficial one, too.

Countdown to Next Year’s Event

If you attended the ’09 event, than there’s a pretty good chance you’re interested in coming back for more. If you missed it and starting to wish you had made the trip, you definitely want to keep the following dates open for a visit to Maui.

August 25th – 29th, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Maui, Ka’anapali

We’ll definitely be there again, and it’s going to be great meeting up with all the folks I met this time around. Be sure to head on over to the Maui Photo Festival website for more details, and sign-up for their newsletter in the bottom-left side of the home page. Early registration is expected to begin in a few weeks, so be sure to grab a spot while you can.

Mahalo nui loa to everyone that made this event possible, to everyone I met that made it so enjoyable, and to my supportive wife, who made the big sacrifice by tagging along with me back to Maui for this event. :)

A hui hou,
– Kris