Earlier this year, I was sent on assignment by National Geographic Traveler Magazine to the island of Oahu. Two out of the ten people who had been nominated for “Travelers of the Year” awards were in Hawaii – one as a visitor and another as a resident. Travelers of the Year is NGT’s inaugural celebration of individuals who explore the world with passion and purpose. I’m often already based in Hawaii, but it’s such an easy flight to Honolulu from Portland that it was a natural fit. The story is out now in the December 2012 issue of the magazine. You can read about all ten notable travelers here. My two subjects were very different from one another, but both were passionate about travel.
Linda Yuen is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met. She’s well into her 80’s and still travels regularly. She and her husband snorkel weekly at Hanauma Bay Park, a beautiful, protected bay on Oahu that is frequented by tourists and locals alike. Linda and her husband swim a mile out from the beach once a week, help people who are visiting to identify undersea creatures and walk up and down the big hill to get in and out of the water. I get winded just thinking about it! It would have been ideal to shoot there, but the park has very strict hours and we would likely have to get a permit, so we had to find a different location for her portrait session. I thought that the best photo would be of her with her snorkel mask on, in the water. She was so brave to agree to this! Most women I know at any age wouldn’t be at all thrilled at the idea of appearing in a major national magazine in a swimsuit, but she was game. I had location scouted the beach in front of my hotel the night before to see if it would work with light, water depth, swell issues, (I didn’t have a water housing with me), and we agreed that Sans Souci Beach would be the perfect place for a late evening shoot. She and her husband not only like to swim there, they also like to eat dinner at the restaurant in the hotel there. A perfect fit! We had about 30 minutes of glorious light. Her sweet husband acted as my assistant and held the extra camera gear while I went in the water with Linda. She has such a beautiful smile and her face is full of life, so it was easy to get a wonderful photo of her.
Theron Humphrey is a young man who self-assigns projects that take him on adventures with a purpose. He was nominated for a project where he interviewed people from all 50 states. At the time we met up he was on his 50th state – Hawaii. We photographed him in several different scenarios, but my favorite location was one he had found the previous day, in a park on a hillside overlooking downtown Oahu. First I photographed him on a swing. This idea worked conceptually because he’s very much a free spirit and swinging into a seemingly infinite space seemed apropos. The second location was just down the path from the swing, up on a tree platform. Theron gingerly made his way up into the branches of the tree and I followed and stood as far back on the platform as possible, constantly reminding myself that I could easily fall backwards and break my neck! It was worth the effort even though it’s a more serious portrait. The gaze is straight at the camera and he’s out on a tree limb with no bottom in sight. When you follow your heart to the extent that he does for his photo-based projects, you will end up out there in the world in new and challenging environments and, quite literally, out on a limb.