There are a few moments over our lives that give us pause. Time to reflect and see what’s changed. Around us. Inside us. More so in the last couple years, I’ve noticed more awareness of my time here on this special rock in the middle of the ocean. Meeting more people that are more recent comers. Realizing that trees I photographed at the start of my career are now 20′ taller. Watching things change…and stay the same.
15 years has now passed since I arrived on Kaua’i on a Wednesday evening as a 24 year old ski bum that had semi-recently dove deeper in to photography. Little could have prepared myself for the journey which was to come, but this story is not unique for those in their mid-20s, still figuring out life and purpose (though that never ends, let’s be honest). I’ve now spent almost all of my adult life here on island. Developing my career, my human, my friends and relationships. Something that, at the time, was an interesting way to go live in Hawai’i.
Now, on the verge of opening my 7th Gallery I dont think I would have believed anyone that said I was going to open and close 5 others over the years.
I’ve been incredibly lucky, by hard work at times, but also to end up in such a place that opened up its arms where so many have dealt the opposite. Kaua’i is a special place, not only for the immense beauty but for the raw reveal that we get when living here. I’m grateful for these moments and learning experiences as it is the only way to grow and evolve.
People tend to ask, more so these days, if I’m a lifer here. And while I can never predict the future, I do hope that this island continues to nourish and help support my journey. Until a time comes where things no longer serve me, but at this point there is no end in sight.
Looking back at 24 year old Aaron, on the precipice of my 40th birthday I wonder what 55 year old Aaron will have to say about the next 15 years to come 🙏
Much thanks to everyone and anyone who has made my life here what it has been. Some fleeting, some life long friends. With every bit of it adding to my existence. Forever grateful.
I was lucky enough (semi) recently to make another adventure to the surreal land that is Kalalau Valley on Kaua’i’s Na Pali Coast. However, this time was a bit different. Hiking in for the first time and testing what the body is capable of. I’ve always been leary of the hike. As I knew, no matter what, the camera gear was going to add a significant amount of weight to a packed bag. That added to the length (11.5 miles from parking lot to campsite) and the infamous “crawlers ledge” had always deterred me. Well, this time there was no turning back. Plans were put in motion to hike in and with the lack of traffic on island currently because of the obvious pandemic reasons, permits were readily available last minute.
The decision was made to only take 2 lenses, my camera body and the tripod in addition to camping supplies, food, (very limited) clothing and couple odds and ends. Trying to keep the pack weight as ‘low’ as possible. However, this meant upon leaving there was easily 50+lbs on my back. Lets GOOOOOO!
Making the way up the trail the body was quick to pick up that this was not an ordinary hike. Not only was I carrying potentially the heaviest pack I had ever tried, (one equal one perhaps in 2004 to ski Tuckerman’s Ravine in NH…when I was much younger), but I was also attempting the longest hike I had ever been on. Getting a bit of a late start meant hiking through the midday sun. But onward we go. I will say, there is a meditative cadence to excessive physical effort with such hikes. The focus on foot placement….the sounds of the trail…and of course, the views, lend themselves to a full sensory experience.
One of the few perks of leaving so late was that we arrived at the top of “red hill” (the iconic 800′ or so hill that guards the entry (and exit) to The Valley) just as the sun was nearing the horizon. Sunset arrival was glorious. This was also the final decent for the day and our bodies were ready to stop walking. The renewed energy shot through the legs and down we went. To the forest, then river, then finally our perfect campsite and then the waterfall. Whew. 7 hours from trailhead to campsite and 11.8 miles. Ibuprofen was on the menu for dinner that night.
Given that we had ‘only’ 2 full days to BE in Kalalau there was not much time to rest, even though the only thought that first night was…I wonder how this is gonna feel tomorrow??. Oddly enough, while tired, our legs werent too sore and being there is much to explore, after a slow and relaxing morning on the beach in what has to be one of the most unreal places on earth, off we went through the forest to Big Pools. A snaking ancient (or at least feels to be that way) trail up the forest, through Hau bush, lush fluffy forest and finally an epic set of waterfalls and pools roughly 2 miles up the valley. Relaxation was on the menu as well as some photography of course, where I reshot a composition I had taken earlier this year (which I am quite happy with as well). Then it was time to race the sun back to camp. While our timing was a bit off we decided to spend sunset from Mars hill and enjoy the bit of color and cool breeze before making it back to camp. Another 5 miles of hiking in the books.
Day 3 was when the acknowledgement of the legs started to take place. While not overly sore to walk, to the touch it was apparent there was not much rest going on. But again, it was off on another adventure day, albeit after a nice and relaxing start to the day. Up through a less obvious trail that ascends on the other side of the valley. This one in contradiction to the day prior, with a much drier and autumn like feel. Considering the time of year it could almost be a fall hike in another part of the world…but then realizing it was still 82F and the leaves strewn about the ground and brown/red/sienna color palette were seemingly an aborition to another time and place. Onwards we went up to Convict and Ginger Pools. More amazing nooks buried within this amazing Valley. This time however we did not overstay as we knew what awaited us the following day. Arriving back at camp another 4ish miles in the books. Admittedly the daunting task of the next day very much on the mind. Did we go too hard and not rest enough? How was the body going to handle another 11.5 mile day with that weight? Our dinners finished timely and off to bed at the earliest time I could remember laying down at. We were at least going to be rested as much as we could.
Time to get moving…645am alarm. Eat, pack and a quick toss of the frisbee underneath the iconic cathedral peeks. Reaching down to grab the pack that familiar feeling from 3 days prior shot back. Only this time the legs werent as fresh. While not as heavy as entry due to the lack of food weight, the legs were aware it was going to be a fun day. Off we went, 9am on the dot and one turn over the shoulder to say goodbye mentally one last time to our beachside home for the last 3 nights. The plan on this day was to leave a bit earlier to allow for more photography along the way back as I did not shoot any photographs until Red Hill on the way in. Figuring in that we were tired the calculation was 7.5hrs to hike. Knowing what we were up against the mental gymnastics begins early on as the decent in to Kalalau a few days prior at sunset turns in to an epic grind to start the day. Ok legs…this is your job today. Dont let me down. Surprisingly, while aware of the fatigue the body wants to crush on. And we walk…and walk…and walk. This time with opposite views, both in direction and light. The cool (for Kaua’i standards) morning air in the shadows along the trail a welcome reprieve from the blasting sun baking off the red dirt that was to come later in the day.
I’m impressed at our pace and even with stopping for photos to capture the Crawlers Ledge and other views, before we know it we reach the ‘half’ (not really half) way point of Hanakoa Valley. At this point we know the sketchiest terrain is behind us, however the most amount of elevation gain (and loss) lies ahead of us. But down the home stretch. This time a deep meditative focus comes over me as we wind our way through verdant valleys, across streams and finally up to Space Rock, the highest point on the entire Kalalau Trail. From here we know it’s a decently steep decent to Hanakapi’ai Valley and then the grueling climb up. But the mileage counter is down to 3 and we’re on it. As expected the climb out of Hanakapi’ai is brutal. Mid-afternoon sun. Dirt trail with no shade to speak of for long stretches of time. Hot wind wafts around us as our pace slows drastically. But we know the finish line is coming. The thought of jumping in the ocean at Ke’e and pizza await.
And just as it all started, we’re back at the same trailhead again. Cars. People. Civilization. Almost a mini culture shock even being gone only 3 nights. We stick out among the decent size weekend crowd enjoying a picture perfect Ke’e Sunday afternoon. Walking on to the sand with our packs, shoes and socks on, quickly removing everything as fast as we can and then that sweet relief of the late September Pacific Ocean. Magic.
Having experienced The Valley before in different ways, I will say that the hike is most certainly a pilgrimage. A lesson in what our bodies can do and a mental exercise that feels like a deep meditation. Sure there are less physically demanding ways to explore Kalalau but nothing will be quite the same as packing up a bag and experiencing the journey that the Kalalau Trail has to offer for the soul.
2 very special images…now available in VERY small Limited Editions of 30. Email for details!
On a free evening I decided to head out to the west side to chase, what I thought, was a potential photo idea at Pakala’s. A long empty stretch of beach outside Waimea. After arriving and shooting some later afternoon light I referenced my app and realized that what I thought was possible was not going to happen. Quick thinking and decided to head down to the Waimea Pier where I had scouted an image a year or two before. While the main show for me was going to be the Milky Way (an image also captured later that evening), the twilight glow on the pier was stunning. I used a wide angle lens and composed the frame to accentuate the lines heading out in to the Pacific. A perfectly serene scene to capture the feeling of the calm that is the west side.
Now available from aFeinberg Gallery!
Limited Edition of 100. Artist Proof of 10. Contact us for personal assistance today!
Well it’s been a bit since I checked in with our faithful blog. This summer was a whirlwind including my 7th Burning Man. Those images have still yet to be posted as life has kept me preoccupied but will be coming later this week!
Most importantly aFeinberg Galleries has expanded and we welcome the newest (re)visit to Hanalei! Taking over for Ola’s who was at the Dolphin building for over 35 years this is an exciting space showcasing many never before seen images, including some that will never be made public online.
Our Grand Opening will be Friday, Jan 18th starting at 3pm. We welcome you to join us and will be offering a special gift with any new Collection made that day!
Look forward to sharing all the new for this new year!
Wanted to share a fun image from a couple weeks ago here on Kaua’i. After photographing the Kilauea Lighthouse last year I have put it in my calendar to remind me each year to visit for this very unique opportunity. For about 30-45 minutes a year they light the main light. Doing so allows for some really unique imagery! You can see last year’s attempt here: This year I wanted a different perspective and went with the classic overlook along the road. What we couldnt have predicted was the blazing sunset to accompany our time hanging with the bird and taking photographs. All in all…another great year for the Kilauea Lighthouse 🙂
Been trying to shoot more lately and had a free afternoon a couple days ago so ran out of the house a bit before sunset. Generally these days I carry 2 bags, one camera and one drone. Never know what I want to do so best to have options. I had been eyeing the field near my house (again) and set off on the short drive.
Flying around the light was pretty great. As it was fairly cloudy, the sun would pop in and out creating some awesome dappled scenes. As I captured my field shot (to be shared at a different time) I decided to fly around and see what else was there when the pattern of the orchard caught my attention.
I tried a few different compositions, all playing with the patterns, but this particular exposure caught me. This frame was in between the sun coming from shadow to sun so the across the scene was soft and unique.
The original shot is vertical but also added a square crop as well. Which one do you prefer??
All in all a fun afternoon and more to share later. Thanks!
P.S. Bonus points if you know what kinds of tress they are 😉
Was up in Waimea Canyon a couple of weeks ago to celebrate a birthday. Luckily it landed on a day off and I was able to join in the fun. We hiked around the forest and then I brought them to one of my faovrite spots on Kaua’i for sunset. Getting down to this spot is a bit nerve wracking but worth it every time. I’ve been here on a number of occasionis and each time is incredible. As with my previous adventure here the light was doing some magical things. Before the sun dropped below the mountainside we had incredible beams in front of us.
As for the title…well Mark Twain famously DIDNT call Waimea Canyon the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. But still makes for a good story 😉
A number of years ago, while traveling back home from a Polihale mission I had stopped over at the Waimea Pier on the west side of Kaua’i. At the time I had only photographed it 1 or 2 times and I generally like to scout and imagine places under different conditions. Doing some calculations I knew I wanted to return at night. Fast forward way longer than I imagined it would take, I had the opprotunity to get out for some photography and headed to a different location. As the sun set over there I realized that I was in the wrong place and remembered the spot I had imagined long ago. Getting there at dusk there were a number of images (another successful pier shot for another time), I was able to make and then waited for the sky to darken enough for the stars and Milky Way to be seen. This spot is extra tricky as it is right at the edge of town so the light polution becomes problematic pretty quickly. As the sky darkened the stars shown through. The camera’s sensitive settings allowing it to pick up the last little bit of twilight glow in the sky giving the scene a surreal look.
Had the pleasure of visiting this incredible location early Sept of 2017 after this year’s Burning Man. Needless to say going to the desert after a hot event might have been a mistake as it was over 100F when this was taken. As we were hiking back to the car there were some storms off in the distance. With the obviously amazing rock in the foreground I was able to capture only one frame with lightning. Between the hot weather and lighting…definitely valley of fire.
As photographers we tend to intake lots of imagery. Being self-taught that is pretty much how I learned over the years. Along this path we come across photographs that tend to stick with us, or at least the idea of a certain scene or conditions. The ‘tree on a hill’ idea is nothing new. But of course I’ve wanted my own version. Well, while on a trip with my partner in March ’17 to the Central Coast of California we had the amazing opportunity to photograph this sunrise. Incredibly this was the property next door from where she grew up. What I couldnt expect was the incredible conditions we were about to experience. As the sky brightened this low ground fog hung around the small rolling hills. Then, all hell broke lose and the sky went nuclear. There are a number of photographs from this morning that are in my back pocket to share along the way but I will say this is a morning that will stay with me forever. Photographs or not 🙂