St. Louis Zoo zookeeper cleaning the reticulated python exhibit
What a crazy year 2015 has been! In January, I assumed a part-time role with f-stop Gear as their St. Louis Community Manager. This company designs expedition and backcountry packs for adventure photographers (landscape, action sports, nature, travel, etc.). As well, I took over curation duties at The Dark Room Photo Gallery and Wine Bar on behalf of my other employer, the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum. The first exhibit that I would mount there was James Palmour: Reclaimed, a solo show of urban interior images by the St. louis-based, architectural preservationist photographer.
installation image of James Palmour: Reclaimed
As mentioned previously, my last trip to Hawaii left me considering our relationship to our cameras and the images they make. A tour of Honolulu made me broadly aware of the spectrum of motivation behind our image-making; does a photograph make a document, and if so, is the document of the subject in front of the camera or the one behind it?
I recently converted to using the F-Stop Millar Series, Bandon bag in an effort to make my street shooting process quicker, lighter, and more efficient. Essentially, the problem for photographers who shoot like I do is that the bags that you are likely to encounter are either designed for speed or transport. Those designed for speed, like many slings, typically do not hold as much gear, and/or are a bit uncomfortable for many physiques. Those designed for transport usually weigh a ton when packed, and/or require you to take the bag off of your body to access your gear. In terms of styling, almost no affordable bags on the market look anything other than utilitarian. I am happy to report that, with the Bandon, none of the conventional wisdom applies.
On day twelve, we arrived in Vancouver in British Columbia (Canada). This day was a whirlwind that included disembarkation from Solstice, a customs inspection in the Canadian port, a U.S. border crossing, almost ten hours on a bus, a red eye flight from Seattle to Chicago, a two hour lay over at O’Hare Airport, a one hour flight back to St. Louis, and time spent tracking down our luggage (which somehow made it to Akron, Ohio). Yes, exhausting….
Still, we somehow made time to do a little exploring in Vancouver and in Seattle.
The Celebrity Solstice ship that we stayed upon during the duration of our vacation is one of eleven ships in the Celebrity fleet, and at over 1,000 feet long and 122,000 tons is the 31st largest cruise ship active today (it is an awful comparison, but the ship is 200 feet longer and almost three times heavier than the Titanic). In terms of amenities, the 16 decks on Solstice offer a half-acre of living grass, a basketball court, the Cornish Hot Glass Studio, an arcade, a casino, and a 1,000+ seat theatre, in addition to the restaurants, pools, and shops that you probably expect. Live music and entertainment was provided each night while at sea, and the ship even coordinates shore excursions for a fee. It goes almost without saying then that there is always something to do while aboard. However, the truly special element for us was the crew, who remembered us from day to day and took a personal interest in our family. This was so important to our son, who really enjoyed visiting his new friends.
Arriving in Hilo, Hawaii on day six, we were pleasantly surprised to realize that there was room for our massive cruise ship to dock (tendering back and forth eats up a lot of exploring time).
On this day, we rented another vehicle (a car this time) and set out to see Rainbow Falls, Hilo Farmer’s Market (one of the state’s largest with over 200 vendors), and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
A beautiful sunrise over distant mountaintops greeted our ship as it cruised into the harbor of Kona-Kailua on Hawaii (the “Big Island”). After tendering ashore, we joined the group again for another bus tour, this time to visit the Royal Kona Coffee factory, St. Benedict’s Painted Church, and Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (the Place of Refuge). When the tour completed, we explored the town of Kona-Kailua.
The truck that we rented on day three came in to play on day four for our road trip to Hana (and the Pipiwai Trail just beyond). If you have never been, the undulating road to Hana is a destination in and of itself with more than 600 hairpin turns, over 50 one-lane bridges, and many dramatic views of the coastline. For this reason, Hana is one of the remotest towns in all of the Hawaiian islands. I should note that a Chevrolet Silverado 4×4 pick-up truck is not the preferred vehicle for this task as it takes up more than its share of the narrow lanes, and was quite a surprise, considering we had reserved a Corolla. Nonetheless, I drove both ways and we lived, despite my having to reverse several times and/or hug the edge of the road (with a likely fatal drop-off beyond).
On day three, our ship arrived in the port of Lahaina on the island of Maui. After tendering ashore, we rented a truck (for the next day’s events), promptly parked it, and proceeded to explore the town on foot.
Lahaina was a 19th century whaling port, and the former tribal capital of Hawaii. While the town is heavily catered to tourists, it still possesses a lot of charm. Historically, the downtown area offers much, including the largest banyan tree in the United States (140+ years old!) and many buildings of note.