It was a good thing we were still on east coast time because this morning I had a very early wake up call with Oahu Photography Tours! I signed up for the Sunrise Walking Tour online and the pickup time was 5:30am. At around 4 am we were already wide awake so we went to one of the few places that was open for breakfast – Wailana Coffee House, our usual breakfast spot located near the Hilton Hawaiian Village end of Waikiki. They are open 24 hours only from Fri – Sun I believe.
I got my usual cup of delicious creamy muesli topped with bananas and mac nuts with a side of Portugese sausage, and Steve got his usual “Irish” breakfast – a massive breakfast platter with a corned beef hash-stuffed omelet, hash browns, toast, and topped off with a grilled pineapple! Steve was not coming on the photo tour as he’s must less of a photography enthusiast than I am – he was going to take a surfing lesson instead!
At around 5:40am I was picked up in the tour van…it was a brand new van and we were the first group to tour in it! There were about 8 of us on the tour plus our instructor, who was super friendly and very knowledgeable about Hawaiian history and skilled in photography. I had brought a compact Canon DSLR on this trip. It was my first DSLR, a 6 year-old Canon XSi that is lightweight and works like a charm. I brought 3 lenses with me, but really just ended up shooting with 2: a wide angle 10-22mm zoom, and a 18-55mm kit lens. Just to know, you don’t need to have a good camera or know much photography to go on this tour. It’s more about visiting the picturesque spots on the island and learning a bit of technical knowledge on shooting landscapes, especially during sunrise.
Our first stop was Sandy Beach! Since this was a sunrise tour, all our stops were on the windward (east) side of Oahu. It was right before sunrise and we were told the lay of the land, and the best spots on the beach to set up for the perfect shot. We were all given tripods although you didn’t have to use it if you didn’t want to (although I highly recommend one so your shots aren’t blurry). Also know they have tripod adapters for those with smart phones and small cameras. I would say half of us had DSLRs and the other half were just using their point and shoots and smartphones!
I used a wide angle lens most of the time to capture every detail of the sunrise. I didn’t have any special filters for my lenses except a circular polarizer but I took it off for the sunrise pics. According to our instructor, the sun’s reflection is what you want in these types of pictures and I agree (the circular polarizer reduces glare from water). I set my aperture to about a f8 and higher because I wanted to try and maintain some definition in the sunlight. As the sun got brighter and brighter I had to go up a few f-stops because my pictures were getting blown out. It has been a while since I’ve done some true landscape photography so I spent a lot of time getting back up to speed with my camera settings. I prefer to shoot manually although I think most people will have an easier time with aperture-priority for these landscape pictures. The sunrise was just amazing! It was such a beautiful sight. I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves.
After we had taken a gazillion sunrise pictures, it was off to Makapu’u Lookout! Makapu’u has a lovely small beach but the main attraction here is the scenic lamisil generic lookout point, trail, and lighthouse. The lookout overlooked the beach area. It was very pretty but very windy. We got shots of the beach, and the little island off to the side (I think it’s called Rabbit Island). You can’t really get pictures of the lighthouse from this angle as it’s above the lookout. It was hard to get a nice exposure because it was so sunny, and the rocks surrounding the bay are dark, but I think the shots I managed to get were ok.
After the lookout we went down to where the beach was and spent some photographing the water and surrounding areas. It was so pretty because the rocky areas and bright green vegetation added some nice color and detail to the pictures.
Then, it was off to Waimanalo Beach Park – a beautiful wide open beach with a huge stretch of golden sand and tall palm trees in the background. There are bathroom facilities here as well. This beach was fun – although it was getting really hot, the trees provided some nice shade and lots of interesting opportunities to frame your pictures.
After some time on the beach it was time for our “breakfast break” – we stopped in the town of Kailua at the Kalapawai Market. It was your simple grocery/deli counter where you can get some breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and coffee. Since I already had breakfast I just got a yogurt parfait but I must say it was very lackluster (prepackaged yogurt and store-bought granola). Some others who got a breakfast burrito said it was just ok too. Not sure if this place is better for lunch – but to me it was just ok. A decent place to stop for supplies and a sandwich before hitting the beach in Kailua maybe, but nowhere I’d go out of the way for.
After our break it was time to head to the Pali Lookout! On the way there we stopped on the side of the road for some shots of the majestic mountains. Since it was misty it is hard to get some detail on the mountains but we waited a little bit and we did eventually get some light.
At Pali Lookout we traveled off the beaten path, down a side trail and went past a blockade that said “Road Closed” (we had special permission to go there though). The views of windward Oahu were magnificent as usual. Throughout the trip our instructor was also going through the history of some of the locations, including the bloody history of the Pali Lookout.
The Pali Lookout was our last stop, and we headed back to Waikiki. It was probably a 5.5 hour total experience. I got back to the Banyan at around 11am. The tour was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it. I have gotten lazy over the years and have stopped traveling with my DSLR so I was glad to take some pictures on my nice camera, although after that day I didn’t bother to bring out the DSLR again. It was just too heavy and I didn’t want to leave it in the car when we went to the beach.
Steve finished his surfing lesson about the same time I got back to the condo. He surfed down by the beach in front of the Royal Hawaiian. He had a ton of fun and managed to get up on the board a few times! (It was his first lesson).
We both had a pretty active morning and we were hungry…coming up…some lunch!
Read more about our November 2015 trip to Honolulu, Hawaii!