Light & Shadow

Oahu Family Fun

Photographing on Vacation

Joe Johnson shooting "Sunset Wave"

Shot by Anna Lea Johnson. She did a great job shooting Dad “at work”.

I just got back from a long weekend in Oahu with the family. We decided to surprise our kids, Tim and Anna and not tell them beforehand that we were going to Hawaii for the President’s Day holiday. This year their school let out both Friday and Monday, so we had just enough leeway to use up our time-share points with a compact family get-a-way to Honolulu. We bought discount airline tickets last year and did a good job of not letting the cat out of the bag for the last few months. Springing the secret after we picked up the kids on Thursday after school was probably more fun for us parents than for them, but I hope it’s something they’ll remember.

It’s always a challenge for me to mix family fun with serious photography. I’ve learned by sad experience, it’s best to not expect too much super-serious photography on a family trip like this one. Nevertheless, even if I’m not packin’ for bear at least I’ve got to bring some compact-but-capable gear I can use to bring back some photographic bacon. The perfect answer here is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 equipped with a 12mm f2.0 lens (24mm eqv), 45mm f1.8 lens (90mm eqv), a 12-50mm zoom and just for good measure, a 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 zoom (100-400 eqv). RRS makes a fantastic L-plate/grip set for the E-M5 that makes this super compact system a joy to use on and off the tripod. I also took our TQC-14 travel tripod with a BH-30 LR ballhead. The whole kit including a small camera bag, the tripod and head, battery charges, spare battery and cards all weighed just barely 10lbs! Perfect for schlepping through any airport!

Joe Johnson shooting in Oahu.

Btw, have you ever felt the incredible coarse gold sand between your toes at Oahu’s Sunset Beach? Amazing.

Luckily, I’m blessed with a very understanding family that doesn’t get too bent out of shape when I take a little too long shooting whatever subject that most non-photographers just yawn about after the first five minutes (or was it 30?). One way to reduce the boredom for the kids is to get them involved in the process. We were lucky to be on the island when some truly humongous waves were crashing on the North Shore, so we loaded into the rental car and headed up to see the surfers risking life and limb at sunset. I was busy shooting intrepid surfers shooting down the face of what was easily 25-30 foot waves and handed Anna my iPhone and asked her to shoot me at work. I was using the 50-200mm zoom lens, which was made for the E-series DSLR bodies. The autofocus system does not mate well with the E-M5, so I had to shoot in manual focus mode; very difficult with fast moving subjects. I did not get a lot of keepers, but I have to say Anna’s shots were great and probably better than mine (can you hear the vest buttons popping?)! I’ll let you be the judge.

Surfers on huge waves in Oahu.

Surfin Da Wave by Joe Johnson

Notes: Immense waves + crazy surfers = awesome sight. This is one place where I wish I’d brought the heavy artillery along, but the impression is very intimidating even with the four-thirds outfit.

Waves crashing on the beach in Oahu, Hawaii.

Sunset Wave by Joe Johnson

Notes: It’s much easier shooting away from the sun to capture the color in the sky and manage the contrast.

Wawamalu Beach Park in Oahu.

Wawamalu Beach Park Sunrise Pano by Joe Johnson

Notes: This was a four-panel HDR pano. Two images were composited per panel using Photomatix Pro v4.2.4. The MPR-CL was set @ 47mm for the no-parallax point. I didn’t have a PCL panning clamp with me, so I just had to level the tripod and camera as best I could using the on-camera horizon level and then mounted the camera in vertical orientation in the MPR-CL. The trick was getting the camera with the 24mm equivalent wide-angle lens close enough to the foreground/wave-action and keeping the surf spray off the camera between shots. I also had to time the shots between the waves to minimize ghosting in the water between the stitched panels.

Byodo In and Koi in Oahu.

Byodo-In Koi by Joe Johnson

Notes: This was a five-image HDR exposure fusion using Photomatix Pro v4.2.4. This is a simple postcard shot, but I like it very much with the Koi in the pond that’s reflecting the colors in the sky and the temple.


Article written by Joe Johnson, Owner of Really Right Stuff