In the next installment of Best Places For Photography, I present to you - Oahu!
I'll keep it short and sweet, and just highlight my favorite picks from a photography perspective, sprinkled with a few tips here and there. Of all the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu is a special mix of urban and tropical paradise. There is no shortage of places and things to shoot here. While looking for photos for this post, I've realized that I need to go back and redo a lot of the photos that I have. There were times I didn't use my DSLR, or that I just photographed things at the wrong time of day/year. That is one of the best things about photography, isn't it? We can always improve on our craft and find ways to do better, or have a different take on a subject each time we shoot it. In no particular order, let's get started!
NOTE: This is the Cliff Notes version, because to be honest, I spent a long time on the original post and lost it somehow even though the internet claimed to be "saving" my work.
1) Diamond Head (Mt. Leahi) Hike
Why you should go there: I've hiked this several times, and the view payoff is always rewarding. It is one of my favorite views, and not a bad hike, either. It is easy enough to do while lugging your camera gear up there.
Lenses you should bring: A wide lens for a selfie, and a zoom such as a 24-70 mm to get a nice shot of Honolulu.
Tip: Bring water, wear comfortable shoes, and go EARLY to avoid the tourists!
Why you should go there: There are so many good photo opportunities here. You can shoot everything from street photography, to macros, and landscapes.
Lenses you should bring: A 35 mm prime or a 24-70 mm zoom would be perfect for this.
Tip: Find a place to park once you enter Haleiwa, and photowalk the distance of the town. Walk back to your car and grab something from the shrimp trucks and some shave ice on the way back!
3) Kaka'ako Park and Magic Island
Why you should go there: You can get a postcard-worthy photo of the skyline and Diamond Head from these places.
Lenses you should bring: A 24-70 mm zoom should give you ample room to play with different compositions. I'd also bring a tripod if you're shooting this at blue hour or later.
Tip: Start at Kaka'ako Park (below). This is a great place to get shots of surfers, too.
You can move closer by going to Magic Island for long exposures of the skyline.
4) Manoa Falls Hike
Why you should go there: You'll get great photos of what feels like a tropical jungle in the middle of the city.
Lenses you should bring: To keep your gear light, I would bring a prime lens such as a 35 mm, and also a macro lens to get shots of flowers, plants, and bugs if you're into that. :)
Tip: Wear good shoes. The trail can be very slippery if it's been raining, and it's always raining.
5) China Walls
Why you should go there: This is a nice place to get photos (that's also not as busy). You'll see sunbathers and surfers out here, so I wouldn't linger too long taking photos (because that just kinda looks creepy.)
Lenses you should bring: A 24-70 mm should suffice. Clearly, a 24-70 mm would be a great lens to bring on any vacation!
Tip: Be weary of the tide and slipping on the rocks. I've seen some amazing photos of this area with the water crashing onto the rocks, but it also looks like it can be pretty dangerous if you don't know what you're doing or aren't familiar with the area.
6) Punchbowl Crater
Why you should go there: There is a gorgeous sweeping view of the city from here. You can also get some photos of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific while you're up here.
Lenses you should bring: A wide lens.
7) Valley of the Temples
Why you should go there: It's very picturesque and serene here - the perfect place to get away from the busy streets of Waikiki if that's where you're staying.
Lenses you should bring: A wide lens and a 24-70 mm zoom. A macro would also be great to get some detail shots.
Tips: Don't be loud and obnoxious. This is a cemetery, and every time I've been here, it has always been so quiet and peaceful. Don't be that person that ruins it for others looking to get away, worship, or visit their loved ones.
8) Makapu'u Lighthouse Hike
Why you should go there: This is an easy enough hike, and is child-friendly. The view payoff at the end is definitely worth it.
Lenses you should bring: A wide lens and a 24-70 mm zoom.
Tips: Wear comfortable shoes. The hike is paved, so you could get away with wearing sandals, but you should make sure they're still comfortable. However, if you do the other trails here, you should wear sneakers.
9) Pali Lookout
Why you should go there: Again, the view payoff is worth this short stop. There is a beautiful view of Kaneohe from here. You can also learn a little history while you're up there.
Lenses you should bring: A wide lens such as a 16-35 mm would be perfect.
Tips: This area can get very windy, so be careful.
10) Koko Head Trail
Why you should go there: Well, I can think of a lot of reasons why you wouldn't come here. I've only done this "hike" twice, and it kicked my butt both times. I use the word "hike" loosely, because to me, this is more of a climb than a hike. I recall literally climbing up the last couple steps because 1) I was so tired and 2) I was scared of heights and how steep it started to feel at the top. Hopefully, you're not like me, and won't have this issue.
Lenses you should bring: A 24-70 mm, or a nice point and shoot
Tips: Despite recommending a 24-70 mm lens, I have never brought a DSLR up on this hike. It can be quite strenuous, and lugging a DSLR up there may not be a good idea. Let's just say I know people who have, and it didn't end well.
11) A Luau
Why you should go there: A luau is a great place to get photos of activities, demonstrations, and of course the dancing at the end.
Lenses you should bring: A fast prime is an absolute must if you plan on shooting the dancing, as it's usually pretty dark by the time the show starts. I recommend a 35 mm and a longer prime such as an 85 mm or 135 mm.
Tips: I've done three different luaus on Oahu, and my favorite by far is the Paradise Cove Luau. The hosts that bring you over on the charter buses are usually pretty funny, and once you get there, you can immediately get a drink. The food isn't bad, and I enjoyed the activities and demonstrations they had at Paradise cove.
12) Kailua and Lanikai Beach
Why you should go there: The water is so blue and crystal clear. I never looked at SoCal beaches the same again after these beaches.
Lenses you should bring: If you plan do some shooting before enjoying the beach, I recommend doing that with your DSLR. I bought some cheap waterproof housing for my point and shoot to bring out onto the water with me, and I don't regret doing that. I had a Leica D-lux 6 at the time, and here's a link to what I bought for it. I had a great experience with it, but you use this at you're own risk!
Tips: If you think you'll require a bathroom, I'd recommend Kailua (below) over Lanikai. There are no public restrooms at Lanikai. You'd also have to access the beach by parking along the residential road and walking through one of the access points between two properties.
13) Pearl Harbor
Why you should go there: Aside from all the history, Pearl Harbor is a great place for photos. There is the memorial, the USS Missouri, and museums to keep your camera occupied.
Lenses you should bring: If you want to bring the perfect lens, I'd bring a 24-70 mm.
Tips: There is a very strict no bag policy when you enter Pearl Harbor. I wouldn't bring anything valuable with me that would have to be left in the car, either. Basically, I'd recommend bringing your wallet, and leaving your purse at the hotel room. They WILL tell you to check in your backpack or purse if you bring one. As for camera gear, you pretty much should bring a zoom lens. I'm not sure if they'd let you bring multiple lenses because that would require a bag. Please consult their website for more detailed information.
Why you should go there: Because you want to know about everything pineapple-related. :) Kidding. You should go here because despite it being a tourist trap, it is a great place to get photos. Even though it's kinda cheesy, I recommend doing the train ride. It'll take you out to the fields, and there are so many great photo ops out there.
Lenses you should bring: I recommend a 35 mm or a 24-70 mm.
Tips: Have some Dole Whip. Aside from Disneyland, I don't know where else you can get this. I once had some Dole Whip at a convenience store in Waikiki, and it was NOT the same Dole Whip I've had at the Dole Plantation or at Disneyland's Adventureland.
Why you should go there: This is an amazing place for street photography. If you can get up early enough, you can get shots of the streets without all the tourists as well. Take a walk to the water, and you can grab shots at The Wall (below) or take photos from one of the many jetties along the water.
Lenses you should bring: I recommend a 35 mm or a 24-70 mm.
Tips: If you're up for a walk, go to the Rainbow Drive In. It's about .75 miles from Walls to Rainbow Drive In, and you won't regret walking there. It's my favorite place to get a plate lunch (and a slush float!) You. Won't. Regret. It.