Koolina Vacation Photos | Can’t Stop the Fun

Why a Documentary Approach to Family Photos Captured Her Heart

On a whim, Stephanie booked a documentary photo session during a trip to London. She fell in love with the results. Like so many of my clients (and myself), Stephanie doesn’t love the process of family portraits. It often feels stiff and unnatural and you find yourself stressing over the results. Still, she wanted the photos so she continued to push herself and her family into these uncomfortable situations. Until London. It was a game-changer and now she seeks out this low-key, fun photo style on her travels.

family portrait at koolina lagoon oahu

A Twisted Ankle Can’t Stop the Fun

Traveling from the east coast made a morning session an easy choice, but where to go? Their vacation style is one of extreme relaxation and comfort. The kind where you’re surrounded by beauty and warmth and have tasty food at your fingertips. They planned one day of adventuring, touring the island in a fun jeep and ending with a luau, but were unsure if they wanted to schedule photos on that day.

In the end, it worked better to stay close. Their daughter, a bright, silly girl with a warm smile, twisted her ankle badly after arriving in Hawaii – a cartwheel on the beach gone wrong. To keep things simple, they decided to have their session at Paradise Cove Beach, near their hotel in Koolina.

Photos on land were a little delicate as we didn’t want her to further injure her ankle in the loose sand. As soon as it warmed up enough, we made the transition to the smooth blue water where she could move freely and without pain. They tossed a football, swam, and searched for treasure until they were shivering with cold. Despite the injury, it was the low-key morning they needed.

messy family hug during a hawaii photo session at koolina beach
couple portrait in hawaii with outrigger in the distance
mom snuggles daughter in black and white during a family photo session
Koolina Vacation Photos at paradise cove
girl laughing with sunshine behind
boy skipping rocks at paradise cove koolina
mom kissing daughter on the forehead during a family photo session
siblings share a laugh during a koolina photo session
family portrait in hawaii
mom giving son a big hug at a beach in hawaii
hawaii family beach portrait at ko olina
black and white portrait of a boy in the water at ko olina lagoon by little bird photography
over under water portrait of a girl in hawaii
boy on an intertube in the water in hawaii
family tosses a football in the water at a hawaii beach
family portrait from the clear blue water of koolina lagoon
family explores hawaii tide pool captured by hawaii photographer
girl swimming underwater with palm trees in the distance
siblings play in the shallows at paradise cove lagoon in koolina
black and white portrait of a family playing at the beach in oahu hawaii
boy with a fishing net searching for fish at paradise cove lagoon oahu

Do you Hate Have Your Photo Taken?

Me too. Avoid the awkward and let’s plan a morning that’s actually fun instead. Find out more about my salty, sun-drenched photo sessions here.

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    Waikiki Photographer | A Special Morning at Ala Moana Beach Park

    A New Era

    The trip to Hawaii was meant as a celebration. A way to mark a new era after years of hardship and deployment. This was their time and Trish wanted to highlight the occasion with an informal exchange of vows on the beach. No guests. No minister. Just an intimate sharing of words when the time felt right. She asked me to capture their morning together in a casual, unobtrusive way.

    family silhouette with diamond head and waikiki in the background

    Avoiding the Crowds in Waikiki

    I have to admit, I was a little nervous about the location. They were staying in Waikiki at the newly renovated Hale Koa Resort and wanted to stay nearby. I normally avoid Waikiki in favor of uncrowded, natural spaces around the island. However, they wanted their time in Hawaii to be as low-key and relaxed as possible so they didn’t want to rent a car. I can’t blame them as traffic and parking can be a nightmare around the city.

    At the same time, they weren’t crazy about crowds. Trish, like many of my clients, described herself and her husband as awkward and uncomfortable in front of the camera. Me too, guys. Me too.

    Now, this posed a bit of a dilemma because how can you stay close to Waikiki and avoid other people? I brainstormed a few options and they settled on Magic Island which sits at the tip of Ala Moana Beach Park. We would take in the lovely views of Diamond Head and Waikiki as the sun came up.

    About the Session

    Magic Island is a bustling scene at sunrise. As we walked out to the beach, we passed runners, joggers, and power-walkers. We past people on all manner of wheels from rollerblades to one-wheels and on the grassy lawn were scattered tai chi and stroller fitness classes. There’s a lot of fitness happening out there. Even the water was busy with swimmers, surfers, and a group practicing yoga on oversized paddleboards. It wasn’t exactly a quiet, intimate setting.

    Any apprehension they felt quickly faded in the wake of their daughter’s vibrant energy. She glowed with happiness and silliness as she bounced from one parent to the next sharing her enthusiasm and love of life. All the people faded into the background and they were able to focus on their love for each other. It ended up being the beautiful, low-key morning the hoped for.

    mom hugs daughter at ala moana beach park in waikiki
    silhouettes in the sand at magic island
    girl tickles her dad during a waikiki photo session
    girl yells at the trees
    mom and daughter play at magic island in waikiki
    joyful girl during family portrait session in waikiki
    10th-anniversary celebration in hawaii
    closeup of girl hugging her parents by waikiki photographer little bird
    a mini waikiki photographer captures her parents as they exchange vows
    mini waikiki photographer
    family portrait
    girl draws a heart in the sand in waikiki beach
    couple hugs during a 10th anniversary celebration in hawaii
    dad and daughter play flight during a fun family photography session in hawaii
    girl and her dad play at magic island in waikiki
    family portrait by oahu family photographer
    girl does handstands by a banyan tree is waikiki
    family splashes at magic island beach outside waikiki

    Need a Waikiki Photographer for Your Family Vacation?

    Let’s head out for a morning adventure! Find out more about my fun family photo sessions here.

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      Mini Family Portrait + Film Session | Lanikai Beach Sunrise, Kailua Oahu

      A Late Start

      It was a rough start to the morning. They were planning to make the long drive from Koolina to Lanikai Beach by sunrise, but they woke up late. In a rush, they left their custom lei po’o in the parking garage. The beautiful flowers lie on the ground next to their parking spot wilting in the growing heat. To make matters worse, leaving late meant they were stuck in rush hour traffic and arrived well after sunrise. As a mom hoping for great photos and a great experience, it was hard to shake off the frazzled, disappointed energy. Fortunately, kids don’t care about lighting or pretty leis, they care about fun and the beach and they immediately got to playing.

      Can’t Stop the Fun

      Sheri and her family have photos taken annually for Christmas cards but doesn’t love the experience. For their first Hawaii session, she wanted something that didn’t feel forced and unnatural. Besides, her girls have a lot of energy and she hates stressing about them following directions.

      So we scheduled a mini photo and film family session at one of my favorite, baby-friendly beaches. An easy morning of games and beach time. They were a little tentative around the water at first, but quickly discovered the joys of chasing waves. They played and laughed as a family, the mornings chaos happily left behind.

      You can see their mini family film below.

      And you can see a sample of their photos below –

      mom holds baby and watches family play along the shore at lanikai beach
      dad and toddler portrait at the beach
      family walking along the shore at lanikai beach kailua
      portrait of a girl at the beach
      mom and toddler photo session at lanikai beach with the mokuluas in the background
      dad holds daughter in the air at sunrise over lanikai beach during a family photogrpahy session in hawaii
      girl hugs older brother during a photo session
      silhouette of dad and daughters on the beach at lanikai beach
      closeup toddler portrait
      sisters hold hands at lanikai beach
      mom and toddler daughter play at lanikai beach during a photo session
      sisters play in the water at lanikai beach
      girl running to get water at lanikai beach kailua during a fun photo session
      big sister holding baby at lanikai beach
      toddler and footprints in the sand in kailua oahu

      Want a Bit of Both Worlds?

      Not sure how you feel about a family film? Only need a small set of photos? Book a mini family portrait + film session so you can have the best of both worlds. Contact me today so we can start planning a fun morning that fits your family.

      North Shore Beaches Oahu | The Perfection of Waimea Bay

      Waimea Bay in Summer

      Waimea Bay is known as the birth place of big wave surfing. Massive barrels fill the bay in winter months as crowds gather to watch surfers slide easily down the smooth faces. It’s spectacular to witness, but my favorite time to visit Waimea is in the summer.

      Summer is for snorkeling in the clear, blue water. There isn’t as much coral as neighboring beaches like Shark’s Cove, but you can still find fish and even turtles. Honestly, I would be content simply watching the waves make patterns on the sandy ocean bottom as they meet the shore.

      Go early (or late) to avoid the heat of the day or bring shade and cool drinks to make your visit more luxurious.

      Braving the Jumping Rock

      Our usual spot at Waimea is the east end of the bay where the waves are subdued and the snorkeling is good. This year, however, the kids were more interested in the jumping rock than snorkeling.

      A continuous wave of jumpers made their way up the rock. Some exhibiting impressive backflips and spins. Others hesitating as they looked at the water far below. One serious man balanced carefully on his toes at the edge of the highest peak before jumping back into a tight tuck, seemingly skimming the cliff face on his way down in a graceful arc. Others fought for the title of the biggest splash with charismatic cannonballs and belly flops.

      Micah and Mila tend to be a little more cautious and they carefully watched the scene studying each of these jumpers and the various jumping points. It took two visits for them to move from the lowest point to “middle”. At each level, they would waver and make deals with each other before finally making the leap. After, they would race back up to the same spot with big smiles to jump again.

      view of Waimea Bay from the jumping rock
      climbing the cliffs at Waimea Bay near sunset on the north shore of Oahu
      view of waimea bay jumping rock from the water
      girl walking on the beach near sunset at waimea bay
      girl working up the nerve to jump from the cliffs of waimea
      girl taking a break on a rock at waimea bay near sunset in hawaii
      kids playing in the water at waimea bay
      underwater view of waimea bay at sunset
      girl on the jumping rock at waimea bay on oahu
      boy mid jump from the rock at waimea bay oahu
      girl making her way to the top of the jumping rock at waimea bay
      people preparing to jump from the cliffs of waimea bay on oahu's north shore
      sunset on the north shore of oahu

      Looking for More Fun on the North Shore?

      Start your day wandering past tropical plants and swimming under the waterfall at adjacent Waimea Valley and end with a sunset dip in the ocean. For more ideas on family fun in Hawaii, sign up for the Little Bird Post below.

      Yokohama Bay Photography | Fun at the End of the Road

      For the Love of Skateboarding

      “My boys have a lot of energy”, Jessica told me in a slightly exasperated tone. We were brainstorming possible locations for their upcoming family photo session. “We love the beach, the park, skateboarding …” I couldn’t help but cut her off. “Skateboarding sounds like an amazing idea!” I squeaked in excitement.

      My kids never fell in love with skateboarding much to my dismay because it’s so much fun to photograph. In fact, a family from the north shore tantalized me a few years back with the idea of photographing them at home where they had built their own well-loved skateboard ramp. Visions of gritty kids shredding made my heart flutter. I giddily began to storyboard and plan both the photos and video that I would capture to highlight the family’s connection to skateboarding. Sadly, they changed their minds last minute and opted for a beach session instead. I’m pretty sure that when I dragged my own kids to the local skate park.

      So, yes, I latched onto the idea of skateboarding and when they told me their favorite spot was Yokohama – the end of the road on the leeward coast – it sounded like the perfect plan. We would start early with beach photos and when the boys tired of the sand, we would switch to skateboards.

      big family hug at the beach during a photoshoot in leeward Oahu

      A Ticking Clock

      The air was still and hang heavy with humidity when I arrived at Yokohama Bay. I emerged from the car and stretched attempting to shake off the long drive. It promised to be a beautiful, but brutally hot morning.

      Just as advertised, the boys tumbled from their car in a bundle of chaotic energy that made me smile. I knew I had to think fast to coral their energy and keep them engaged. They tackled the games I suggested with dizzying speed – playing each to the fullest before asking for more.

      After an hour of intense play, we hit a serious energy dip. Alarm bells were going off for Jessica who from experience estimated we had about 10 minutes left before the boys crashed. We quickly shifted gears to snacks and skateboards, but the clock was ticking. Half-heartedly, they picked up their boards and maneuvered slowly down the empty road. Golden rays of light filtered through the mountain tops illuminated the road for a magical feel. I snapped away at a feverish pace knowing we had only minutes. And in a flash, the session was over and they were driving home for a much-needed nap.

      boy walking to the waters edge with a big wave building in the distance in hawaii
      toddler jumping into dads arms during a oahu family photography session
      portrait of a boy lying in the sand
      dad holding toddler son upside down during a beach photo session in hawaii
      family running from the waves during a beach photoshoot leeward oahu
      curly haired toddler running on the beach
      dad and son at sunrise with mountains and sun behind them Yokohama Bay Photography
      dad tickling son at the beach during a family portrait session
      portrait of brothers at the beach
      hawaii family portrait at the beach
      boy wiping sand from his hands
      mom sneaking up on son during a family photo session by little bird photography
      mom and son on skateboards at sunrise in hawaii Yokohama Bay Photography
      boy skateboarding in hawaii
      curly haired toddler on a skateboard during a family photography session in oahu
      by running on the road with mountains behind
      shadow of a boy on a skateboard
      mom and son skateboarding on the street in hawaii
      toddler skateboarding on the street with mountains behind in hawaii
      family skateboards during a photography session in Oahu by little bird photography

      Does Your Family Have a Favorite Activity?

      Does your family have a special place or activity that’s meaningful? As much as I would love for you to say skateboarding, anything that helps tell your story is equally rewarding. Contact me today so we can plan your own memory-making day.

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      tel : 808.783.3602

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