Horseback Riding Oahu | Family Adventure at Gunstock Ranch

Too Much Paradise?

It feels wrong to complain when a beautiful beach is within walking distance from home. The beach has been a source of much joy, but our family is getting a bit stir crazy. With everyone at home in cramped quarters, the noise becomes overbearing. The sound of piano, movies, and video chatting with friends competes with the incessant buzz of traffic, leaf blowers, and construction.

I catch myself daydreaming of mountains and open spaces. Even though we live on a tiny, crowded island there are still places that feel far away. Gunstock Ranch is one of those places.

We took advantage of the Gunstock Ranch kamaaina deals and set out for a sunset horseback riding tour. The kids both spent a week at horse camp this summer and are smitten with horses. Without summer camp at the YMCA this year, no travel, and limited interactions with friends planning special days like this have kept up their spirits.

gunstock ranch kamaaina deals

An Evening at the Ranch

We arrived a little early to spend time at the free petting zoo. The kids had been cranky and bickering all day, but animals make everything better and they immediately began naming each of the goats and sheep in the pen. One lamb, christened “Cow” was especially cuddly and Mila made plans to sneak her into the car to take home.

As our departure time drew nearer, the kids wriggled with excitement and introduced themselves to their trail horses. Finally, it was time and they mounted with glee. With straight backs and impeccable posture, they rode over the hills with an intense mixture of concentration and delight. As we wove through tree-lined trails past long-horned cows and wild pigs, they talked incessantly to our very patient and kind trail guide. At the summit, we took in the big views and cool breezes before making our way back. An hour and a half on horseback was enough to make our legs wobbly and satisfy our need to be far away.

petting a lamb at the gunstock ranch petting zoo
enjoying the petting zoo at gunstock ranch
a ram at the petting zoo at gunstock ranch in oahu
horses saddled at the gunstock ranch for their sunset trail ride
boy petting a horse before horseback riding lesson at gunstock ranch
girl petting a lamb at the gunstock petting zoo oahu
horse peeks out from the watering hole sign before horseback ride on the north shore
begging of the trail ride
horses set off for a sunset horseback ride on the north shore of oahu
boy riding western style at gunstock ranch
a group heads out for a horseback trail ride at gunstock ranch oahu
horse pasture in oahu
longhorn bull watches horseback trail ride pass in hawaii
view along the horseback trail ride in oahu hawaii
fun family activities on oahu
longhorn bulls in a clearing
stormy sky over gunstock ranch in oahu
family horseback trail ride oahu hawaii

Looking for More Ideas for Family Fun on Oahu?

If you’re looking for more places where you can feel far away and enjoy solitude, head to Makua Beach on the Leeward Coast or grab a kayak and play in the middle of Kaneohe Bay. For more tips on Oahu family fun, sign up for the Little Bird Post below.

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  • CJI haven’t been horseback riding in years but I love doing it! Great photos of what look like a fun day. ReplyCancel

    • HeatherI hadn’t been riding in years either so it was really fun. My legs were definitely wobbly after :)ReplyCancel

Hawaii Family Adventure Session | A Perfect Evening in Laie

A Final Photo Session

It would be my last family photo session, although I didn’t know it at the time. It was early March and news of the coronavirus was escalating quickly. Campaigns on handwashing and “shakas not handshakes” had just begun to circulate and visions of our own upcoming travels still danced in our heads.

It turns out Melissa had great timing. Her family of 7 was at the tail end of a whirlwind, multi-island vacation. They had been hiking and snorkeling, ziplining and boating. She wanted to finish their epic trip with one of my adventure photo sessions. She said they were up for anything including playing in the water. The older kids had taken a surf lesson in Waikiki the other day and were excited about waves. Since they were staying on the north shore, I had the perfect place – Laie Beach Park.

portrait of a girl with her family behind her

Hawaii Family Adventure Session for a Perfect Afternoon

The parking lot was buzzing with activity when I arrived. As usual, the warm, clear afternoon had attracted crowds of beach-lovers. Fortunately, a favorite little spot of mine tucked under a canopy of trees was vacant. We made our way to the shade and started with some games as a warm-up. I noticed the kids looking longingly at the rope swing and perfect climbing trees nearby. “Can we climb?” they asked. “Of course!” Seconds later the tree was filled with the entire family, nimbly making their way from limb to limb and exiting via rope swing. They were fearless and competitive but kind, looking out for one another, making space, and offering words of encouragement.

The thing about large families is there is always something interesting to photograph. Every direction I turned was a photo opp – kids in trees, building forts, jousting, and giving spontaneous hugs. I spun about trying to keep up and capture it all.

As the crowds began to dwindle, we moved down the beach, ready for our turn in the cool blue water. The oldest kids had been eyeing the bodyboards I brought and were eagerly waiting for this moment. Into the waves they charged, unafraid of their size and intensity. Each large foamy wave crested and crashed around the bodyboarders shooting them to the shore. We continued like this long after the sun had set and the beach had emptied. It was a memorable way to end their trip and a perfect last photo session.

family portraits at laie beach park with evening sunshine
portrait of a girl in hawaii with sunflare
dad and daughter portrait during a fun photography session by little bird
boy climbing a tree with a rope swing in hawaii
family of 7 in laie looking out at the ocean view during a portrait session
portrait of a boy at laie beach park
brothers playing on a rope swing
boy climbing a tree in the jungle like laie beach park in oahu during a photoshoot
sisters play together during a hawaii family photo session by little bird photography
mom tickles daughter during a beach photoshoot at laie beach park
family exploring the beach park in laie
portrait of a girl with wind blown hair
brothers portrait at the beach in black and white
girl playing in the water at sunset
dad hanging from a tree during a fun photo session in hawaii
girl building a driftwood fort on the beach in hawaii during a photo session
twin brothers wrestle during a family photography session in oahu
mom and daughter cuddle and laugh during a family portrait session at the beach in laie
parents holding son on their shoulder during a photoshoot
girl in a tree watches her brothers climb another tree in the distance at laie beach park
girl builds a driftwood fort at pounders beach oahu
family sitting close shares a laugh
boy hangs from a rope swing at laie beach park
climbing trees at laie beach park during a Hawaii Family Adventure Session
family of 7 races the waves along the beach at pounders in laie
black and white portrait of a girl snuggling her mom
sisters build sand castles at the beach during a photo shoot in hawaii
brothers bodyboard during a Hawaii Family Adventure Session in oahu
boy body boarding at pounders beach oahu
girl with a body board walking alone down the beach in laie
boy catches a wave into shore on his yellow bodyboard
boy on a wave during a Hawaii Family Adventure Session at pounders beach
girl with a makeshift driftwood slingshot at the beach in hawaii
boy jumps a wave on his bodyboard
dad takes turns throwing his kids in the air during a family photoshoot in oahu
kids take turns on a rope swing during a Hawaii Family Adventure Session photoshoot
little girl standing in the rough waves at laie beach
dad helps kids as they play on a rope swing in laie
mom and daughter play in the surf in laie at sunset during a fun photo session

Do You Have an Energetic, Fun Family?

Bring the fun for a morning adventure! Find out more about my fun family photography sessions here.

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    Family Friendly Beaches | Makua Beach Oahu

    Escape the Crowds

    You would think that living on a small island would encourage you to explore it regularly. Yet a trip from Kailua to town is rare for us while a trip to the North Shore may only happen a half dozen times a year. Most of our time is spent in a fairly small radius of our home. And we’re not alone. When I meet with other Kailua families, we talk about the north shore fondly as a far off land. But the leeward side of Oahu? No one ever goes there.

    As an Oahu photographer, I hold most of my sessions at the beach. This has made me a weather expert, or rather, a person obsessed with the weather. The combined effects of wind, clouds, waves, and tide greatly affect a simple day at the beach.

    And so, on this particular Sunday, with the day stretched out before us I browsed the weather report. Gloomy skies and high winds were uninspiring on the windward side, but I discovered conditions on the leeward side looked perfect.

    Similar to Waikiki, the leeward coast sits in the rain shadow of the mountains meaning less rain and wind and more sunshine. We left the gloom behind and made the long drive west to Makua Beach.

    beautiful calm waters at makua beach oahu

    A Perfect Beach Evening

    We arrived late as most of the beach crowd was leaving after a long day in the sun. The kids made an immediate beeline to the tidal shelf which was exposed at low tide. They immersed themselves in an imaginary world where they made potions of ground limu and sand to sell in a makeshift shop.

    My knee was injured but I hobbled around taking photos and watching spinner dolphins flip and spin dramatically offshore. The mountains stretched tall and green behind us while the sea seemed to stretch on forever. It felt wild and remote and filled me with a sense of awe. Why don’t we come here more often?

    As the sun melted into the horizon, we spent the last bit of daylight examining anemones and crabs in the tidepools and tossing a Frisbee. After a stop on the way home for poke bowls, the kids declared it “the best day ever”.

    body boarders surf at Makua beach leeward oahu
    boy playing on the rocks at makua
    siblings exploring tide pools at makua beach hawaii
    girl in the water with sunflare
    boy exploring tide pools at family friendly beaches at Makua by little bird photography
    boy jumping to catch fish with a net in hawaii
    waianae mountains at sunset
    portrait of a boy with a fishing net at sunset in hawaii
    waves at makua beach oahu
    boy running towards the water with a body board at makua beach in hawaii
    girl searching the tide pool at sunset in hawaii
    portrait of a girl standing in the tide pool at family friendly makua beach oahu
    boy looking out at the surf at sunset on oahu
    closeup portrait of kids exploring anemones in hawaii tidepools
    siblings exploring hawaii tidepools at sunset
    silhouette of a boy catching a Frisbee at sunset in hawaii
    girl wrapped in a towel at sunset in hawaii

    Need a Winter Beach Alternative?

    If the surf is up and Makua is too rough, you try Pokai Beach Park which is protected. And if you want more tips for fun family adventures on Oahu, sign up for the Little Bird Post below.

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      Makapuu Beach Family Photography | A Golden Sunrise

      A First Birthday Celebration

      Celebrating a first birthday is a special experience. Especially when that baby has been so longed for. Hannah has tried to make the most of this time in their lives and document as much as possible. She schedules family photo sessions regularly. Fortunately, she works in the wedding industry and has close ties with many talented photographers.

      But for this happy occasion, they were making the big trip to Hawaii. A first for the family and one they were looking forward to.

      About the Session

      Although they were staying in the happy land of Disney at Aulani resort on the Leeward side of the island, they fell in love with the mountainous, rocky landscape of Makapuu Beach. They made the long drive over the pali in the early morning and arrived just before sunrise.

      It was a particularly beautiful morning. The coastline typically plagued by high winds was calm and peaceful. Waves crested in clear cascades of blue and seabirds soared in delicate arcs offshore.

      Baby Cora emerged from the car in a sleep bundle. She was content to snuggle close in this beautiful, but foreign place. We meandered over the dunes as the sun began to show over Makapuu.

      As sleepiness wore off, curiosity set in and Cora braved the sand and waves. Exploring is hungry work, however, and she decided it was time for her birthday “cake smash”. In lieu of a standard cake, they brought a fat slice of chocolate cake.

      Most babies are surprisingly timid when confronted with birthday cake. They reluctantly poke at the treat or even cry. Not this little one. The slice was approximately the size of her head, but she managed to demolish it quickly. When bits fell in the sand, they were also quickly swept into her mouth and devoured. For the grand finale, she licked each and every salty finger clean and waited patiently for more.

      The tide pools were a perfect way to clean the chocolate mess and cool off under the bright sun. After a final burst of energy, she began to yawn sleepily signaling the end of our session. A beautiful way to celebrate.

      family portrait in a dramatic landscape at makapuu beach in oahu hawaii by little bird photography
      family beach portrait in hawaii
      family portrait at sunrise in hawaii at Makapuu Beach Family Photography
      portrait of a chubby-cheeked baby at sunrise in hawaii
      tilt-shift family portrait at sunrise in hawaii
      family portraits at makapuu oahu
      mom snuggling baby at makapuu beach in oahu
      baby portrait at sunrise in hawaii
      baby on dad's shoulders while mom looks on and laughs
      fun picture of dad and laughing baby at Makapuu, Oahu
      family portrait with a toddler on the lava rocks in hawaii
      mom holding baby
      writing in the sand with baby feet
      mom holding baby during a beach photo session at Makapuu Beach
      naked baby sitting in the water at makapuu tidepools in oahu during a family photo session

      Want to Capture Beautiful Moments with Your Family?

      Let’s head to a beautiful spot on the island to play and explore. We can visit a place you love or I can introduce you to somewhere new and beautiful. Find out more about my fun family photography sessions in Hawaii here.

      Newborn Photographer | The Good Life in Honolulu

      Memories of a Neighborhood

      My engine hesitated, shuddered, and shifted into a lower gear as my car slowly climbed up the street. From a distance, this street looks impossibly steep and has always intimidated me – possibly the effects of a lifetime driving manual cars.

      As I climbed higher into the neighborhood my mind flashed back to university days. Several “fancy” friends lived in this neighborhood and often held elaborate, wild parties. I remember driving up this same street in a cast of odd vehicles – station wagons, VW buses, and even a classic stretch limousine. The former was in honor of a particularly memorable, 80’s themed prom party. If you’re going to prom, you have to arrive in style.

      As I made my way up the hill in my current, excessively boring automatic Nissan SUV, a bright double rainbow distracted me from my soccer-mom woes. It stretched across the sky in a brilliant arc of color. What a beautiful way to begin a newborn photography session.

      A Peaceful Home

      A light rain sprinkled me as I knocked on their front door. JoAnne was referred to me by a favorite client. They were expecting their first baby and wanted newborn portraits with a natural, easy feel. She was also curious about a family film so I planned to capture both.

      They welcomed me inside and an immediate feeling of peace and calm washed over me. Rain pattered politely against the windows while a hushing wind rushed around the edges of the house. Everything was cast in a warm golden glow and the scent of new baby filled the air. I couldn’t help contrast it to my own experience with a newborn. It wasn’t pretty and those first weeks are best described as frantic and chaotic with an air of desperation. I’m glad I didn’t know that a scene like this was possible at the time.

      I spent the morning with them as they lavished love on the new baby who in return gifted them with newborn smiles. Their dog tried to hide his jealousy, but the need for attention would overwhelm him in waves and he would excitedly nose into the action for a little love.

      I left them in their newborn haze and celebrated with a bear claw from Coffee Talk.

      Watch their newborn film below for a glimpse of baby Asa’s first days

      You can see a sample of their newborn images below.

      mom and new baby captured at home by newborn photographer little bird
      newborn portraits in honolulu hawaii
      family of 3 plus fur baby home from the hospital in honolulu
      dad holding newborn son at home in honolulu
      newborn family portrait by little bird photography in hawaii
      excited new dad and newborn son during an in-home photo session in oahu
      closeup portrait of a newborn boy in hawaii
      mom and dad snuggle their wrapped newborn during a family photo session
      mom and newborn baby at home in honolulu
      dad comforting newborn son at home during a photo session with newborn photographer little bird
      newborn baby smiles as dad holds him during a newborn photography session at home
      newborn baby rocked in a cradle while fur baby looks on by little bird photography
      mom comforts newborn baby at home in oahu hawaii
      spaniel annoyed that newborn is getting all the attention
      closeup portrait of newborn baby with open eyes

      Are You Expecting?

      Contact me today to set a date for your own mellow in-home newborn session.

      [email protected]

      tel : 808.783.3602

      Serving Oahu + all Hawaiian islands

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