How to Create WOW! with Photographs: Kauai Travel Journal

Ke'e Beach Sunset

I want to teach you the simplest trick I know to make people ooh-and-ahh over your photographs. Want to know what it is?

I go after the perfect photograph like a hunter going after a trophy to mount on a wall. If you ever go with me while I’m photographing, you will hear me shout, YES! and fist-pump like Tiger Woods when I find something beautiful that’s been waiting for me to capture it. Following my little happy dance, I say, “This is going to look great hanging on my wall!”

So here’s my trick: Find your favorite image and enlarge it to at least 24″x30″! Then frame it and hang it on a prominent wall and just wait for the oooos-and-ahhhs. 

The WOW! Factor

I learned the WOW! factor when I had a full-time portrait studio and created my first Hufnagel. A Hufnagel is a funny word that means you display the same image but in various sizes.

For example, when you walked into my customer lounge at my studio, a Hufnagel filled an entire wall with the same image that started off as an 11″x14″, then 16″x20″, then 20″x24″ and all the way up to 4 feet by 6 feet. In fact, this was one of my sales lines: How big of a WOW! do you want? The bigger the image, the bigger the WOW! 

Let’s try it: Do you prefer this thumbnail?

Kilauea Lighthouse

Or this?

Kilauea Lighthouse

Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai

How many times do you click on a small image on the computer screen to enlarge it? See what I mean? Size does matter.

When you walk into our house, you see the Lighthouse image hanging in a 24″x30″ frame on a wall above the chair. This image receives frequent oohs-and-ahhs.

Lighthouse on living room wall

Lighthouse on living room wall


Let’s try it again: Thumbnail or Full Size? Which creates more WOW!?

The Napali Coast

The Napali Coast

The Napali Coast

The Napali Coast

How To Create A Large Wall Image

The best images start before you leave the house as your prepare yourself – and your camera – to capture a large wall image. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Know your camera – read that little book that comes with it about how to choose various settings or jump on and look for a tutorial about your camera. That little bit of research is critical.
  • Set your camera to take as large of file as possible – if your camera lets you change the file settings, set it to take as large of an image file as possible. No matter what you do, you can not create a 24″x30″ out of a 85KB file. It needs to at least be 3MB.
  • Scout the location in advance if you can and ask yourself these questions:
    • What time of day is best for the golden hour (one hour after sunrise or one hour before sunset)?
    • What season of the year?
    • What’s the best location for me to set up?
    • Have other photographers captured this image and how did they answer my first 3 questions?

I read travel guides before I go any place to find images I want to capture. I don’t think that’s copycatting at all because of this extremely simple rule about nature photography: the light and the season always changes. I often like another photographer’s composition and will try to discover where they were standing. However, I know because of Mother Nature, I’m going to have a much different light so will have an entirely different image. For example, I wanted to photograph Ke’e Beach so I looked online and found several photographers had a sloped rock shelf in their image so I jumped on Google Earth and found that rock outcropping. Once I arrived at the beach, I had to walk several hundred yards past dozens of other people with cameras to find it. Here is where everyone else was standing to take the photo, not even close to the rock outcropping:

Other photographers on Ke'e Beach

Other photographers on Ke’e Beach


The first four evenings I tried it, the clouds socked in the Napali coast which I wanted in the back ground. Finally, I captured this image:

Ke'e Beach Sunset

Ke’e Beach Sunset

The Key to Taking Capturing Great Sunrise or Sunset Images

How many times have you seen a sunset and wished you could take a photo that captured it’s brilliance? But either you didn’t have your camera with you, or if you did, you just can’t capture the image on the screen like it looks in your eye? Here’s a simple trick to help you that costs as little as $20.00 –use a tripod even for your smartphone!

Many of us see great sunsets or sunrises and grab our cameras or smartphones, then get blurry images that don’t capture what we saw. The reason for that is your camera – even on your smart phone – is like your eye. The lower the light, the bigger the opening needed to let light in. In your eye, it’s your pupil. On a camera, it’s called an aperture. The other way a camera controls light coming is in called a shutter – think of it like your eyelid blinking. To capture the lowlight of a sunset or sunrise, the camera opens the aperture as far as it can and slows the shutter down as much as possible. Anything below 1/6oth of a second shutter speed will be blurred because you cannot hold the camera still enough; that’s why you have to have a tripod. The shutter speed for the Ke’e image was 1/60th of a second and I set my aperture at 22. The higher the aperture number, the more that is in focus.

If you can’t manually set your camera settings, most cameras have a low-light or nighttime auto setting you can select. It automatically slows the shutter speed and adjusts the aperture to that setting. However, it still wants you to mount it on a tripod because it’s going to slow your shutter speed down too much for you hold it in your hand.

To make sure I don’t touch my camera when I’m photographing in lowlight, I either use a cable trigger or, if it’s my smartphone, I set the 10 second timer so it triggers without me touching it.


Enlarging Your Photographs

There are a several options available through Snapfish, Flickr, and others that create up to 20″x30″ prints on archival paper. Office Max will do posters up to 40″x60″, but they are not on archival paper. Why is that important? Archival paper won’t fade. Also, posters aren’t “mounted.” By that, it means they are not mounted to foamcore or another rigid substrate that will help keep the print solid and flat when you frame it. Ordering a large print that is mounted on something flat is critical.

I use a lab for professional photographers so I can get much larger prints and all the paper is archival. If you have an image you’ve captured you want enlarged, mounted, and framed, I can help with that. Email me at: for further help.

I enjoy helping others capture great images. If there is anything I can do, please feel free to contact me.

There are images of beauty that are waiting on you to take notice and capture them in all their brilliance. Your friends, and even strangers, are waiting on you to share them so we, too, can be smitten by the grandeur of this world in which we live.


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Kauai Travel Journal: A Brief History

Hanalei Bay

I love history so before I travel to a destination, I read history books, pour over maps, watch documentaries and look at hundreds of photographs. I do that because history is about stories and stories give meaning.

My favorite historical novelist is James Michener who wrote the magnificent Hawaii. Like most of Michener’s work, the lengthy novels take you from the time when the volcanoes erupted in the Pacific and formed the islands to present day. This is basic map of Kauai. Lihue is the airport into which you would fly.nm_kekaha_map

The original culture of Hawaii is tied to Polynesian influence. The string of islands were united under King Kamehameha I in 1810, about thirty years after the first
British Explorer, Captain James Cook, arrived on the islands.

As Michener’s story travels through time, you get a good feel for how the present day culture has come into being; I highly recommend you read his book. He’s also famous for Tales of the South Pacific, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. It was turned into a musical on Broadway and two movies. You can see that play while you’re on Kauai.

To understand how Kauai – and the other islands in Hawaii – became part of the United States of America, one needs to understand the Protestant Christian mission movement that started out of New England. Hiram Bingham was the first missionary to make the 7-month voyage to Honolulu, arriving in 1820.

Many missionaries like Bingham were linguists who created a spelling system to write the Hawaiian language in English. Until then, the culture of the Hawaiians was oral and knowledge was passed from one generation to the next through the telling of stories. As beautiful as storytelling is, cultures that rely solely on oral traditions are vulnerable to being lost as generations pass.

During the 1800s, Hawaii was considered one of the most literate nations in the world with over 90 per cent of the population able to read and write. The Ka Lama Hawaii, published in 1834, was the first newspaper published west of the Rockies.

Another significant name to know is Elizabeth Sinclair and her descendants, the Robinson family. Elizabeth and her husband were originally from Scotland, but moved to New Zealand. After her husband and son died at sea, the matriarch set sail with her children and grandchildren to Canada.

In 1863, the time of the Civil War in America, they stopped off in Honolulu. King Kamehameha IV suggested they stay and purchase land. After he died, they purchased the entire island of Ni’ihau – which lies just off the west cost of Kauai – from King Kamehameha V for $10,000.00 USD. The King asked for her assurance that the people of Ni’ihau (nee-eee-how) be protected. The language on the island is still the ancient dialect of Hawaii.

The Island of Niihau looks like a whale off the western coast of Kauai

The Island of Niihau looks like a whale off the western coast of Kauai

During the Japanese attack on Hawaii in 1941, one of the fighter pilots crashed his plane on Ni’ihau and threw the natives into panic. They had not heard of the attack because of the limited communication and, after a bit of terror, captured him. In captivity, he persuaded a few of the natives of Japanese decent to join forces with him an attack the others. This incident led to U.S. policy on the mainland to intern Japanese Americans during World War II.

Ni’ihua is also called the Forbidden Isle because the Robinson family, during the polio epidemic in the 1950s, refused to let anyone on the island unless they had a permit signed by a doctor they trusted. As a result, no one on the island contracted polio. The island is still privately owned by the Robinsons and can be visited by invitation-only. Keith and Bruce Robinson now own the island and Keith, an environmentalist, has been credited with keeping several Hawaiian plants from becoming extinct.

I mention Ni’ihua because the Robinson family plays such a huge part in understanding Kauai. Life on Ni’ihau for the native people is most similar to that of their ancestors that you can find on any of the islands. While places like Limahuli Gardens on Kauai try to protect ancient places of civilizations, in other places commercialization clashes with tradition.

Limahuli Garden on the north shore is on the site of ancient civiliations

Limahuli Garden on the north shore is on the site of ancient civilizations

Over the course of time, Mrs. Sinclair also bought land on the island of Kauai near Hanapepe and Makalewi in the south, deep red soil perfect for growing crops and raising cattle. Currently, the Robinson family owns 50,000 acres of land on Kauai and all of Ni’ihua.

Kauai, along with the other Hawaiian Islands, became one of the United States of America in 1959, some 18 years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. There are obviously some who still resent the the United States for that.

The Independence Truck- I photographed this at the Salt Ponds park.

The Independence Truck- I photographed this at the Salt Ponds park.

This is the second part of a series so don’t forget to check out A Travel Journal, Part 1.

Next Up: Travel Tricks

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Kauai: A Travel Journal, Part 1

Kilauea Lighthouse

An adventure is something you sit at home in your easy chair wishing you were having, but when you’re having it, you wish you were sitting at home in your easy chair.

My curiosity about the world began as a child watching slide presentations from missionaries visiting our small country church. The whir-click-click, whir-click-click, whir-click-click noise of the slide carousel advancing was like a drumbeat from a distant shore calling me to come visit.

So I traveled with the missionaries in their dugout canoes as they coursed the rivers of the Amazon to remote villages of raven-haired people with tattoos on their face and stone age spears in their hands. I sat mesmerized around African campfires as Maasai warriors, their tall, thin bodies wrapped with brightly-dyed cloth, seemed to hang suspended in air as they tested their ability for vertical jumping. I shivered as Eskimo children peered out through fur parkas, their eyes shining like pearls on a cloth of brown velvet. I giggled at the bare breasted women and the naked children playing amidst mud huts with thatched roofs.

I learned to travel the world through the words and images of others.

Often, when I meet new people or come to a part of a conversation when silence is awkward, I ask this question: Where is your favorite place to travel? Invariably, I hear a great story, my curiosity is peaked and I’m suddenly traveling with them.

Therefore, I decided to write a travel journal of our vacation to Kauai, arguably the most beautiful of the Hawaiian Islands. But that’s like comparing the winner of the Miss America to the other contestants; they’re all stunning.

Over the course of the following writings, I will share tricks I’ve learned about traveling from how to make sure the airline gods don’t steal your happiness to easy ways to get great photos from your camera or smart phone. I’ll share with you beautiful places you must see, fun things to do, fascinating bits of history, current issues facing the Garden Isle, and how to keep the ocean from killing you.

If you’re like me and all your imagination needs are a few words and photos to travel along or if you’re contemplating a visit to Kauai, then I think you’ll enjoy this journal.

To start with, let me share a few moments in time I managed to capture with my camera. Later, I will share more detail about how to find these same places and the best way to photograph them.

Kilauea Lighthouse

“The Sentinel” – Kilauea Lighthouse guards the north shore of Kauai.



"Unexpected" This is on Ke'e beach with the Napali Coast in the background.

“Unexpected” This is on Ke’e beach with the Napali Coast in the background. I was adjusting my camera settings when this lady walked into the frame. I snapped the shutter and was reminded of the effect of placing a human, or animal, in a photograph; it changes everything.


"The Tree Tunnel" - John Wayne, in the movie Donovan's Reef, races a jeep though this eucalyptus lined road.

“The Tree Tunnel” – John Wayne, in the movie Donovan’s Reef, races a jeep though this eucalyptus lined road.


"Purity" - the top of Kauai is the wettest spot in the world receive over 300 inches of rain a year. This was in Limahuli Gardens near Ke'e Beach.

“Purity” – the top of Kauai is the wettest spot in the world receive over 300 inches of rain a year. This was in Limahuli Gardens near Ke’e Beach.

You learn, if you travel with me, you don’t have to have much packed in your bags to enjoy a great trip, just an imagination and sense of adventure. I hope you enjoy the journey whether it’s in your easy chair reading along with me, or in the middle of the adventure wishing you were in your easy chair.

Either way, it will be fun!

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Whizzin’ on the Christmas Presents

prairie 2

Little country boys enjoy the glorious freedom of taking a leak in the great outdoors anywhere and at anytime. He will not be inconvenienced during his escapades running home to Momma and the bathroom. Whizzin’ outside is a little boy’s divine right, his manifest destiny, and his heritage. Little boys seldom outgrow this love of nature. Some never do.

As we grew up in rural Kansas, we’d find the closest tree, or if no such obstructions were available, turn our backs to the group, unzip and let it rip. We even had contests. We’ve never outgrown that tendency either; we simply modified the methods, as we became adults. Just watch a group of executives in a board room and then imagine them being little boys out in a pasture. There’s not much difference except they are in 3-piece suits instead of jean shorts.

However, the girls were not impressed. They shrieked, called us names, threatened to tattle, questioned our heritage then complained about life being unfair. Why weren’t they given handy little spigots, too? In the battle of insults of which boys are inclined, the ultimate insult is to hurl this jab: “Oh, yeah, well you have to squat to whizz.” Game over.

Furthermore, little boys are known to deliberately go outside to whizz instead of using the convenience of modern plumbing. They are not trying to save on water; they just feel the call of nature. Little boys seldom outgrow this tendency either. Some never do.

While this act of nature done in nature was, well, as natural for us as breathing, there is one notable story worth repeating.

Christmas arrived each year in time to keep us from turning all Jack-Nicholson-like in The Shining. Long winter nights without television in a drafty old two-story house is enough to turn Mother Teresa into Donald Trump. Since I was the last of six kids and the older siblings were gone, I was expected to entertain myself. It’s hard to play Candyland by yourself.

I read every Hardy Boys book at least ten times and even snuck in a few Nancy Drew stories. Little boys just didn’t read books about girls, but, since no one was around, I’d sneak Nancy in.

Old country houses have their own personality. Drive down a country road in your state and you will see what I mean. Some houses are like stately old patriarchs smoking a pipe with a glass of brandy. Others are like grizzled old cowboys with leathery skin from hours in the saddle, the sun and wind. Then there are houses that look like frumpy hypochondriac old ladies who would find something to gripe about if they won the lottery. Ours was that kind of house.

There is no sound as mournful as an old country house complaining about winter. When the temperature dipped below zero and the north wind howled across the prairie at 50 mph, our house complained more than a little old lady with bunions. So when Christmas started making its way down the road, we rejoiced as one rejoices over sedation for a root canal.

We celebrated with shepherds in bathrobes fawning over a plastic baby Jesus in the church play; a John Deere tractor pulled a hay wagon full of carolers down graveled roads; Dad made peanut brittle, popcorn balls and divinity – all things requiring root canals later in life. But the best part was being turned into pint-sized consumers salivating over the Sears Christmas catalog. Christmas was the best time of the year to feed our need for greed.

Kids today have no idea how big a deal the Sears Christmas catalog was to a bored little country kid. We didn’t have the Internet and we weren’t allowed to watch much television, so the only way to fill our greed was through Christmas catalogs. I literally flipped every one of the 969 pages of the catalog and chose an item from each page for my wish list. Twice. Maybe 3 times. The only exception was the women’s clothing section; I ignored that until I was a teenager.

Allow me to digress; the 1975 Sears Catalog was quite a scandal. That year, on page 602, one of the male models appears to have his whizzer hanging low below the hem of his boxers. Scandalous, I say, scandalous! After numerous letters of protest, Sears said it was a blemish caused by a chemical falling on to the artwork during the printing process. So how many chemicals does it take to explain Miley Cyrus?

Furthermore, Mom couldn’t let a good thing like Christmas go to waste without tossing in healthy dose of fear. We clearly understood that snooping for presents would result with burning coals in our stockings. Mom made such believers out of us we were afraid to open our own closets.

The only time I ever snooped was when I poked my head through a heat register in the upstairs floor and saw them wrapping a second-hand, football uniform for me. It was then I realized that we were poor. For some reason that second-hand Christmas gift was the best ever.

One happy Christmas, my sister Collen’s kids were visiting and her baby boy did the dastardly deed inside the house, much to our delight.

Kelsey, otherwise known as Boo, was Toy’s-R-Us adorable. Everyone loved sweet little Boo, especially my Dad – they were buds. On this glorious Christmas, Boo became our hero.

We had no clue what our presents were, regardless of how many times we shook them. Mine-is-bigger-than-yours seemed to matter for some dumb reason. Still does.

One evening, we were strewn about the living room on the naugahyde furniture watching The Charlie Brown Christmas Special with instructions to keep an eye on Boo. He was easy to watch, especially by the three of us who had a hard time keeping track of ourselves. One of us thought it would be funny to take Boo’s diaper off and let him wander the house a la naturale.

No one paid much attention until he toddled over to the tree and took aim. Since it was a real tree, the smell of pine triggered his natural tendency to whizz, so he let it rip.

We were mortified until we realized that this little fireman hosing down the presents made the wrapping paper transparent. Slowly, like invisible ink starting to show, we began to identify our presents – we all got Spirographs. We giggled; Mom yelled at Boo; Boo began to cry; Dad came out of his study to rescue his little buddy. This was an-oft repeated cycle.

As exciting as it was to have the mysteries revealed, it slowly dawned on us that a cardinal rule had been violated: We saw our presents before Christmas. When that somber reality hit, all three of us looked at Mom much like a puppy being chided for pooping on the floor. We waited to have our noses rubbed in it.

Kendall, Boo’s older brother, felt a need to argue on our behalf with this rationale:

  1. The three older kids were pure as the driven snow and had not looked, no not even once, for our presents before Christmas. Did he mention we were pure as the driven snow?
  2. Boo was still young enough he couldn’t form a coherent sentence so he was beyond the capacity to reason. Therefore, there was no premeditation.
  3. Therefore, we can only conclude it was an act of God.

Typically, Mom employed interrogation tactics that were the envy of the military. She authored The Guantanamo Bay Interrogation Tactics and was a senior advisor to the Gestapo and KGB.

However, we were fortunate that Mom witnessed the crime. Therefore, she avoided the typical interrogation methods of waterboarding, stretching us out on the rack, or staking us over an anthill.

As Kendall continued his opening statement, Mom held up her hands, walked back into the kitchen and muttered something about who in their right mind took his diaper off and let a little kid walk around the house naked. With her absence, we looked to the next authority figure to assess our fate.

Dad was still consoling Boo who was unaccustomed to being in trouble for anything. Ever. Although my Dad tried not to play favorites, Boo did have his own personal coat-of many-colors tailor.

“You guys better hurry and get that wrapping paper off of those presents or the dog will whizz on them, too,” Dad said. “And, yes, you can play with your Spirographs.”

Dad put a diaper back on Boo then we lifted him on our shoulders like faithful subjects carrying their king. He was our hero.

It occurs to me as I write this that the reason I’ve never seen history repeat itself is because we use fake Christmas trees. Fake pine trees do not prompt the natural tendencies in little boys to whizz on the presents. I’ve raised four boys and not one let loose on the tree.

But now I have a great idea! Excuse me, I need to run out and find a real tree: my grandsons are coming over for Christmas. I still think it would be funny to take a diaper off the littlest one and let him wander the house a la naturale. It is, after all, his manifest destiny.


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Today it is me: Tomorrow it is you – Amina, the refugee


I traveled to the world’s largest refugee camp in Dedaab, Kenya, with Ambassador Tony Hall, a legendary leader in the fight against hunger and now director of the Alliance to End Hunger.  Dedaab is 50 miles from the Somalia border and home to three-quaters of a million refugees. This is story of just one of them.

Amina started her journey from war-torn Somalia towards the refugee camp with her husband, four children, and a small herd of goats. Three months later she arrived in the world’s largest refugee camp in Dedaab, Kenya, with no husband and only two children. Because of the warring factions in Somalia, the drought in the Horn of Africa turned into a famine. To stay was certain death for her entire family either from starvation or murderous rebels. Fleeing was their only hope.Red on Red- Dedaab Refugee Camp

Amina and her clan are called pastoralists because of their nomadic lifestyle looking for green pastures upon which to graze their goats, cattle, sheep, or camels. Their homes are tents made of goatskin or cloth.

Amina’s husband had been abducted by Al Shebaab, then executed. She found others to travel with for protection. They would sell a goat and travel as far as they could with the proceeds. Then they would sell another goat. Finally, they found the bus the United Nations High Commission on Refugees patrolled the porous Somalia/Kenya border. The bus was sent from Dedaab because the fifty-mile stretch from Dedaab to the Somali border had turned into “visions of hell.”

Children in Dedaab Refugee Camp

Children in Dedaab Refugee Camp

Like other refugees who make life or death journeys, the horrors along the way are literally hell on earth. Two of her children grew weak and were close to death, but they had to keep moving. So she lay her children in a makeshift shelter or covered them with branches. She hoped to get far enough away she couldn’t hear the cries of the children dying or the wild animals devouring them.

The life Amina will live in the refugee camp holds very little hope other than the sustenance of food. 85% of the refugees are women and children- the men have been killed or abducted. She will most likely be raped- repeatedly. Her daughters will be forced before puberty to have female genital mutilation with rusted knives, broken glass, or sharp rocks. Her daughters won’t be educated- only a few of the boys will find hope through education.Suspicion

She was given 21 days of food rations to make the decision to become labeled a “refugee.” A term they hate, but find necessary to survive. After 21 days, she will give up many of her rights just to get food.

Firewood for cooking will be a huge issue over the course of time. She, along with the other women, will be sent to gather it. If the men go, they will be killed or maimed. So the women go, knowing they will most likely be raped, but their life will be spared.Choices Most Horrible

She had nothing left except her two children and the clothes on their backs.

But she had her faith. She said God would take care of her.

And she had a small community of people whom she trusted based on survival. They shared as they traveled based upon a Swahili saying: Maanta waa aniga, berina waa adiga -Today it’s me; tomorrow it’s you. It would be like me sharing with you today if I have food, because tomorrow I might not have food and I will need you to share with me. Community based on survival.Water of Life


I am a theologian by education and profession for twenty years, but I confess I am deeply humbled by the faith of the impoverished. I have met thousands of the world’s poorest people and find their faith inspiring. Faith gives them the ability to interpret their circumstances and suffering in a positive light. Perhaps the strongest component of faith within the community of the poor is a belief in a better life-after-death. Religion is not the opiate of the hungry masses; it’s often the only hope that keeps them going. It is tragic that some radicals turn religious beliefs into a justification for violence.

The Power of Community

I stopped my neighbor recently and said, “Maanta waa aniga, berina waa adiga -Today it’s me; tomorrow it’s you.” I told him the combination to the keypad on my garage door and told him if he ever ran out of food, he was welcome to raid my fridge and freezer. I also told him I expected him to return the favor if I was hungry. He asked if I was on medication. Or if I needed to be!

We base community in the U.S. on shared beliefs and values. A hundred years ago, people of Little House on the Prairie era learned to live with each other in a small geographic region seldom more than ten miles apart. However, because of transportation opportunities, we choose our communities now based on stylistic, economic, and shared value systems. People think nothing of driving 30 miles to attend a faith community in another city.

But for the impoverished, sharing is based upon survival; we base community on convenience.

I often think of Amina. I wonder how she and her children are doing. I wonder if she knows how much her faith inspires me even though we are from different religions?Despair

You can read more stories like this in my book, Hunger Bites: Bite Size Stories of Inspiration.

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