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Mauna Lani Hawaii Island

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Mauna Lani Sunset over the 13th South Course Hawaii Island

‘Hey Kev how you doing Dude, fancy a trip over to Hawaii ?’

Just over a year ago this text message flashed up on my iPhone. It was from  Scott Christenson my long time buddy and Troon Director of Golf at Mauna Lani Hawaii Island!

Scott has been with Troon for over 20 years and has looked after just as many courses for them worldwide! Over the last 10 years I’ve been lucky enough to be called in by Scott to produce Collateral images of the courses he’s managed.  So when I read this text I had to pinch myself, ‘Hawaii!! How did you end up there Scott you lucky ……! Of course I want to come over’

So in a nut shell that was the gist of the invitation, we started looking at dates, I looked at flights and we penciled in some options that would work for us both.

And that’s when we hit a problem. By nature, Volcanic Islands can be a bit unpredictable, so when Kilauea the youngest Volcano on Hawaii Island decided to properly wake up from a 30 year slumber, it really messed up our arrangement.

Over an 8 week period Kilauea reaped havoc on the South part of the Island, many houses were lost and a tourist boat was hit by a lava bomb injuring 23 passengers.

Eventually when Kilauea decided to have a nap and settle down for the next 30 years the damage had been done. The air quality was so bad from the dust particles that visibility was at a point that it would be impossible to take images showing off the magnificent backdrops to the Mauna Lani Golf Courses. We had no choice but to put it on the back burner and revisit later when visibility was much clearer.

Fast forward to November this year, I was on my way back from a shoot at the Timuquana Country Club Jacksonville Florida, when Scott sent me a new text.

“Good news Dude, air’s clear courses are looking great and we are ready to go, by the way do you have a drone?’

It’s a question that I get asked frequently more so now than in the past! The answer is no! I have access to a drone and if I’m filming a video it’s an integral part of the equipment. However for shooting stills I’d much rather have more control over both quality and composition by getting elevation by other means. 

‘Dude we’ve had another quote and this guys got a drone what can you do?’

‘Can you get a cherry picker in?”

‘ You mean like this?” Attached to the text was a picture of a small Cherry picker that was perfect for the project so more or less problem solved.

The next 3 weeks were taken up with text messages arranging dates, hotels Flights and a shooting schedule.

Eventually it was time to fly! Not having been to Hawaii before I had no idea that it was made up of several Islands with Hawaii being the main one. Trying to organise flights from the UK was an interesting task, obviously there’s no direct flights and what seemed to be the best option was to fly to LA and connect from there. You would think this fairly straight forward but the connecting flights don’t actually give you much of a time gap to check into the 2nd stage of the journey. 

My BA flight arrived on time into LA and I had a 2 hour window before my connecting flight to Kona Hawaii. So 2 hours is plenty of time if you are just checking in, but if you have to disembark, go through immigration, collect luggage, go through security scanners and then walk a mile to the departing terminal, it’s a very stressful part of the journey. 

Eventually I’m on the 6 hour United flight to Kona and arrived into Hawaii around 8pm. I pick up my hire car and make the 30 minute drive to The Mauna Lani Resort and the Fairmont Orchid Hotel. What struck me straight away on the drive was how dark it was, I can’t remember anywhere else that I’ve been on my travels being as dark. It was quite unnerving especially as I’d been traveling for the last 24 hours and was feeling a little jaded. I almost missed the sign to the resort but eventually parked up and checked in.

The next morning I’m up and ready to meet Tim Snelling The course Superintendent. Sunrise was at 6.10 so we arranged to meet at 5.45. Tim was there waiting with the Cherry picker and Kurt the driver.

Mauna Lani has two 18 hole courses the North and the South,  so the first morning was more of an exploratory look around to work out the signature holes and where we would need to be to get the best angles and what time of the day would be best to shoot. First light we set up in the Cherry Picker on the 13th South, It’s an amazing 380 yard par 4 which follows the contours of the Rocky Coast line. With elevation you can also see the famous par 3 15th which apparently is one of the most photographed par 3’s in the world. From my lofted position I could see why.

That morning was mostly spent catching up with Scott and me driving around both courses to really familiarise myself with both layouts. That evening Kurt and myself set up on the 15th and watched the sun go down over the Horizon. I can honestly say it was spectacular and at this point I had a quiet moment to myself, thinking how lucky I am and that I get to share these amazing experiences through my lens.

The next 4 days were spent shooting both courses doing a little field post production and catching up with Scott mostly talking about soccer in the UK. I did have a quick photoshoot with the lovely Paige Spiranac and I’ll cover that in the next post!

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to explore more of the Island. There’s so much history to Hawaii, the locals are really friendly and really proud of their culture! It truly is a dream destination for tourists and golfers alike and I sincerely hope to go back  soon.

Eventually it was time to call it a day, I knew that I had plenty of great material, the weather was great, the light was dramatically stunning and both courses were spectacular. The perfect combination for producing a comprehensive folio of images.

I said my goodbyes to Scott and his team headed for the airport.

2 days later I arrive safely home in Sussex and straight away start on the post production of the images.

This trip and experience has been the highlight of the year for me. I had never envisaged going to Hawaii, I’m thankful that my latest career gives me the opportunity to visit these amazing places meeting up with old friends and making new ones along the way. It’s truly a dream job and hopefully I can’t see me stopping any time soon!


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