Taking our vows in Hawaii

Back in 2009, I had been living on the road for nearly four years, and I had been doing it alone. I had pretty much written off relationships and was just focusing on travel and photography. That’s when I met Karen. We met at the Photoshop World Conference I speak at, but to be honest, we really got to know each other online. Over the course of many months, we slowly got to know each other and I had the feeling that this could be something special. Now, about three and a half years later, I am happy to be able to call her my wife. We got married on the Big Island of Hawaii, surrounded by a very small group of close friends and family.

As I mentioned in my last post, Karen and I spent most of the holidays at her family’s home in New Jersey. On New Years Eve, we started the day [very early] in New Jersey, and brought in the new year that night in Waikiki on Oahu. Karen’s family had never been to Oahu and wanted to check it out. While it’s probably my least favorite Hawaiian island (too commercial and city-like) it was a nice place to spend New Year’s Eve. We had dinner at a restaurant called the Hula Grill, which was completely open on one side to the beach and the ocean. This set the perfect stage for the fireworks show over the ocean at midnight. Not bad, right?!

On Jan. 1st, we spent the day exploring Waikiki with Karen’s family. There’s a lot of interesting shops and restaurants, so we kept ourselves pretty busy. What’s great is that we got to meet up with our friends Eddie and Judy, who were in Hawaii for our wedding and had also made a stop on Oahu. Eddie was actually my best man!

In this shot Karen took, we’re exploring and shopping in downtown Waikiki. From left is Karen’s brother David, his girlfriend Cindy, me, Karen’s sister Laura and her fiance Rich.

Karen and I bring in the new year at the Hula grill in Waikiki

Me, Karen, Eddie and Judy at the Yard House in Waikiki.

On January 2nd, Karen and I flew over to the Big Island and checked in at the Hilton Waikaloa, our hotel and the location of our wedding. The Waikaloa is huge and beautiful. It’s so big, in fact, that there are monerails and boats to take you between buildings. You can always walk, but it generally takes a while. For the most part, we didn’t mind walking, but the boat rides were really nice as well. I had actually stayed at this resort years ago when I was attending a Tony Robbins event. The chapel stuck out in my mind and I remember thinking to myself that if I were to get married, this would be a beautiful place to do it. Well, here we are! When we checked in, we were upgraded to an ocean-view room, which was just perfect. Check out Karen’s iPhone pano from the hotel balcony below.

The view out our hotel room window at the Hilton Waikaloa

Shortly after we checked in, our friends started arriving as well. We had a mid-day happy hour with our great friends Jay and Lesa in our room and then we set out to explore the grounds. Karen also wanted to see the chapel, as she had only seen it in photos before! I think it exceeded her expectations.

Here’s a fun suspension bridge going over one of the pools.

Me, Jay and Lesa at the Hilton Waikaloa

January 4th was our big day. Since our wedding was a sunset ceremony, we had time early in the day. I spent a bit of time with Eddie, while Karen had a pedicure and hair appointment at the spa. After she was dressed and ready, she headed out for photos with Judy (Eddie’s other half) and that’s when I got ready. About an hour before the ceremony, we met at the wedding gazebo for photos and last-minute preparations.

Me and Eddie, hanging out before the ceremony.

Karen’s shot of the wedding chapel. The bridal procession walked down this windy pathway into the chapel.

This beautiful photo was shot by Judy in the hotel room, before I even saw Karen in her dress. ©Judy Host

Our first photo together, right before the ceremony ©Judy Jost

The ceremony was really beautiful and revolved around nature and Hawaiian traditions and beliefs. Karen and I wrote our own vows to add a little more of a personal feel to the day. After the minister blessed our rings (a Hawaiian tradition), we read our vows and were pronounced husband and wife! It was a short ceremony, but incredibly meaningful and special to both of us. What made it even more special was the intimacy of the event. Everyone person there was someone who was close with us and who we have known for a long time.

Right after we were pronounced husband and wife

Immediately after the ceremony, we headed outside for some sunset photos. We can’t thank Eddie and Judy enough, for they both shot some wonderful images for us. It even got a little tricky for Eddie since he was the best man and had to be in some of them! While we did photos, there were drinks and tapas served right outside the chapel so we all could stay there, relax and enjoy the sunset.

The whole bridal party, right after the ceremony ©Eddie Tapp

A beautiful sunset shot of me and Karen. ©Eddie Tapp

This one is classic Ben and Karen ©Eddie Tapp

Another lovely image of Karen ©Eddie Tapp

Our reception dinner was held at a restaurant at the resort called the Kamuela Provision Company. Our group had two long tables outside, right by the ocean and lit by torches surrounding the patio. It was a very personal affair, and we felt like we truly got to talk to everyone there. Some weddings we see are so huge and fancy that I don’t know how the couple can relax. I’m so glad we did things the way we did. It was a perfect day.

Our reception dinner

After the wedding day, we focused on relaxing and enjoying the island. We spent a lot of time enjoying the hotel grounds, sharing time with friends and doing some exploring. Since this post is getting pretty long, I’ll just add some photos telling the story of the remainder of our trip.

One of our Christmas gifts from Karen’s parents was an ATV tour near the northernmost point on the big island. We had a blast!

This was one of the stops on our ATV tour

Rough day 🙂

To say that Karen is an animal lover would be an understatement. She’s been wanting to swim with dolphins for ages and she finally got to do it on this trip.

Our whole group went to a luau at the hotel one night. Here we are, enjoying the show.

Happy hour at Buddha point, overlooking the ocean.

**Karen  wrote a nice photo-rich blog post about our wedding day and you can read that HERE. There is also a gallery of wedding day images HERE. **

A wonderful week on Maui

 Above is a little video Karen made of our time in Hawaii. Note: Many of these are iPhone shots.

Here is part two of our Hawaiian interlude. If you read the last blog post, you know that we spent a week on Oahu and then hopped over to Maui. where we spent this past week. Before we left for Maui, we attended a Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Before the feast started, we got to explore the grounds a bit, and were very impressed by their setup. It’s a huge park-like village with separate areas for many of the individual Polynesian cultures (Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, etc.). At each area, you could see shows, demos, or just explore the buildings. The Luau was fun, and on the way in, we each got a fresh orchid lei. There were hula dancers and live music throughout the whole event. When it was over, we headed over to the large theater for the live show, “Ha: Breath of Life.” Karen and I were both pretty surprised at how big of a production it was. There were at least 70 performers, and a huge staff for effects and such.

We flew to Maui on Tuesday, where I taught a 3-day Photoshop course at the Maui Institute of Visual Arts. The institute is run by Randy and Becky Hufford, and we stayed in their guest suite during our visit. The course went really well, and all the students seemed to enjoy it a lot. We had one interesting day where the power went out completely, and we all had to work on the battery power from our laptops, with no projector at all! I kept plugging on, and the class seemed to make do just fine, which was great. When I was down to 3% battery life left, I started to wrap things up for the day and that’s when the power came back on … just in the nick of time! We were able to continue the class with no problem. Many thanks to my students and Randy for making the most of the situation!

If you read this blog a lot, you know that as we travel around the mainland in the motorcoach, we are constantly running into friends (and making new ones). You would think that out here in Hawaii, we would be less likely to be running into people we know. Well that couldn’t be further from the truth! As soon as we landed in Maui, we were picked up at the airport by my great friend Steve. You may have heard me talk about Steve and his wife, Beverly, in many of these posts. They live in Las Vegas and that’s one city we’ve been visiting a lot lately (mostly because of friends and convenience… not because of the “Vegas scene”). In fact, the bus is currently parked in their driveway! Here’s what’s crazy: It was sheer coincidence that we happened to be traveling to Hawaii at the same time! It sounds almost impossible, but that’s how our lives seem to roll. But wait… this gets better. My awesome friend Diane (who is also a mutual friend of Steve and Beverly) happens to live on Maui and was with Steve when he picked us up at the airport. So on our first night on the new island, we had a small gathering of close friends, and considering we hadn’t seen Diane in over a year, it was somewhat of a reunion.

One morning, we woke up early to go whale watching with my friends Mark and Shayla. I had met them during a previous visit to Maui, where they attended the class I was teaching. They were kind enough to take us out on their boat to search for humpback whales. We spotted several of them, but didn’t get close enough to get nice photographs. That’s ok, though. We were just thrilled to be able to get out on the water and catch up with Mark and Shayla. Later that day, we went sight-seeing with Steve and Bev all over the south side of East Maui.

While I was teaching my three-day class, Karen spent a lot of time exploring the island. This was her first time to Maui, and she wanted to see as much as she could. In just two days, she drove the perimeters of both the east and west sides of Maui, as well as part of the interior. She’s going to post a bunch of photos on her blog (as well as some interesting stories from her adventures) and I’ll link to it when she does.

As I mentioned above, we stayed in Randy and Becky’s guest room (aka the Pineapple Love Suite) while we were in Maui and spent a lot of time with them in the evenings. Becky is an incredible chef and had delicious things in store for us every night. Karen has really been getting into cooking lately, so she was eager to soak up all the tips Becky could give her. On Saturday, we had a joint birthday party for Randy and Steve. Everyone had a blast … maybe too much of a blast, because many of us needed some “recovery time” the following morning!

Me and Karen at the “Three Bears” waterfall on the Road to Hana

On Sunday, Karen and I drove the famous Road to Hana together, stopping to shoot along the way. It rained for a good part of the way, but cleared up toward the end of our drive and we managed to get some nice late-afternoon/early-evening shots of the coastline at Waianapanapa State Park. Since it would have been a long and dark drive back, we decided to spend the night in Hana, which is where we are as I type this. We’re right on the ocean, and the place we’re staying is semi-open, so we can hear the wind and the water from the room. Not a bad way to wrap up this post, I’d say! Aloha!

More to come…

Extra note: Karen posted a free desktop calendar wallpaper for March up on her blog, The Pixel Diaries. It features one of her images from Oahu. You can download it HERE.


Aloha, from Oahu!

This week, I’m checking in from the Hawaiian Island of Oahu! We flew here after moving the bus back to Las Vegas, where it will stay while we’re on the islands. The main reason for my visit here was to teach a two-day course at the University of Hawaii for Pacific New Media. Karen and I are even staying right on the campus, which is less than 10 minutes from Waikiki and downtown Honolulu.

Mai Tais at the Hula Grill in Waikiki

On the day we arrived, we landed around noon and immediately went to pick up our rental car, which happened to be a lime green Volkswagen Beetle. Karen really got a kick out of this. Since I was starving, I did a Yelp search for a nearby food place that was fast and had good reviews. What I came up with was Helena’s Hawaiian Food. It not only had amazing ratings, but we later learned that it had been featured on some food-related TV shows. The place was small and very “no-frills,” but it is a local gem, for sure. Everything on the menu is very Hawaiian, and there was a line out the door to get a table. We took our food to go and ate in the car at a parking locale that overlooked the city of Honolulu. Not a bad intro to our stay in Hawaii!

After lunch, we explored the eastern side of the island for a bit and then checked in at the hall we would be staying at on campus. For our first evening, we went down to Waikiki for drinks and dinner. I first did a Yelp search for local happy hours and found a place with wonderful reviews called Bacchus. It was supposed to be a wine bar. When we arrived, we thought it was a little odd that there wasn’t much of a wine selection, and the music was louder than we’re used to for a wine bar. This didn’t bother us too much though. It was a fun place and the bartender was really friendly. I went up to get drinks while Karen got a table. When I got back to our table, Karen gave me a funny look, leaned in, and politely informed me that I had taken her to a gay bar and she was the only female in the place. When I looked around, I noticed that the place was full of very “affectionate” guys. Now gay bars don’t bother us one bit, but the fact that this was totally unintentional on my part made the first part of our night VERY amusing. After leaving Bacchus, we walked around for a bit in the downtown Waikiki shopping area and then eventually ended up at the Hula Grill for dinner. There was live Hawaiian music, our table was on a terrace that overlooked the beach, and the food was amazing.

Karen got this shot at the Pipeline surf break on the North Shore of Oahu.

On our second day, we decided to drive around the island, starting in Honolulu and heading up counter-clockwise. We first stopped at the easternmost point, Makapu’u, where we hiked to the lighthouse there. It was a good workout, and the route was scenic. Part of the walk overlooked a sanctuary for humpback whales where you could easily see dozens of spouts and tail fins. When we got back to the car, we continued the drive, stopping at any place that looked interesting. We spent a good amount of time on the North Shore, stopping at many of the popular beaches up there. This place is a surfer’s paradise, for sure. Karen really wanted to find the famous Pipeline break, which could possibly be the most famous surfing spot in the world. (We didn’t see it that day, but she eventually found it when she returned alone during a day I was teaching) We stopped for dinner in Hle’iwa, a town on the western side of the island, where we had some excellent curry food. By the time we got back to the university, we were both pretty beat.

My Photoshop Mastery class at the University of Hawaii Campus

On Saturday and Sunday, I taught my two-day class called Photoshop Mastery on the University’s campus. Both days went really well, and I think the students got a lot out of it. On Saturday night, Karen and I went back to Waikiki for a night on the town. We started off with a happy hour in a rotating bar that overlooked the city and the ocean. What’s funny is that we didn’t realize that the place was rotating until at least 15 minutes after we arrived! For dinner, we went to a place called the Genius Lounge, which also had amazing ratings on Yelp. We got a table outside and the food was both delicious and unique. I had Pumpkin and Bacon along with breaded deep fried hamburger on rice topped with a fried egg and Demi glacé sauce. Karen, of course, had two salads. We always like going to places with interesting menu items.

On our way back to the car, we noticed a lot of activity in Peter Lik’s photography gallery, so we decided to stop in and see what was going on. It turns out, there was an open event going on where servers were handing out wine and appetizers. Nice way to end the night!

We have one more day before we leave Oahu and move on to Maui. I will be teaching another two-day class there and I also have some great friends to visit on the island. More to come!

Upcoming Workshops & Events

Hi everyone! I’ve got a lot of great workshops and events going on in 2012 and would for you to join me on some. Here’s what’s coming up:

Discover Iceland: A Photographer’s Paradise

June 24-30, 2012

Get ready to discover one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Iceland features black sand beaches, waterfalls, geysers, volcanos, geothermal features, glaciers, icebergs, lighthouses, turf houses, storybook horses and interesting architecture, all packed into a country that is 1/95th the size of the United States. Its unspoiled countryside offers breathtaking vistas, dramatic weather and such a diversity of subject matter that after a week’s time, you will feel like you’re just scratching the surface. You’ll see so many waterfalls (including the largest in all of Europe) that they’ll become ubiquitous enough that you might even start to ignore them. This will be my fifth visit to Iceland in the last seven years!

Click HERE for more information and to register.


Photoshop Mastery: A two-day workshop in Honolulu

February 25-26, 2012

Master the creative tools of Photoshop . . . in Hawaii.
In the first day, gain a deep understanding of the fundamental foundation of how Photoshop’s adjustments work. See how you can substitute curves for almost half of Photoshop’s adjustments since many of them use curves behind the scenes. Learn what’s special about camera raw and find out how to best apply adjustment layers and layer masks to make your adjustments more versatile.

In the second day, learn how to creatively alter your images to make them look more appealing. Topics covered include blending modes, working with color globally and selectively, colorizing B&W photographs and learn to apply antique color, soft contrast and painterly effects. Learn how to Influence what a viewer is attracted to within your image, stylistically unify a group of photos, and apply certain tricks to help your viewer stay with your image longer. Employ unique effects to help develop your own personal style.

Click HERE for more information and to register.


The Peoria Camera Club: From Capture to Wow

March 17, 2012

Learn to make better captures – starting with equipment choices and camera settings. In this jam-packed day of photography and Photoshop, I’ll share my techniques for quickly evaluating shooting locations and creating compositions that are dynamic and interesting. You will learn how to think about post-processing techniques in the field to capture the most ideal images for later digital enhancement. Then, I will demonstrate my favorite post-processing techniques for enhancing and fine-tuning images on the computer. You will learn how to use digital processing tools to create images with more visual impact so you can develop your own style and take your creativity to the next level.

Click HERE for more info and to register.


Photoshop World

March 24-26

The must-attend conference for photographers and Photoshop Users
Designed to help you boost your skills, Photoshop World offers three days of pulse-pounding training with classes from renowned experts in the fields of Photoshop, photography and lighting and a once-in-a-lifetime experience guaranteed to enhance your skill set and help your work soar to new heights!

My Photoshop World sessions are: Mastering Adjustment Layers, Understanding Color Adjustments and Panorama Stitching.

Click HERE for more info.


Page, Arizona

May 10-13, 2012

Page, Arizona is a little-known spot with great photo opportunities. This small town, located on the Colorado River and overlooking the Glen Canyon Dam,  will be base camp for our photo adventure. During the course of the workshop, we will photograph the Slot Canyons, Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend and Lake Vistas, just to name a few.

Our location is ideal for exploring many of the American Southwest’s renowned national parks and monuments, and discovering the unique culture of the Navajo Nation.

UPDATE: As a special bonus for attending this workshop, OnOne Software is giving each participant a FREE copy of their award winning software, Perfect Effects! (a $99.00 value)

Click HERE for more info and to register.


The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Oct. 4-7, 2012

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a world-renowned attraction and destination for balloon pilots and photographers. For more than three decades, the first week in October brings the smell of roasting chiles and the beautiful, magical moving picture show of hot air balloons sailing silently through the crisp fall air.

The colors and textures will boggle your senses and you will come away with some of the most incredible images you have ever taken. We’ll throw in enough HDR training if you want to get a bit crazy with your creativity.

Be overwhelmed by this seldom experienced spectacle and you’ll be amazed at the photos your creativity will find.

UPDATE: As a special bonus for attending this workshop, OnOne Software is giving each participant a FREE copy of their award winning software, Perfect Effects! (a $99.00 value)

Click HERE for more info and to register.


Zion National Park

October 18-21, 2012

Massive canyon walls ascend toward a brilliant blue sky. To experience Zion, you need to walk among the towering cliffs, or challenge your courage in a small narrow canyon. These unique sandstone cliffs range in color from cream, to pink, to red. They could be described as sand castles crowning desert canyons. We will be experiencing the beauty of this tranquil place when the trees are the most colorful.

UPDATE: As a special bonus for attending this workshop, OnOne Software is giving each participant a FREE copy of their award winning software, Perfect Effects! (a $99.00 value)

Click HERE for more info and to register.