Kauai, rekindled.

I am one of the blessed, select number of people who have the intense pleasure of calling Kauai home. I am also part of a population that, despite living in absolute paradise, get caught up in my life of making rent, running errands, and getting a bit used to seeing waterfalls and rainbows every day. A sin, I know, but it happens.

I recently began working with Photo Safari Hawaii. Without over simplifying what they strive to do, Photo Safari Hawaii takes small, private groups out on tours to have an experience with nature while practicing fine art photography exercises. As part of my training to be a guide, I went on a mock tour with owner and CEO, Brian Ross. We began our day on the north shore, first stopping at the overlook into the Hanalei valley.

20140822_100032Taro fields in Hanalei

Brian began by teaching me about the different elements of light; indirect, direct, and reflected. We drove down to the Hanalei taro fields to play around with these different elements more. Despite my experience with photography, I was having a little creative jitters at first. However, once I got into it, with some encouragement from Brian, I was enjoying myself immensely and remembering an art form that I used to have a fervent passion for.




Pictured above is the a bird endemic to Hawaii, the Hawaiian moorhen, or the ‘alea ‘ula. The‘alea ‘ula knew the secret for creating fire and withheld this secret from man. When Maui (the demi-god who fished out all the islands of Hawaii with his magic hook) asked the ‘alea ‘ula for the secret to make fire, she lied to him. When Maui found out, he was furious. So, he choked her until she revealed the secret of fire. As punishment for lying to him, Maui burnt her forehead with a red hot stick. That’s the reason for this bird’s distinctive red frontal shield.



We went through several other exercises, each one bringing new photos, and at different locations, most of which were on the beautiful North Shore. I cannot stress this enough- IF YOU COME TO KAUAI GO TO THE NORTH SHORE! The entire north shore, all the way to the end of the road. Not just to Princeville or Hanalei. Otherwise you’ll miss out on these beaches below.




Ke’e beach 

From there we went to the National Tropical Botanical Garden. I’d never been here before, and I’ve been really missing out. This place is more magical than a Harry Potter book. I had a brief visit, but what I saw had me spouting curse words in front of bossman. Oops?








Photo Safari Hawaii has exclusive access to this place, unless you go through the botanical garden themselves. In which case you’ll be carted around in a tram with a bunch of other sunscreen-scented tourist. Which is great and all, but I’d much rather drive around in the air conditioned 4WD monster truck PSH uses. Also –bonus– PSH gets exclusive access to the above waterfall. Even the tours through the botanical garden does don’t go to this tranquil, almost forgotten little spot.

20140822_183829 (1)



We finished the day with a spectacular sunset at salt pond beach on the south side, pictured above. This day was only one of two days I spent with Brian (another post to come soon!) but it left me more excited than a kid on Christmas Eve when the ceiling creaks at 2am. Kauai is easily the most visually stunning place I’ve ever been, which was a big factor in my decision to move here. But after two years here, I’ve forgotten to keep my eye out for its gifts. Like the sun making the clouds appear  to  be rolling across the fluted cliffs. The way the palms gently wave at you. Hard to spots birds like the Nene or the fabled Moorhen (all I ever see -and hear- are the damned chickens!). And the waterfalls, so, so many waterfalls. Kauai is the best decision I’ve ever made, hands down.

*All photos were taken with my cell phone…..unfortunately.

Remember that time….?

That I kayaked the Na Pali coast?

I do.

Two days of sunburn, questionable drinking water, mostly pasta and grapes to eat, and scenery so beautiful you’d wonder how the rest of the planet goes about it’s day to day life without giving a shit about the fact that this place exists.


Ah, yes Emily, post pictures of yourself online when you’ve been in the sun without makeup for two days. 

Please do allow illustrate with words what was going on inside my frizzy-haired cranium in figure 1. One night my roomate asked if I wanted to on a kayak trip tomorrow, she said it would take about four hours, and that we were leaving early in the morning. “Sure!” I thought. I’m surprisingly decent at kayaking despite the fact that all others sports- water sports included, have a tendency to make me feel less coordinated than a newborn deer…that was born without legs (AWWW!). The only team I was on in high school was tennis, and that’s just because they didn’t have try-outs and you got to miss school and eat snacks outside all day. What is love? (baby don’t hurt me)((that joke will go farther over your head than my tennis serves if you don’t know how tennis scores are kept)).


Circa 2006, I believe.

I digress. We arrive the in the morning ready for a fun afternoon of sun and water…..only to figure out that this trip we had agreed to go on would in fact be a two day trip, involving a 17 mile kayak trip that stretches the span of Kauai that the highway does not go, as well as an overnight stay. We quickly realized we would need to go back to our house and begin properly packing despite the fact the we owned zero camping gear, had few groceries, oh and 30 minutes to ready ourselves before the other 5 members of our group were going to leave us. Because in my nearly 23 years I’ve never managed to pack ahead of time for anything, why would this be any different?


See that top left part with no road? That’s what my noodle arms kayaked!

 The kayak to Kalalau is pretty easy (remember, legless baby deer skill level), and went with the tides right up until the last half mile, which was against the tides and the wind and made me question if we were ever going to make it. I swear at one point we were paddling forward and going backward. There are waterfalls that go into the sea, and cliff faces so large they look taller than skyscrapers. One of my favorite memories is singing any song we could remember the words to- mostly disney songs- because we were so bored of the silence on the long Kayak trip. Also, if I had one tip it would be to BRING SUNSCREEN. I coined a new term after this trip; I stopped referred to my sunburn as sunburn and started calling it “sun rape”. It took over a week for my skin to recuperate and I was blistered for the first time in my life. Still worth it though!

ImageThe water really is this blue curaçao and raspberry jolly rancher color. It’s stunning. It’s salty, but not too salty, and I can honestly say that I did not once see a piece of trash int he 17 mile stretch we roamed. The people of Hawaii really do take excellent care of their land. Mālama ‘Āina.

We landed at Kalalau beach after a brief battle with the tides and waves, a semi-scary swim in, and lots of sand in the shorts. Oh well, nothing a quick rinse off in the waterfall can’t fix. Next step was beaching the kayaks somewhere safe, and finding a place to set up camp. It was surprisingly crowded for a place to hard to get to. I’d estimate there were about 40-50 different campsites that had been set up, all within about 3 minutes of the beach, but what I know about Kalalau tells me that for every fifty I see, there are fifty more I haven’t seen. Now- I know the state sells permits for camping here, but I’m going to go ahead and admit that we maaaay or may not have skipped this step. And as far as I know, most people do too. Rebel without a cause, what can I say?


That blanket on the ground is where my roomate, Heather, and I slept. Camping does not favor the unprepared. 

After a nap and some snacks, we made our way out to the sunset (pictures below, one of the best in my life), sat around and had dinner which was generously shared with us by our fellow trippers, and went to bed quite early. I regret it (but there’s always next time!) but we didn’t explore too much. The generally rushed nature of the trip had taken a lot out of Heather and I, and I was quite exhausted. We did poke around a little the next day before we began the second leg of our journey, which was to be a 10 mile kayak, with a stop along the way.

The Kalalau valley is a very sacred place, and you can feel that as soon as you cross it’s threshold. It’s more than just the scenery. This place is magical, and possibly the best kept secret I’ve ever been lucky enough to fall into. The blessing of this trip still blows my mind. I have since attempted to return to Kalalau and not made it due to weather not cooperating. By boat is really my favorite way to see the Napali Coast. Na pali means high cliffs, and if you watch the video at the bottom of the post, you can begin to grasp just how insane these cliffs are. It almost looks as though the gods carved the soft, fertile land, with their claws. There are tales of hippies and outlaws living in the clothing-optional valley. They have gardens, camp houses, and even a library. Twice a year the DLNR raids the valley, slash and burn what has been built, and try to fine those that do not have camping permits (up to a $500 fine for first offenders). I spoke with one camper who came there every summer to spend three months in Kalalau, and spent the rest of his year in Colorado. I could not imagine coming here and being completely isolated from outside contact for three months, except for those who either boated in, or made the 11 mile (one way!!) hike in.



I made this little video that is a collection of my first year on Kauai, and this Napali trip was a part of that. Take a little look 🙂


Writing on the (drunken) walls

Amidst things I’ve been doing to take up my unemployed time- going “out” has been one thing I’ve been revisiting since returning to the Houston area. During these adventures I’ve been enjoying encounters with my favorite form of social deviance- graffiti. Now, let me preface quickly. There was a period during my (not so) rowdy youth years when I was OBSESSED with all things graffiti, street art, and spray paint. It was a counter culture that was new, blossoming, and exciting. This was right around the time that Banksy became a name known to most 20-somethings, except I was 16 and wore vans no matter how badly they clashed with my outfit. 


For me one the most difficult parts of artistic expression is to overcome that fear of judgement, of raw exposure. Art gets down to a part of you that you don’t usually bare all day long. The interesting thing about graffiti is the anonymity. Anonymity changes a lot about us. Think about your reaction very time you get cut off in traffic. Or the comment section of any YouTube video.

I’m particularly intrigued by a specific form of graffiti- bathroom scrawlings.

ImageThug means never having to say you’re sorry!


 Who are these people? (Probably women, seeing as I rarely venture into the men’s room). First, they must bring these writing utensils with them. Okay, not that weird, I’ve been known to carry around sharpies. I’ve even made my own mark on a bathroom wall or two. Clearly they weren’t in a hurry. Maybe I’m crazy but I’m basically always in a hurry to leave bar bathrooms as quickly as possible, hopefully having made skin-contact with as few surfaces as possible. Hand sanitizer at the ready.  


Prose at it’s best.



I love this one in particular. My friend sent me this from the University of Houston bathroom. As far as I can tell at least 6 people, probably females, contributed. I especially love how Tinder, and even a hashtag worked there way into this. If you haven’t noticed, several of these are vagina-centric. Or loosely based around female and empowerment. Who run the world?


Perhaps these were premeditated. Perhaps I’ve stumbled into a word of true human expression- anonymous, uninhibited, and unapologetic. Perhaps they were just drunk. 

Here’s to drinking in pubs in the name of artistic research.