Tag Archives: Hui Hoolana

Molokai, Hawaii, photography workshop – arrival day

A cacophony of birds awoke me on the island of Molokai this morning.  Exquisite morning light whispered through the Koa trees as a wind chime sounded out its unpredictable melody to the day.  This is my fifth year helping to teach Rekindling The Creative Spirit with Rikki Cooke, Dewitt Jones and Theresa Airey, and like fine wine, the workshop gets better with each passing year.  One of my favorite things about arrival day is hearing Bronwyn Cooke sing.  This year her daughter Heather joined in.  Click below to listen.

Coming Through the Atmosphere

Moomomi at sunrise, Molokai, Hawaii.
Moomomi at sunrise, Molokai, Hawaii.

My week of helping teach the photography workshop at the Hui Ho’olana on Molokai with fellow instructors, Rikki Cooke, Dewitt Jones and Theresa Airey has drawn to a close and I can feel the gravity of the mainland pulling me back into its orbit. Leaving the slow pace of life on Molokai to return to the mainland must be similar to the feeling astronauts have as they re-enter the earth’s atmosphere with the heat shield of their spacecrafts burning white-hot. It’s a feeling of excitement and terror at the same time.

For the past few years, Bronwyn Cooke has been trying to convince me to bring my violin out from the mainland. I guess she got sick of waiting, because yesterday in the mail a package containing a brand new violin from the Czech republic arrived, and this evening a group of ukulele players appeared on the front porch of the Hui around the time the sun was setting over the ocean to play some songs. My rusty fingers were able to remember a few notes and I have posted the result here for your listening pleasure. The violin has been dubbed “Jonathans Fiddle” and will be waiting here for my return. Thank you Bronwyn!

Click the play button below to listen:

Molokai, Hawaii Photography Workshop – Day 4

Hear Dewitt Jones read one of his columns from Outdoor Photographer.  © Dewitt Jones 2009, All rights reserved.  Used with permission.


A chance to slow down and regroup today at the Hui Hoolana.  A chance to notice the details, soak in the sun, relax and look at the images that have been taking us all week.

Landscape, Molokai, Hawaii.

Landscape near mile marker 15, Molokai, Hawaii.

View into a kitchen window on Moloaki, Hawaii.

View into a kitchen on Molokai, Hawaii.

Molokai, Hawaii Photography Workshop – Day 1

Musicians sing on the front porch of the Hui Hoolana, a retreat center on the island of Molokai, Hawaii.

Musicians performing ‘Kaulana Wailua’ during the annual photographic workshop at the Hui Hoolana on Molokai, Hawaii.  Listen to the audio by clicking the play button below.


It wasn’t long ago that I was standing in front of some of the most famous photographs of all time at the Boise, Idaho art museum. On the walls of the gallery hung iconic images produced by Ansel Adams from his many trips to Yosemite Valley and the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range. What struck me about the show, that had never before crossed my mind when admiring Adams work, was the context these images were created in. Many of Ansel’s most famous, lasting and iconic photographs were produced during the great depression and World War II. Two of the most frightening times in the history of the world and his vision was not clouded by fear, nor was it diverted by the call for image makers to turn their lenses and attention to document the social crisis at hand.

Today in the workshop we discussed the idea of “what turns your head”. Rikki planted the thought that if something makes you stop and look, it should perhaps also make your arm pick up a camera and your finger click the shutter. Ansel knew what turned his head, and he dedicated his life to putting himself in situations where he was surrounded by landscapes that excited him. At the time, Cartier-Bresson, another giant in the world of photography, said the following about Ansel’s exploits into the wild “The world is going to pieces and Adams …(is) photographing rocks and trees…” 1. While stung by this criticism, “ironically it turns out that one of the great social human issues of the twentieth century has … been the environment.” 2.

How often have I let my vision be clouded by the fear of failure or diverted by the call from other photographers to turn my attention to what they feel is important? How often have I let my vision become so distracted that nothing turns my head other than the next email?

After wrestling with a testing mid life crisis, Ansel wrote the following words of wisdom to a friend “A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside of me; things that relate to those who are loved and those who are real friends. For the first time I know what love is; what friends are; and what art should be. Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be followed alone; the resonance of all spiritual and physical things…Friendship is another form of love — more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting and acceptances of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean granite of reality. Art is both love and friendship and understanding: the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of things. It is more than kindness, which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light of the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is a recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the interrelations of these.” 3.

May we find ourselves partaking in the taking and giving of beauty, and may we not be afraid to turn our heads to the light and click the shutter.

Molokai, Hawaii Photographic Workshop – Arrival Day

Participants of the Hui Hoolana's photographic workshop gather i

Click the play button to hear Bronwyn’s opening chant.

Old friends and new have arrived at the Hui for its annual photographic workshop on the island of Molokai. Formally opening the week, Bronwyn Cooke chants a song in Hawaiian that translates to the following: “Grant us, grant us, grant us, the wisdom from above, that we might know the hidden meaning of the song that we sing”. As her rich voice reverberates over the grassy knoll in front of the Hui, I wonder at the profundity of how these simple lyrics succinctly sum up the ultimate question. What is the meaning of the song that I sing with my life? Grant me the wisdom to know. Grant me the wisdom to know.