How to find the best photo locations on a vacation

I’m still processing images from my recent trip to Maui and Kauai, but as I was going through them I thought about how I find out where to go for the best photo opportunities when you go to a new place. How did I know where to find this lcoation for sunset?


Sunset near Princeville, Kauai

I start, before I go, with a guidebook – I know that is old fashioned when you have Google at your fingerprints, but at least I get the Kindle version so I am not as luddite as you might think. (Reach for Google for that word…). The best one I have found for Maui is Maui Revealed by Andrew Doughty.


The author has a great honest style and tells you what I have found to be an accurate depiction of what you will find. For instance, all the “big name” guides to Maui warn you off driving around the south of the island after you have taken the famous “Road to Hana”. They tell you that the rental companies forbid it, that if you get stuck it will cost you thousands etc. etc. My chosen guide book said the road was not bad – it was graded dirt in places but unless it had rained hard, it was fine. I drove it, and it was no worse than I find in West Virginia every day! Narrow in spots, but that was fine if you are used to English roads!

The same author has written The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook that I also bought – even though I have been there many times. His restaurant reviews are just as straightforward as his other descriptions and we found those to be pretty accurate as well. The Kauai guide is:

These books give me a good overview of what I want to see and how to plan out the week.

Then I try to visit a few local photographer’s galleries as soon as I arrive. You find them in many vacation places and often the photographer is there in the gallery. I enjoy looking at other people’s work, but they are often more than willing to chat about the locations and when they took the picture. It is unlikely you will be able to get as good a shot as they are displaying, as they can go at the best time of year and in the best conditions, but, you never know, luck may be on your side.

I saw the sunset shot in a gallery in Princeville as a large metal print and it was stunning. I already knew the location, but had never climbed down the walls of this sea cave to get this specific view, and so on the last night of our stay I watched the clouds and decided that the forecast was looking good and took the trail down to Queens Bath near Princeville and then down the cliff into the cave. The sea was not too rough and there was enough space between where the waves were crashing and the back of the cave for me to feel comfortable although the ocean in the winter off this coast can be fearsome and this should not be attempted! I set my tripod and waited for the sun to get lower, taking batches of 5 HDR shots every few minutes (and wiping the polarizer filter for spray!). I felt pretty good about what I had captured, and then climbed out before it got too dark and took some remaining shots from above the sea cave to end out the evening. As always, I have a head lamp in my back for the dark return up the trail! This is the second shot I liked:

I have put one of these on Fine Art America and the other one will be going there soon. I don’t plan to put these two on the microstock sites – they were too hard to get and the light is just right for the location. I’m going to put them as RM on Alamy and see if I can get some prints and higher value sales from them. The local gallery I visited sells prints of this location from $995 upwards!

Good luck with the light on your next travels!

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6 Responses

  1. Steve Boyko says:

    Beautiful images – I like the second one more but they are both stunning. Thanks for explaining your process to “get the shot”.

    Your links to the guidebooks aren’t showing up for me.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks Steve. Have you got ads blocked – they come up as Amazon ads for the specific books when I look at it.


  3. ” I don’t plan to put these two on the microstock sites – they were too hard to get and the light is just right for the location. I’m going to put them as RM on Alamy and see if I can get some prints and higher value sales from them. ”

    Steve, that’s awesome, I feel the same way! Would be such a pity to see them being licensed for peanuts as RF.

  1. June 22, 2017

    […] images, it is easy to forget that we also do this because we enjoy photography! I talked about some great images I managed to capture on my final evening in Kauai, and I kept thinking about how best to show what I think is going to be one of my favorites. The […]

  2. July 21, 2017

    […] There is a fantastic little waterfall that falls into the sea near Queen’s Bath in Princeville. If you get there as the sun is setting, you can get a fantastic image of the last rays of the sun lighting up the waterfall. Be warned, though: this area can be very dangerous in winter with high waves! Funnily enough, I just got back from a two-week trip in Hawaii, and I blogged about that particular waterfall. […]

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