April 2022

“Born of Fire”

A lava lake bubbles and churns in the still of night.


THE PREAMBLE

The first time we visited the Big Island of Hawaii was on December 31, 2018.  We began 2019 with about a month of exploring all of the major islands on as limited a budget as possible, managing the effort only via the support of friends, the CouchSurfing website, and a few camper van collaborations.  

Funnily enough, Hawaii was not the actual destination at all.  Back then, Sophie’s US visits were subject to an ESTA visa waiver which allowed her 90 days at most and required an exit ticket to somewhere not including Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean.  Our actual destination was Australia, but noticed it was cheaper to stop in Hawaii.  Then we saw how cheap it was to fly from one island to another… just like that a stopover become an extended visit exploring paradise.

We fell in love with the Hawaiian islands as most do, but also as many have discovered, each island has its own energy, its own “mana”, that calls you differently.  

Maui, though stunning, never felt right.  The people and interactions we encountered there were strained and often stressful.  Things felt rushed and superficial in a way we didn’t feel on any of the other. The vibe was just all wrong.  

The Big Island, meanwhile, was the opposite.  From the second we stopped off the plane and into the “airport,” which felt more like an open-air terminal, we felt the aloha.  There was a calm and excitement that never went away throughout.

Flash forward to 2022.

We had no idea back in 2019 that this stopover would be the last time Sophie would set foot in the US for two and a half years. 

Now being forced to remain in the US until immigration processes conclude, adapting to a new home and city and pace of life, we were beginning to go a little stir-crazy when an opportunity to return to the Big Island too good to pass up fell into our lap.  A friend reached out with an invitation to housesit for a week with a car provided.  We checked flights, only $150, and decided this was too good to pass up.  Just like that, we answered the call of the Big Island once more.

It was important to us to use this time for relaxation, which is not our way.  Typically, we cram every waterfall, beach, landscape, and destination into a jam-packed itinerary wherein our cameras never stop firing.  It had been on our minds that travel had become something mentally handcuffed to work, especially following the 6-month journey with Michelob. 

What we needed was quality time together and to try and untangle photography, blogging, and FOMO (fear of missing out) from travel, which was once synonymous with liberation.

The only thing we really wanted to do at any point in our time was to see the lava lake at Volcanoes National Park – how and when were complete mysteries.

THE STORY

A mindful effort was made to do the things out of a feeling of enjoyment, not obligation or FOMO.  We were still taking a ton of photos, but only because we find it so fulfilling… and maybe a LITTLE BIT for the website.

Each day we would hop around the island a bit, having beers on the beach and trying to avoid laptops and work stuff as much as possible.  The relaxation felt a little forced at times, but this is how breaking habits feel I suppose.  

We checked the conditions at Volcanoes frequently but having never been before and having little idea what to expect, it felt like an uphill battle.  Worse yet, it would take a 2-hour drive out and a 2-hour drive home late at night just to try our luck.  So far, we were falling asleep most nights by 9pm and the idea of driving home around 2am seemed a dangerous and unappealing prospect.  The FOMO was at odds with the principle of doing things because they felt enjoyable.

In a way that it seems only the Big Island does for us, the island provided.

We returned to the car after a morning of snorkeling on a friend’s boat to find an afternoon market had popped up.  We set our stuff down and went for a short walk amongst the booths.  As always, we gravitated toward the photography booths and found one in particular with some marvelous work, including some incredible shots of the lava from the 2018 eruptions.  

The photographer’s name was Don Slocum.  He had been in the camera business a long time and adorning his walls were some once-in-a-lifetime photos of lava falls, milky ways, moon bows, and more.  We chatted with him for some time but were cautious not to occupy too much of it as we are not the target market, preferring to fill our walls with photos from our own adventures. 

By the time we were leaving, we could see the wheels turning in his mind.  He caught up to us as we were getting back in the car to exchange numbers, feeling like it might be time for a return to the national park as he had not been in a while.  The next day, we received a message:

“Want to try tonight?”
“Meet here at 12:30am.”

Just like that, our priorities aligned.  We would be seeing the park not out of obligation or fear of missing out, but as an enjoyable adventure with a new friend who knew where and when to go.

We packed up and caught a couple hours of sleep before meeting Don in the middle of the night.  He drove out into the mountains through rain and darkness.  We stopped at the first stop and gazed in awe at the glowing caldera before us.  Within minutes, the perpetual cloud spontaneously blew away leaving a brilliant Milky Way sky in its wake.  

Getting as much as we could before the next cloud blew in, this already felt like one of those nights you don’t forget.  When we had the shot, we all loaded up and drove to the next spot.  After a mile-hike through the darkness, we arrived at a viewpoint looking directly into a lake of molten lava.

For over an hour we just watched through the camera as large yellow bubbles would fill and burst into brilliant fireworks.  

THE AFTERTHOUGHTS

We arrived home in Portland around 1am this morning.  Having slept and showered and enjoyed the amenities of our home, the first course of action was to get this belated MotM out to everyone.  Having taken so much time away from social media has been refreshing, and the hardest thing is forcing our way back into work mode.  

Everyone who has ever had a vacation knows the challenge of returning to the office, made more difficult when you have to be self-motivated to do so!

We cut the trip a little short because we received good news just before flying out – our interview for Sophie’s green card was scheduled for May 4 here in Portland! If all goes well, this will all finally be over tomorrow afternoon, and for the first time in over 3 years, we will be liberated to travel TOGETHER, wherever the wind may take us.

With travel restrictions finally easing and more and more opportunities popping up by the day, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

FEATURED PHOTOS

Click the slideshow below to showcase the featured photos for April in full screen mode.

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

The biggest announcement is that, hopefully, Sophie will officially have a Green Card thus liberating us to travel worldwide again within days!

At the moment, we have nothing scheduled except for a trip to Crater Lake, but that will hopefully be changing very soon!

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WE TRULY HOPE YOU’VE ENJOYED A BEHIND-THE-SCENES, GENUINE LOOK AT THE LIFE OF TWO FULL-TIME TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHERS.

7 thoughts on “April Moment of the Month”

  1. Gorgeous photos! The lava and milky way shot, wow!
    Fun to see your shots from Portland, my home for the first 50 years of my life.
    Hoping all goes well with Sophie’s green card. Safe travels!
    Molly

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Molly! It was really fun shooting something new and challenging and unusual 🙂 Now we are impatiently awaiting some decent weather up north so we can go explore more of this area!!

      Reply
  2. Keeping my fingers crossed for Sophie that all goes well and swiftly. (Although I can’t imagine it not going well. Still, a few good thoughts never hurt.) Welcome to the USA and Oregon Sophie!

    Reply
  3. Hi you two! I lived on the Big Island for 25 years, 4 in Kona and the rest in Hilo. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to see the Volcano in action. I remember the first time I saw the Volcano, the lava, the noise and the sulfur. Few people mention the noise. It was so unexpected. I look forward to seeing all your photos and memories. I miss the Big Island, (now called Hawaii Island) Aloha 😊🌴🌈

    Reply
    • Oh man you must miss it like crazy! It is such a beautiful place. And yes, there is something very humbling about being in front of that kind of natural power! I hope you have the chance to return sometime soon!

      Reply

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