"It was surreal! We had just presented the last award during the ceremony that capped the first Maui Photo Festival & Workshops (MPF). All of a sudden, everyone was on their feet, applauding, and camera flashes were going off right and left, as though Princess Diana had walked into the room. We knew the attendees were happy with the event, but we didn’t know how happy they were. It was overwhelming–and gratifying!"
It’s a memory that makes Terrie Eliker, MPF’s creative director in charge of program planning and presentation, smile–and work harder to ensure this year’s second-annual MPF will be just as exciting and rewarding.
Eliker knows all the pleasures and pitfalls that come with a creative pursuit that has undergone major changes in the past decade. She graduated with a degree in photojournalism in 1980, back in the days when Kodak was king. Fresh out of college, she considered two openings at East Bay Newspapers (now the Bay Area News Group) in California: Part-time photographer for one of the company’s weekly newspapers, which paid $495 a month, and a full-time graphic arts position at one of its dailies, shooting artwork for ad production that paid $725 a month.
It was an easy decision.
MAUI PHOTO FESTIVAL & WORKSHOPS
» Place: Place: Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, 200 Nohea Kai Drive, Kaanapali Resort, Maui
Dates: August 25-29
Time: Activities and events are scheduled from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Cost: $595 per person, including the opening reception, all on-site seminars and the awards ceremony. Kamaaina receive $100 off by using the code "kamaaina" in the online registration process. $395 for students and teachers with proper identification. There are additional fees for off-site excursions and pre-conference sessions. Special room rates are available; check the website or call the hotel at (808) 661-1234 for more information.
Phone: (808) 633-1339
Notes: MPF is offering 10 scholarships to Maui County students aged 15-19, including 2010 high school graduates. Applicants must submit a 250-word essay and images in any or all of these categories: Dive Right In, Those Lazy Days of Summer, and Up Close and Personal (one photo per category). Deadline is August 1. Complete rules are on the website.
"I needed to pay rent," Eliker said. "Once I went down the production path, however, it was hard to get a foot in the door to the newsroom, but I did learn every stage of the newspaper production process. When graphic design went digital, I taught myself that, too."
Eliker moved to Maui in 1988, and landed a job two years later as a graphic artist for The Maui News. In 2005, she decided to get back into photography, figuring that creators of content have a better chance of employment than those who arrange content created by others. She bought a couple of refurbished digital cameras on eBay and started experimenting with them.
Her initial results were disappointing. "The digital chip can’t capture the vast dynamic range of light that you see with your eyes," she explained. "Film is able to replicate a wider range of tones so there is greater room for error. With digital, if you don’t expose correctly for the highlights, there’s no data there. Without data, your images are washed out or highlights are ‘blown,’ and no amount of work in Photoshop can fix it."
Determined to learn, Eliker sought out every resource she could find on digital photography, from podcasts and books to seminars and instructional DVDs. In 2008, she attended a five-day Photoshop/digital photography conference in Las Vegas, joining 3,000 shutterbugs from all over the world. While she enjoyed the sessions, there was little hands-on training and students never stepped outdoors.
"I started thinking it would be great to bring that kind of event to Maui, but move as many classes outside to take advantage of our beautiful location," Eliker said. "I wanted people to use their cameras during the event. If they were going to spend thousands of dollars on airfare and hotel expenses to hone their digital photography skills in Vegas, they could come to Maui and have an even better experience. Residents could also take advantage of it, without having to shell out big bucks for a Mainland trip."
Eliker brainstormed with her longtime friends Richard and Barbara Santos, who had experience in event management, and Zane and Beth Mathias who had owned and operated Media Systems, a photography production company in Lahaina. The Mathiases had worked with convention groups at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa for over 20 years, and thanks to that close relationship, the Maui Photo Festival & Workshops was able to secure the four-star hotel as a venue–and, along with that, credibility and visibility.
The five-day MPF returns to the Hyatt Regency Maui next month, again offering demonstrations; location shoots; off-site excursions; competitions for pros and amateurs; and over 50 seminars, including Secrets of a Food Shoot, The Art of Available Light and Building a Successful Photography Business. Attendees will gather under the stars in the Paradise Cinema, a big-screen theater on Kaanapali Beach, every evening. The work of the 27 acclaimed presenters (11 are from Hawaii) will be shown there along with photos shot that day and entered into competition.
From sunrise to sunset, from underwater locales to the summit of Haleakala Volcano, Maui will provide an endless array of spectacular subjects. Once again, MPF’s signature activity will be Maui photographer Randy Jay Braun’s two-hour Quintessential Hawaiian Photo Shoot–Hula on the Beach at Sunset.
"Last year, thousands of incredible images were created during that session on Kaanapali Beach," Eliker said. "Imagine a halau dancing at sunset just for you! It’s an opportunity that isn’t normally available to visitors–or kamaaina, for that matter."
Also, you can always take a helicopter tour, but MPF offers the chance for you to experience a doors-off ride with former aerial combat photographers Stacy Pearsall and Andy Dunaway. You might see sea turtles during a snorkeling trip, but MPF’s ocean outing is led by internationally renowned marine photographer David Fleetham
Said Eliker, "People often ask, ‘What is the highlight of your event?’ In reality, we’ve planned an event full of highlights, offering something for every skill level. You’ll learn a lot, make a ton of great connections and the images you take away will exceed your own imagination."
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Advertiser have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.