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Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island: Videos, photos and a story

Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is on a path to destroy the town of Pahoa, home to 950 people. I visited the volcano in 2011 with Photo Safari Hawaii, on assignment for Air Canada’s enRoute. My article explores what it’s like to take a photo lesson on an active volcano. The videos show a little slice of life there—especially the last one, which is of a local resident explaining life on the volcano. At the end of the post is a gallery of photos from my lesson.

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2011 highlights: Israel, Rome, and Wall Street Journal and Fox News articles about home

Traveling with daddy on his work trips, like to Montana's Ranch at Rock Creek, can be rough on a girl.

Traveling with daddy on his work trips, like to Montana’s Ranch at Rock Creek, can be rough on a girl.

And I’m spent.

2011 work highlights included having a full-page spread in The Wall Street Journal, trips to Israel and Rome, and Louisville.com becoming the city’s most-read independent website and winning a couple of big honors in the process.

Luckily my wife and daughter were able to join me on many of my trips. The latter turns two next week and already has visited 18 states and Washington, DC. We got her a passport this year, but it might be a few months at least before she’s able to get her first stamp—her little sister is slated to arrive in February.

Here are some of my writing and travel highlights for 2011:

Photographing lava at Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island for Air Canada’s enRoute

When I visited Hawaii’s Big Island during a six-week stay in the state in 2008, I had just one disappointment: I never saw an active lava flow (stupid nature, you erupt when I want you to). When I returned last August on assignment with Photo Safari Hawaii for enRoute, Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, however, the Kilauea Volcano cooperated. (Yes, that’s the same Kilauea Volcano’s that’s spewing lava 100 feet in the air today—that might be a bit too much cooperation.)

In February’s issue, I wrote about my day-long private photo ecotour with Photo Safari Hawaii:

Brian Ross, a fine art photographer and Photo Safari Hawaii’s owner, and Sian Olsen, one of his guides and the owner of Kohala Kayak, were not only excellent photography instructors, but their deep knowledge of the Big Island impressed as well. They were good company for 13 hours.

I’d taken a photography class previously with the Smithsonian Institution, but it centered on the mechanics of using the camera and got tedious. While they customize the experience for each group, Brian and Sian focus on the composition of fine art photography. This approach proved a lot more engaging—and provided plenty of fantastic photos of the Big Island, home to 10 of the Earth’s 15 types of climatic zones and the most diverse weather of any similarly sized area of land on the planet:

You can follow our travels on this map from the Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea, where I had a, um, great Hawaiian-style breakfast and turned on the MotionX iPhone GPS app at 7:28 a.m., to the Fairmont Orchid hotel, where I was dropped off at 8:52 p.m.

A map of my day with Photo Safari Hawaii created with MotionX iPhone GPS app.

A map of my day with Photo Safari Hawaii created with MotionX iPhone GPS app.

Access to the area where the lava from Kilauea Volcano was flowing was cut off during certain hours except for locals, some of whom still had houses there. One said we were with him and a security guard, who knew otherwise, let him drive us to where the lava was flowing. In takes a certain type of guy to live near an active flow: in this case, think if Francis Ford Coppolla had cast Jack Nicholson as Dennis Hopper’s character from Apocalypse Now.

And it takes a different type of guy altogether to cultivate vegetation and create walking paths on top of the Kilauea’s volcanic ash: think Adrian Brody on speed playing the littlest nerd in Revenge of the Nerds.

In addition to Brian and Sian, mahalo to the Big Island Visitors Bureau and Jessica Ferracane and Becky Ryan at Irondog Communications for coordinating my visit, Jaisy Jardine at the Fairmont Orchid, and the local who got us close to the lava flow.

enRoute‘s Higher Learning section focuses on “an international crash course in anything from cheese making to scuba diving to ranching, told from a personal perspective but in such a way that it teaches the reader about both the activity and the place it’s taught. It’s a two-page section, 450-words (in English and in French) and includes a sidebar with suggestions for where to stay and eat.” If you have ideas for similar experiences, please let me know.

Photos: Zach Everson and courtesy Brian Ross
Videos: Zach Everson
Map: Google Earth via MotionX iPhone GPS app

2010 travel highlights: Beijing, the Big Island of Hawaii, and a new travel buddy

A trip to San Diego in June marked my daughter's first dip in the Pacific Ocean.

A trip to San Diego in June marked my daughter's first dip in the Pacific Ocean.

Just over a week into 2010, I became a dad. During the year I realized though that any concerns I had about parenthood—and my new editor-in-chief gig at Louisville.com, which I also started in January—impacting my travel were unfounded.

Here are my travel highlights for 2010 (and while my daughter didn’t go on all of these trips with me, she did make it to 14 states and Washington, DC in her first year):

  • In February I visited the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach and wrote about its teen club for Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, enRoute, and one of my rare visits to a spa for UpTake.
  • A road trip to Milwaukee and Chicago in March marked my daughter’s first trip out of Kentucky; I talked about the experience on a podcast for UpTake and mentioned our Chicago hotel room’s wonderful view in enRoute.
  • As much as I enjoy traveling, it’s nice when a big event comes to me. In May it was the Kentucky Derby, which I wrote about for BlackBook and oversaw Louisville.com’s best week of traffic ever (November’s Breeders’ Cup did well too).
  • While family was the focus of my June visits to San Diego (brother’s wedding) and Kamiah, ID (to see my grandmother), I wrote about San Diego restaurant Jsix’s chef’s kitchen experience for BlackBook.
  • In June I made it back to New York City for TBEX, a travel bloggers conference, and finally got to meet in person a lot of folks I’d only known on the tubes. They were terribly disappointing exceeded high expectations.
  • Coming from a small family (no aunts or uncles), my wife’s family’s annual reunion just outside of Morgantown, WV is a can’t miss—I’m serious.
  • In Columbus, Ohio for my brother-in-law’s wedding, I stayed in a hotel where James Thurber use to live.
  • In August I flew to the The Big Island of Hawaii on assignment for enRoute to take a fine art photography class with Photo Safari Hawaii.
  • Later that month Las Vegas was the destination for another enRoute assignment, this time to take a poker lesson from two-time World Series of Poker champ Mark Seif.
  • I wrote about looking out over Gerald Ford’s grave site from my hotel room in Grand Rapids, Mich. for UpTake and visiting the art fair with the world’s largest prize (if not the best art) for Gridskipper.
  • On Columbus Day weekend we trekked to Watoga State Park in West Virginia for another of my wife’s family reunions (it’s a big clan).
  • At Thanksgiving I returned to my hometown of Reading, Mass. for the first time in 17 months, the longest I’d ever gone without a visit; I reviewed the accommodations at my parents’ house for UpTake (executive summary: meh).
  • For the second year in a row, I visited China with the Ritz-Carlton (this time it was Beijing); I won’t complain if trips to China with that hotelier become an annual tradition. Culinary highlights already have been posted on Gridskipper.
  • It was fantastic to get back to Washington, DC and see our friends. I wrote our stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington DC about for UpTake.
  • For the third time in four years, both my wife’s family and mine gathered in the neutral playing location of Deep Creek Lake Maryland for Christmas.

Working for Gridskipper’s Hawaii bureau

As I mentioned earlier, I was in Hawaii for a spell this winter. While Gridskipper’s correspondents are assigned to cover the cities in which they live, I figured 45 days in Honolulu qualified me as a kama’aina so I pitched the idea of of submitting some dispatches from the middle of the Pacific.

My then-editor, Chris Mohney, was agreeable. Here are my posts from Honolulu:

Writing about Honolulu led to a more enjoyable experience there, as I set about trying to get a deeper knowledge of the city. And while not the most useful post I’ve ever written, The Brady Bunch one was a blast to research.

Covering the Pro Bowl, and the NFL’s worthless fan events, for Deadspin

For six weeks this winter I was in Hawaii (my wife was assigned there for work and freelancing usually allows me the flexibility to work from anywhere).

We were in Honolulu during the NFL’s Pro Bowl, so I pitched Will Leitch at Deadspin, the second most visited sports blog on the Internet, to see if he was interested in on-location coverage of one of sport’s most worthless events.

He liked the idea and asked me to write two pieces: one that ran before the Pro Bowl and covered the first few days of game-related hullabaloo and another that was posted the day after the game and reported on the weekends’ doings (which, yes, included something resembling a football game).

Here are the posts:

Make sure you read the comments too; as is customary on Deadspin, they’re hilarious. And from a writers’ standpoint, it’s an ego boost to have so much response to a blog post (even if most entries on Deadspin receive a lot of feedback).

The Brady Bunch guide to Honolulu

Sometimes watching TV can pay off:

The Brady Bunch Guide to Honolulu

Growing up I wasn’t allowed to watch much television, but somehow The Brady Bunch (airing nightly on WLVI 56) was an exception. Thanks Mom and Dad—it made writing this Gridskipper post on the Brady’s trip to Hawaii easy.

I was surprised there weren’t any references to this three-part episode on line. For example, there are several websites dedicated to documenting where Lost has filmed in Oahu.

(And if you are looking for an idea for a website or blog post, I don’t think anyone has written about Magnum, P.I.)