J. La Plante Photo | Travel Photography | Kauai | Na Pali Coast

Off the Clock: Kauai

For the past couple of years, I’ve had my eye on Metanoia, a workshop by the preeminent wedding photography duo, Two Mann Studios. Every year, they hold a handful of these workshops in exotic locations around the world, each of which consistently sells out in a matter of hours. Sort of like a Rolling Stones tour. Last fall, after deciding that I was financially comfortable enough to invest a chunk of capital back into my education, I took the plunge and registered for Metanoia Kauai. The timing was fortuitous; Moira and I always take a “mental health” vacation in the spring just before our wedding season shifts into high gear. And since Moira had never been to Hawaii (and I had never been to Kauai), this was the perfect fit.

What’s more, two weeks or so before our departure, a coveted spot opened up in workshop and, after writing a long inquiry letter, Moira was accepted as a “scholarship student.” So instead of her bopping around the island and lying on the beach alone for three days (which wouldn’t have been a bad consolation prize), we were able to experience the workshop together.

Poipu, Kauai

For the first leg of the trip, we stayed in an Air B&B in Poipu, a small coastal town on the southeastern shore of the island. We flew in a day early to get settled and decompress before the workshop, so our first order of business was to hit the beach. We drove a few miles on a potholed dirt road to a remote area called Gillin’s Beach for an easy hike and a little R&R. The afternoon was complete with a Loco Moco lunch at a food truck park (plus shave ice) in Old Town Koloa and a drive out to Spouting Horn, just west of Poipu, Kauai.

beautiful hawaiian beach

paragliding in kauai

secluded beach in kauai

swinging on the beaches of hawaii

food truck court in kauai


The morning of the workshop, I was nervous as hell. But when Erika and Lanny’s eight-year-old son, Timmy, met us at the door with two fresh Mai Tais (at 10:00 in the morning), I knew everything was going to be cool.

I’m not going to go into specifics regarding what was taught at the workshop (you’ll just have to sign up for one yourself), but here are a few highlights:

Day 1: The aforementioned Mai Tais.

Day 1: The “demo shoot.” Moira and I had the pleasure of standing in for this and, since we had never posed together as a couple in front of the camera before, this was an very beneficial experience for both of us. We had always talked about doing a shoot someday, primarily to see what it’s like from our couples’ point of view and, in turn, hopefully become more empathetic photographers as a result. Also, it was pretty cool being photographed by two of the best in the world. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes because, inevitably, they won’t live up to your lofty expectations. I’m happy to report that this axiom doesn’t hold true for Erika and Lanny.

Day 1: Critiques. We each had our most recent wedding critiqued in front of “the class.” I haven’t had my work critiqued since college, and after a decade-plus of predominantly ego-stroking feedback, this was a breath of fresh air. A unique and enlightening experience that was ultimately one of the most valuable parts of the workshop for me.

Day 2: Mai Tais. Do you see a theme here?

Day 2: The pool. During the “bridal party shoot,” we all jumped into the pool, partially-buzzed and fully-clothed. This may or may not have ruined the remainder of the formal teaching that night, but all in all, I’d say it was worth it.

Day 3: You guessed it. Mai Tais.

Day 3: “Graduation.” The workshop concluded with some highly motivational and extremely moving closing words. A good majority of the class was in tears by the end of day three and I don’t think anyone really wanted to leave afterward. For those of you attending future Metanoia workshops, you’re in for a treat.

wedding photography workshop in hawaii

wedding photography workshop in hawaii

wedding photography workshop in kauai hawaiiPhoto by Moira Kennedy

wedding photography workshop in kauai hawaii

wedding photography workshop in kauai hawaiiPhoto by Marscha van Druuten, Odiza Fotografie

wedding photography workshop in kauai hawaiiPhoto by Marscha van Druuten, Odiza Fotografie

wedding photography workshop in hawaiiPhoto by Erika Mann, Two Mann Studios

wedding photography workshop in hawaiiPhoto by Anissa Rahman, Anissa Rahman Photography

wedding photography workshop in hawaiiPhoto by Anissa Rahman, Anissa Rahman Photography

wedding photography workshop in hawaiiPhoto by Lanny Mann, Two Mann Studios

wedding photography workshop in hawaiiPhoto by Anissa Rahman, Anissa Rahman Photography

wedding photography workshop in hawaiiPhoto by Brandon Russell, Minaret Photography

kauai hawaii pool partyPhoto by Marscha van Druuten, Odiza Fotografie

portrait in kauai hawaii

cool beaches in kauai

silhouettes on the beach

hawaii wedding photography workshopPhoto by Moira Kennedy

Post Workshop

We were physically, mentally and emotionally drained after the workshop, but we managed a day trip up the windy mountain road bisecting the island. We did a short hike along the western ridge of Waimea Canyon and then continued on to the Pu’u O Kila Lookout, overlooking the Na Pali coast.

After a fish taco lunch (and more shave ice) in Waimea, we ventured west to Polihale State Park, which was closed due to flooding (a foreshadow of what was to come).

On the trek back to the Air B&B, we stopped at the Hanapepe Swinging Bride followed by dinner and a flight Kauai Island Brewery & Grill.

By then, Moira and I had zero energy left to expend, so we hit the couch hard and watched about 17 episodes of The Office on Netflix.

waterfall in waimea canyon

Kauai Hawaii travel photography

helicopter tours in hawaii

black and white photo of waimea canyon

the kalalau trail

hiking the north shore of kauai

jo jo's shave ice hawaii

shave ice in kauai hawaii


The following morning, we woke to overcast skies and a steady, pissing rain reminiscent of my time in Ireland and Costa Rica. So we altered our plans a bit and hit up another brewery (Kauai Beer Company) and a meadery (Nani Moon Meadery), spending the majority of the afternoon sipping beverages and working on our notes from the workshop.

As we made our way into the small town of Hanalei, Kauai on the north shore, the weather took a turn for the worse. By the time we settled into our room (which, incidentally, was not waterproof), there was already around two feet of standing water covering the only road out of town. After much discussion, Moira and I made the executive decision to evacuate; we departed for Princeville and higher ground.

Much to our chagrin, we found the road completely impassable. Just as we were about to turn around and retreat back to the (relative) safety of our room, a large Hawaiian man in a poncho appeared at our window and kindly directed us to a detour through the residential part of town. My biggest regret is not asking this man’s name and address, because Moira and I owe him a great debt of gratitude. Without his guidance, we would have been stranded in Hanalei for the next three days, the majority of which probably spent in the Red Cross shelter that was set up the following afternoon. We most likely would have missed our flight back to the mainland. And we would currently be dealing with the insurance headache of paying for a destroyed rental car. So thank you, guardian angel of the Hawaiian night. Much love and appreciation from Colorado.

Princeville, Kauai

We woke the following morning to national news broadcasts showcasing the scenes of destruction in Hanalei Bay and surrounding areas. Homes and vehicles were destroyed. There was significant structural damage to the iconic Hanalei Bay Pier. A herd of bison were swept out to sea from a nearby ranch. The area broke the all-time rainfall record for the entirety of the United States that day (a rain gauge a mile west of Hanalei recorded 49.69 inches of rainfall in a 24-hour period on April 14th and 15th, surpassing the previous record of 43 inches in Alvin, Texas during Tropical Storm Claudette nearly four decades earlier). Long story short, we made the right decision in leaving when we did.

We spent the final two days of the trip weathering the storm in an extremely luxurious (and extremely expensive) hotel room in Princeville. We were lucky enough to procure one of the last rooms available, but it came at premium, to say the least.

We killed the time editing photos from the workshop, eating Chinese takeout, and watching Tommy Boy on AMC approximately 2.5 times. Not quite what we had envisioned for our Hawaiian vacation, but considering the predicament we could have so easily been trapped in, we count ourselves lucky.

hawaii travel photography

black and white photo of palm trees

monsoon in hawaii april 2018

people waiting for groceries in the rain during a monsoon

Kauai Hawaii travel photography

cool waterfall in hawaii

Kauai Hawaii travel photography

Final Thoughts

While this wasn’t exactly the most relaxing pre-wedding season trip we’ve ever taken, it was one of the most rewarding.

Moira asked me the day after the workshop if I thought it was worth the expense. I couldn’t mold my thoughts into a coherent answer at the time, but I found myself thinking about it for the majority of the afternoon. It’s kind of like when someone asks you if college is worth the debt. Could I do what I’m doing now without my Bachelor’s Degree? Well, sure I could. But I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I hadn’t gone away to college. It broadened my horizons and expanded my mind. It challenged my beliefs and forced me to live outside my comfort zone. How can you ascribe a dollar amount to something like that? This is the way I feel about traveling to Kaua’i for Metanoia. I am 100% confident that I could continue running a profitable business without this workshop. But I feel like a better person for having experienced it. And that’s far more meaningful than whatever other bullsh*t I would’ve spent the money on.

And as far as our “ruined vacation” goes, I feel far worse for the residents of Hanalei, Kauai than I do for Moira and myself. Our recreational plans may have been thwarted, but their town was destroyed. Once I was able to put that into perspective, it helped me realize how privileged we truly are. Plus, now we have an excuse to go back sometime.

Thanks for reading! Also, be sure to check out our other travel photography essays!

Similar Posts