A Bucket List trip to Iceland

It was probably two years ago that my sister first suggested a trip to Iceland. My sister, AKA "Lisa the Waterfall Hunter", has a self proclaimed passion for... wait for it...you guessed it, waterfalls! She loves them all - from giant Niagara Falls to small hidden falls in the Finger Lakes.

Iceland, known as the land of fire and ice, is full of waterfalls. Really, they are everywhere! They have tall ones and wide ones, multi-tiered falls and waterfalls in caves. Not to mention the glaciers, volcanoes and northern lights!

So after many theoretical conversations about going to Iceland, it finally happened. And we convinced my parents to come along too! We rented a car and drove the Ring Road that circles the entire island. In one week, my dad and I drove 1300 miles while my mom and sister frequently yelled "Stop the car!" from the back seat.

We drove past a herd of reindeer and pastures of Icelandic horses. We walked on black sand beaches, lava fields, and glaciers. We hiked into canyons and saw more waterfalls than you could count. We swam in the Blue Lagoon and learned Icelandic history in the museums. We stayed in a variety of Air BNBs, once in the city, but mostly in the countryside.

And we made memories.

I saw my dad with a mud mask on, in a lagoon (he is not a swimmer.) Say the word "frump" to my mom and just see what happens. Lisa dressed up like the viking she longs to be, or with tears in her eyes at the base of a waterfall she has dreamt about. Unforgettable.

And with the video camera, two DSLRs and 4 iPhones... I think we managed to capture those memories. 

Here's a little peek into our adventure!

This is why we shoot RAW... always.

Some photographers shoot RAW. Some shoot JPG. Some hop back and forth depending on the day/job/requirements.

If this is gibberish to you, I'm going to show you the difference right now. But first, let me explain the situation. 

My husband and I were on a remote hiking trail in Hawaii. 4,000+ miles by plane, an hour of driving, and then 6 hours of strenuous backpacking to get to this spot. The trail was narrow, muddy and shaded by trees. At the head of the valley was the Hanakoa Falls that I had been dreaming about for days... weeks maybe. It was my goal to swim at that waterfall, come hell or high water.

We made it there, and into the icy water I went. My husband was on shore to take the photo, but as he grabbed the camera it started to rain, which quickly turned into a downpour. He pressed the shutter without a chance to glance at the settings, which I had set before the clouds came over us. The resulting image on the left is what we got... and as you see, it is incredibly underexposed.

We scrambled to get the camera and our towels under cover, but the rain didn't pass. It continued on for the rest of the night. 

This moment -- me swimming at the base of a 440 foot waterfall... by myself... in the rain... 4,000+ miles from home-- almost didn't turn out. This is one of the only photos we have from what is honestly the highlight of the entire trip!  A once-in-a-lifetime kind of moment, if you will.

But when I got home, I used Lightroom plus that RAW file, and was able to bump it up 3.15 stops to get the image on the right. 

Swimming in Hanakoa Falls

Swimming in Hanakoa Falls

This right here is why I will always shoot RAW. Because there are moments too important to lose to a bad camera setting, and this memory is priceless.

If this image had been shot JPG, it would have been basically useless and ruined. 

In our line of work, we find ourselves quite often capturing once-in-a-lifetime-moments. So rest assured, we will protect your memories.


Turtles, waterfalls and amazing views : My top 6 moments in Hawaii

Hello! It's your friendly wander-luster, Lori, here. I'm back from Hawaii and thought you might like to hear my top 6 moments from the trip. (If you followed along on Instagram @adventureswithlori, you might have seen some of these already!) I'll be posting more there as I go through the images not shot on my phone. :)

6. Queen's Bath, north shore Kauai. I had no idea what we were walking into, but this was one of those places that just made me feel small. After walking over uneven volcanic rocks to get a great view, I just sat in awe of the power of nature. The waves crashed and sent water shooting into the sky. It was beautiful and mesmerizing...

Queen's Bath, Kauai

5. Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. I'm not a particularly strong swimmer and I have only snorkeled one other time in my life, but when in Hawaii... we just had to do it. Hanauma Bay made it very easy for me to see dozens of different kinds of fish without ever leaving the shallows. It really is a whole 'nuther world down there!

The dark areas you see in the water are coral reefs teeming with a variety of fish!

The dark areas you see in the water are coral reefs teeming with a variety of fish!

4. Hiking. I'm going to lump this all into one, but we did several hikes including the Sleeping Giant in the fog, the challenging Kalalau Trail, the Waimea Canyon trail and more. I think we averaged about 5 miles of walking/hiking per day of the trip. By the time we got to Diamond Head on Oahu, I didn't even feel out of breath.

Top: View from the Kalalau Trail, Bottom left: Waimea Canyon and Bottom right: Wakauwahi Cave

Top: View from the Kalalau Trail, Bottom left: Waimea Canyon and Bottom right: Wakauwahi Cave

3. Mountain Tubing on an old sugar plantation in Kauai. Think lazy river plus man made caves in a remote wilderness area. It was relaxing and fun! 

2. Getting up close and personal with sea turtles! I have loved turtles since I was young and it was so cool to see about a dozen of them chilling in their natural habitat. 

Sea Turtle nap time

Sea Turtle nap time

1. Swimming at the base of a waterfall after a 6.5 mile hike and having the place to ourselves! I can't tell you how amazing it feels to swim in freezing cold water after a long hike. It started to rain shortly after we arrived, but I didn't care. Cloud 9.

Hanakoa Waterfall, one of the more remote falls on the island.

Hanakoa Waterfall, one of the more remote falls on the island.

The whole trip was generally very smooth and enjoyable. Spending time with my husband away from chores and news was worth every penny. Starting every day with yoga and just being outside is good for the soul. We also enjoyed the aloha spirit (it really is a thing!), meeting other travelers at the AirBNB and eating lots of delicious food! 

Kauai was definitely my favorite island, though I am glad we got to experience Pearl Harbor and snorkeling on Oahu as well. So tell me, what is your favorite Hawaiian island and why?

Thanks for sharing in the adventure!


Looking for more info about Hawaii? Check out this guide with answers to lots of common questions.