NYC Part I

Jan 8
The Milky Way as seen from my overnight HNL -> JFK flight on Hawaiian Airlines.

The Milky Way as seen from my overnight HNL -> JFK flight on Hawaiian Airlines.

Last June, on my way to Europe, I spent a few days in New York City for the first time, staying with my good friend Jonathan. Here’s a collection of my NYC photographs from June 19th-22nd, from the perspective of an island girl on a whole other kind of island.

The East Coast greets me with a vaguely shark-like cloud for sunrise as we descend toward JFK.


The skyline as seen from New Jersey looked fake. Like it was a model.


First NYC sunset as we were out prowling for my night of special food sampling.


That night I sampled takoyaki, fries, hot dogs, and speak-easies.


If you know, you know.


Day two began with me walking around Wall Street. The bull was swarmed, so I didn’t bother, but at least I know Wall Street was having documents shredded confidentially.


Apparently double-decker NYC sightseeing leaves you hanging on for dear life.


Beautiful and terribly sad statue outside of the National Museum of the American Indian.


My favorite part of walking around Manhattan was all the dramatic reflected light and shadows everywhere.


The view from Jonathan’s office in the Financial District.


A shiny globe sculpture at the Colombus Circle subway exit.


Red, yellow, blue (and green) – the colors of NYC in the summer.


John Lennon’s Imagine circle in Central Park.


Central park’s roads are filled with carriages and bicycles.


The oasis in the middle of the urban jungle, where you can hardly see the buildings anymore.


Yes, I did pay him a photo tip!


The layers of color, light, and texture walking through Central Park in the afternoon were amazing.


Obligatory Hawaii-kid-is-excited-to-see-squirrels photo.


A circumzenithal arc begins much to the golden statue’s approval.


Building shadows rise as the sun sinks.


Spider-man swings into action, photobombing my firetruck photo in Times Square.


A false sunset in Times Square, courtesy of a brilliant reflection flare.


The circumzenithal arc grows over Times Square. This is the one HDR shot in the bunch.


The fountain in City Hall Park during the morning of another sunny summer day. There’s a sliver of crescent moon up there.


Walking a bit slower than this guy was going over the Brooklyn Bridge, but he was kind enough to be wearing a color-coordinated shirt.


Trees, in fact, do grow in Brooklyn, and cast pretty shadows while they’re at it.


Refreshing options are everywhere during the summer. Everything is so colorful!


Mirror selfie in the Ralph Lauren Mansion VIP dressing room.  Just because.


The golden statue of Diana in the courtyard of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


One of the nicest construction barricade tunnels I’ve ever ventured through.


Here, we waited in a very long line for macarons flown in from France. It was so fancy.


Friends Jonathan and Gabby on our way to Jonathan’s hockey game. Long days mean long golden hours. Summer in the city is amazing.


The New York Stock Exchange exterior on a quiet Sunday morning.

It’s all about that dog.


I’m not even sure what was happening here, but the light looked cool so I went with it.


I just really liked the purple moped.


Breakfast coffee and bagels at a super hipster cafe.


The best part of walking around New York City was finding the older buildings that each had their own character. I love old stuff. Good thing I was about to leave for Europe that day…

Then, it was off to Ireland! Until the next post…

2014 In Review

Jan 1

First post of 2015! I might as well make it a long one. And, as it will probably be a bit too long for Facebook, which is my main posting location, I will actually update my long-neglected blog.

2014 was a very interesting year for me. It had some extreme highs, extreme lows, and some absolutely mundane middles.

The first half of the year started off incredibly busy for me. I turned 27, was constantly working, and actually socialized quite a bit, both with old friends and new ones.  I had one of my photos used in a full-page ad for 2Chillies Swimwear in Vogue Australia.  In March, we bought our condo, officially becoming homeowners after half a year of searching for the right place. My dad and I took Ed for his first overnight crater trip at Haleakala. I got an Outex housing for my camera and started playing with underwater photography as a way to get my ever-increasing butt out of the house and into some form of physical activity. I began exploring the family photo archives for images of old Oahu to share. I finally got my own suit of Halo Spartan armor thanks to some awesome friends. I tried to make more effort to draw and paint, but didn’t really have the time to get it to stick. And there was lots and lots of work – some fun, but mostly stressful and sometimes difficult.



Image in Vogue Australia!

Image in Vogue Australia!

First night in the new home.

First night in the new home.

Pretending to be Ariel in Waikiki.

Pretending to be Ariel in Waikiki.

You know that feeling of running down a hill, and the forward momentum makes you feel like you have to keep going, or else you’ll stumble and fall over? That was the first half of the year for me. Back in March, I first confessed on Facebook that I suffered from anxiety. I’d known this for years, but never really looked at it as a real issue. I’ve always been fairly shy and introverted, but thanks to years of anxiety doing things like making a phone call was a huge struggle for me.  I’d always been told to “just relax” because “it’s not that big a deal”, but of course I never could do that. I’d ruminate on unpleasant things, and work myself into such a state I’d either break down crying or just shut down completely. I tried to keep it hidden from the world for the most part, and only my husband and closest friends knew about it.  A lot of it was based on uncertainty about my career. Freelance photography is an incredibly difficult industry, as many of my friends are well-aware, and I definitely suffer from Imposter Syndrome, feeling that I didn’t really belong in that world and it was only a matter of time before people would see that and reject me. It didn’t help that I would often interpret someone’s apathy toward me and my work as malice – though I know rationally that I had to give people a reason to care, and more often than not I’d be too timid to do so in the first place.

Then came the Great Escape. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel for nearly a whole month during the summer to New York City and Europe. Aside from one small hiccup with my luggage showing up a day later between London and Pisa, the trip was a blessed respite from all the personal and career-related emotional turmoil back home, and for the first time in a long time, I finally felt relaxed and happy. That whole trip is several blog posts waiting to happen (hopefully within the next few months), but there’s one moment that stands out to me above all.

On the edge of the Cliffs of Moher.

On the edge of the Cliffs of Moher.

Basking in a light beam within a nearly empty St. Peter's Basilica.

Basking in a light beam within a nearly empty St. Peter’s Basilica.

When my friends and I spent a day visiting Capri, we rented a small boat, bought a couple bottles of wine, and spent the afternoon sailing (boating? It was motorized..) around the beautiful island. Capri blue is a real color – the water was captivatingly peaceful, the sun was warm and bright, and the wine had gone to my head. I realized, in that moment, I was truly happy. Or, more accurately in my own crude language, I had no fucks to give. I wasn’t worried about anything for the first time since I could remember. I knew it wasn’t permanent, but just being capable of reaching that state of being was such a relief it was overwhelming. It was at the point in the trip where I had been gone long enough that the worries back home had faded, yet I had enough time left that I didn’t have to start worrying again.

Floating in the Blue Grotto.

Floating in the Blue Grotto.

Happiness in Capri.

Of course, that meant that coming back home was a whole other experience. All the feelings that I had been putting off or had hidden away came crashing back down on me, and I was left a wreck. The littlest things would set me off into instant tears, and I felt lost, hopeless, and alone. Ed had been trying to help me in his own ways, but unfortunately, my mess of emotions was not at all receptive to his logical point of view, and things would just get worse. He finally put his foot down, and demanded I seek professional help.

And so I did.

I hadn’t seen a psychologist since my college years, and even then they had said that I didn’t necessarily suffer depression, but I would “stress myself out” a lot. The psychologist I’d seen back then had been very much against medication, so when the one I saw this year tentatively suggested it, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.  My mind was too set in its patterns to be broken by sheer willpower alone, and I had never tried drugs, so why not?

So, it was off to a psychiatrist, and he set me up with a daily 10mg dosage of Lexapro, and my life changed.  They say that it takes up to a week or two to take effect, and so it may have been a placebo effect (but who cares as long as it’s working), but there was a moment 3-4 days into me taking the pills that Ed noticed a change. He had brought something up that would have normally sent me into a fit of tears, but to his surprise he saw me start to fall apart, but then take a deep breath, and respond like a rational human being.  That’s when he knew that we should have done this a long time ago.

With my emotional well-being on the mend, we could now look at my problems I was having with my career. I went through a couple months of being completely apathetic about photography. I was working, but I would never go out and shoot for fun anymore.  I was dreaming of returning to painting after being inspired by all the wonderful artwork I’d seen during my trip. I was enthusiastically sewing my Assassin’s Creed costume until my fingers went numb. Then, something happened that changed the course of my life goals.

Ed posted a photo of me in my Halo Spartan armor to Reddit, and to our surprise and delight, it shot to the #1 post of all of Reddit for several hours. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and I figured out that the Internet actually liked me as a geek. Before this, I’d begun experimenting with making YouTube videos with my newfound confidence, but this one event made me realize what truly made me happy – being a geek and embracing geek culture.

Honestly, probably as life-changing an image for me as Lava Kiss was.

Honestly, probably as life-changing an image for me as Lava Kiss was.

I’ve always been a geek. I remember in grade school wearing boys Darth Vader light-up sneakers because they left Imperial Seal footprints. I grew up playing PC games, would read all the Star Wars comics and novels, and by 8th grade got into drawing anime and fan art thanks to the summer of 1999 Toonami block on Cartoon Network. In high school, we started dressing up for movie premieres and general cosplaying, had overnight LAN parties, and got into MMORPGs.  The older I got, the busier I got, but being a geek was a core part of my identity.

Post college, trying to work in the fashion industry, I tried to fit in a bit more. I didn’t deny my geekiness, and luckily it was becoming more mainstream, but I still felt like an outsider amongst those who I perceived as “the cool kids”. I’ve met some absolutely wonderful people in the fashion industry who I love to work with, but at the same time, I didn’t necessarily want to go out and drink/party with them and continue networking after we were done working – I wanted to go home and play video games.

Becoming “Halo girl” on Reddit made me really think about what I wanted, and what I wanted was to do what made me happy – be a geek and make original geek content. Thus began the Mana Mai Tai Co.

I’m still working as a photographer, and have done jobs like shoot the new Governor’s official portrait, but I am focusing my extra time on MMTC with my geeky friends.  Our goal is to create original geek content – including podcasts, videos, images, and articles – from the perspective of Hawaii-based geeks. We also want to showcase Hawaii’s geek talents to the world. Time will tell if it’s a project that will pay off in the end, but I hope it will.

So, that’s what I’m starting 2015 with. New emotional stability, a new project to invest in, and a new confidence in my identity. Also a new sense of taking a step back when needed – I got sick two days ago and spent most of the last two days sleeping instead of trying to push myself to do New Years-y things. I’m about to turn 28, and I need to start taking better care of myself!

Here’s to 2015, and flying higher now that I’ve stopped holding myself back.



PS. Still waiting for someone to bring a sick girl some ozoni. :(


Fundraiser Print Shop For Sara Beth Richards

Sep 10

Hi everyone! If you could take a moment to read this, and share if you can, it’d be much appreciated. One of my lovely friends, Sara Beth Richards, has long-struggled with PCOS and endometriosis. After seeing doctors for years, and after experiencing “over 100 ultrasounds, MRIs, etc.”, she finally got to see a new specialist, only to discover that her right ovary has been completely covered in “Chocolate Cysts”, giving it 0% function, and her left ovary has several cysts as well, though there is still a slim chance at function if immediately treated.

She is now scheduled for a surgery on November 4th. However, her insurance coverage requires a really high deductible before they will pay, and she is looking at up to $6500 in out-of-pocket expenses.  Sara Beth is an Army National Guard veteran currently going to school full-time and is working with a bartender’s income.

One of her friends is doing a Perfectly Posh (pampering products) fundraiser, and I’d like to offer a special art print gallery, with images below, where 100% of the profits will go to Sara Beth to help her with her medical costs.  The ‘Americana’ themed images are from a shoot I did of Sara Beth in 2011, and I threw in a few landscape shots for good measure!

If you’d like to donate directly to Sara Beth, her PayPal is sara-hay (at)  Thank you very much for reading this!

Here are the available prints, just click to be taken to the shopping cart! (New prints are added at the top!):



In The Footsteps Of My Father

Jun 15

This is an image post I’ve been wanting to do for a couple of months now, and Father’s Day is the perfect reason to finally get it done! This past April, my dad and I took Ed on his first family overnight trip into Haleakala Crater, which has been a family tradition since before I was born. Even though my dad retired from the National Park Service in 2009, he still spends a lot of his time up on Haleakala leading volunteer service trips, and this was the first one I had been able to make in a few years.

My dad’s a pretty awesome guy, and my brother and I have been super lucky to have him as our father. He’s always been a truly hard worker, and I surely would not be where I am today without his support. I inherited my adventurousness from him, as well as a love for nature and landscape photography, so I’m always happy to spend this kind of time with him.  Sometimes I get a little scolded for not keeping up while hiking, but this time I intentionally was hanging back to photograph my dad walking through the amazing mountain where he’s spent most of his life working to preserve and protect the land.

Please Note: We are off-trail for some of these images, but that is because we were doing an official volunteer weed-pulling service trip, and needed to check specific locations for the weed we were targeting. Never walk off-trail in Haleakala National Park unless you have explicit permission to do so – it can be extremely damaging to the environment.