our aloha house


from Leaves from A Grass House
by Don Blanding

Green are the hills behind my home;
White are the clouds that froth and foam
To the high blue sky where the rainbow’s veil
Is a gauzy Scarf. There’s a winding trail
Through fern and guava and waving ti….
…A pleasant jaunt when you visit me.

Deep and cool is the broad lanai;
The place to sit as the days slip by
Watching the surf that is madly hurled
On my coral reef from the edge of the world.
Broad and soft is the hikiea
Where lazy souls can loaf all day
With a drink or book, in a gorgeous sprawl,
For talk or sleep or . . . nothing at all.
While the idling sun-gold hours ooze
Like bubbles through an old Chartreuse.

On the ceiling and down the wall
The little jewelled lizards crawl
Where the hug-me-tight has left a maze
Of leafy pattern. The sunlight plays
At hide-and-seek through the heart-shaped bloom
Of the chain-of-love. There is always room
For another guest in Aloha House,
The sort of guest who will not grouse
If he has to bunk with several more
On the hikiea or perhaps the floor;
Who does not mind if the meals are late
And he has to dine from a broken plate
At the pantry shelves you’ll see just why
Old Ah Goo’s curry will make you sigh.

There are jars of chutney and pots of cheese,
Ginger with syrups and dried li-chees.
Bowls of mushrooms, fat and brown;
Weird, strange spices from Chinatown.
Condiments gathered from near and far,
(I don’t dare ask him what they are)
Leaves and barks and roots and seeds.
Everything that a good cook needs
For suave rich gravy and spicy sauce.
He’s a heathen Chink and burns much joss
To his kitchen gods in a grinning row
In an honored place. Now, I don’t know
Just how much good the joss may do
But as long as he make a soup or stew
That is sheer food-magic, why, that’s enough
And I’ll buy him a bale of the smelly stuff.

In Aloha House there is not a key
For the big front door . . . nor will there be
For it’s open wide from night ’til morn,
By the many feet that have trod its weave.
All who visit the place must leave
A care-free laugh or a friendly smile
As a souvenir of the casual while
When we shared a smoke or a lively tale
Through a tropic night ’til the moon grew pale
And the mynah birds on the dew-wet lawn
Gave strident greeting to the dawn.

That hala mat is most discreet,
It has known the feel of many feet.
Saint and sinner have lingered there,
A princess stood by that Chinese chair.
Laughter and sorrow have each been a guest
In Aloha House. They have paused to rest
For a while with me, then have gone away
And they’ll both return on another day.

Night and morning and all day long
The wandering notes of tune and song
Come floating up from about the place;
Old Ah Goo with his wrinkled face
Is singing a song of far Shanghai,
Thin and wavered the minors cry
Of a homesick heart in a stranger land.
Then later a drifting minstrel band
Of beach-boys stop for a few stray bars
Of hula tunes with their steel guitars
That sob and cry with a liquid tone
While the hot rich voices sigh and moan
Of love and moons and sad good-byes;
Then Taki-San with her almond eyes
And her fan-doll smile sings a little tune,
In a thin falsetto aimless croon
As she dusts the chairs or sweeps the hall;
From the banyan tree comes a mynah’s call,
A darned poor song as a singing goes
But the only song that the mynah knows.

   Aloha House is a quaint old place,
Big cool rooms and lots of space
For the stray trade-winds to blow and roam.
It’s more than a house, it’s a real true home
In Hawaiian style. And when I say
That any time of night or day
When you’re drifting by, just stop and chat.
There’s a bowl of poi and a hala mat.
The door’s wide open, and when you care
To say “Hello” there’s Aloha there.

As much as I love the images I made with my Nikon D700 while we were in Hawaii, the few images here are my favorites. These images express the “Hawaii” we lived and experienced while we were on the North Shore and the feel of this classic Don Blanding poem: the local people, the beautiful beach at Ehukai, the relaxed time we spent together at Dave Yester’s (long time north shore lifeguard) beautiful home. I am sharing ALL the frames I took with film. I made them with my twin lens reflex Yashika Mat 124G. I literally downloaded the scans from Richard Photo Lab today, sized them with my custom action for the blog and posted them. I was using Kodak Portra 400-an absolutely yummy film.

Each photograph is a little gift. When I compose the image, I have to look through a very dark screen to manually focus and it’s really difficult to tell if the subject is in perfect focus. It comes down to intuition most of the time. It’s clearly not an action-shot camera. I would truly LOVE to have a more modern medium format camera but I just can’t justify it for now. But I really do enjoy my Yashika.

Shooting film makes me slow down to compose an image and really see what is happening (and in some ways be more involved in what is) in front of me. I have a habit of doing this anyway since I trained myself using film, but ever since I started using digital, I have noticed myself being more rushed and reliant on being able to see what I took. The last wedding and portrait sessions I did, I took fewer frames than usual because I was in the mode of slowing down for the shot I wanted.

If you are a photographer, I really think being able to shoot film is an important part of the art that can train you better in your craft. It gets you back to the core of the way photography began: “making” an image is definitely a large part of the process. If you want to know more about the amazing films that are out there, how to shoot film and how to become a more refined photographer, be sure to check out Jonathan Canlas’ Film Is Not Dead Workshop and Guide. I was very fortunate to meet Jonathan at last years Wallflower Friends Retreat and he is a photographic inspiration and a really cool person too.

For more images from this trip that I shot with my Nikon D700 follow this link.


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