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When creating meaningful memories, it’s important to remember to be present while being mindful to leave no trace. Creating those memories and being in the moment of that experience is critical. If you can get a great picture in the process, well, that’s the cherry on top!
Today’s guests are here to offer their insights on how you can enjoy the best of what Hawaii has to offer responsibly and mindfully as you leave no trace. Joined today by Matty Leong and Spencer Lee, two Hawaii locals, you will learn some of their best tips to protecting and enjoying Hawaii’s pristine environment.
They also offer some of their photography tips to implement while making memories on your next trip to Hawaii. Matty and Spencer emphasize the importance of being mindful while leaving no trace and even offer some tips on how you can help keep Hawaii beautiful for generations to come.
Next time you’re on Oahu, practice these tips to help protect Hawaii as we all do our part to leave our favorite locations even better than we found them!

Today’s Guests

Matty Leong

rainbow girl surfing


Spencer Lee

east side Oahu


The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace

The seven principles of Leave No Trace provide a framework that anyone can follow when trying to leave a minimum impact while visiting the outdoors. The seven principles can really be applied anywhere and can truly make an impact in your own conservational efforts! 

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Following these seven principles can help you be more considerate of your impact on the environment. Keeping in mind these principles while exploring can help you leave a location better than you found it!

Want more information about the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace? Find it HERE

SKL05288 Originalcopy

Spencer Lee, Matty Leong in Frame, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Spencer and Matty’s Photography Tips

  • There really is no real way to take a photograph in the “right way”. Instagram does a bad job of making us compare our work to others and feel that we must capture art in a specific way. The truth is art is what you make it to be! Staying true to yourself and who you have been created to be helps you in expressing your most authentic style.
  • The key is to remember why you are taking that photo. To capture a good memory, you do not want to forget. While on your trip to Hawaii, it’s important to remember to be present and not worry so much about capturing a “perfect” photo.
  • Sometimes being present in the moment is so much more than the intent for a “perfect” shot. Sometimes you leave the camera and just enjoy the moment while reconnecting with your surroundings.
  • The best photos are the ones that are close to your heart. The moments that hold true meaning and beauty will hold the most impact. Matty offers examples of experiencing a breathtaking sunset. If you want to capture this moment, he shares getting a low angle, and just shooting the image is enough!
  • Spencer shares that if you want to take a great photo, just like everything else in life, you must get in touch with your emotions first. Think about what it is about what is in front of you that draws your attention to it. When you find that, frame your image based on that emotion! Pictures that carry the emotion of the moment are much more impactful in the long term than a “perfect” shot!
palm tree beach



In This Episode

Introducing the Guest [00:23] 
Show Introduction [01:04]
Getting into Photography [07:25]
Popular Instagram Presence [09:20]
Reopening Hawaii [23:10]
The 7 Principles to Leave No Trace [30:05]
Seeing Mistreatment of the Environment [35:36]
Photography 101 to Capture the Moment [40:22]
Tips When Visiting Hawaii [47:50]
Closing Thoughts [53:28] 

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Matty Leong 0:00

I think we explore Hawaii and have that kind of innocent mindset as to like, oh, wow, this place is like, really cool. I want to take a cool photo and I'm gonna post it for my friends to see. And I think that's kind of how it all starts. But everyone who is born and raised here everyone who isn't aware of the like environmental issues coming out of school, I think we just do it in an innocent manner. That's a clip from today's interview with Mattie Leon and Spencer Lee from the island of Oahu. If you follow us on Instagram and Hawaii's Best you've seen us share quite a few their images, though they are both professional photographers from the island of Oahu. They offer their insight on how to enjoy the best of Hawaii responsibly. In our conversation you'll learn some of the best tips to having and enjoying Hawaii's pristine environment and how you can help even on your vacation and helping keeping it beautiful for generations to come. So stay tuned for this one. They even offer some of their best iPhone photography.

Bryan Murphy 1:00

free tips in capturing some of your memories on the island. So here we go.

Aloha, welcome to Hawaii's Best travel podcast where we help you prepare for your next trip to Hawaii. Discover the experiences, businesses and stories that make Hawaii the Aloha state. And now your host Brian Murphy. Hello and welcome to Episode 34 of Hawaii's Best where we help prepare you for your next trip to Hawaii. I'm your host Brian Murphy, the owner of Hawaii's Best and on our podcast. We help offer travel tips and guides to get the most out of your state on the Allison Today we're going to be talking more about that with Spencer and Maddie from a wahoo now on the island of Hawaii, there's so many things to experience and one of the best things to experience is food and as a self proclaimed foodie, I love a good meal but I also love a place that's filled with history. I love how dishes became the bee and how small business owners turn their passion into a business and Hawaii.

We compiled our top 10 best places to eat on the island of Oahu and we made that guide available to you for free, obviously, so go to Hawaii's Best travel comm slash Food Guide to download your guide today for our top 10 places to eat on the island of Oahu go to Hawaii's Best travel calm slash Food Guide. As you'll discover in our conversation today with Maddie and Spencer, you'll hear their love for Hawaii and you'll hear their love for being out in nature. And I think that's one of the most important things when you're going to any of the islands is Yeah, if you're staying at a resort or if you're lounging by the pool, that's all good. But it's important to experience the best of Hawaii and the best of Hawaii is really just getting out there. And exploring Maddie and Spencer share their best tips and how to do that responsibly, but also how to make incredible memories while doing it over the last year so these guys have become friends of mine and I hope that That, as you listen to our conversation, you'll be able to hear their heart and love for the islands. As we talk a little bit joke a little bit. What we want to get across in this is that anytime you travel anywhere, we're talking about Hawaii, obviously. But anytime you travel to any place or even around your community, it's important to be mindful of the impact that we're making. We just want to be mindful of the impact we're making to the environment around us to the people around us. So as we dive deeper into this conversation today, I hope you find value in it. And I hope you're dreaming of Hawaii right now. I don't have any updates about when Hawaii will reopen. Right now it's set for August 1. But as of this date, I am recording this on July 10. There's talks about possibly pushing that date back. So just stay tuned about all that. But let's push that aside right now. And we know that one day we'll get to travel to Hawaii again and I just I can't wait to share this conversation with you. So Let's go ahead and let's talk story with Maddie and Spencer from a wahoo.

Well, Spencer, Maddy, thank you so much for coming on Hawaii's Best today. How are you guys doing? And maybe Spencer, let's start with you.

Spencer Lee 4:17

All right. Hey, Brian. Thanks for having me back on. I was one of the beginning guests that you had on this podcast and I remember it's good to be back. Yeah. I think last time I was still in nursing school I just graduated. Just got my nursing license and I'm just looking for jobs right now. So just chillin shooting. taking it easy for a little bit. Still trying to hit up Maddie to go shoot, but

Bryan Murphy 4:42

well, awesome, man. Hey, congratulations. I remember when we were talking. You were like in the middle of cramming. I think we had like 20 or 30 minutes in that conversation. You're like, I got this. You know, I just got this small amount of time.

Unknown Speaker 4:55

Yeah, I was.

Bryan Murphy 4:57

Obviously finishing that now. But how as your Your time band getting out there. Shooting. How's that been lately?

Spencer Lee 5:04

It's been pretty, pretty relaxed. The thing is about summertime is that sunrise is so early now. So it's like I'm waking up at 430 every morning to shoot, and then sunset is so late. Yeah, a lot of naps during the daytime, a lot of coffee. But yeah, in general, it's a lot less stressful. I can just do whatever. If I feel like going to going on a hike or feel like I'm to sleep in or even stay up late to shoot Milky Way. It's It's nice, nice not to have projects and things to take care of.

Bryan Murphy 5:36

That's cool, man. What about you, man? I know you and I we've connected a little bit these last few months. But tell us a little bit about yourself and what what's life currently like for you?

Spencer Lee 5:47

Hey, Brian. First off, thanks for having me on the podcast. I'm really stoked to be here. What's like been going on it's

I was on lockdown for the past month and a half I'd say throughout April and May, just because I'm still living with my parents, and I wanted to respect like their health, with everything going on. But recently, we just got the okay to kind of go outdoors. So I've been taking advantage of that we've, my girlfriend and I have been going outside every single day. Either we're shooting for brand, or we're shooting surf for fun, or just making connections, kind of just taking it easy during this time, taking things day by day, just because I feel like there's just a lot of crazy things happening. When we go on social media. I'm trying to stay off of it a lot, but also trying to stay proactive at the same time just because photography is my full time job. So still trying to find that healthy balance. But yeah, everything's going well. I'm just taking photos whenever I can. I'm doing a few jobs here and there for some clients and yeah, just taking it easy and day by day. That's all I can ask for.

Bryan Murphy 6:58

Absolutely. Now did you go up on oh

Spencer Lee 7:01

yeah I was born and raised here in Kaneohe here and I guess a little bit more background I went to college at qH University of boy. I graduated in business with two degrees. It's not very it's not a thing but it's cool. I think it's cool. Looking back on it. I'm, I'm 25 years old now.

Bryan Murphy 7:20

So obviously with the landscape, especially over on the east side, you know, picking up a camera seems pretty natural, but how do you start What was your photography journey?

Spencer Lee 7:30

I started looking at my pictures in my office when I was working on the eight to five job. There's nothing wrong it's five jobs. Well, yeah, I was just looking at pictures on Instagram once it started getting popular once people started posting a lot of like landscape stuff. I was overhearing a lot of people like that I graduated with just realizing like Oh man, I did not expect, like work outside of college to be like this in business. That's it. Because like after you graduate business you kind of have to start from the bottom and kind of just working in office in your little cubicle so just not a bad thing. But for someone who's like, adventurous and free spirited, it can kind of be the kind of it can kind of feel like restricting. But yeah, for me like I thought that was kind of what I wanted to do. And then I don't know I just wanted to have more fun in life and I found I, I like loved surf and I love shooting my friends surfing. So that's kind of how I started on the getting on Instagram. If you scroll down my profile, you'll definitely see some old old sir photos. And then they kind of just evolved from there like I constantly every day was wishing I was outside like taking photos, creating cool content. And then pretty soon I I left my job and took a leap of faith and worked at this place called boy camera. That's kind of where I'm at Spencer kind of where I got familiar and comfortable with camera equipment and gear because all day we would Just kind of help out customers and play with equipment. So it was really fun. And then I left boy camera, I went back to another job and then I kind of just saved up my money to finally go full time. And then in 2019 August, I went full time photography.

Bryan Murphy 9:17

That's great, man. That's a huge leap right there. Now both you guys and and we'll definitely leak your guys's Instagram accounts within the show notes, but both of you guys have gained quite a bit of popularity with a lot of your photos. What's it like being shouted out from huge Instagram accounts you know, like million plus, like what is that? Does that mean anything? Does it encourage you does it

Spencer Lee 9:44

Spencer. Spencer Spencer knows how it feels like to be shout out.

So I have a lot to say about feature pages and benefits and the drawbacks of being featured and growing in popularity.

So initially, when you're first starting to gain your following when you're trying to really define yourself as an artist and grow a presence on social media feature pages like yourself, Brian, they're super helpful to like, get eyes on your work, especially if you're somebody like Maddie who works full time in photography and really relies on the more eyeballs on your work, driving sales and building clients and building relationships. I definitely think that that's super important. And feature pages can be so helpful in that sense. But the drawback, at least for me, and the way that I see it is that feature pages are only taking one particular or a few specific types of images and showcasing it so the world sees or the your audience sees your work, just as those one or two shots and when people start to follow you, they expect those One or two similar shots. So I would say personally like, for me, people, the shots that blow up the most for me are like those really clear water shots or super saturated pictures of Green Mountain in the background with Maddie modeling in the foreground. But essentially, if you're just on Instagram and you're just using photography to build a social media following get likes, get all of those reshares and grow in popularity, then yeah, it kind of puts you into this creative box and you only create content that fits your quote unquote, standard for what your page quote unquote should be, according to social media, and you don't actually explore what takes you creatively or what you find to be interesting in a creative sense. So recently, I've just been trying to kind of pull myself away from, you know, using photography as a way to grow on social media and to try and explore different types. Have landscape photography and other forms of photography too, that I find interesting, or that interests me, and focusing less on what types of images are going to be popular, get all the likes and get shared on social media.

Bryan Murphy 12:16

So I'm sure it's kind of like this weird catch 22 like, on one hand, it's great to have, you know, these shots that you've put so much time and effort in and even, you know, back in post production work and then posting it and then you know, I'm sure on one hand, it's really gratifying. Getting those likes getting those comments and like, you know, that's art. Right, right. And then on the other hand, there's this kind of mind game that happens with Well, I have to produce this now in order to get x and so it's this kind of mind shift thing that I'm sure is can be limiting you no matter what about you as far as the creative process and in in what you post Can you resonate with what Spencer saying? Yeah, I

Spencer Lee 12:57

think um, For me when I was starting out, everyone wants to grow on Instagram, right? Everyone wants to get more followers. Just because I feel like more followers kind of brings either more opportunity or if you know, or something else Yeah, it's definitely hard because I used to post for these featured pages to hopefully notice me and repost me. Like I would refrain from posting something that I like to posting something with a palm tree or something with the rainbow or I would go out of my way to up the colors on my photo just because this page does the colors on their on their photos. This is what they like they don't like too much clarity or you know, too much sharpness. So yeah, I think you can kind of get lost in it. I think when starting out. It's good because it kind of pushes you to work for these types of photos and pushes your limits with editing. But when you get to a certain point of like, okay, I want to do this full time now like I want to be shooting for these specific brands. Or like I want to be shooting this specific industry or lifestyle, I noticed that you have to be posting things like tailored towards that specific industry and lifestyle if you want to get jobs with those types of companies because like if I want to shoot a lot of more like surfing and underwater stuff, I have to post more surfing and underwater versus a lot more of like drone and landscape because then people won't or those companies won't be able to see what I can do underwater or what I can do like for surfing or stuff like that. So that's kind of like my two cents on it. It's good when you're starting out I think it helps you like understand the industry of like, editing and color and the color wheel and proper themes and ideas of shots that are like, cool to get but once you kind of like integrate yourself more into the industry, or more into photography and video. Definitely express yourself because you can get lost in the likes. And the AMA Man, it is cool. But then you're kind of it only lasts for a day until your next post. And then you know what? What's going to be paying for, you know, your camera equipment and stuff like that. So yeah, it's just finding a nice healthy balance. That's that's just what it is. Yeah, right. And I think that photography, just like any other art form is, you have to start and you have to learn by emulating the style and by emulating the great work of others. So like, I know Maddie and I really looked to a lot of big creatives here in Hawaii and tried to really emulate their style because we saw all of their photos being shared on feature pages and all that. And that's good to start off because you really learned to develop the eye for it, you learn how to post process similar to how everybody all the popular pages are doing. But once you reach a certain point, you eventually have to start to create your own style and your own work. And similarly to like if you're trying to learn How to play the guitar. You start off by playing all of the popular music and then once you master the craft of guitar playing, then you can go and create your own music.

Bryan Murphy 16:11

I think that's a great way to put it. I mean, for me that resonates. I mean, I play guitar my entire life and I started playing, you know, Nirvana during like the grunge era stuff. And then like, yeah, you spin off and like, okay, who am I, as an artist and what what are these gifts? And how do I uniquely get those out to the world, but right, even beyond that, it's it's this more satisfying, being true to yourself of being true to who have you been created to be and who you are? What's your expression, also, what's behind these posts, too. And maybe this leads into kind of our conversation more today about conservation is it's one thing to post a photo and edit in the way knowing you're going to get likes and that particular photo just goes crazy, right? And then people want to emulate that. And that in itself can have some negative connotations and that it draws more people to a location that is meant to have very little traffic. And I get a kick sometimes, you know, I'll read comments and I'll get DMS. And I'm sure you guys get way more than I do about where exactly was this location? And what beach is this? What spot is that? What hike is that? But it's so much more than that. And maybe you guys can speak into that a little bit. I get a kick sometimes, you know, I'll do it once in a while. You'll tag a location like Burger King. Yeah. Gone like McDonald's or whatever. Starbucks and I just think that's so funny, but maybe you guys can speak into that a little bit just about the the draw to specific sacred spots that aren't meant to have a lot of foot traffic.

Spencer Lee 17:57

It's definitely hard. I think Right when social media started, right when all of us, us kids, you know, picked up the camera and started learning how to drive, I think we explore Hawaii and have that kind of innocent mindset as to like, oh, wow, this place is like, really cool. I want to take a cool photo, and I'm going to post it for my friends to see. I think that's kind of how it all starts. But everyone who is born and raised here, everyone who isn't aware of the like environmental issues coming out of school, I think we just do it in an innocent manner. And then only Now are we like, being pointed out or being called out, like, hey, like this is kind of this place kind of has more meaning to it, you know, be more aware, be more mindful, like I find myself learning from other people all the time, because I only know what they know from school and I went to school for business that did not go to school for you know, on history or environmentalism. But it doesn't mean that I can do my research. So for me, that's kind of how it started. You know, just going to a cool time. posting it and then realizing like, oh, wow, there's like 10 2030 people asking or this, this places I may give it to a few friends and then a few friends go there and post it and now, you know, now it's a very popular spot. And it's like, dang, it was that because of me or, you know, we're just gets around. You just got to be aware and mindful. And you know, if these spots are like, photographers favorite places to go, because they feel some sense of peace or very emotional attachment to it, and then write it in your caption to kind of leave it like better than you found it or write something that people can like look at and be like, okay, that's my job. If I come here to be aware of these things, you know, that way, it's not like your fault that you were the first one to blow up this place, I guess because they got like some Instagram, like you did your due diligence. Now. It's like the people who are coming to visit to do their due diligence to and take care of the place and make sure that they're aware of Like where they're stepping what they're leaving behind the impact that it can have.

Bryan Murphy 20:04

Yeah, that's well said, Spencer, what about you?

Spencer Lee 20:06

Yeah, so I grew up with the conservation mind, in place as as a child. So I always, you know, going out and making sure that I pack out whatever I pack in was kind of like common sense. But, you know, I'm not the only person that visits you know, very sensitive locations. And a lot of people who are going to these sensitive locations are not being as concerned about whether or not they pick up their own trash. Whether or not they respect the people who are living in that neighborhood by not like, for example, if you're, if you're in a neighborhood by a popular hiking trail by not wiping off the mud in their yard, or using their hoses to, you know, wash off afterwards. Social media has a very powerful way of impacting the environment and it's only something that people I think, are starting to realize, because when one shot goes viral, then every, every photographer on on the island, for example, would want to go and chase the exact same shot. And regardless of whether or not the photographer, the creative shares, that location, people are going to do their best and try their hardest to find it. And once that location, quote unquote, goes viral, then you have everybody flocking to that location. And then it only takes one or two groups of people to ruin that location by leaving a bunch of trash, destroying something that was not meant to, you know, holds particular weight, like if they're standing on a rock or a tree branch, and stuff like that. And I think that if we're going to be sharing these spots and sharing these, our artwork, essentially, we should be at least taking a little bit of the responsibility of trying to educate people who do see that image on how to go to certain certain And locations in a responsible way, having the respect to the photographer to the creative if they are not comfortable with sharing a particular location due to the fact that it's just very sensitive to overcrowding are very sensitive to trash. Like for example, certain beaches are not maintained by the state. So if somebody leaves their trash and doesn't pick it back up, then nobody will until somebody else picks it up for them. So Waikiki is maintained very well. All Milan is maintained very well but a lot of beaches on the islands are not Waikiki are all Mwana. Those are the types of beaches that people want to go to to get away from crowds of people and the people who are inspiring others to get out to a place that are remind people of conservation and remind people to do the right thing while they're out there. And so that not only are you know, we leave this place beautiful for our future generations, but we Leave it safe for everybody else and say for like the wildlife, we don't just use nature as just for our own personal gain.

Bryan Murphy 23:10

So, at the time of this recording, I mean, we're about 30 days away from August 1. That means starting August 1, Trans Pacific travel will be opened up granted that someone can show proof of a negative COVID 19 test and not having a quarantine for 14 days. So that means that about 30 days from now there's going to be people hopping on the plane and hit into the islands. So we have this kind of window just to be able to have this conversation and talk about someone who's coming in islands. Now what are your guys's just in in light of all that and then in light of people kind of starting to come back slowly to vacation. What are your guys's thoughts on Hawaii opening up August 1.

Spencer Lee 23:56

I think it's a good thing for our state. I guess economically, I feel like a lot of small businesses and local businesses are still kind of closed or you know, they're still looking for more customers, just because not a lot of people are out spending money. And, you know, unfortunately, Hawaii is like thrives. Our economy thrives off of tourism, right? It's just what it is. So I think in a sense, it's okay. You know, I have to I have to trust, which is very hard to trust, that our state is going to do the right thing. You know, if people are testing negative, then I don't necessarily see from my point of view right now. I don't see your problem. Yeah, I don't see a problem. I think it'll definitely help. I just hope that people are still very aware of like that we have families here and we have communities here and we all like there's there's local people call this place home, you know, so when you're coming here, it's like, we're stoked that you're here. We're stoked that you want to experience why and that you want to kind of like Escape or have a vacation and just have fun. But also just remember that there are people that live here, too. You know, we have communities here, we have small businesses and families and kids that grew up here. Just be mindful and aware of that when you're kind of going around and taking photos and going to eat at these places. You know, it'll help small businesses kind of come back up and up and running. And I think it's gonna be what it is.

Bryan Murphy 25:27

Right, Spencer? Yeah. Any thoughts on that?

Spencer Lee 25:30

Yeah, I think for the economics, it's, it's about time, right? Like, right. Our economy has been down and if we continue to, you know, remain shut down. The we're going to have loss of jobs and permanent loss of homes for people because it's very expensive to live here and away. So I think opening up is a great thing. Now coming from a health standpoint, again, travelers should be mindful of the fact that yes, we are paradise but we Still have vulnerable people here, we still have people who are immuno suppressed, we still have the elderly population, none of their, quote unquote, social distancing practices should go out the window just because you're on vacation here, you should still be wearing your mask, you should still be washing your hands very often carry a bottle of hand sanitizer with you. I guess kind of like a little bit of a concern for me is that the fact that we don't have enough tests to test people upon arrival, and that's why we are allowing people to get their own tests within 72 hours of travel. And then as long as they show proof of that when they arrive to the airport, then they will still be essentially just void the 14 day quarantine. But there's still a three day window right when they're on the mainland where we're seeing big surges of COVID-19 communities spread, you know, outbreaks of this virus, so there's still a time window that you could potentially catch COVID So we'll hop on a plane, still possibly, in fact, people on that plane and then come to Hawaii to possibly start another outbreak. And we are still seeing as our own bulk of the economy is opening up, we're still seeing slight influx of cases. Granted, those case, amounts are not as drastic as the increases that we've seen on the mainland. But there's still small bumps and small, small quantities within our community. And we don't need to add to that. So I would say that if you are planning on coming starting August 1 to avoid the 14 days, get your test, obviously, to avoid having to pay for two weeks in a hotel room, essentially, within those the time you take your test, and it's shown that you're negative, be smart about what you do. Don't go out into crowded areas try to reduce the risk of you potentially being contracting the virus on your own as well as continue to operate. This social distancing while you're out there, and as well as when you're here in Hawaii. Yeah. I mean, I just want to interject to like, yeah, there's a lot of people here that may have it to buy, although the visitors are coming here and they're testing negative, there's some of us that could be positive here, you know, walking the streets. So it's important to like what Spencer said, definitely still wear your mask. Just be mindful, just be aware and respectful of the rules that are in place at restaurants or bars or hotels that are, you know, reopening up like, you know, I'm sure a lot of businesses are kind of scrambling because in 30 days, they kind of have to be up and running again. And I have a few friends in the hotel industry and they probably aren't working until maybe this month now because everyone's like, Alright, like the state approved people to come 30 days. Let's go we gotta get like, the room is good. Like every third you know, we have to rehire everybody now. A

Bryan Murphy 29:01

little bit more of a heads up would have been nice. Yeah,

Spencer Lee 29:04

at least Yeah.

So yeah, this you know, if you aren't coming on August 1, this just be mindful and respectful. Like people are still doing their best, you know, we are only informed as much as we do our research or as much as we watch the news. So, always going to be a little bit different when you come, just kind of like what Spencer said, just be mindful and aware. And that's kind of all we hope to ask for from people. And the same can be said for the Conservation stuff too. If you're going to go out, be mindful of the potential impact of your actions. Be mindful of your rubbish, be mindful of your actions. Be mindful of your noise and neighborhoods and all that because, yeah, we're here to have fun, like, we're both from joy and we both like love to go out and have fun, and kind of just, I hate to say do whatever but do whatever in a way that doesn't hurt or harm the experience. For other people as well as doesn't hurt or harm the experience for that environment.

Bryan Murphy 30:04

Yeah, Hawaii's Best we throughout this this term ecotourism aligns with conservation. If we had to summon up just from your guys's kind of, um, you know, dictionary, how would you define conservation?

Spencer Lee 30:18

I guess for me as a photographer, and you know growing up already with conservation in mind, there's several principles that I follow. One is Leave No Trace and it's not just something that's unique to Hawaii it's unique to the mainland it's unique to everywhere around the world that has you know, very pristine natural areas. So if you just Google Leave No Trace there are seven principles run through them real quick. The first one is plan ahead and prepare second one is traveling cabins durable surfaces. Third is dispose of waste properly. Fourth is leave what you find. Five is minimize Counterparty impact six is respect wildlife and seven is be considerate of other visitors. If you just follow those seven principles, just regardless of what you're doing, whether you're a photographer, fisherman, or you just want to, you know, just go out into the outdoors and have a have a good time and relax, then, you know, following those principles will generally keep it keep you on the straight path. And those principles, kind of just go with the whole mindfulness thing to be mindful of your actions and how your actions are impacting the environment and the rest of the world around you.

Bryan Murphy 31:31

I think what's important about that, I mean, we're all living in this kind of COVID most maybe COVID right now, who knows, but it's the same really mentality is thinking of other people. So obviously, even wearing a mask and also with you know, social resistance and just kind of doing your part and this is kind of an extension of what it means to do that when you're going out in nature as well. So I love that Maddie, what about you, man,

Spencer Lee 31:57

I just recently found out about Leave No Trace. I think that they do a great job of kind of helping people who just don't know what to do. And it's okay not to know what to do. Because, you know, Hawaii is very different. And if I can just speak from like, an emotional side, you know, when you're coming and visiting like when you look at those rules that kind of Spencer just set the follow are kind of like guidelines to follow from anyone's blog or blog or just kind of experience of boy just kind of have some empathy. You know, there's, there's history here, there's history on the ground, there's history on every mountain in every waterfall, you know, be very lucky that the fact that like, Native Hawaiian people or like local people are some of us are okay with people like calling this place home or coming to visit and just kind of like, also, like, making businesses and doing things here too. You know, Hawaii is definitely a beautiful place. You know, it's nothing like New York, it's nothing like California. It's so much you know, it's it's so are different and it's also a very tight knit community. So just kind of keep that in mind when you're, when you're coming here when you're exploring, just have some empathy, try to really understand, like, why people like our, like organizations like Leave No Trace or sustainable cosines or just people in general, like environmentalists kind of Express leaving this place better than we found it and just kind of doing our part, you know, if we see something, so yeah, that's kind of what Spencer and I want to try and work on. Right now. We're kind of just starting with social media, but hoping to just kind of make a user friendly kind of guide. That's not very forceful for people to kind of just look at and follow that way. It's like, you know, like I said earlier, it's like, we are doing our part to the best that we can. And then now it's kind of your like, up to you to do your part. You know, in my opinion, like when people have have come here, like other photographers and other artists, they really just feel Why is love and the community and they feel like super happy and they totally understand like, Okay, I get it now, you know, like, I finally get it, like this place is different, and they leave different and some people fall in love here. So, just a side note, but that's, you know what's cool, you know, there's these guidelines for a reason. And until you come here and experience like, really the true beauty, you know, you'll you'll understand it's, it's not so that we can monitor people, it's just so constantly just have somewhere beautiful to kind of escape to or go to, you know, in our lives.

Bryan Murphy 34:37

I think that's well said, man. I mean, because once you get it, you get it right. Like, for me, my very first time on Oahu was about maybe 15 years ago. And my only kind of window into Hawaii was Waikiki diamond had that you know that iconic? Yeah. And throughout these years, you know, even talking to guys like you and a lot of other friends on the islands. Once you get it once you see the beauty once you see the love that locals and Hawaiians have for each other, their land, their culture, like you want to do your part in being a part of protecting that. I know that speaking for myself, my family like we want to do whatever we can to protect and to honor such an amazing place. And I think that's why I definitely wanted to have you guys on today as we lead up to this reopening and talking about conservation and talking about you guys have done every, you know, hike around the island and captured every angle of Oahu and you kind of ventured out and some of the other islands as well. What are some things that you've seen that has kind of broken your heart like what are what are some examples of when we talked about leaving? No trace? What are some examples on the other end that you've seen? I like during any examples that just kind of stick out as you're thinking about your, your time in shooting,

Spencer Lee 36:06

I think we experienced it a lot when we're out in the ocean. And on the beaches. For me personally, I've definitely seen like, I guess like plastic stuck in a turtle in the ocean. And I felt like I could not do anything about it because I can't touch turtle, right. And also, it's swimming faster than me and it probably doesn't even know that it's stuck to this thing. I've also seen, you know, dolphins and you know, just diving and swimming and kind of playing with plastic. I mean, like, what if they swallow it, you know, that's kind of like something out of our control. And, you know, one of my friends, they really tried their best to kind of get it off the dolphin but at the same time, we don't want to like touch marine life, you know, wild marine animals and marine life. So it kind of breaks my heart because it's like, wow, I really have to swim away. And I really don't know who to call and I really can't do anything. About about it, and all I can hope for is that it somehow falls off their fan or somehow they just leave it alone and But still, even if it does, it's still in the ocean for another animal or another fish to kind of run into maybe, you know, so close to shore. So those are just kind of things and no, there's just like a couple beaches like Spencer said, some beaches aren't maintained by the state. Oh, man, there's like some beaches that just like trash everywhere. He, you know, I, me and my girlfriend have tried our best one day to like, pick up a bunch of trash. And then I look down the beach and I just still see so much plastic and it's getting dark and I'm like, oh, man, I feel so weird leaving, you know, like, I guess I could say but at the same time, it's like, you know, we have obligations and life that we have to do and you know, it's a lot of work. It's a lot of work to walk down a stretch of like a two mile three mile stretch of beach. That's just me alone. There's definitely some great organization. But personal experiences just things that I see it's hard to walk away, or it kind of breaks my heart because it's like, Man, I'm from here. I'm like, always speaking about, you know, these types of things. But here I am kind of walking away from the problem or you know, the issue because I feel like there's just too big for me to do alone.

Bryan Murphy 38:20

Yeah, Spencer,

Spencer Lee 38:22

going off that I would definitely agree with Matt, like all of the beaches that I go to. I'm always carrying a plastic bag because I know that this is going to be there. And I know that I'm going to leave with either a half bag full of trash or a full bag and possibly carrying bigger items alongside all my camera gear. And it's sad that it gets to the point where I know that the next time that I'll be back, there will be trash and there will be possibly more or less. I expect it at this point. So it's sad that it gets to that point but Matt left off with the with the notion that you know, this problem is too big for a lot of As individuals to do by ourselves, and that's why we're both trying to work on inspiring the least local creative community here. Because we're so tight knit, everybody knows each other. And if we all are preaching efforts of conservation and being mindful and adventuring responsibly, then hopefully we can have a bigger collective voice than any of our voices could carry on our own. And hopefully, that that voice is translated not just within our own creative community, but you know, possibly to the local public, of why and then once the local public of Hawaii starts sharing all of these messages of messages of conservation, then it can go into the tourism industry, and then eventually, hopefully, people will travel to Hawaii with all of these things in mind, because it's a part and it's ingrained within their culture, to you know, be environmentally conscious when they're traveling to Hawaii or when they're going out. To nature anywhere and not just here.

Bryan Murphy 40:02

And I think you're starting to see some of that, but even more marketing behind that is going to be important. So leaving no trace means you, you probably aren't going to, you know, take rocks or take a turtle with you, you're just going to leave footprints and make memories and since we have you guys, some amazing professional photographers, if someone is you know, doing a hike and they want to capture that memory, what are some photography tips maybe even like talking about a smartphone or if someone has like a simple camera, what are some tips, maybe some photography 101 tips that you would give someone to help them be able to capture these memories even better?

Unknown Speaker 40:42

I think I honestly tried too hard.

Spencer Lee 40:45

I think Spencer like if you look at Spencer's account, it's very more like, I feel like it's more natural in my opinion. Like, I feel like I used to try so hard to get like a nice frame and composition. I think for me, it's comes from feeling. I think like the best photos are the ones that are like close to your heart, you know, close to your heart like the moments like you. You're watching like a sunrise at Shannon's hat and like, you basically see something so beautiful. Just bring out your phone, get a low angle and kind of just shoot it. I think that's like the best iPhone tip that I can. Yeah, there's no real way to take a photo. I think Instagram does a really bad job at like having everyone compare each other's work to each other. where it's like, oh, man, I have to get it this specific way. But honestly, over time, it's just man, if you like this photo, that's the best photo. You know, if you like the way it looks for you, and it makes you happy, then that's all that really matters. You want to leave Hawaii like remembering the good things. You don't want to leave and be like, man, I could have captured that sun sunrise better. Like I wish I did it like this. Right? Yeah, there's some like hikes that I do. You are sunrises that I do, I really just don't put up my camera at all. I'm just so captured by nature and I really mean that like not to be like dramatic, but it's real. Like, sometimes we just have to realize where we live in such a beautiful place. And then at that point, I'm like, the model of the shoot because I don't want to take photos.

I'm always the one telling Matt, go stand over there. Enjoy.

Yeah, yeah, that's kind of just my take. Like, don't don't don't worry so much about the shot. If you can't figure it out or can't get it within 10 minutes at that point, like, find a cool angle, take a photo with your iPhone, kind of just enjoy the moment. And if you're like a professional photographer coming to visit, just bring a bag with you and leave nothing in your car because because there's a lot of break ins. Yeah, for me like me personally, I just bring one backpack everything that's in like that. I want to like use to take these Photos are these videos and then like a banana, because at least I can dispose of the banana, you know?

Bryan Murphy 43:06

Yeah, that's great. I mean, if you see something and it's more about something that sparks joy, you know, capturing that memory, you touched on something, it's kind of ironic, like, you take this hike with the intent to you know, I got to get the shot got to get a shot. Like I was five minutes late. And, but it's so much more than that. It's, it's, it's about being present. And it's about, you know, like you mentioned, like, sometimes you just leave in the camera, you know, and just say, I'm just gonna go and I'm just, I just seem to reconnect. I just seem to refocus. And Hawaii is such an important and special place to be able to do that. I think that's brilliant, man.

Spencer Lee 43:45

Yeah, Spencer, what about you, man? I can't really follow that up. But just to kind of second what Matt said on social media and like, if you've even with us photographers, we sometimes do get lost with just doing whatever it is every day. For the Instagram picture for the gram, just just going strictly for the photos and just solely putting all of our time effort and focus into getting mash getting that one shot. But I think that a practice that you know, it goes it doesn't just relate to the photography field he can relate to anything, but you have to get into touch with your emotions first what is it about this that is making you tick What is it about what's in front of you that draws your attention to it makes you feel a certain emotion and then frame your image based upon that emotion first before you you know put your time and your effort focused on your composition focus on you know, your, your subject and all this technical stuff that comes with photography and getting the shot. And then once you're kind of like in tune with your emotions, then you're in tune with like nature and you are in that flow state of engaging with nature and that interplay between your emotions and nature. You can take your shot That shot will have more meaning to you personally, if you're just running out. And like with a headless chicken, which, you know, me and Maddie are guilty of, you know, just holding down the shutter button on our cameras and just pointing in every single direction, you might get a good shot, you know, you, you might capture something that's really powerful. But you won't feel anything when you look at that image or just be like, Oh, yeah, that was a nice sunrise or a nice view that we were looking at. So definitely get into touch with your emotions first. And then when you do take that image, then whatever, whether it's good, technically or not, you'll have more emotional attachment to it, and you'll be happier with the results. Oh, yeah, I just want to interject and say like, for people listening, like, we're not perfect, you know, we have made our mistakes. That's kind of how I know it's because I've made like mistakes or maybe I just wasn't fully aware, mindful of where I was. And I was just so focused on just like getting like that shot for those future pages. And For these likes, and for more followers and, you know, over time, that's photography has definitely helped me shift and change my perspective on how I see like my home in Hawaii. You know, it's it's different when you're like, growing up here, it's like, oh, this, this place is home like we don't know anywhere else until we go there. So we kind of just have that innocent mindset. And then when we realize like all our home is actually a travel destination spot for everybody pretty much around the world that you kind of have to understand like what we're doing. So yeah, I just want to say like, we're not perfect, you know, we're not trying to tell people like, what to do, because you know, we're from here, and we don't want you to be doing these things too. We have learned over the past few years, definitely as photographers more and more about home and how to take care of our place and how to do it the right way.

Bryan Murphy 46:53

Yeah, and when you're doing the hiking, when you're you got your phone and you got your camera, whatever, you know, don't forget about the kids too. Yeah. Seriously though, Oh, yes.

Spencer Lee 47:07

Safety is

Bryan Murphy 47:07

always the priorities first,

Spencer Lee 47:10

save. Yes, Yes, for sure. But I think that for photographers, for just regular people, whenever you're trying to take over, just fill the frame, fill your screen, whatever it is that you like, and whatever is is calling to you, whatever speaking to whatever is tugging at your emotions to get back to the emotional side of it. Just put that in your frame. And that's going to be a way better photo than if you try and, you know, again, emulate somebody else's photo, fill whatever it is that is talking to you fill your frame with whatever it is that makes you happy, and then you'll end up with a great photo.

Bryan Murphy 47:45

Love it. One of the questions I love to you know, ask anyone who comes on the show is if someone is traveling to Hawaii for the first time, or they've been coming year after year and maybe creating the same, you know, the same vacation year after year. What is something thing that you would want somebody to know coming to the islands maybe something you know to do, to not to do or go eat here, go hike there. What would you say to that?

Spencer Lee 48:09

What not to do is to not just stay in Waikiki. I think if you're coming here for the first time, definitely adventure out to all parts of the island, go to Cool Ranch, go to the Polynesian Cultural Center, go to some cheesy luau, because at least you'll get to experience you know, some form of cultural boy. That's more than just kind of what you see in Waikiki. Learn how to surf go to like, volunteer at a lowly patch or worn like that's a

good one. Yeah.

Maybe find a beach cleanup. I mean, you know, because this is all of that. Yeah, this is what Hawaii is. You know, like, this is kind of like our community, our culture. Yeah, at least just experience one of those things. And I think if you can do that, then that's like the best thing that you can do. Try out pocus Okay, stop poke Yeah, just try something different you know than you did last time or if it's your first time here try everything it's so cool to try and experience the sunrise and sunset like you experience when you hike. And yeah if you want to get specific on like, places for food and hikes, you can just, I guess messages separately or Dr. Bryan Bryan has a lot of information on that stuff. I would just second everything, Maddy said, Just try different things. You know, like, if you're traveling here, you're only here for X amount of time and sometimes you can get so caught up with having everything that you want to do jam packed into like one or two weeks. But you know, the closure about living here in Hawaii is you know, really relaxed, so don't overdo it. Don't try to kill yourself and you know like this is meant to be a place of rest and relax. And healing. So don't be, you know, constantly grinding and trying to burn yourself out just because you only have X amount of time. If you're trying to do that you're kind of like taking yourself out of the experience. You're not immersing yourself and really taking the time to experience what each unique opportunity has to give you. So be mindful of the things that are going on around you be mindful of the activities and be mindful of yourself. Be Be mindful of, you know, if you're feeling dead, you know, take a day and go to the spa. You know, relax, chill out, because you may not get to experience every little nook and cranny of the island but even we locals that have been living here haven't haven't done that. So take it easy. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your time in this beautiful place and take care of yourself.

Bryan Murphy 50:47

Well guys, I appreciate you and taking the time in this conversation I think is super important. Spencer How can people connect with you find you?

Spencer Lee 50:55

Yeah, if people want to, you know, just talk to me. Follow me see my photos. I'm pretty much spent nearly eight away on all social media platforms, Instagram, Twitter, tik tok de flash, Snapchat, whatever. Expensive either way, I recently started a YouTube channel under the same name specially to wait. So I have one blog up there now. So if you want to check that out, I guess, YouTube you can get a lot more personal with the Creator. So you get to see like, more or less stuff that goes on around all of our little adventures. I'm really into YouTube now. And then if you want to buy a print, you can check out my website, this time drop the ad Wait, so it's just Spencer the photography.com no way to wait there but everywhere else it's meant to be a

Bryan Murphy 51:43


Spencer Lee 51:45

Not as professional as Maggie, but we're getting there.

Maddie, what about you? So it's my alias via Instagram. If you guys just want to follow me or just talk more about these types of things that we did on the podcast and we Have any questions really, don't be afraid to reach out and connect. Don't be afraid to ask questions either. My website is Maddie Liang comm you can find like the print section there, it just takes you to my darkroom account. darkroom is a third party website. They're really good. If other photographers are listening to this, to help me like process prints faster than if I just did it manually. So they're really good. I was donating my prints, actually like all of them recently to organizations helping supporting Black Lives Matter. darkroom is actually waiving their fee for me so that everyone who buys through my darkroom website right now hundred percent will just be donated. It's awesome. Yeah, I was actually really surprised that like a website would do that. Or like a company.

Bryan Murphy 52:48

Yeah. How long does that run for?

Spencer Lee 52:50

It's still going, Okay, you know, because, yeah, I just want to donate. The money that I raised from Prince right now. Like I don't necessarily need the money. I'm very blessed to work with, like one or two clients right now that are providing enough for me. So everything right now is just being donated. We have raised over $1,000 Yeah, it's kind of crazy. That's great, man. Yeah, yeah. So you can find my print shop through my website Maddy beyond calm. And I also have a YouTube channel, but I didn't post anything.

Video is a different beast. But um, yeah, if you follow me on YouTube, it's just not at all.

Bryan Murphy 53:27

Great. Well, guys, I truly appreciate you guys. And thank you so much for this time in this conversation. Thank you guys so much.

Spencer Lee 53:35

Thanks, Brian. Thank you for having us.

You got it. Thanks for having us on. Really appreciate it.

Bryan Murphy 53:40

Absolutely. Well, I just want to thank Maddie and Spencer again for their time today. I had a blast. I hope that you found value in it. We're gonna link everything in the show notes. So you can just go to Hawaii's Best travel comm slash Episode 34 and you can find all the things that we mentioned today specifically going to ln T dot That's Leave No Trace behind. That's what Spencer mentioned about the seven principles about leaving no trace. So go to lnt.org to find that information, but the easiest way to get all the information and not remember at all Just go to Hawaii's Best travel comm slash Episode 34. And it'll be right there for you. My biggest key takeaway in today's episode was simply this being present, no matter where you're at, if you're at home, or if you are just going on a simple hike is just being present. Yeah, it could be cool to you know, get the shot. But the most important thing is creating memories. When you go to Hawaii and you go to rejuvenate, make memories. It's really about the experience and it's about being present in the moment and if you can capture it in the moment, then that's like cherry on top, but if sometimes if you miss the perfect sunset or you miss the perfect sunrise or whatever, it's more about being present. But what I love about these guys is even though it's Amazing photographers in Hawaii even they say like sometimes you just have to leave the camera behind and just go experience the hike, go experience just the swim or whatever you're doing, just experience it and that's what Hawaii is all about. And I can't wait for all of us to get to travel again. So to stay up to date on when that's happening, and to follow Spencer's follow Maddie go to Hawaii's Best travel comm slash Episode 34 and it'll be all there. Well, I just want to say thank you again for joining us today on this episode. And until next time, be well. Hello.

Hawaii's Best 55:36

Thanks for listening to Hawaii's Best travel podcast. To stay up to date on future episodes. Be sure to subscribe. For more information to help you plan your next trip to Hawaii visit Hawaii's Best travel calm

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Bryan Murphy
Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.