Super Flytographer Experience in Portland, Oregon

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Flytographer Whitney shooting Katie in Portland’s Pearl District (Photo by Jen Pollack Bianco)

EDITOR’S NOTE: all other photos in this post are by Whitney in Portland for Flytographer

Trips with my BFFs don’t happen in my life nearly as much as they should. I am incredibly lucky to have great girlfriends with adventurous spirits who agreed to meet me for a Pacific Northwest girlfriend getaway. Since I live in Seattle, that was a logical place to start. We wanted a “road trip” segment so we headed to Portland for 36 hours in the Rose City.

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Just hanging out in the Pearl District

Katie has been my BFF since the first day of Fourth grade in Indianapolis. She was my college roommate and my bridesmaid. When Zan showed up in middle school, we became a power trio. The three of us have had many adventures and a few misadventures together. Now we live in three different cities and don’t get together nearly enough. When planning our PNW girls trip, I realized I didn’t want to be the one behind the lens the entire time. So many of the photos of the three of us have been taken at weddings and reunions. We just did not have enough photos of the three of us simply goofing around and enjoying each other’s company. Enter… Flytographer.

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Our Flytographer experience was Yo, Awesome and Rad

We rocked these Sisters of Los Angeles Baja jackets for part of our shoot

Flytographer is a destination photography company whose motto is “some trips deserve more than selfies.” This was one of those trips. I’ve been wanting to try out Flytographer since some of my fellow travel blogger friends have used the destination photography service. Flytographer offers short photo sessions in most major cities and vacation destinations on six continents. The company works by pairing clients with local photographers. Flytographer shoots are a no-brainer for major life events like proposals and babymoons. I went with Whitney in Portland because I liked her photographic sensibility and thought her love of travel made her the right choice for our girlfriends getaway.

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The yellow VW Microbus we stumbled upon was a great shoot location

After filling out Flytographer’s request form with relevant info, I got a quick response from a Flytographer Concierge who kept me looped in during the whole process and let me know she was checking Whitney’s availability. Then I read Flytographer’s Style Guide. While we definitely wanted candid photos, I did want us to look like our we had our act together. Zan and I recently bought jumpsuits we love at Bleu Clothing, so we convinced Katie to jump on the jumpsuit bandwagon. We drew our fashion inspiration from fashion icons like Charlie’s Angels and The Pointer Sisters. Sex and the City came up as a style reference as well. But there were four main characters in SATC, and no one in my girl squad is the Miranda.

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Chillaxing in Tanner Springs Park

Props to Katie for finding a red jumpsuit online and rocking it like a young Diane Von Furstenberg! Have I mentioned my friend Katie is crazy resourceful?

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Exploring Powell’s City of Books

My Flytographer, Whitney, was great about suggesting locations for the shoot. We decided to star with Tanner Springs Park and then head to downtown Portland. The Flytographer Concierge put all the details together so we knew where and when to meet Whitney. We had a great time during this shoot. Not only did we have an excuse to dress up and act silly, but we got to explore the Pearl District with a Portland native, which was fun. We wound up in Powell’s City of Books, one of my favorite bookstores on the planet. This was perfect because all three of us girls are still book nerds.

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Obligatory Charlie’s Angels homage

As you can see, the inner child in each of us is alive and well.

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Another classic Charlie’s Angels pose

We did a mix of posed and candid shots with Whitney, who was great at given us direction. Going in, my goal was to get three good shots out of the Flytographer session. I think we wound up with a lot more than that, and we had a lot of fun during our shoot. We finished with a round of Cosmopolitans at Pepe le Moko, a funky subterranean bar that felt like a bomb shelter.

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We finished our session with a round of cosmos at Pepe Le Moko

I really enjoyed shooting with Whitney and found myself relaxing in front of the camera for once. The fun continued when I got a preview postcard from Flytographer two days later which included a great teaser shot from our shoot. The link to the final images arrived in my email a few days later.

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 We even got a few quick single shots during our Flytographer session

Flytographer sessions start at $250. You can check out their packages here.

I am so grateful to have such lifelong girlfriends who were game for this. We had an amazing Flytographer experience, and it was worth every penny. These photos will make me happy for many years to come, and I think my BFFs feel the same way. Katie is even thinking about booking a Flytographer session for her holiday cards.

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Love this shot from Tanner Springs Park

I never regret making time to get together with my girlfriends. We laughed non-stop and agreed we need to do trips like this more often. Flytographer’s mini-photo sessions are a great way to get memorable souvenirs from your next holiday or vacation. Since Flytographer also offers prints, I’m pretty sure Katie and Zan know what they are getting for Christmas this year. I’ve had such a great Flytographer experience I am officially a fan of the brand.

Flytographer

Address: 330 – 517 Fort Street, Victoria BC Canada V8W 1E7
Office hours: 9am-5pm Pacific Time
Phone:  1 (888) 211-7178

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Our Portland photographer was Whitney.

 

Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Twilight and Sunsets on First Beach La Push, Washington

 

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Sunset at First Beach in La Push, Washington 

The Olympic Peninsula in Washington State has some gorgeous beaches. Ruby Beach is my usual go-to, so I made a point of heading to First Beach and Rialto Beach to check them out for myself.

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A summer afternoon on First Beach

Rialto Beach is part of Olympic National Park but First Beach is not. First Beach is accessible by car, and is located within the Quileute Nation . The Quileute Oceanside Resort is the nearest lodging. I stayed at the pet-friendly Forks Motel, located about 15 miles away.

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Boat passing Little James Island as seen from First Beach

First Beach is sometimes known as La Push Beach. It has a crescent-shaped swatch of sand as rocky points and views of James Island and Little James Island. It’s a favorite of both surfers and vampires (the location is featured in the Twilight series of books). La Push is one of the most popular destinations for Twihard tourists.

Summer sunset at First Beach in La Push, Washington

The Forks chamber of commerce has seen a 600% increase in tourism since 2000, and Stephanie Meyer’s YA series of books is often credited as a major factor. Fortunately, my visit was vampire free.

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 Stylish totem outside the Lonesome Creek Store in La Push

The Forks Chamber of Commerce has set up a First Beach Webcam so you can visit virtually if you can’t make it in real life.

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Pacific Northwest Surfer Girl

First Beach is a great place to watch the sunset and take in the twilight. I enjoyed watching the sun dip below the horizon between James Island and Little James Island.

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A panorama of sunset seekers enjoying the view from First Beach

First Beach is also a favorite of storm watchers and one of the most popular stops on the Twilight Tours. La Push is where Bella learns the tale of the Cullens and later goes cliff diving and almost drowns

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First Beach driftwood frames trees on Little James island  

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Pacific Northwest Summer evening on First Beach

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Clouds and sunset on First Beach

Only members of the Quileute Tribe are allowed on James Island. But there is a James Island webcam.

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Twilight view from First Beach in La Push

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Dusk view of Little James Island from First Beach

First Beach is easily accessible and open to all. Located near LaPush (about 15 miles west of Forks). Put the Quileute Oceanside Resort in your GPS as your destination and you’ll find it.

Quileute Oceanside Resort

330 Ocean Drive

La Push, WA 98350

 

Exploring Hawaii: Big Island Helicopter Tour of Volcanoes and Waterfalls

 

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View from the office of a Big Island Helicopter Pilot

If you’re planning a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, I highly recommend taking a helicopter tour. To truly appreciate the Big Island’s active volcanic landscape, you have to see it from above.

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Zan taking in the view

I booked a doors off waterfalls and volcanoes tour of the Big Island with Hawaii Volcanoes Helicopter Tours and it was the highlight of my trip to the Big Island. Based at the Commuter Air Terminal of Hilo International Airport, I could not have gotten more value for money than I did for this scenic flight ($378 for two people for a tour of approximately 35-40 minutes).

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Aerial view of a macadamia nut farm on the Big Island of Hawaii

After spending a few days exploring the Big Island of Hawaii and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the helicopter tour helped me better get the lay of the land. It also brought into sharp focus what is so unique about the Big Island– it’s home to Kilaeua, an active volcano.

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Aerial view of Hilo Bay, Hawaii

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Hilo from above

Once you take off from the Hilo airport, you fly over macadamia nut farms,the Boiling Pots of Peepee Falls and Rainbow Falls and head toward the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea. The tour was a great time to geek out over geography and mother nature.

Helicopter Ride over lava flow of  Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii

While conditions change daily, this summer has been an incredible time to see the volcano. The lava flow just reached the ocean for the first time in three years.

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Sulfer smells and hot air filled the helicopter as we flew over Kilauea’s steam vents and active lava flow

Overall, the helicopter tour was  smooth. It gets a bit bumpy when you are directly over the lava flow and steam vents, where hot air and cross currents add to the atmosphere.

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 Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world

Our pilot, Luka Dayton-Smith, stayed cool and let us know what to expect before the helicopter changed directions or hit a turbulent patch. I felt safe and secure during the entire flight.

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Window seat view as you fly over Kilauea

Helicopters are such a fun way to experience the landscape. With the doors off, there is very little between you and nature. If you are looking for things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii, take a helicopter tour!

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A tree burns as the lava flow overtakes it

Seeing trees fall as an active lava flow sets them on fire is mind blowing. It puts things in perspective and give you great respect for mother nature and the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele. By the end of the tour I understood the difference between the two kinds of lava flows in Hawaii, the pahoehoe and a’a.

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Approaching Kilauea in a helicopter

Our pilot even let us pick what to listen to during our flight. We went with adrenaline-pumped Foo Fighters. It paired nicely! We got to fly over the gardens of downtown Hilo as well, but honestly, after flying over an active volcano and seeing mother earth do her thing, you’re a bit dazzled. The experience is truly awesome and inspiring. A few tips: If you have long hair, you’ll want to put it up. It’s windy up in the helicopter, especially if you go with the doors off option. If you’re serious about photography, doors off is the way to go and you won’t be spending your days trying to eliminate window glare when editing your photos.

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Shaka symbols + helicopter = win 

If you’ve never taking a helicopter tour, let the Big Island be your first. It’s unforgettable. Hawaii Volcanoes Helicopters made the experience pleasant and easy.

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After an awesome flight with helicopter pilot Luka Dayton-Smith (photo credit: Zan Aufderheide)

 Be sure to book ahead.

Hawaii Volcanoes Helicopter Tours
1347 Kekuanaoa St.
Hilo, Hawaii
Phone : (808) 557-0084
Email : info@hawaiivolcanoeshelicoptertours.com

Exploring the Big Island of Hawaii: Sunsets at the Fairmont Orchid

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Kohala Coast Sunset on the Big Island of Hawaii

Gorgeous tropical sunsets are the stuff Hawaiian post cards are made of. The Kona and Kohala Coast of the Big Island offer some spectacular spots to watch the sun dip below the horizon and enjoy the last rays of the day. The lagoon at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel  was my favorite sunset spot on my recent trip to the Aloha State.

Big Island Sunset Time-Lapse

I shot the sunset time lapse above using the Time-Lapse function on my iPhone 6s on the lagoon beach at the Fairmont Orchid, which is a popular gathering spot around sunset.

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Last light off the Kohala Coast of the Big Island

After sunset, the Fairmont Orchid hotel offers stargazing opportunities for guests a few nights a week, with giant telescopes set up right on the property and an on-site astronomer.

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Big Island sunset at the Fairmont Orchid

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Sunset at the Coconut Grove 

The Fairmont Orchid’s Coconut Grove is a popular choice for destination weddings on the Big Island. The scenery is pretty spectacular.

Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii

1 North Kaniku Drive
Kohala Coast, Hawaii  96743
TEL + 1 808 885 2000
FAX + 808 885 5778

orchid@fairmont.com

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Exploring the Big Island of Hawaii: a Photo Essay Using the Boomerang App

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Shaka symbol shadow puppets on the Big Island

I just got back from  a girls trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. I decided to document our trip using the Boomerang App from Instagram on my iPhone 6s (Boomerang is also available for Android users). The Boomerang app creates short videos from bursts of still photos. Below are some of my favorite Boomerangs from the trip to the Aloha state.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 21, 2016 at 5:56pm PDT


 
Sunset Zen on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii excels at sunsets. I took this Boomerang on the beach at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel on the Kohala Coast.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 15, 2016 at 5:54pm PDT


 

Hang Loose Shadow Puppets

The Hulihee Palace in Kona was once a vacation home used by the Hawaiian royal family. Built in 1838, it is now a cool Victorian era museum with a great collection of Hawaiian artifacts and pictures. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the palace, so I made this boomerang of the “hang loose” shaka symbol. The shaka symbol is used as greeting in Hawaiian culture.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 22, 2016 at 5:42am PDT


 
Rush Hour on the Kona-Kohala Coast

The waters off the beach at the Fairmont Orchid are perfect for swimming, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. It’s a great snorkeling spot as well. The local fish and giant turtles (known as honu) happily share this portion of paradise.

 

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 20, 2016 at 6:27am PDT


Hula Dancing on Hilo Bay

My friend, Zan Aufderheide, learned a few hula dancing basics during a tour of the Big Island. Here she is showing her mad hula skills on Hilo Bay.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:08pm PDT


 
Yummy Tuna Crudo

The Beach Tree Bar and Lounge at the Four Seasons Hualalai is one of best spots on the Kailua-Kona Coast to take in the sunset and enjoy a meal with a view. The tuna crudo (ahi sashimi) with spicy aioli was both satisfying and light and paired perfectly with the tropical cocktails. I recommend trying The Green Flash made with Patrol Silver Tequila, Grand Marnier, lime, cream of coconut, Genovese basil, and fresh jalapeno.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 15, 2016 at 1:24pm PDT

 

Yellow Flags at the Fairmont Orchid

I stayed at the Fairmont Orchid. The hotel has a lovely beach and bay which is a great place to snorkel with the giant turtles, known locally as Honu. These yellow flags amongst the palm trees gave a real sense of being on vacation.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 16, 2016 at 9:02pm PDT

 

Handsome Furry Local

Much of the Big Island of Hawaii used for ranching, complete with cattle and cowboys. I met this furry local, a dog known for guarding cattle up in Waimea. If you’re in the area, try one of the locally sourced burgers at Village Burger. Located in an laid back strip mall, locals and visitors flock to Village Burger for their cooked to order Hawaii Big Island Beef Burger. I wasn’t even hungry and I could not resist the delicious smell wafting in the Hawaiian breeze.

For best results, Boomerangs are best viewed using the Instagram app. If you’re not yet following my Instagram, here’s a link.

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