Kahilu Exhibits focuses on photography: Finalists in ‘The Essence of Hawaii’ statewide contest now on display

  • Isaiah Stillman, a student and amateur photographer from Hilo, wins the Best Aerial award for this shot taken with a DJI Mavic Pro drone at Honolii Beach Park in June 2017. (COURTESY PHOTO/ISAIAH STILLMAN)

  • Joshua Esteban, an amateur photographer from Hilo and one of the finalists in the competition, stands next to his shot Thursday night on display at Kahilu Theatre. (GEORGE FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

  • Lance Agena’s photo, “World’s End entry taken at sunset at the Kapahulu Groin,” wins 1st place in “The Essence of Hawaii” photo contest. (COURTESY PHOTO/LANCE AGENA)

  • PhotoCON Hawaii Founder Ric Noyle congratulates Raiatea Arcuri on his photo that won 3rd place in the contest. Arcuri is one of two Hawaii Island residents with two photos in the top 35. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

WAIMEA — More than 50,000 people are employed as professional photographers in the U.S.

But in addition to that, millions of others consider themselves amateur or enthusiast photographers.


In Hawaii, photographers of all ages and skill levels submitted their top shots to “The Essence of Hawaii” statewide photo contest last year. Of the 640 entries, 35 photos were selected as finalists and showcased at PhotoCON Hawaii — Hawaii’s first annual educational and informational photo trade event held on Oahu in June 2017.

The shots — which captured the photographers’ love of the islands — are on display at Kahilu Theatre through Aug. 12. Three out of the top four prize winners were amateur photographers.

“Finalists are from Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island and Kauai,” PhotoCON Hawaii founder and commercial photographer Ric Noyle said at Kahilu Exhibits’ opening reception Thursday night. “I like the fact that one shot was taken with a disposable camera in black and white. I don’t believe the camera is as important as the creative process.”

Of the top four award winners, two live on Hawaii Island: Raiatea Arcuri, a UH-Hilo student from Mountain View who won 3rd place and Isaiah Stillman from Hilo who won the Da-Jiang Innovations Science and Technology Co. Ltd. (DJI) drone award.

“In April last year I was looking at the weather at my house and saw these high clouds and thought the sunset would be good. So I went up Volcano National Park later that day and just waited until the sun set and those clouds lit up,” Arcuri said.

Using a Sony a7S digital camera, he captured vivid pink clouds that arched over a deep blue sky outlining Kilauea, a small, bonfire-like volcanic eruption in Halemaumau Crater and the final light on the horizon.

Another Big Island finalist is Joshua Esteban, an amateur from Hilo who specializes in bird photography.

“I created the photo contest because I felt it was a nice way for us to communicate and also for the educational process of photography,” Noyle said. “In the contest, age was not a factor. It didn’t matter whether you manipulated the picture or took black and white. The only requirement was that it be shot in Hawaii and done within the last year. In photography and creating, if somebody is a student and 12 years old and they shoot something in beautiful light, they should be awarded just as much as a pro.”

Judges for the 2017 photo contest included Jason Cutinella from Nella Media Group; Jeffrey K. Fukui with Canon U.S.A., Inc. Hawaii; Lora Gallagher from Hilton Hawaii; Noelani Schilling-Wheeler with Oahu Visitors Bureau; Noah Tom from Anthology Marketing Group; and recognized photographer Zak Noyle.

“When the judges judged they had no idea who was who, and it didn’t really matter,” Ric Noyle said. “What was important was the image quality that someone presented with a strong image, good intention, composition and coloring. That’s a winner right there. Out of the 640 images, 300 were truly winners.”

The Kahilu Exhibits photo show is sponsored by Pictures Plus, one of PhotoCON Hawaii’s sponsors.

“I have admired Ric not only for his expertise in photography, but his commitment to making the world a better place. His PhotoCON Hawaii project is just that,” Kahilu Theatre’s Executive Director Deborah Goodwin said at Thursday night’s reception.

This year’s “The Essence of Hawaii” contest opened for entries June 25, with a final deadline of July 25. Each photographer can submit up to five images. Judging will be based on 30 percent contest theme, 30 percent technical proficiency and 40 percent artistic and visual impact. Entries can be submitted at http://photoconhawaii.com/call-for-entries/.

The second annual PhotoCON Hawaii trade show is scheduled Sept. 7-9 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu. The first day is exclusively for Hawaii State Department of Education, teachers and students.

“Photography, because it has no limitations other than to have a camera, is a nice way for people to learn. Great workshops are scheduled for that day, and kids will be bused in,” Noyle said.

September 8 and 9 will include talks by National Geographic adventure photographer Cory Richards, Canon photographer Joel Grimes and professional surf photographer Zak Noyle, in addition to workshops and the announcement of “The Essence of Hawaii” 2018 photo contest winners.


A $35 early bird entry fee is available now through July 15.

Info: Go to http://photoconhawaii.com/

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