An Eye For Kaua‘i Beauty

This Daniel Lane photo at the Kapa‘a skate park has been Photoshopped

Daniel Lane
Pono Photo
Interviewed by Amanda C. Gregg

Tell us about what you do.

In a nutshell, I’m a photographer, but I also am a teacher and graphic designer for local businesses. I shoot family, individual, and senior portraits as well as commercial photography for local businesses, real estate, weddings and events. I work alongside my wife Marta Lane, and provide the images for her “Farmers Markets” and “Tastes of Kaua`i” columns in MidWeek Kaua’i, and I put together a collection of images of my own in the “Eye On Kaua’i” pages.

They usually include Kaua`i people, flowers, landscapes and candid moments. Whatever gets in front of my lens can end up here, so consider yourself warned!

I also teach classes on camera usage, composition, tips and tricks, and post-production processing using Adobe Photoshop and use my background in fine art to design graphics and create logos and advertising and marketing materials for clients such as The Koloa Rum Company, Sweet Marie’s Hawaii, HI End Hawaii, Papaya’s Natural Foods and Cafe, Hawaii Aloha Travel, UPS, Kauai Pankration, HGTV, Kaua’i Visitors Bureau, Kauai County Farm Bureau and Jeep Style Magazine and Tasting Kaua’i.

How did you get started in this business and how long has it been going?

I have always loved taking pictures and took photography classes years ago, but life took me in another direction. The world of television called me, and for more than a decade I was a video editor for the cable movie channel Starz. I enjoyed the work, but the hours were long and the stress was high. We burned out, so Marta (also a video editor at Starz) and I moved to Kaua`i to reinvent ourselves. When Marta pursued her love of writing, I began to shoot photos to support her articles. Doing this rekindled my passion for the visual arts and reminded me of my love for taking photos. When my work in photography gathered enough momentum, I was able to become a freelance photographer full-time. A few years into this career, I have never been happier.

Where are you from originally and what role does that play in your business, if any?

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, a city saturated in art. Galleries and museums pepper the downtown area, and nurtured my creativity. When I was 6, I went on a school field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, the largest art museum outside of the East Coast. While most of the kids ran and played, I was mesmerized. The paintings, sculptures and drawings made my heart stop and filled my mind with possibility. In that moment, I decided I wanted to do something creative with my life. Though my early years just outside Chicago don’t play a direct role in my career today, they did set the foundation.

What is your specialty?

I enjoy all aspects too much to narrow my field of view. If I have to pick one thing, though, it would be photographing people. Everyone is nervous when they get their picture taken. I enjoy creating a relaxed atmosphere and capturing candid moments or staged portraits. I really like to get that mischievous glint in a child’s eye, a surfer charging a wave, the beauty of a woman, or the power of a fighter.

What is your educational background?

I started taking art classes at the age of 6 and continued for 20 years. I dabbled in everything, but my favorite subjects were photography, line drawing, mixed media painting, and all forms of sculpture. I attended many schools including the University of Illinois and the Art Institute of Chicago.

What sets your work apart?

There are some fantastic photographers who call Kaua’i home, and I respect and admire their work. Everyone has something special to offer when shooting from the heart. I love capturing emotion.

I get immense satisfaction from witnessing the joy on a child’s face as they play on the beach, or the look between two people as they are joining their lives. The power of a kahuna performing a blessing infuses me with courage. These are the types of things that inspire me. I love capturing memories that people can cherish for a lifetime.

I also take pleasure in post-production, also known as the digital darkroom. I have used Photoshop for many years, and enjoy the intricate details of making an image come alive.

There are two schools of thought on Photoshop. Some people believe photos should be done in camera only. I feel that the digital darkroom is necessary to bring a photo to its maximum potential. Even in the film and television industry, every image is color corrected. In fact, some people have careers doing just that.

Part of my process is considering the final look of the images. Of course, when I shoot I strive for optimal lighting and a well-balanced composition. But post-production plays an equal role. I may be going for a vintage look, super saturated colors, black and white, or a grungy, artistic feel. All of these looks can only be achieved outside of the camera.

My camera and Photoshop have become an extension of myself, and I put everything I have into both.

What is your business philosophy/motto?

Live pono, be pono. This is what I strive for every day in my business as well as in my life. Pono (living in the state of balance and harmony with the world around you) is one of the most powerful words I have ever come across. The ideas and concepts behind it transcend race and culture. It’s being pono that’s the tricky part, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to achieve that balance and harmony.

I chose to call my business Pono Photo because of my respect for the Hawaiian culture. I want the world to see the beauty and simplicity of being right with everything and everyone around you.

I want my images to show the beauty and greatness of ourselves, the ‘aina, and the culture of Kaua`i. It is my goal to show the harmony and balance around us, and I hope that inspires others.

What is your business plan for the future?

Ultimately I want to own a gallery. I don’t want a standard gallery though. I want it to be a place for all artists and all art forms. My history in art inspires a love of all forms of artistic expression.

Where can people learn more?

For those interested in seeing my work beyond MidWeek Kaua’i, I am currently working on a show at Art Café Hemingway and Java Kai in Kapa`a. My website also is a good resource – www.ponophoto.com – or people can reach me via phone at 635-0267, or e-mail at daniel@ponophoto.com.

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