Kodak Gold 120 Film Photo Essay: Exploring Maui by Van
On Hawaii's second-largest island, two film photographers hit the road in a rented 1998 Dodge camper van to document a truly unique environment
When a work trip brought us to Maui to appear on a podcast, it seemed to only make sense to add more days to our itinerary to explore the island ourselves. After all, just getting to the island involved a four-hour flight, followed by a four and a half hour layover, followed by another five-hour flight. We stayed up for 25 hours straight to normalize ourselves to the new time zone before crashing hard in our new home for the next four days—a 1998 Dodge Ram 1500 rental van nicknamed Green Machine #2.
Opting for this short-term experiment in van life turned out to be the best decision we made—with four wheels under our bed, we weren’t tied down to one Airbnb or hotel room that we had to get back to every night, which allowed us to explore the island to the fullest over a relatively short trip.
We didn't feel like we sacrificed anything, either. Inside Green Machine #2, there were two mattresses in the main cabin, storage for our camera gear, a cooler for our food, a shower mounted to the roof, a standalone battery to charge our equipment, and a slide-out stove in the back of the van. It was everything we needed for four days.
Taking photos was the trip's primary goal, and in total, we shot 21 rolls of film on Maui. We photographed everything on Kodak film, including Kodak Gold 200 in 120, a new film stock that was released just two weeks prior to our trip. We were able to get our hands on it by pre-ordering from Moment and Film Supply Club, and our boxes came three days before we left—perfect timing.
New film stocks don't come around every day, and a lot of excitement built up around the Gold 200 announcement. In our experience, Gold 200 in 120 is the perfect middle ground between Portra 400 and Ektar 100, which remain Kodak's most popular film stocks. It has a little more saturation and contrast than Portra 400, but less intense punchiness than Ektar 100. It's perfect for colorful landscapes and sun-soaked images—so, basically, it's tailor-made for Maui.
"We woke up at 4:30 AM and drove for 12 hours through blind switchbacks and pothole-filled dirt roads only to find ourselves soaked to the bone at the end of the day with few photos to show for it."
On our third day on the island, the rain chased us all day long. We woke up at 4:30 AM and drove for 12 hours through blind switchbacks and pothole-filled dirt roads only to find ourselves soaked to the bone at the end of the day with few photos to show for it. Then, nearing sunset, the largest rainbow we’ve ever seen appeared squarely in front of us. Standing on the side of the road, we watched it arch out of the hills on our left and into the ocean on our right. I’ve never felt so small—it was surreal.
The rainbow was just one of many beautiful moments the island offered us. Maui’s landscape and climate is so diverse, and a significant part of it is Haleakalā National Park. Established in 1961, the park's 33,000-acre area is home to the volcano of the same name, Haleakalā, which, at just over 10,000 feet, is also the island's highest point. Its name means “house of the sun,” so it felt appropriate for us to visit at sunset, which provided us with some of the grandest views of the trip, including the crater on the journey to the top and the expansive views from the summit. It was the first time I ever stood above the clouds.
The far smaller Waiʻānapana State Park is home to one of the most unique places we've ever seen: Black Sand Beach. The beach itself is composed of black sand and black pebbles created from hardened lava that had been shattered and eroded for thousands of years. It's a sacred place for Hawaiians, and standing on the pebbles, we could understand to some degree why: If you close your eyes, you can trick yourself into thinking you’re on a different planet.
That might be the best way to describe Maui; a place defined by how diverse it is, how unique it is. Everywhere you go, and everywhere you look, the island will surprise you with its beauty, test you with its climate, and ultimately send you home with stories that will endure a lifetime (whether you get the shot or not).