The Happiest Photos On Earth

Somebody just told me about this new Disney photo blog, and I thought I would just take a quick glance so I could say that I did. Because really, haven’t we all seen (and taken) every photo of Disneyland there is?

It caught my attention, though. It’s pretty neat. The guy behind the blog, Paul Hiffmeyer, is the Chief Photographer for Public Relations at Disneyland. Cool job.

In his first post a couple months ago, he wrote:

…I’m lucky enough to have access to many areas not usually visited by our guests, usually with camera in-hand, and it seems like a good time to share some never-before-seen photos on the Disney Parks Blog.

For the first photo, I wanted to share one that I’ve thought about for a long time, but only recently shot; a long lens photo of a Disneyland Steam Train on a cold morning where the train seems to glide on a steam cloud. Last month on an especially cold morning I set out with my camera and a 28-300 mm lens in hand to capture the No. 3 Engine, Fred Gurley, as it made its way through Frontierland.


photo by Paul Hiffmeyer 

There are some other really neat pictures up on the blog, as well. He’s finding interesting scenes and making Disneyland look like we’ve never seen it. He’s capturing the magic.

Check out the Disney Parks blog here.


100 x 100

I sometimes do what people call “spring cleaning” at the end of a year, when I get a hankering to straighten up the place — to get rid of some of the clutter that inevitably creeps into our house over the months, clean, and make room for a fresh, clean new year and its possibilities.

It was in the middle of my current purging of no-longer-needed papers from file cabinets and taking no-longer-worn clothes to Goodwill that I stumbled across a project by the photographer Michael Wolf.

Wolf is a German photographer who lives in China, and in 2006 he took photos of 100 residents in their flats. These are tiny flats in Hong Kong’s oldest public housing estate that each measure only 100 square feet. He calls the photo collection 100 x 100.


I found the photos fascinating. I looked through all 100, and then I looked at them again.

People made such different use of the tiny, windowless and identical living spaces, but I notice almost all have a refrigerator, a t.v., a clock and a calendar. Most have a bunk bed, part of which they used for storage. In some, there is evidence of what the person does for a living — a sewing machine and material for some working as a tailor, for instance. I did not see any computers, but I did notice a couple land-line phones. Perhaps some of these people carry cell phones, which are everywhere in Hong Kong.

A few have rather amazingly comfortable, well-thought-out spaces, and a few look like they are living in scary, over-filled storage units, and there is everything in between.

But what struck me most is that the photos do not suggest “bleak.” They are glimpses of lives, and people, that for the most part look comfortable and whose expressions generally look upbeat. People’s walls display pictures of grandchildren, and kids wear school uniforms and smile, and the photos show people who seemed, at least in these shots, rather relaxed and content. After all, it’s only a living space. It’s not a whole  life.

That housing project was built quickly in the 1950s to house thousands who lost their homes in a huge fire. It was scheduled for demolition a month after Wolf’s photos were taken — and I wonder where these people went. Where, and how, are they living now? I’d love to know some of their stories.

In the meantime, I am strikingly reminded yet again that we don’t need as much stuff as most of us in the U.S. have. Lighter is so much freer and better. I’m lightening up.


Our “On The Cheap” Sites To Launch 3/10

Leslie: “Oh, nothing much; what’s new with you?”


Leslie Lang
808 964-1494
Twitter: @LeslieLang  

Kris Bordessa
530 295-0887
Twitter: @KBordessa

“On The Cheap” Websites Highlight Best Bargains on the Big Island and in Honolulu

Hilo, HI – March 6, 2009 – Tuesday, March 10th is the official launch of two new online sites – Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap – which are dedicated to bringing Big Island and O‘ahu residents and visitors up-to-the-minute information on free, discount and cheap things to do and other local deals.

Motivated by the current coupon-clipping climate, Big Island writer Leslie Lang and former Hawai‘i writer Kris Bordessa started the websites, which are updated most weekdays, to help Hawai‘i’s residents and visitors get out and about “on the cheap.”

To celebrate the sites’ launch, both Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap are having daily contests for the first week – or more – starting March 10th. “We’re all about deals, so we’re getting off to a good start by giving away all sorts of great Hawai‘i-related gifts,” says Lang. “Chuck Moore hula girl t-shirts, Macario photographic prints, locally created ceramics from the Hilo art gallery High Fire Hawai‘i, some Hawai‘i-related books, a gorgeous woodblock print donated by Volcano Artist Margaret Barnaby and there will be some other surprises, too.”

In addition, Big Island On The is offering printable, discount coupons to ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, and Honolulu On The is offering discount coupons to the Waikiki Aquarium. “We are excited to promote both of these great attractions that we ourselves enjoy,” says Bordessa, “and also honored that they were so enthusiastic about offering support to our new venture.”

Over the past several weeks, thrifty readers of Honolulu On The Cheap and Big Island On The Cheap have learned about free Hawaiian music concerts, yoga classes, history lectures and even an Avocado Festival. That’s in addition to dozens of deals on everything from malassadas and sub sandwiches to hotel rooms.

“Everyone—including us—is looking for deals right now,” says Lang. “And they’re out there. We’re just trying to make it easy for people to find them.”

Listen for Leslie Lang on the radio Tuesday morning; she’ll be discussing the websites and their official launch at 8:05 a.m. on the Big Island’s Mynah Bird show, which is at KHBC/92.7 FM and KONA FM at 92.1 FM.

Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap are part of a rapidly growing network of independently owned and operated “On The Cheap” sites, which are launching nationwide on March 10. A complete list and links to Cities On The Cheap websites are available here.

About Leslie Lang
Leslie Lang is a Big Island–based freelance writer who works as an editorial consultant (writing press releases, newsletter items, blogs, speeches, reports and more for businesses), as well as a freelance magazine writer and book author who specializes in writing about Hawai‘i. She blogs at

About Kris Bordessa
Kris Bordessa, formerly of Hawai‘i and now living in California’s Gold Country (where she also runs Gold Country On The Cheap) is the author of several books and writes regularly for national magazines about family travel.



I Married The Photographer

I have an essay on the last page of Hawaii magazine’s August issue. It’s about living here in this beautiful place.

My husband Macario is a professional photographer who, among other jobs, shoots a lot of Big Island photos for the PacificBasin Communications magazines. So they called him to photograph me for the article. (How convenient is that?!)

And so we went down to a nearby river and we both stood in it, pretty much. And here’s the side of the photo shoot you don’t usually see — because the set-up for a photo shoot takes awhile, and I get restless. And then I start taking photos of the photographer.

Here’s another article Macario and I both worked on. That one, for Honolulu magazine, is about the 6.7 earthquake that hit the Big Island a couple years back, and how clean-up was looking one year later. 

People often say something along the lines of, “Wow, a photographer and a writer. Perfect!” It is fun when we occasionally get to work together. We didn’t meet on a job, surprisingly, but rather at a baby lu‘au where he was friends with the baby’s dad and I was friends with the mom.

It was just a tidy coincidence that our work interests were so compatible. It’s a fun partnership all the way around.


Hamakua Springs: The Blog

One of my jobs these days is to blog for Hamakua Springs Country Farms, a 600-acre, progressive hydroponic farm here on the Big Island.

We started that blog more than two years ago. That’s when the farm’s owner, Richard Ha, hired me to create a website, and then a blog, for Hamakua Springs. My husband Macario, a photographer, did all that website’s photography, and that’s how he and I got to know Richard and June.

The blog is called “Ha Ha Ha!,” which is meant to represent the three generations of the Ha family who farm there. We have some fun with the blog while also tackling some big topics.

Richard and I have posted to his blog three times a week for more than two years now, and it is one of my absolute favorite gigs. He is a gem to work with. He is an amazing person who is using his very successful business not merely to make as much money as possible, but to do good for his community. That sentence may sound trite, but know that I don’t at all write it lightly.

Here is just one recent example. There are many, many others.

It is such a rare pleasure to work with Richard Ha. He is truly a man of character and he radiates ethics in everything he does. I know he doesn’t realize how much I’ve learned from him — about business, about community and relationships, about life. He is one of the best people I have ever met and I am honored to be a part of his trusted team.