LIHU‘E — The state Department of Land and Natural Resources issued cease-and-desist letters to several commercial photography outlets on the island which it said have been operating without permits and in off-limits areas on Kaua‘i in a strongly worded press release last week.
“There’s no argument the photos are stunning, with brides and grooms perched on ridges overlooking the rugged Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, beneath a waterfall, or at sunset on a quintessential Kaua‘i beach,” the DLNR stated in the release.
“These are the works of commercial wedding photographers, many of whom fail to get permission and/or required state or county permits authorizing them to set up and shoot in specific locales.”
DLNR slammed both the Kaua‘i-based Bradyhouse Photographers and Foxes Photography, a Washington-based wedding and elopement photography business that sometimes operates on Kaua‘i, pointing to images on both companies’ websites that it says were taken illegally.
“Our review of photographs on the company website, as well as on its social-media pages, clearly show images from Kalepa Ridge, Wailua Falls, drone shots in Waimea Canyon and Kokeʻe state parks, as well as from Hanakapiʻai Beach and Honopu in the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park,” said DLNR Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell, referring to Bradyhouse Photography.
“Many of these places are both naturally and culturally sensitive, and we would not be issuing permits for commercial drone operations or wedding photos in these sensitive locations.”
In a statement, Bradyhouse Photography said that DLNR’s statement came as a surprise, and that they had been working with the department since early this year to ensure that they were properly permitted.
“This story comes as a shock to us considering we have been dealing with the DLNR and film office every week since January, and have been 100% compliant since first being informed of these rules and regulations,” said company founder Meg Bradyhouse.
Bradyhouse acknowledged that the company had previously been “part of the problem,” but said that they have been working to do better. She also stated that a DLNR officer told Bradyhouse Photography prior to the press release that they did not need to remove photographs from their website that had been shot before their conversation about proper permitting.
“We are doing the best we can to make sure we are being respectful and compliant with the permitting requirements, and have adjusted our location guides, client process and education as well as our team structure,” Bradyhouse said. “We have also helped multiple photographers navigate this process, as it can be very confusing online to know what is needed for where.”
Dan Dennison, DLNR senior communications manager, said Bradyhouse would be asked to take down photos on their site which were taken in areas where commercial phototography is not allowed.
The DLNR press release also accused Foxes Photography of operating illegally on Kaua‘i. That company, the department pointed out, asks visitors to “respect the island and the people who live there.” DLNR referred to this statement as “ironic.”
In a statement, Foxes Photography expressed regret over their past mistakes, and pledged to work harder to obtain the proper permits in the future, but argued that a lack of clarity in the permitting process and poor communication from the DLNR and Hawai‘i Film Office contributed to the problem.
According to Dennison, Foxes Photography and Bradyhouse Photography are not the only businesses that received cease-and-desist letters from the DLNR.
In the release, DLNR offered quotes from Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau, and Mike Danderand, president of the Kaua‘i Wedding Professionals Association, both of whom expressed displeasure with photographers who don’t go through the proper permitting process.
“It’s not fair to photographers who are making a living following the rules,” said Kanoho. “It’s so important right now to make sure the rules that are in place are followed for the protection of the place, for the couples who are visiting, and for Kaua‘i residents. If you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time you might suffer the scorn of residents, you could get cited, and there are other things that can go wrong.”
Danderand went further. “Renegade photographers create unhealthy expectations for visiting couples, as they see photos online or on social media, and they’re asking our members to shoot in the same places,” said Danderand. “There are places on Kaua‘i that are sacred or dangerous. Our members agree to honor and respect cultural sites.”
Foxes Photography disputed that characterization.
“Instead of calling out a few photographers who have made some honest mistakes around the permitting system in Kaua‘i and trying to smear us as greedy individuals who have no respect for the land, which is demonstrably false, we feel a better approach for the Kaua‘i Wedding Professionals Association would be starting a conversation amongst DLNR and the film permitting office to find a pathway for access for some of Kaua‘i’s most popular hiking trails that thousands of tourists enjoy every year,” Foxes said.
Kaleb Lay, general assignment reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or email@example.com.