The tale of people packing up their bags and moving to a tropical island is one that’s often told, but rarely lived. “Someday, I’ll do it!” we say–but few actually do. Jane Johnson is one of the few. Jane has been an official resident of Maui for the past year, living her dream job as a photographer. On their 10th anniversary, she and her husband decided to “unplug our businesses, move across the ocean, then plug them back in.” And they did.
“My husband, Josh, and I had only been to Maui twice before. The first time for a week, the second for two. We were living in Oregon and were tired of the rat race, the constant need to keep up with the Joneses. So it was goodbye city life, aloha Maui.
We found a condo to stay in literally while we were on the train going to the airport. After a couple of weeks in the condo, we found a perfect little cottage in Kihei that we still call home today. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the beach. At night, I can hear the waves crashing from my lanai–that makes me pretty lucky, right?
“At night, I can hear the waves crashing from my lanai — that makes me pretty lucky, right?”
My photography work has always been centred around people. I love to shoot with families, capturing special moments that are natural and casual, nothing too posed. When I’m on a shoot I arrive at the family’s villa at around 7:30am–that’s when the light is nicest–with just my Canon 5d. No extra lenses, nothing!
I was formally trained in film cameras at Oregon State College. Then, my days were spent cooped up in a darkroom with my hands in chemicals. This was right on the cusp of digital–all of my digital skills at this point have been self-taught.
A photo session is usually only an hour. So I’ll shoot for a little while, then get right to my computer to do a big editing session. I do same-day edits and ordering so families don’t have to worry about anything once they’ve gone back home.
For lunch, I usually go grab a coffee and something from Maui Taco Co…. it’s phenomenal! I can wander down the beach and eat there. For a creative person, having easy access to the water is invaluable.
You hear about Maui’s natural splendor all the time, and the “aloha” way of life. Now that I live here, I see how nature really influences how we treat each other, and how we treat business. Since everyone’s free time is spent outdoors — on the beach, in the ocean, hiking a volcano — there’s little to no emphasis on material goods. No one cares about the car you drive, or how beautiful your home is. Simply because that’s not what we value. We value nature, which we all share.
Honu Kai with a couple and their first new baby, just hanging out in a hammock. They had a big backyard all to themselves, but they preferred to be cozied up together. That’s pretty special.
Normally by the time I’m finished the editing process, my husband is done work too. So we’ll go to the beach and watch the sunset and have a glass of wine — I’m on a real rosé kick after visiting France last month! Then, by 8pm or so, I’m on my way back to the villa for an ordering session with my clients. Some people even send me a picture of their wall at home so I can plan out a photo story for them, using the “Preveal” iPad app. I miss the darkroom… but what photographers can do with technology is pretty cool.
Photography has always been in my blood. I got my first Kodak camera — pink, of course — when I was 7. I always knew I’d spend my life capturing people on camera. What I didn’t know is that I would be lucky enough to be pursuing my passion in Maui. When you make the decision to fly by the seat of your pants, you give yourself the opportunity to go to pretty incredible places.”
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