After fielding countless complaints over the course of several years about illegal or unpermitted wedding photography happening on county and state lands, commercial photographers got their permitting questions answered on Friday.
Two dozen, Kaua‘i-based photographers participated in a virtual seminar, designed to help clarify various rules and regulations associated with work on public lands. The meeting was a result of two commercial photography companies receiving cease-and-desist notices from the DLNR Division of State Parks late last year, instructing them to remove photos from their websites and other platforms that were either shot in off-limits areas or without the required permits.
Kelly Pila of the Hawai‘i State Film Office told the group that regulatory agencies, like DLNR and Kaua‘i County are working to improve the clarity of the film permitting process.
“Admittedly, due to the various land jurisdictions involved, and the evolution of the commercial photography industry, we haven’t always made changes in our rules,” she said. “The proliferation of internet sites promoting wedding services has not only increased the work-load of approving agencies, but has complicated the process.”
For years, the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau and the Kaua‘i Wedding Professionals Association have fielded complaint after complaint of photography companies taken clients into areas that are clearly closed.
“The most frequent complaints center around Wailua Falls,” said KVB Executive Director Sue Kanoho, who personally has handled many of the calls. “It gives the entire wedding professionals industry a black-eye, when people standing at the Wailua Falls overlook see a photographer, a bride, a groom, or a drone operator at the base of the waterfall. There are signs indicating that it is a closed area, so no one should be using the excuse of…we didn’t know.”
Wailua Falls is under the DSP and Assistant Administrator Alan Carpenter is aware of the issues there and in other parks units on Kaua‘i and around the state. “We want work with commercial photographers who follow the rules, obtain the required permits, and don’t conduct commercial activities in established closed areas such as Wailua Falls or in the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park. While we support the industry our primary mission is the protection of natural and cultural resources.”
Presenters on Feb. 18 detailed what activities require permits, delineated differences in state and county rules, when multiple permits may be required, and discussed posting and tagging photographs responsibly.
“Often times photographers are not only leading clients into closed areas, but they have put them in situations that could be dangerous. We’re fortunate no one has been hurt, DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Kaua‘i Branch Chief said. “This is the reason there are many places to legally create stunning Hawai‘i wedding photography and others that are off limits for the protection of people, natural, and cultural resources.”
Other speakers were Sandy Ka‘auwai, Kaua‘i Film Commissioner and Alison Neustein, Kaua‘i Land Agent with the DLNR Land Division. The seminar was recorded and is now posted online as a resource for current and future commercial photographers. Future seminars are being planned to address other types of permitted commercial activities on public lands.
“We realize there is concern about over-tourism in our community, and this is one step to ensure that commercial activity can legally and appropriately co-exist with other public land uses, without unnecessarily detracting from the recreational or outdoor experiences of both visitors and kama‘aina,” Kanoho concluded.