It’s a sight repeated on beaches across Hawaii: a couple stands, back to the ocean, with one arm outstretched holding a camera to capture the view. Frequently a fellow tourist or friendly local approaches to offer photographic assistance.

Everyone who visits Hawaii wants a picture of themselves on the beach. It’s just so beautiful! And I’ve come to recognize that “I can’t believe I’m in Hawaii!” smile — it’s transnational. So, fortunately, is the little ‘finger pushing down on camera button’ motion that indicates I’d like to have you join the shot. I’ve taken photos of all sorts of people on Kailua beach. I was about to approach this couple in Waikiki when the young woman behind the camera got to them first.

While the sight of happy couples trying to stretch one arm out far enough for a good shot is common, I have a different target. I’ve made it my personal mission to interrupt family photographs. Nearly always, the mom is the one taking the photo of everyone else on their Hawaii vacation. I have a few dozen photos of my own over the years that show the kids in very scenic locations. I’m not in any of them because I am behind the camera. I try to put as many moms as possible back in the picture on Hawaii beaches. (I’m sure the same is true for dads.)

I’ve taken photos of a mom and her adult daughter walking on the beach, of a young family at the entrance to a restaurant framed by tiki torches, of an older couple and what must have been a grandchild — only occasionally do we have a common language other than the love of Hawaii’s beauty and the desire to capture it in photographs. I like to think that a few more moms smile back from photo albums because someone like me or the volunteer photographer in this picture happened by.

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