Celebrated Hawaii photographer found dead in cliff-hiking fall


The body of a 61-year-old hiker found at the base of a 100-foot cliff near Pearl City, Oahu, has been identified as Nate Yuen, a celebrated photographer and environmental activist.

Search organizers say Yuen went for a hike on Sunday but never came home. He was last seen at the Waimano Valley Ridge trailhead at around 8 a.m. that day wearing a maroon shirt and green cap. His car was later found by Honolulu police officers at nearby Pearl City High School, authorities said

After a member of the volunteer search party spotted Yuen at the base of a cliff, the body was airlifted out at around 11 a.m. on Sunday.

From striking images of Scotorythra moth in the Haleakalā Crater to capturing the birth of a Hawaiian monk seal pup, Yuen, a member of the Sierra Club of Hawai’i, photographed the islands throughout his career while advocating for environmental issues. On his Facebook profile, Yuen cited his favorite quote as: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.”

Natalia Hussey-Burdick, Chief-of-Staff at the Hawai’i State House of Representatives, shared the news on Facebook after being part of the search for Yuen. 

“We did find him this morning, but he was already gone. Deepest mahalos to everyone who shared the call to action,” Hussey-Burdick wrote. “Hundreds of people across the islands showed up for him, in the same way he would have done for you. Nate showed up for everything. No matter what the issue was, he was always there, fighting for the aina, the wai, and every living thing on this planet.”

Yuen’s last Facebook post featured a photograph of the sunrise over a tidepool at Makapu’u.

“I’m so honored to have known Nate,” friend Bradford Kanaia Nakamura wrote on Facebook. “When he found out we lived in Kapolei, he invited our family to tag along to visit the kāhuli of Palehua. Only all the way to the summit … I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life.”

“Thank you for sharing such wonderful things,” another wrote under a recent photograph Yuen captured of beads of water on a kalo leaf.

The Sierra Club of Hawaii issued a statement regarding his passing.

“The Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi, as well as many others, have lost a deeply beloved member of our ʻohana. Nate Yuen lives in our hearts as a remarkably genuine and committed environmental justice advocate,” the statement read. “He was recognized by many as a talented photographer that used his gift to share his manaʻo and passion for aloha ʻāina with the world.”

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