Solomon Pali out on a outrigger for the New York Times

Solomon Pali out on a outrigger for the New York Times

Last month I had a quick job for the New York Times where I photographed outrigger canoe instructor Solomon Pali for a business profile the newspaper did on him.  Pali takes Fairmont Kea Lani guests out on short trips teaching the basics of Hawaii paddling skills.

The job was fairly quick and I had a short window of time with the Hawaiian water man as I had to photograph him in between customers and his schedule.

I did the standard shots of him but we decided to go out on the outtrigger canoe where I would photograph him with the ocean as his background.  It is always nerve racking to get into a small boat with thousands of dollars of gear but the resort’s canoe was fitted with two amas making the outrigger very stable and nearly flip proof, especially in the hands of experienced paddlers.  He and a few others paddlers from the hotel took me out into the ocean for about 10 minutes but that was all the time I needed.

The shots were fantastic and powerful.  The best shot was of Solomon blowing a conch shell.  Traditionally, he said, Hawaiians blew the shell when they were paddling in warning anyone on the beach of there arrival.  The editor chose a standard shot of Solomon smiling into the camera.  My favorite is below.

Solomon Pali
Solomon Pali blows a conch shell in advance of landing his canoe on the shore at the Fairmont Resort.

You can see the NYT article here.

Friday Night Lights OUT!

Friday Night Lights OUT!

What I thought would be a typical Friday Night Lights, rather Saturday Night Lights college football game  turned into something more exciting, and painful.

Last Saturday at the Western Carolina Hawaii game, an unexpected force crashed into my 400mm lens thrusting my camera straight into my face.  The massive blow tore my forehead open and cost me a trip to the ER.  Luckily, the cut, although deep, was relatively small and required no stitches but the doctor glued my wound shut with Dermabond.

Before the start of the game, I was trying to photograph Hawaii’s head coach on the field.  I stood on the sidelines and was waiting for him to walk from behind a few players.

Marco Garcia at the Straub Hospital ER as a nurse wipes my laceration above my right eye.
Friday Night Light Out. A selfie at the Straub ER as a nurse wipes my laceration above my right eye.

I could see Hawaii’s QB making passes a few yards in front of me but I had tunnel vision as I was staring through my long lens at action on the other side of the field.  Either the QB threw an errant pass or a player running knocked into me but I never saw it coming.

The blow was quick and sharp and was more startling than anything else.  My ears popped, my jaw clenched, and I saw stars for about a second.  I then felt my right hand squeezing tight around my monopod and then began to curse that my glasses fell of my face.

What I thought was sweat was blood quickly filling my eye socket and spilling on my shirt and ground.  I stood there stunned for a bit not knowing what to do and worried whether my camera was busted and whether I could work through the game.  Then someone from the visiting team came to see if I was alright and he ran off to find someone to help me.

Christina, a student trainer from UH, walked over and helped me control the bleeding.  She cleaned my face off and applied pressure to my head wound.  I didn’t think it hurt but it did.  I sat on a bench with her attending to me while fans cheered as the marching band played along.

She then put a bandage on me and went to grab the team doctor, Dr. Inoue.  I told her to meet me at the end of the field as I had to grab some different gear.  When Dr. Inoue and another medical person arrived, they asked me how I felt and I got on my knees for her to take a look at the cut. They immediately said I needed a trip to the ER for a stitch or two.  I argued that I had to work the game and they said to go straight after the game and not wait til the next day.

Throughout the game I had a dull headache and a mild throbbing at the wound site.  I changed my bandage several times as it was soaked with a bit of blood but mostly sweat.  I never really felt that bad but had a bruised pride and a dedication to finish up the football game as I knew someone, somewhere was expecting my images for the night.

During the game, I saw Dr. Nick Crawford who operated on my torn meniscus several years back.  He served as the team orthopedic doctor and I saw him at most of the UH games.  He heard about someone being injured and was surprised to see it was me.  He quickly pulled me aside and looked at the wound and said it would be best to go to the ER as well.

I continued to photograph the game and got laughs and sympathy from most of my colleagues but didn’t let them get the best of me.  Jamm Aquino was overly concerned for me and worried I had a mild concussion.  I didn’t think the hit was bad enough to worry about it but the ER confirmed all was ok.

(Jamm took the photo of me walking at the game.)

After the game, Jamm, whom I shared a ride with to the stadium, took me straight to the Straub and offered to stay with me but I told him to go home and not to worry about me.  I checked myself into the ER but was treated very quickly as my friend Aaron, who lives in my building, is like a head nurse at Straub and he hooked me up.  He called ahead and told them I would be at the ER that night.

The ERs was a mix of drunks, real medical conditions, and one really attractive hooker.  A nurse shuffled me in where I was asked a bunch of questions then led to a bed where another nurse doused my wound with ice cold saline then another came in and sealed my cut with Dermabond.

Dermabond is basically skin glue and when applied, it burns like a dozen fire ants are biting the same spot for about 15 seconds.  It was horribly painful. Another nurse came in to administer a tetanus shot (which still hurts) followed by the ER doctor who checked me out and released me from their care.

All in all it was an eventful night, full of pain, dedication, care, and laughs.  Before I left the stadium I sought out Christina and gave her a hug thanking her for her warmth and care.  She was probably about 20 years old but cared for me like a mother.

Thanks Jamm for the kindness.  Thanks Dr. C for your advice.  And many thanks to everyone else who laughed and poked at me making the night fun.  Oh and thanks Courtney for the Advil as it made the night bearable.

 

Mooo! Milk on Kauai

Mooo! Milk on Kauai

Last April, the New York Times had me document a controversial issue on Kauai.  eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s proposal to create a small dairy farm near Poipu, Kauai has made many sour in the nearby community.  I traveled to area to photograph the area, meet supporters and photographing opponents. I also got to fly in a helicopter over the land where the proposed dairy would sit.

Kauai has a history of fighting development fearing their already shrinking tropical paradise will disappear.  While many locals welcome jobs and the opportunities development brings, many newer arrivals to the Island fight tooth and nail to protect their newly purchased slice of heaven.

The controversy over the dairy stems from opponents fearing environmental damage from pollution and the environmental impact on tourist in the region.  Along with many other resorts and hotels, the Grand Hyatt sits not far from the farm area in Poipu and they fear smells and other issues will affect their high paying guests.

The Ulupono Initiative, Omidyar’s local investment firm, strives to create a more self-reliant Hawaii and a local dairy farm would likely bring Kauai’s infamously high milk prices down.  However, opponents argue the gains do not outweigh the losses.

Past industrial farming has wreaked havoc on Hawaii as plantations once diverted streams to their sugar cane and pineapple fields and waste has polluted once fertile land.  While many initiatives and technologies has improved farming overall, fears still exist over new farming projects.  A recent dairy farm on the Big Island was accused of illegally discharging animal waste polluting local water sources and this didn’t help Ulupono’s case for a new farm on Kauai.

While Ulupono are making great technological strides to protect the land and limit pollution, its not enough for some residents and lawsuits have been filed to stop the dairy from getting started.

While I was there, I met with a few of opponents who took me to Maha’ulepu Beach claiming the dairy’s waste would damage the pristine area.  Its the same beach I photographed from the helicopter that ran big on the front page of the business section.

front page of the business section August 14, 2017
front page of the business section August 14, 2017

At the mouth of the stream that feeds into the ocean, I clearly could smell something foul in the run off.  They said it was raw sewage flowing down from the above farm areas and little was being done to control the pollution.  Warning signs were posted around the stream stating to keep out of the water.

While the bad smells at the stream startled me, Hawaii’s future must create more sustainability.  We must be more independent and depend less on the monopolies that control the shipping of goods to and from the Islands.  The dairy farm is taking great strides to protect the environment and to keep the land in farming hands means it has less chance to be turned into homes by developers.

I believe Hawaii’s future is to be self reliant but at what costs?  If we allow a few to control the future of Hawaii because they fear bad smells, we will continue to be at the mercy of outsiders.  But we must ensure a new farm won’t pollute the environment.  While fresh milk won’t lower the cost of gasoline or other goods, it is a good start for a brighter future.  But we can’t allow sustainability to turn into sour milk.

The NYT article can be found here.

Fire at the Marco Polo

Fire at the Marco Polo

Honolulu suffered a major tragedy this last week when a fire broke out at the Marco Polo, a residential high rise, killing three people along with a dog and displaced many from their homes.  As of this blog posting, the cause of the fire is unknown but we do know the fire started in one unit on the 26th floor and spread to the 27th and 28th floors destroying dozens of units in its wake.  Marco Polo also did not have fire sprinklers as the law mandating sprinklers in new construction was past several years after Marco Polo was built in 1971.  Currently, there are no laws requiring buildings in Hawaii to be retrofitted with these fire safety measures.

The Associated Press sent me out to cover the blaze as a three alarm fire in a high rise was sure to make national headlines .  When I arrived on the scene, black smoke billowed from the upper floors turning Hawaii’s blue skies gray.  Flames danced inside the gutted apartment units quickly spreading from floor to floor.  Onlookers said they heard cries for help and others spotted people waving from smokey balconies.  Some residents claimed they didn’t hear the fire alarm go off and only knew there was trouble when they saw the firetrucks.

Those who evacuated the building, along with many onlookers,  watched in shock as the fire spread from floor to floor.  The intense heat shattered glass and broke apart balconies sending debris crashing down on the street below.  Firemen had a tough time containing the fire as it was said they had to daisy chain hoses and walk them up the emergency exit stairways to reach the fire.

Crowds gather to watch a fire burn on a high floor at the Marco Polo Condominiums, Friday, July 14, 2017, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

As I continued to photograph the fire, I interviewed many people using my iPhone to record video accounts of their experience.  I spotted this one woman with a towel wrapped around her shoulders as she was led away from the building and asked her what happened.  The 71-year-old Karen Hastings said the fire felt like a ‘horror movie.’

The following day, I went back to the building to report on survivors and the damage left behind.  The upper middle portion of the building was mostly destroyed and smoke and flame damaged covered the structure.  Authorities allowed residents back into their homes around 2AM Saturday morning and many returned to soot, smoke, and water damage.

A man looks off his balcony at the the damage left from a deadly fire that destroyed several floors of the Marco Polo residence, Saturday, July 15, 2017, in Honolulu. The fire killed at least three people. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Since the building was only allowing residents inside, I spent my time interviewing people outside who told me of the damage and witnessed the damage on the affected floors.  I was also able to get one guy to share his images with AP as he photographed the damage first hand when he went to check on his unit which was above the fire.

It is never easy photographing a human tragedy, especially in your back yard.  And especially when you live in a high rise.  Apparently, a lack of sprinklers allowed the fire to grow unchecked but the cost to retrofit an older building might force many from their homes.  Estimates could be in the tens of thousands for each unit in a high rise.  There is no price on safety but home owners might not be able to afford such safety measures.  Lets hope new laws and regulations are reasonably reviewed and not harshly passed.

In regards to my photography and coverage of the fire, I found myself relying heavily on my iPhone for video as I able to text message small clips of the fire and interviews I did with survivors.  My videos were seen across the internet via AP.

A New Voyager

Kahala Life, the in-house magazine at the Kahala Resort, had me photograph Austin Kino and his boat on Kahala Beach several weeks back.  Needless to say, it was an easy job as it took about two tries.  Austin, who runs the concession sailing business on the property, is also a model and made it look good.  Austin is also a navigator on the Hokulea and he told us about his time on the historic boat.

I really like this picture.  I shot this with natural light and a gold bounce reflecting the morning sun back onto his skin.