The Kahuku Red Raiders

The Kahuku Red Raiders

I had a great job fall in my lap to shoot the Kahuku Red Raider’s football team at Hell Week, a preseason conditioning camp where the kids spend the entire week eating and sleeping football.

The job was for Sports Illustrated and I spend a few days with writer Austin Murphy who was spending several months following the team around.  The mag had me show up to document the training camp for a few days.

I arrived Monday afternoon at Kahuku high school to document their afternoon training camp.  Their training, in my opinion, was brutal.  The kids, many of them clearly out sizing me in height and weight, were akin to gladiators smashing and crashing into each other with great fury.  I sat stunned watching these 15, 16, and 17 year old boys hurdle at each other with such power like waves crashing on the rocks.

These kids, and coaches, meant business as the training was pushing everyone to their limits.  Navy Seals liken their Hell Week to pushing recruits beyond their breaking point wedding out those who break.  The Red Raiders apparently took a page from that book.

I saw a kid crumble and cry out in pain like a child.  He rolled on the ground clutching his ankle while the team and coaching staff slowly moved away from him.  As the medical trainers rushed to the boy’s side, one coach looked down with little sympathy as pain was something that needed to be tolerated if the team, and individuals, wanted to win.

After the afternoon training, the kids had a dinner in the cafeteria and then attended classes where coaches taught about plays and reviewed past footage of games and training.

A bit past 10pm, the kids then bedded down for the night in the grimy gym next to the football field.  Dirty shoes, mattresses, clothes, and football helmets cluttered around the many shirtless kids having none of this sleep business.  Hip hop music played loudly with some dancing, others playing games, and wrestling with each other.   I spotted a few giving each other Sharpie tattoos with Polynesian designs popular among many in the mostly Samoan community.

As I had to arrive at dawn the next morning for the training class, I opted to sleep in my car as Kahuku is more than an hour away from town.  I saw no purpose of getting a hotel room as I left campus around close to midnight and I found sleeping in my car part of the excitement of this job.  Once I got comfortable and dozed off, I would awaken to the sounds of howls and grunts from the kids who clearly were not sleeping in the middle of the night.

Around 6am, rain poured on the early morning training session making it a tough morning for the sleep-depraved kids but they managed to get through their tough training.

I went home for a bit only to return later that evening to cover and witness a lesson in the haka dance.  A cultural practitioner not only taught them the dance moves but more importantly, he guided them through the language used as they plotted out their movements.

While most consider the haka dance to be a war chant, the performance sends a message to those viewing it the violent and brutish dance.  It sings of who they are, what their intentions are, and what they will do to defend their homes and families.

I went on and covered a home game a few weeks later and got to see how their training was paying off.  Kahuku is undefeated and have only one loss and that was to a team from the mainland.  They will likely reign once again as State Champs.  They are a fantastic team and I hope many will achieve their dreams of success.

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.

 

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.

Hula dancer outtakes for the cover of Celebrated Life

Hula dancer outtakes for the cover of Celebrated Life

As I said in my last blog, sometimes the photographer doesn’t always get his favorite images chosen as a publication will see great differences in what is eventually chosen.  It is clearly the nature of photography…the endless battles between an editor and the artist.

Below are a few of my favorite images from the job.

hula, Hawaii, photography
Marco’s favorite images from the photo shoot with hula dancer Kayli Carr.

A cover try with a hula dancer

A cover try with a hula dancer

Every Friday in Waikiki, tourist gather around a stage to see a groups of hula dancers perform at sunset.  The free, outdoor performance showcases various dancers and styles of hula and its quiet a spectacle.  I once had to photograph the dance for a travel piece years ago.  As I took my standard, straight forward shots, I began to notice how beautiful the hands of the dancer was as she swayed them skywards and gracefully moved across the stage. I captured some very beautiful moments and was extremely happy with those images.  I always figured these images would lead me to creating another image in the future.

hula, Waikiki, Hawaii, tourismForward to this past March when the photo editor from American Airlines Magazine asked me to shoot a travel piece on urban Honolulu and to work on capturing a cover piece for their First Class magazine, Celebrated Living.

The job consisted of the usual restaurants, museums, etc that make HNL famous.  But the challenge of getting a cover piece solely based on my creativity drove me to really search for this one particular shot.  And it came in the form of a hula dancer.

Kayli Ka’iulani Carr, the statuesque hula dancer who recently won the 2016 Miss Aloha Hula at the Merrie Monarch Festival, was one of the subjects I had to photograph for the feature.  She proved hard to get a hold of as I had to go through her dance teacher and at one point I felt like I ran into a brick wall in communication with them.  But finally we connected and made a date to photograph her at the beach.

Along with a sitting portrait, I hoped to have her dance and I’d capture her swaying moments in the last light of the evening hoping I would have cover material.  But I ran into a few problems.  Kayli had just twisted her ankle during a jog and she was wearing a medical boot.  My usual, secluded beach location was out of the question due to the walk, and the early spring rains were surely knocking on the door but we settled on a more public spot and attempted to photograph in what turned out to be a beautiful sunset location.

After we shot the portrait, I attempted to have Kayli dance and sway on the beach which she easily did regardless of her injury and the large black, medical boot she wore.  She performed her hula flawlessly and we captured the moment.  I wasn’t sure the images would be what the magazine was looking for but deep inside, I knew I had shot the magic.

Jasper, a friend and budding videographer, was my assistant and I was lucky he understood light.  I was going to use a strobe and small octabank light on Kayli as she danced but opted for a sliver/gold bounce that mimicked the sunset and it fell perfectly on out beautiful model.  Jasper knew how to move the reflector and pushed that sunset light on her perfectly.

I was pretty happy with my edit and knew I nailed it but in the end, like most photo shoots, the image I thought was the winner was not and another was chosen in the series.  I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to compete for a cover and I hope this image will turn a few heads.