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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Obama’s Final Hawaii Holiday Vacation

Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama waves at he exits Air Force One In Honolulu.

Friday marked the start and the end of US President Barack Obama’s annual Hawaii vacation.  After eight years of his headlining holiday visits, Hawaii’s favorite son will no longer return to his million-dollar rental home on the east shores of Oahu, at least not as President of the United States.  The ending of his two terms in office also brings an end to this unique time of Hawaii history, where the D.C. limelight merged with the Island’s aloha culture.

Obama vacations brought international attention to many of the islands attractions and restaurants.  He famously body surfed at Sandy’s, dined in some of the City’s hottest restaurants, and walked along the best beaches Hawaii has to offer.  But along with the President came the intense circus of security that surrounds one of the most powerful men in the world. While those who lived near President’s rental home might feel differently, his footprint was relatively small and many locals never realized a world leader was just a few blocks away.  There were unfortunate incidents where his caravan caused gridlock or beach goers were kept away from certain areas, but most locals took his visits with ease as it wasn’t everyday Hawaii had a president sitting on her beaches.

The unique circumstances of Hawaii producing a U.S. President and having his family vacation here every year is likely never to happen again so I’m fortunate to have been a working photographer during this time. From stalking him on the beach to covering his multiple arrivals and departures, I played a role in reporting on his holiday whereabouts. On top of that, I was given the chance to work as a reporter within the secure bubble of the Secret Service and reported on the whereabouts of one of the most important men on the globe.  Although it might seem trivial to witness Obama eating shave ice or making a long putt on the 18th green, his actions made headlines around the globe.

Compared to some colleagues who lost a good part of their lives sitting inside that cramped media bus for the entire holiday season, my role was relatively minor.  Yet I was still was part of the media pack that kept tabs on the president and recorded this unique time in Hawaii history.  My images will be part of a collection that will define Obama’s visual history and I stand proud with my local brothers Hugh, Jamm, Tanner, and Kent.  None of us are full time staffers yet we all sacrificed our holidays for a decade minus a year to record history, as trivial as it may seem, to photograph and report on one of the most popular presidents in modern history.  I grow jealous of my named colleagues who captured more; yet, I salute you, you bastards.

Although many will not miss Obama or his annual visits, his last days on Oahu as President will bring a bittersweet end to nine years can never be repeated.  The Hawaii history books are closing, but I’m glad, along with my colleagues, that someone will be looking at our images for a long, damn, time.

White House Press Passes
White House issued press passes collected during the many Obama visits to Hawaii.

 

 

Pearl Harbor survivor united with twin.

USS Arizona Survivor John Anderson lost his twin brother during the Pearl Harbor attack. John is a Pearl Harbor Survivor.
USS Arizona Survivor John Anderson lost his twin brother during the Pearl Harbor attack. Copyright Marco Garcia 2011

For the better part of a decade, I’ve have the honor of creating portraits of Pearl Harbor survivors with some of the images published by The Smithsonian a few years ago.  This year marks the 75th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on the sleeping American naval fleet.  The attack pushed the Americans into a costly yet decisive Pacific war that took countless lives.

Being the son of a war father, my childhood was filled with war stories and no tale was greater than the attack on Pearl Harbor.  So when given the opportunity to meet and document the men who were there that fateful morning, I took great pride in photographing both survivors and several Japanese pilots who dropped the torpedoes that early Sunday morning.

Every year, Pearl Harbor survivors and their families would arrive in Honolulu to mark the anniversary.  I would search out where the survivors were meeting and I would set up a small photo studio consisting of a white, seamless background and meticulously light the portraits to convey the depth and history of the men who sat for my photographs.

I’ve made dozen of portraits of these men and heard many stories of war and heroism.  But the gut wrenching story of Arizona survivor John Anderson tears me apart every time I stare at his picture and recall his tale.

We only got to spend a very short time with Mr. Anderson but he told us his story of that fateful Sunday morning.  John, who was then 24-year-old in 1941, said he could still hear the bombs exploding and remembers the buzz of the Japanese bombers flying above.  He spoke of the oil fires on the water, of the men who’s burnt skin slid off their bones.  He talked of the screams, the smoke, and the carnage.  He told us of the horrors of war.

But his pained storied turned to the worse as he spoke about his lost twin brother who also was aboard on the USS Arizona that morning.  Jake Anderson was assigned to the gun’s turrets and, according to some accounts, was killed during a misfire inside the turret.  As the ship was sinking, John did not know where Jake was and desperately looked for him.  But as other sailors abandoned ship, he tried to crawl back inside the wreckage to find his brother but was forcefully dragged into a rescue barge by other sailors claiming him his brother was dead.

All of his life, John carried the heavy burden knowing his twin brother died and his remains were just below the waters inside the rusty hull of the battleship.

“I wanted to get my brother,” he lamented.

This morning before heading out to photograph the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, I did a quick search to see if any news reports had been written about John.  Sadly I read John died last year at age 98 and his ashes were being interred inside the USS Arizona at turret no. 4 today.

Tears fell onto my keyboard as remembered his war-scarred face painfully starring back at me through the lens.  I cried because I captured a man who’s face bore a tale of loss.  But with his death, I knew John finally would be reunited with Jake, the brother he so desperately wanted to rescue.  John’s ashes would be placed inside the turret where they said his brother had died, and John would finally be free of his life-long burden.

A few days before the 50th anniversary in 1991, John gave an interview to the National Parks Service about he and his brother’s time together aboard the USS Arizona and the surprise attack that morning.  After losing his brother, John astoundingly never held resentment towards the Japanese soldier as they “…followed the orders of their superiors and were quite capable warriors.”

I’ll never forget John’s words and his amazing stories of the attack and the love for his twin.  As I write this I tear up and can only be grateful he finally can reunite with his brother.