A two-minute portrait with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stands for a portrait before a campaign event for fellow Democrat Kaniela Ing in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Garcia – RC1A8566A7F0

Late last week, local politician Kaniela Ing announced political wunderkind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be in Honolulu to stump for Ing’s campaign for Congress.

I approached Reuters News and asked to cover the event which they approved.  With the popularity of the social democrat in the media currently, I wanted to capture a portrait of AOC before the rally.

I reached out to her campaign people and arranged to two minute photo shoot. I knew I’d have to work quick and fast and wouldn’t have anyone really helping me.

For the lighting, I opted for a Profoto ring light powered by a Profoto 7B2 and would place her against a silk background stretched over my homemade 6×6 frame.  I don’t usually use a ring light because it can be a one trick pony but I figured I would have a tough time moving a light bank and stand around by myself.  So I stuffed my Canon 1Dx Mark II with my ever present 28-70mm 2.8 lens into the case with the pack and ring light prepared to move quickly.

The event was held inside a school cafeteria at a school near Waikiki.  I arrived early and looked for a place to set up.  Ing’s people were scrambling to set up the event and didn’t have much time for me.  At the last minute, I was told the meet and greet would be in a classroom upstairs from the cafeteria.  I grabbed my gear and rushed up to build my set.

As I ran up the stairs I ran straight into AOC.  She had just arrived and was looking for a bathroom.  I told her it was downstairs and she smiled politely and I went on to meet her crew and set up the studio.

When AOC returned from the bathroom, her hair was wet like she had run water through her locks. I felt she wasn’t photo ready but her appearance was youthful and it all seem to fit.   She didn’t carry herself like a rising political star and it wouldn’t be tough to imagine her running across campus to her next class.

We chit-chatted for a few minutes before I posed her in front of my background which was being held up by two of her aides.  I awkwardly told her that standing straight at me comes across like a mug shot so I pointed her feet and shoulders at an angle and I shot about 8 frames of her and that was that.

Afterwards, I covered the rally and got the usual pictures of politicians raging against the machine.

I almost gave up as I lost time and patience trying to get the portrait set up.  But I persevered was glad I captured something different of the rising political star.

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigns for fellow Democrat Kaniela Ing ahead of the Democratic Primary Election in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Garcia

 

Bye bye my little work horse!

Bye bye my little work horse!

Call me a softy but I get emotional at times over things like music, memories, and sentimental items.  I’m not always all blustery as I sometimes appear and I can easily get weepy eyed watching Tom and Jerry from my youth.  Its not often but it happens.

But the other day, tears formed in my eyes as I said goodbye to my old pal, my Canon 1D Mark IV camera body.  After nearly a decade of using her and her twin sister, whom I sold a few years back when I got the mighty Canon 1Dx, were my reliable friends through thick and thin.  Through rainstorms on the football field to bikini babes on the set of Hawaii Five-O, my Mark IVs did the job and helped me snap some amazing images.

The Mark IV captured this great shot of Michelle Wie celebrating a putt at Turtle Bay.

Michelle Wie captured at Turtle Bay with the Canon 1D Mark IV

I got this shot of Obama and his kids at the beach,

Obama, Sasha, Malia,
Obama and kids on Kailua Beach. Captured with the Canon 1d Mark IV

and I even captured a shirtless David Beckham after a L.A. Galaxy game at Aloha Stadium!

Footballer David Beckam at Aloha Stadium. Captured with the Canon 1D Mark IV

The camera’s 16.1 mb file is outstanding.  I never pushed the ISO to its limits until Jamm Aquino convinced me I could deal with the grain and sure enough, the files were superb. The fast frame rate kept up with  the action and outside of my own fumbling, the camera never skipped a beat and captured the action.  The only drawback was the cropped 1.3x frame as it limited your ability to shoot with wide lenses but the crop was like having an built in extension for my longer glass.  Having a 400mm f2.8 turn into a 520mm  was always a treat.

Broncos Tight End Julius Thomas goes for the ball at the Pro Bowl. Captured with the Canon 1d Mark IV

Alas, technology marches on and after the purchase of the X, the Mark IV became my secondary or backup camera.  I knew at some point I’d sell her but I knew she could still handle the jobs and make wonderful images.

Reflection captured at a golf tournament. Canon 1D Mark IV

And this last winter, Jordan Murph made a deal I couldn’t say no and I purchased the stellar Canon 1Dx Mark II from him thus signalling the end of the Mark IV in my arsenal.  And just like the 1Dx Mark I, the newer camera crushed the older body’s technology.

In 2017, Canon Professional Service announced they  will no longer service the Mark IV thus heaping their once flagship camera onto the bin of obsolete technology.  For an annual fee, CPS repairs registered cameras and lenses within a 72 hour period and without that service, I can’t run a business with a camera in a repair shop for weeks on end.  Once CPS made this statement, I knew it was the end for my trusty friend.

After nearly a decade of faithful use, and more than 200,000 frames clicked, I made the tough decision to list the body on eBay this last week.

On Monday, eBay notified me that my beloved Mark IV sold. It filled with regret knowing I was letting go an important tool that helped me pay my mortgages and put food on the table.  But more importantly, the camera helped me make a name for my self in this tough business.

Guilt and dismay overwhelmed me but I knew it was time to let her go.  The bidder won and, after a few emails, I knew he would care for the Mark IV and continue to make art with her.

So as I placed the camera on the counter at the post office, I kissed the box with aloha and thanked her for all the years of reliable service.  I didn’t feel this way when I sold her sister but as I let this one go, it reminded me of all the hardships and joy of my career in Hawaii for the past decade.  It was tough and I’m glad I had this trusty camera at my side.

Bye bye… 🙁

 

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.

 

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.