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.

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.