Not worthy for the wire…

Not worthy for the wire...

A day of shooting election primaries for a wire news agency isn’t loads of fun.  It usually consists of chasing the fake smiles of hopeful candidates and shooting their manicured smiles and prom queen waves.   You drive all around town to different locations where the politicians are doing their last minute sign waving trying to capture that one undecided voter passing by.

So last week’s coverage of the primaries gave me some of the better pictures I’ve taken in some time.  As I drove down Beretania St. on the way to see Ed Case waving down on the Pali Hwy, the traffic slowed down a bit as we neared the Capital.  Several police cars with flashing lights caused just enough rubbernecking to make traffic just that more irritating but I noticed something slightly out of place.

She’s naked!

So I weaved my way through the rubberneckers spinning around the Capital to rush up on the small group of Occupy Wall Streeters turn Honolulu and found a porty protestor, a cop, and a leggy blonde with plenty of tattoos and just enough tape to cover the naughty bits.  With these type of elements forming all around, its hard not to get a great photo.  Her sign of getting screwed bu the politicians works very well.

I had just enough time to capture them waving their signs and cops around them to capture a few pictures and move on. So I hopped back in the car and was driving past the protest when I noticed the large lady in the wheelchair rolling down the cross walk nearing the Occupiers.  I only had my 24-70mm lens at hand and the light was green so I had no other option but to shoot and just crop.  Little did I know I captured a great moment.

So I get back and transmit my take to NYC and sadly found the editors didn’t have the courage to move the “graphic content” or so they say.  They can run headless bodies, blood and guts, and whatnot but no boobs.  Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

A note on pictures…sometimes you can’t plan it.  It just happens.  Looking through past great photographs, it seems most photographers didn’t plan to be at that place at that moment.  Things just unraveled in front of them.  This New York Times piece has a POWERFUL image of a Tibetan protestor who set himself on fire protesting Ju Jintao’s visit to India this year.  Its a powerful moment that could have never been planned.  I can only imagine the photographer, Manish Swarup, never would have thought he have a shot like this.  There was no time to think about composure, f stops, what type of lens is on the camera, filters, iso, etc…nothing.  Absolutely no time to think as its just a reaction. And sometimes those reactions are things that happen out of no where.

My picture is not award winning  nor is it life changing for me and I shouldn’t event mention my name in the same breath as Manish Swarp, but its those moments that are unplanned and just happen.

Funny, AP ran the image of the self-immolation…but they didn’t run mine.

Another Photo EtC

Another Photo EtC

The APEC Summit has come and gone.  To me, and to probably loads of other photographers, APEC was just Another Photo, EtC…

What a pain!  3AM call times so Secret Service could sweep you and your gear, the suspicious stares from foreign security guards, the endless traffic congestion due to heighten security and dignitaries’ motorcades, the endless waiting for someone to make an appearance.  It just goes on and on.

Yet, I’ve gotten to photograph the three most powerful men in the world…Medvedev, Obama, and Hu Jintao.  No to mention Hillary Clinton, just about every APEC nation’s leaders landing at the airport.  I was no further than a very short stone’s throw from two of the most powerful men whose mere presence can shake the course of history.  Do I exaggerate?  Anyone who holds the US debt plus possibly the EU’s?  No.  I don’t exaggerate.

Yet, its all just Another Photo, EtC.  Really.  Images to catalog, to burn on a disc, and to file away. After its all over, all you have left is the lingering rush and adrenaline still pumping from the job.

The Associated Press was happy as I got a “Thanks for the good work” email from Tom Stathis…and that means a lot.  I got to be a part of something important although I was just on the outside.

Here are a few of the selects from the APEC hell week.

Above you see Mr. Obama through the bullet proof glass of his pimped out Caddy.  As he drove up to the tarmac and I spotted him in the rear seat, I couldn’t help to be struck by the fact that he’s the US President.

The toughest part of the week was being stuck on arrival duty and having to be cleared to enter Joint Base Pearl Harbor/Hickam at 4am on Friday and 3am on Saturday.  Those days were tough yet I got to see the smiling Dimitry Medvedev exiting his crappy Russian state plane.  The Sultan of Brunei had the BIG PIMPIN’ 747 ride that was just as big as Air Force One, or so it seems.  Hu Jintao was rumored to hit Honolulu’s Chinatown but since I live a few blocks away, I would have probably been alerted to the super security that would have surrounded the Chinese presidents’ present, no?  He, Medvedev and and Obama had full on security detail meaning they could shut down the city when they rolled.  I saw no such action in Ctown the week they were here.

One rumor I read was the Russian delegation demanded the bars at the Modern Waikiki (hotel) remain open 24 hours a day.  Stoli on the rocks at any time, no?

The Hu Jintao photo op was mired in constant “meiyou meiyou” and suspicious glares.  The Chinese security forces around the President clearly were doing their job but seemed awfully unorganized and never believed anything the American handlers would tell them.  Constant badgering, criticism, and attitude.  Constant confrontation and getting into people’s faces.  Not aggressive like Westerners but like Chinese…a mildly aggressive badgering.  Bad haircuts and bad suits.  At the end, we were hosed by the State Run media which got the better pictures and we got sidelined for cheaper and faster images.  And when I say State Run, I refer to China, not our government media complex.

Speaking of bad suits,  we had a run in with Russian security.  As we were waiting in media line to enter Hickam for the arrivals on Friday, three guys in cheap suits got in line with us and tried to enter the base.  They drove a black US sedan (which you knew stunk of Russian cigarettes and vodka and probably had a dissident tied and bloodied in the trunk) and got out of the car eyeing all of us suspiciously while sauntering over to the military police to get onto base. Medvedev was arriving and they had a job to do.  They were young and didn’t look all the menacing but you knew if you screwed with them, you’d end up in the trunk with that dissident.  I looked for bloody knuckles and blood smears on their jackets to no avail.  The Cold War lives on.

Security was insane…but who can blame them.  Imagine the fool who could get close enough to knock off a world leader.  Their names would line the history books!  I remember when I worked as an assistant and being left alone in a studio with Bill Gates for like 15 minutes.  Boy did my mind drift to those c stands in the corner and how I could use it as a bat. We all know who assassinated Lincoln, Lennon, Kennedy, and Reagan, no?*  Gates?  Well, it didn’t happen.  Your kid won’t learn about me in the history books and they’ll still have to deal with Windows crashing.

*Booth, Chapman, Oswald, Hinckley.

And for my last image, all I have to say is the 60’s live on.  Most of those protesters, God bless ’em, who demonstrated in anti-APEC protests across town and in the country do have a point.  Banks, politicians, media, etc…are in need for reform.  I myself can’t help but to wonder how members of Congress are able to dance around insider trading laws, how millionaires like Michael Fat Boy Moore and P Diddy can hob nob with the protesters, and how the Democrats claim to support the peoples when they are the 1%.  Obama didn’t fund raise at Disney’s Aluani with the homeless out living on the Waianae Coast.  He charged $1000 per head and pix with the Commander in Chief were $5000.  I wish AP paid me what those donors paid for a simple snap with Barack.  I’d be big pimpin’ with da Sultan in no time.

Again, back to the pits…the harry hippies of yesteryear haven’t disappeared.  Their indelible stain on society protrudes on our lovely siren holding a most important bed sheet while splashing around Waikiki’s warm waters.  Yet might it be the marketing and the romance of the hippie culture which sells the image of revolution?  No doubt the younger generations have copycatted the protest movements, clothing, music and chants of those stinking masses of yesteryear.  The chants of “Hey Hey Ho Ho (add your chic cause here) has got to go!” are no different than those chanted by those who spit on my uniformed father when he returned from ‘Nam.  The attraction of free love and free living along with being free of all society’s constraints is just too great.   And to think those sandal wearing pot smokers went on to sell their wares in the capitalists markets.  Now you can find hippie attire and culture all neatly packaged at Urban Outfitters or other such chain stores.  And lets not skimp on the irony that its made by our comrades in China.

The scarfed, tent dwelling, cardboard waving  sandalnista is no more than a carbon copy of old grainy film stock images of 60’s hippies.  Except they use the the 1%ers Twitter, Facebook and web devices to carry on the message.

The message is correct to some degree but 1969 has come and gone.  Vote them out I say.  We elected the hope and change and got nothing.  Vote them out.  That vote weighs more than some scrawled message on an old cardboard box.  But if we are not careful, we might not even have a vote.  Then we’re gonna need to do something much more than occupying a city park and smoking dope.

The police and you!

The police and you!

Note on above picture…

The date in the exif info states photo was taken August 3, 2003.  Happy anniversary!.  I hope you’re outta jail…or maybe better said, I hope you’re not back in jail…but recalling the types of people these guys were, we can only hope for the best.

More…it was taken with the Canon 10D.  What a horrible file.  Probably shot with the 20-35mm 2.8 lens.  How far we’ve come!!!!

I was a budding street photographer walking around Jersey City when I ran into a horrible Dominican Republic Pride Parade where mayhem was on the rise.  Mayhem usually was hand in hand with ethnic pride parades.  I found national pride in many ethnic groups equated fighting and cussing (and in some cases raping) for the good of the nation you fled or had very little connection.

I was just walking along when I saw a ruckus rushing towards me at full speed.  Red tried to escape from the clutches of the JC police but was quickly apprehended and arrested.  Of course I snapped away until a burly officer got in my face with that firm and polite rudeness that most cops have about me being in the way and letting the police do what they gotta do.  I recall his words as something like we got a job to do here and we don’t need citizens in the way recording our actions.

Fast forward to 2011.

My Canon 10 D is now replaced by a Mark IV and my surrounding have gone tropical from urban.  (Alas, I miss those days…)

Load of videos are popping up on YouTube and other media sites showing citizens and supposedly members of the media being arrested for simply videotaping police in action.  While I should note my brother is currently a police officer in Texas, I do have my feelings on both sides of the fence for this matter.

Here are three videos where you can see citizens being harassed and arrested by the men in blue.

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

In all three videos, we see two citizens and one supposedly freelance member of the media being harassed and arrested for simply videotaping a crime scene or police action.  The police, or as I will refer to now as the cops, overreact.  They overreact BIG TIME.  The two civilians were on their property and the police should have never harassed them for observing and recording the police.  The freelancer was completely harrased and arrested with no real premise other than he didn’t obey.

Should any of them have been arrested?  Probably not.  Should the cops be retrained in understanding how to deal with the public using easily accessible recording devices?  Indeed.  Should the cops involved be duly punished?  Surely.

Everyone has a camera or video recorder in their phone.  Everyone has a phone.  Has our privacy been eroded?  For sure.  You can’t go anywhere without seeing some idiot with a camera snapping a picture these days. Its almost as if we can’t avoid technology as somewhere somehow we are being recorded.  Would you be happy if your bosses watched your every move via a video above your desk?  I should think not.  I would assume the police feel the same way.

If you do see the videos, clearly the civilians mouth off to the cops in the first and second vids.  They both quickly get combative and argumentative about their rights, “I’m not doing anything wrong” blah blah blah. But in reality, what are the civilians taping?  What is so important they need to stand their with a camera pointed at the police?  Where is this video gonna end up?  How will a civilian paint the picture of the police’s actions?  Are they just looking to be the next George Holliday hoping to cash in on a new Rodney King video?  Are they hoping to be confronted by the police and get arrested so they can sue?  What is the point of doing what they are doing?

SURE–many great (horrible, really) things have come up like the King video or the transit cop who killed an unarmed black man in San Fransisco.  Yes, I would prefer to have the public videotaping more police action so as to combat possible wrong doings of law enforcement.  However, how important is it risk irritating the police and getting arrested?

On a daily basis, the cops have to deal with the scum of the earth.  Drug dealers, pimps, crooks, thieves, murderers, liars, jackasses and possibly donkeys.  EVERYONE hates the police until they need one.  I don’t know one cop who would say he’s a loved and respected member of society.  Everyone wants to piss on a cop.  We all love the police when they come to save us all but when they pull us over for pushing down the pedal on yellow, we hate the men in blue.  My brother bears scars of having to deal with us a-holes, both physical and mental.  I remember he once told me that the worse people to arrest and deal with are the “educated types like me.”  We all know our rights, scream of lawsuits, and spit in their faces any chance we get.  We’re all lawyers when we stumble out of bars and try to get behind the wheel at four AM.  Derelicts and hookers have more manners than we-know-it-alls.

Ever seen the TV show Cops?  The public is horrible.  I sometimes wish the police would just shoot a few of us so we’d learn to respect one another.  Come live on my street on any First Friday and hear all the degreed hoi polloi screaming down Nuuanu at 3am.  The hookers on Kukui St are as quiet as meeces, as they should be.

Anyway, the civilians get combative and in some ways the cops have very little options other than to arrest them for not “obeying” their commands.  Again, what the hell was so important for those idiots to be recording the police?  I mean what was happening in front of them that they risked arrest?  Was it worth it?  It sure is now they got the police department by the short hairs and Harry the Luuaawwwyyahh will be taking your tax dollars.  The women in Rochester should have gone into her house and shut the hell up.  Opened a window big and wide and continued.  She was a dummy that talked her way into being a rich victim of a cop who made a mistake.  The idiot in Nevada first lied and said he didn’t live there, then he did say it was his house.  He wouldn’t put the camera down and again, knew his rights, etc…If it was his house, he should have gone in and recorded from his window, rooftop, etc…Sure he got roughed up, but probably no more than if he had played a game of tackle football in the park.  The knucklehead got the video he somewhat hoped to get, sadly, it was him and not the other guy.

The freelance cameraman showed to be the most professional.  He did exactly as a member of the media should behave.  He clearly asked the police politely why he had to move, moved as much as the cop demanded, left when it got to hot, and when elsewhere.  By leaving and following the cop’s directive meant defusing a volatile situation.  This is the difference between a jackass with a videophone or a part timer versus a person who makes his living with a lens.  He left as he was commanded to do and clearly the police had no right to push him away but he left.  He knew what it was worth.  He went a block away and continued his job but the hotheaded cop needed to flex his authority and arrested him.  Wrong!  Bad cop.  The video guy probably won’t sue but the cop will be reprimanded as he deserves.  Clearly the cop had no right to abuse the freelancer.  In the beginning of the conversation, you see the cop looking at what only could be the freelancer’s credential.  If its legit, he should have left him alone, pushed him back but left him alone.

Once again, the cops were wrong.  Clearly wrong.  Were they provoked?  YES.  But they should be better trained.  I recently ran afoul of the police at a school shooting we had a few months ago.  Mark Niesse and I stumbled onto the crime scene and were quickly cursed at and and escorted off the area by a pretty hot cop.  We clearly were somewhere we shouldn’t have been.  We politely identified ourselves, said our “yes sirs” and “no sirs” to avoid having someone interfere with our job.

I can only guess the police are afraid of creating sensationalism as they created by trying to stop a civilian from taping them.  Mix in testosterone, jackass know it all ‘tudes (both sides, of course) and a camera and you have viral video gold.  So many of the comments are so filled with hate towards the police, pure vitriol and disgust which is understandable.  Yet if a crime was being committed against you, would you want the police to come to your home and sweetly ask the criminal to “please sweetheart, put the knife down so we can chat over cookies” bit?  We walk a fine line if we de-fang law enforcement.

Now the scary part is when the government and corporations get together and truly stop us from being able to record and witness reality.  I always figured technology would be built with (or have the ability to insert) a Trojan horse.   Apple (read this) is working on a patent that will allow sensors to “automatically disable the iPhone camera, temporarily, preventing any footage from being recorded.”  Might Canon and Nikon be next?  Might your Android have a kill switch that could be activated by a corporation, law enforcement, or an individual?  Supposedly the tech is being created to protect musicians and movies from being illegally recorded and bootleg distributed.  When might Michelle Obama have this tech so she can disable a camera from taping her eating fries?  Or Lindsay doing coke at a LA club?  Or the police when they arrest and beat a citizen?

Might then Senator Obama have loved to stop me from snapping his photo of him and his daughters on Kailua?  Maybe…who knows?  He screamed at me.  He was so upset I shot him but he was just a man on the beach.  A public beach for that matter.  Secret Service knew not to mess with me.  They knew what my rights were and saw I respected Senator Obama’s rights.  I had already identified myself to the police and secret service and they even ran my name to make sure they knew who I was.  When asked for my ID, I politely produced my Hawaii issued, smiled, said my “yes, sirs,” and that was that.  I never got in the Senator’s face.  I shot with my huge 400mm lens and stayed a good deal away from him.  Even after Obama screamed at me, Secret Service told me to back off a bit which I did.  I walked a good 20 yards further out and gave him more breathing room.  Obama and the Secret Service knew they couldn’t interfere with my news gathering rights.  Now might things change? Might the government enact said Trojan device to stop the public from witnessing the truth?

Technology only knows…

Blood, sweat, and…ring girls?

Blood, sweat, and...ring girls?

In college, I really wanted to be a sports photographer.  An 18-yrs-old with a Nikon F3HP, a 300mm F 2.8, and a quick finger.  What more did I need?  I worked at the Cactus yearbook and the Daily Texan at UT Austin in the early 90s.  Working there allowed me to shoot presidents, protests, car crashes, rock concerts…everything from Depeche Mode to Hillary Clinton.  But the best for me in those times was shooting UT sports.  Swimming, basketball, football, etc…what an amazing time.  Sadly, at that age, I wasn’t as serious as I should have been as some of my colleagues went onto bright photojournalism futures as I entered graduate school.  But while was an undergrad, I actually considered my future in photojournalism and sports and figured it was a career to nowhere.  I did see the end of the San Antonio Light and that was the paper I wanted to grow up and work for.  Shortly later, the internet took the fun out of the newspaper industry and job loss and newspaper closings became all the rage.

UT woman’s swim meet.  Possibly NCAA championship…1990-91.  Tri-X pushed like three stops to 1600 or even 3200 ISO!  Now that was some film processing.

I did recall a conversation with a staffer from the Dallas Morning News and we talked about the Pultizer Prizes won by several staff members back in those days.  The staffers exact words were “At the end of the day, you can’t hug a prize.”  I never forgot it.  I then continued to put more emphasis on life rather than career.  Whether its was the right decision to make a balance of life over letting a career take you over, I don’t know.

After grad school (international economics) went to New York to learn about commercial and editorial photography as a photo assistant…lots of good that did.  Yet I live in Honolulu and have a great shooting career and life.  Sure I think about moving back to New York but my friend Tracey Woods, a photo at a big mag asked me, “Why?”

She was right…why give up the sun, sand, and bad drivers?

But I digress…

On to the boxing.

I’ve only shot boxing once.  Its a brutal sport.  Too many punches and way too much blood.  On TV and from the stands, its ok..but up close, you get…well, you get the picture, rather you get it all over your picture and yourself.  Sweat and blood splatters all over the place.  And if you are next to the ring, you’ll surely get a shower.  The AP writer, Jaymes Song, told me he covered boxing once all the while drinking fountain cola in a cup.  Jaymes said after one particular bloody match, the inside and outside of his cup was flecked with red spots of…well…it wasn’t Coke.

Pingo got punished!

Needless to say, Jaymes didn’t finish his drink.

Boxing isn’t for the faint of heart.  Its tough to watch if you’re not into pugilism.  I could care less but seeing people get the hell beaten out of them, it can be slightly unnerving.  So last night I had to cover several boxing matches for AP and the big match was the Hawaiian Punch Brian Viloria in a title fight against Mexico’s Julio Cesar Miranda.  They went 12 rounds and Viloria was the victor.  A great fight although Miranda put up a good attack.  Viloria knocked him down a few times and I think the Mexican was shocked Vilora was such a tough guy.

Shooting boxing is tough to do. You have to anticipate each punch if you want to get peak action. If you snap when you see the punch going, you’ll never catch the actual glove connect with face.  All it takes is a little timing (and a fancy camera!) and you’ll eventually get the right moment.  The physically hard part of shooting the bloodsport is being bent over as you’re sticking yourself and camera through a few inches of ring rope.  12 rounds at 3 minutes each times 6 bouts…well…it’s a long time to be contorted over and through the ring and ropes.  My back wasn’t all that happy at the end of the night.

well…at least there are ring girls…

Its a far cry from the chicks I shot in swim suits racing at the UT swim center.  Alas, its a job…and I did have to shoot ring girls as a notation and separation to each round…really…its true.  Ask any of the guys who shoot boxing…

Anyway, I got away from the journalism life only to play one in Hawaii.  I’m glad I don’t have to shoot so much news and sport as I have much more fun now shooting travel pieces and portraits here and around.  But its nice to get a rush shooting a sporting event…all the while getting splattered with long as its not mine.

A wide view of the 18th

A wide view of the 18th

Every year I am hired to photograph the Sony Open.  I’ve made a bit of a name for myself shooting golf as I’ve done it for a few years and I learned from some of the very best shooters.  Stan showed me how to sit on the first tee and get great, clean tee shots, Chris showed me how to position myself for anticipation, Sammy showed me how to walk up and down the course, and Grayson showed me how to hustle.  I mean hustle.  So I know my golf or at least pretend to.

Do I like shooting golf?  Eh…  Its tough shooting round after round of golf for days on end and when we had more than one tournament here, it was super hard to get motivated to follow these super sensitive” golfers for hours on end.  By the end of any tournament, the last thing I want to do is be out in the sun, see grass, or anything to do with little white dimpled golf balls.  I usually stay sick for a few days after as all the sun, pollen, pesticides, and the weight of my cameras breaks me down.

Yet, I get a shot like this and it all feels worth it all.  Its not the best but it sure makes me feel I can really see the world happening around me.  Sure, its just a sports shot, and not a great one at that, but to know I walked up and down a course for four days in the rain, sun, and humidity carrying three cameras, a heavy 400mm lens while slathered in sunblock…and get a shot like this…makes me feel like I’ve come along way from time time I first walked into a club house.  Thank you, you men of golf, who taught me how to see golf…and thank you Steve Grayson…not a golf tourney goes by here in Hawaii without your memory recalled in laughter, professionalism, and fear.

Did anyone ever hear the chimp story between him and Sammy?  HA!

If many of you don’t or didn’t know Steve Grayson, he was a great GREAT man who knew his photography.  He once said he was one of the only photographers who was able to walk through South Central LA during the OJ riots with camera and taking pictures.  I mean, look at him!  Would you mess with that man?!?

Grayson sent me this shot of him and the hotties of the golf world.  I bet those women were more happy to be seen with him that him with them.

In January 2008, Grayson passed away.  Its been three years now and we still talk about that man of men, a giant among us who crawl through the grass to get that shot.  We will always remember your bad plaid shorts.