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.

American Way Tearsheet

American Way Tearsheet

I received my tearsheet from the recent edition of American Way Magazine which should be on all American Airline flights.  As I mentioned in my previous post, Hawaiian Cowboy…err girl, the photo editor’s art direction was very straight forward as she wanted the subjects on a gray seamless background.  It would be up to my discretion on any secondary shots.  Luckily, everything presented itself visually…the sunny weather, the blue sky green grass background, and the big Hawaiian belt buckles both Troy and Shelby wore on the day of the shoot.  I’m glad I got to see it all and happy the magazine ran worked with my creativity from the shoot.  It goes to show, no matter what a client claims they want, its always best to ensure you have backup plan and surely to think out of the box.  Creativity pays off.

Hawaiian Cowboy…err…girl

Hawaiian Cowboy...err...girl

Shelby Rita is a real cowboy…but I’m not sure if she’d call herself a boy, though.  Shelby is a Hawaiian rodeo star on the North Shore of Oahu.  You ask…cowboys (girls) in Hawaii?  Well…yes.  Cowboys, or the paniolo, were first introduced from Mexico in the old days to help develop the cattle industry in Hawaii.  The culture and clothing stayed and now small pockets of ranchers ride around the range on horseback in the beautiful Hawaiian sun.  Shelby comes from a long line of ranchers so naturally she grew up riding horses, raising cattle, and competing in state and national rodeo events.

American Airlines Magazine commissioned me to shoot her along with her riding partner Troy Gomes for an upcoming article featuring the two young riders.  The catch is they wanted a shot on a seamless gray background.  Its not often I get to shoot in a “studio” as Hawaii is its own beautiful background; however, my assistant extraordiniare Tammy and I were given the task of setting up a seamless in the great wide open.  We succeeded in finding a nook in Shelby’s garage where we carefully set up the background, flew an Octabank and snapped away.  Luckily, the windy North Shore didn’t spoil our “Studio 59” and we were able to capture some wonderful pictures.  Shelby’s a beauty and our images came out fantastic!

Though, Shelby upstaged her partner Troy (am I bias?)  Troy held his own.  He naturally would stand with that cowboy swagger, thumbs hooked into his big belt buckle.  A real classic image.

Funny enough, the mag chose a secondary shot out on the range.  I somewhat argued with the editor about the background as an outdoor Hawaiian blue sky beats any gray seamless any day but the art direction called for a seamless.  How surprised they must have been when they got the secondary shots of Shelby and Troy on horseback with the green Hawaiian mountains and blue sky in the back.  The ed fell over backwards!  Nonetheless, the seamless were not chosen.  The American Way issue will be on planes sometime soon. If you happen to fly, please take a look.

Now on the issue of Shelby calling herself a girl…I saw her ride off on the back of a horse at full speed.  She controlled the beast with grace and power.  I’ll let her tell you if she’d prefer to be called a girl.