Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Wow, a lot of water under the bridge in 2007, including about 300 miles of ocean swimming. I'm definitely looking forward to lots more in 2008. Thanks to Maui's own Hot Island Glass for making this spectacular paperweight as a Christmas gift for Doug.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The High Price of Flying

I love swimming here in the tropical ocean waters of Maui. What's even better is my weekly swim with the Pink Cap Swimmers which happens every Sunday morning. Since the humpback whales have returned, we decided to celebrate by mimicking their practice of jumping out of the water - called breaching. I gave it all I had with a mighty pull of the arms and giant frog kick to help me clear the water - when, OUCH, I felt a twang in my leg. Could I really have pulled a hamstring while swimming? I better try that breach again to make sure. OW! That time was even more painful (I'm not exactly the brightest guy around). Hopefully, I'll be up and around soon.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Year's Resolution

On the days I don't swim in the ocean, I try to do a serious walk. I had a choice after blowing my knees out from running: either get surgery or switch to walking. I chose walking and was surprised to find that I seem to work more muscles walking than I did running. Plus I am better able to appreciate my surroundings. I came from Chicago and while it was below freezing there today, it was 80 degrees here, flowers lined the way with loads of flower petals strewn under foot. I usually walk past several tony resorts and appreciated this candy and gingerbread house I saw today. Then again I have had enough sweets to last me forever! A friend today told me to throw out all the food which was given us for the holidays; but I just can't do it. In my mind the only way to get rid of all those cookies and candies is to eat them. And the faster I eat them, the sooner they will be gone. Oh, my stomach is roiling and expanding!

I generally don't believe in New Year's resolutions, but I feel I need to make a serious commitment to this blog. So, my resolution is to make a blog entry every day. I'll try to not be too boring.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sloppy, Sloppy

Where is my brain? Let me know if you find it.

I keep composing blog entries in my mind, then completely forget to make them when I get home.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday at the beach chatting with friends. For about a half hour I watched a mother and baby humpback whale as they repeatedly breached traveling from horizon to horizon. Another whale swam past only a hundred yards out. Of course when I got in the water I saw no signs of any whales, but boy was the water clear. Crystal clear. It isn't often that we get that kind of visibility. After my swim while I was toweling off, another whale swam by about two hundred yards off shore. They have definitely returned to Maui and I am excited to see them back.

Today I get to spend twelve hours photographing a house up on the other end of the island. It should be fun.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Where Are They?

After seeing and hearing whales all week, of course there was no sign of them for my friends on our usual Sunday ocean swim. We thought it might be possible that a couple of the faintest of noises we heard just might be whales in the far distance, or maybe our imaginations were working overtime. The cold water (78 f) took my breath away when I got in and the larger than usual wave chop was a challenge, but it was a fun swim. It was great seeing Janet and Patti again, back from Thailand.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Whale Song

The humpback whales have definitely returned to Maui. I've seen them in the distance the last two days and was serenaded by them during my ocean swim this morning. Their songs were so clear and loud that they must have been near, but I didn't even catch a glimpse of them.

I did, however, see Bruce who was out and about this morning.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

They're Back

No, I'm not talking about Janet and Patti (they don't get back from Thailand until Thursday), I'm talking about our friends from Alaska. Doug reported seeing them near Molokini island on Saturday and Sunday.

While swimming in the ocean today I saw a manta ray feeding along the bottom. I followed it for a while and it brought me to a second manta ray lazily floating on the surface. Unlike some mantas which are inquisitive, these two kept their distance from me.

Then off in the distance I saw big splashes of water. Humpback whales breaching! Two of them repeatedly jumping out of the water. Unfortunately, they were briskly swimming away so I did not get to see them up close. That's okay, I'm thrilled to know that they are back in the neighborhood.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Swimming with Sharks

Wow, what a week! Strong winds, constant torrential rains, no phone or electricity. I loved the change from our usual desert conditions, but really missed getting out into the ocean for long swims.

Put off by the bad weather, our group of Sunday swimmers was reduced from the usual fifteen or twenty to only four of us - again. But this time we actually got in the water, and was it worth it! Nice clear water and an active shark. Click HERE or below for video of us and the sharks.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Where, oh where, have you been?

From what I hear, while I've been sitting home eating bon bons and getting fat, the dolphins have been just off shore calling for me to come play with them. So, this morning I joined them for a brief swim. They were a little stand offish, but I can't blame them after my neglect. Click HERE or below for a brief video of today's encounter.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Birthday Lisa

I had fun swimming with birthday girl, Lisa, this morning. The air and water are getting cooler with the shorter days of fall, so the swim started out a bit on the fast side. Fortunately (for me) people soon warmed up and started to play a little.

Bruce was home, but hiding way in the back. Doug danced with a manta ray which led him to an eagle ray. All in all, a great Sunday.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Beyond My Wildest Dreams

Okay, here it is a day late..

I grew up as the oldest son in a lower middle class family in the Midwest with my nose always buried in a book. I didn't just read novels, I fell into them. I always tried to finish a story in one day because I could not return to real life until the book was done. While reading I lived in far off lands in other times - and that was enough. I did not have big dreams in real life, I simply slogged along to the best of my ability.

My life turned out far better and more fantastical than I ever dreamed. I routinely swim and play with large groups of wild dolphins, I chase sharks, I swim with baby whales and momma whales, the list continues. I live in a tile roofed villa in a walled complex on the ocean on a tropical island. A sandy beach and beautiful coral formations are steps from my front door. I work for myself as a professional photographer, setting my own hours and choosing my clients.

All in all, I have everything to be thankful for. What an amazing life!

Now back to real life... The ocean was choppy for my Thanksgiving swim yesterday and I swallowed a mouthful of water every few strokes. One of my swim instructors had always said to "be one with the water," but I don't think they meant it so literally. I encountered this group of twelve Ulua, wouldn't the local fishermen love to know where this was! Click HERE or below for brief video.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Spinning Round

What a morning! I was joined on my ocean swim by a large group (80 or so) of spinner dolphins. I had a great time with almost two hours of playful interaction. Near the end of my swim several large tour boats showed up and dropped their loads of snorkelers into the midst of the pod (click HERE or below for the video of today's swim).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Different Swim

Due to parking congestion (the Maui Century Ride was today) at our usual Sunday swim spot, the few of us who showed up decided to swim elsewhere. We went to the very end of the road, La Perouse bay, which borders a marine sanctuary and swam among lots and lots of beautiful tropical fish (click HERE for more Photographs from today).

We saw some rather rare fish, including this unusual white faced yellow tang. The tide was high and the water (relatively) calm so we explored small shallow inlets along the way.
Click HERE or below for a short video of today's swim.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lanai Adventures

A group of us went camping on Lanai for Pam's 60th birthday. Of course we swam at least twice each day, with additional motivation provided by nearly constant visits of spinner dolphins (Click HERE for photos of the trip).

It seems the air matress I lent Patti and Janet has become a sinking mattress, requiring inflation (by very noisy electric pump) periodically through the night. Thank goodness the island did not sink, otherwise they would have been without a flotation device.

I am certainly looking forward to going back again next year (Click HERE or Below for the video of this year's trip).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Get A Life!

I have been totally consumed by my work. Yes, it is fun and interesting being a professional photographer; but dude, Get A Life! I haven't even looked at the video I took from hours spent swimming with spinner dolphins on Lanai two weeks ago.

I did get out into the ocean this morning for the first time in two weeks; and ended up in the middle of a group of stinging jellyfish. They must have stung all sense out of my empty head, because I stuck around to photograph them - but forgot to set the focus on my camera. This image is the only one which was anything other than a complete blur.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Underwater Shooting

Today I tread into new territory and did an underwater photo shoot for a company using their employees as models. Even though none of the people were models or swimmers, I loved their enthusiasm and willingness to try new things. I even think that out of the hundreds of photos, we might actually have gotten one or two good ones. Can you tell what their product is?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Playing with Spinner Dolphins

Hooray! After being away for a week, the spinner dolphins returned today to join me on my ocean swim. I had lots of fun playing with them, but they wore me out! Click HERE or below for today's video.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Down and Back, Twist and Turn

It was a cloudy morning in Makena with the first bit of chill in the ocean water. The swimmers weren't quite ready for the cold, so they swam and swam without the usual large dose of play. Fortunately, George reminded us how to have fun when he directed a balloon twisting workshop at the restaurant after the swim.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Keoneoio Stumbling

I seem to have forgotten that a mere five miles from my house is a large wilderness area. Probably because rather than waterfalls and tropical jungle, that area is a barren old lava flow. The climate is desert and every step is treacherous. Nonetheless, this morning I decided to hike through it along the so called King's Highway trail. Loose jumbled sharp lava rocks in all directions up to the tall cliffs lining the sea.

Which made the sudden appearance of a green oasis in the middle of this hot sameness a true delight. The driftwood log and cool shade provided a much needed respite after stumbling over the shifting rocks of the trail. I followed a smaller path along the ocean's edge on my return, which at times balanced dangerously along the cliff's edge. The waves crashing onto the rocks and the cleverly balanced stones on the beaches made this route much more interesting. Now if I can just find a safe spot to get in and out of the ocean I will gladly return for a true adventure swim.

Friday, October 19, 2007

My Bad

I find it so easy to get caught up in day to day living that I forget how amazing my life really is. On my swim Wednesday in the warm tropical ocean waters just outside my front door, I complained to myself how boring and uninteresting it was. I only saw a few giant sea turtles and a few hundred colorful fish. Certainly nothing worth writing in my blog about.

Fortunately today I got to swim with a trio of frisky spotted eagle rays and got their play on video (click HERE or below for the video). I also watched a dive leader chase Bruce out of his home for the entertainment of the paying scuba divers (not dissimilar to what I do with my video camera on this blog). I amuse myself with my own hypocrisy - I start ranting about someone else, then realize that I do the same stuff myself. Silly me!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New Camera

I tried out a new camera on this morning's ocean swim with the Maui Pink Cap Swimmers. As you can see, this small easy to carry camera is no match for the tank I usually drag through the water. On the other hand the video is superior to what I get from the ultra compact camera normally used for video. It will be interesting to see which wins out.

We managed to keep ourselves thoroughly entertained in the clear warm ocean water (click HERE or below for the video).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dolphin Sex

After working two 14 hour days up on the other side of the island, it was GREAT getting back in the ocean this morning. And my friends, the spinner dolphins, were there to greet me and swam with me for a full two hours. I got some more wonderful photos (click HERE to see today's photos) and had lots of fun.

I do have a small conundrum. The dolphins will swim very close to me and interact with me when I am swimming fast enough to keep up with them. Those moments would make the best video and still photographs, BUT to use a camera I have to use my hand which slows me down enough that the dolphins lose interest. For now I take turns. I play with them a while, then I take photos or video, then I play some more.

The dolphins are very physical with each other, constantly rubbing up together in twos, threes, and larger groups. I never gave much thought to whether or not they were having sex in front of me until I watched the video I took today (click HERE or below for today's video).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Dolphins Return!

Woo Hoo! The spinner dolphins were back and in a playful mood this morning. They were having so much fun zooming back and forth together and were keeping up a constant chatter. They would swim by from time to time, but they thought I was way too slow to be allowed to play their games (just like school when I was always picked last). It doesn't matter, I had a great time too, taking photos and video of them. Click HERE for lots of fun photos from today.

After I had been swimming in their company for a half hour, a visitor from Wyoming and three of the regular swimmers came out to join us. The visitor was thrilled, and frightened, by how close the dolphins would approach. Click HERE or Below for today's video.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Approach

It was clear on this morning's ocean swim we don't all approach wild animals in the same way.

When I want to get closer to a wild animal, I swim quietly alongside it for a while until it gets used to me. I try to let the animal make the first move (is this about underwater critters, or dating?). Since most of them are curious about this strange acting person (see, there are advantages to not being normal) they will come up to check me out. Then I take photos and video.

A certain member of our Sunday Pink Cap Swim group has a different approach. He swims right up to the animal and tries to grab or touch it (click HERE or below for the Video). The advantage for us is that we get to see how a wild animal reacts when it thinks it is being attacked. We also get to see them in a different light - see this same starfish which was featured in my previous blog entry.

Of course, most of you see right through my righteous rant because of how I approach my friend Bruce. And you would be right.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A New Star

Bruce was totally oblivious to my presence again today. One of these days I'll get over my fear of sharks and manage to get closer, maybe even hang on and go for a ride. But not yet.

Starfish come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Don't know the real name, but we call this the pillow starfish.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Close Encounter

Bruce was back after a week out visiting friends (click HERE for the story), but seemed a bit hung over. He was totally out of it when I approached this morning and let me get as close as I wanted. Here's wishing him a speedy recovery.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Another Pink Cap Swim

I always enjoy the Sunday morning ocean swim with my friends. Our group was quite large and fragmented from the moment we hit the water. There were the serious swimmers and there were those of us who love to play. We spent time playing with turtles and a couple of spotted eagle rays who seem to have made Makena their temporary home. One of them was holding still so that a pair of small Rainbow Wrasses could clean it (click HERE for lots of photos and a video from today's swim).

Many thanks to Doug Rice for taking this (unretouched) photo of me from an angle which hides my chubbiness quite well.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Getting Comfortable

At the turn around point of my ocean swim this morning I came across two spotted eagle rays in the shallow water along the shore of the so called "black sand beach." They were pretty laid back but cautious about letting me get too close. They always kept slightly ahead of me so that they could speed away if necessary.

It took twenty five minutes of swimming with them for them to determine that I was not a threat and let me swim along side. Or perhaps it took that long to get used to my bad breath. Click HERE or below for the video.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cleaning Up

I had fun photographing a wonderfully decorated home yesterday and took time for an ocean swim this morning. Turtles everywhere! A few years ago I was lucky to see one sea turtle, now I see lots of them every time I go out.

For some reason I always seem to see the more interesting critters near the end of my swim. Today I saw a spotted eagle ray zoom away along the sea bottom in the opposite direction, but I did not have the energy to chase it. So I looked and looked below me in hopes of seeing another. Nothing. Then I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye, and there they were. Two spotted eagle rays swimming quietly along side me just out of reach. When I reached for my camera they dove for the bottom. I guess I'm not the only one who is camera shy.

I usually see a pair of rainbow wrasse cleaning other fish at a certain spot on the reef. You would think they would find me a treat considering my poor personal hygiene, but they always leave me alone. Maybe I am an acquired taste?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pink Cap Swimmer Fun

I had a fun ocean swim with my friends this morning (click HERE for lots of photos). We got to interact extensively with a manta ray which was doing loops for us. We showed it right back that we could do loops too (click HERE or below for the Video). We also swam with three spotted eagle rays and lots and lots of sea turtles.

I always thought that bluefin trevally looked mean, like giant piranha. I imagined them tearing their prey (hopefully not me) apart with their mean little mouths.

Since taking the photo below this morning, I realized that they eat like so many other fish - by swallowing whole (just like I am told is how I eat). Suddenly, they no longer look so threatening to me.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bruce et al

The Maui version of the Christmas Cactus was blooming to excess this morning. Gaugin had it right with his vision of oversize plants in the tropics, these flowers range from six inches to over a foot each. Yes, I realize that it isn't Christmas; but on Maui they never get things quite right anyway.

As a way of not thinking about the killer kind of shark, I concentrate on looking for specific other creatures while I swim. Today I was thinking, Manta Ray, Manta Ray, Manta Ray... And that is just what appeared on the home stretch. Just a quick swim-by way down below, but a Manta Ray nonetheless.

Bruce was home alone today. I guess things didn't work out with the house guest (click HERE for a very short video).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Where Was I?

I just realized that I haven't written to you in a while.

I always attribute to my spouse the power of extreme concentration. But with this new blogging thing, I am becoming aware of my own ability to completely lose myself in my work. When I am working I forget all those unimportant things like keeping hydrated, sleeping, going to the bathroom, bathing, seeing friends, and writing blog entries.

I am not going to play catch up, but instead jump forward to today and another lovely ocean swim. Bruce was home with a friend, and I keep getting bolder and bolder with video camera in hand. Hopefully, I will keep that hand. Same goes for my approach to a moray eel today.

I was called in for an emergency photo shoot yesterday, so I now return to working on those images. It was good talking to you ever so briefly. A hui hou

Friday, September 14, 2007

School Days Memories

Lucky me! I waited and waited this morning. Then just when I had given up and was about to leave a few spinner dolphins came in.

The dolphins like to play catch with each other, and sometimes with the people they meet. They will carry a small found object such as a leaf on the tip of their nose, or more often on one of their front flippers. They will drop the item then race each other to pick it up again. On rare occasion they will drop their item near me, I will carry it for a bit, then when I let it go they will race to get it back.

Today, however, I felt like I was back in school where I was (rightfully) always picked last for sports teams. The dolphins would drop their item in front of me, then just as I was about to reach it, one of them would zoom in and grab it and zoom off. Repeatedly.

That was not the end of my humiliation. When I got home I discovered that almost every time I had hit the record button on my camera, I was turning the video off not on (and visa versa). So I have lots of video of empty water with my hand flashing past as I swam, but not much of the dolphins.

Did I have fun today? DEFINITELY!