Thursday, January 31, 2008

Trade Show Blues

I am attending a photography trade show in Las Vegas to hobnob with my fellow wizzards. I dozed through a couple of seminars today; the four I've signed up for tomorrow promise greater things. I'm heartened by the words of encouragement I received about my photography from a professor of photography at Southern Illinois University. By the way, the title of today's blog refers to the fact I've been assigned to the Blue group of name badges.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Back to Reality

Flying across the desert at sunset today was trippy.The way the shadows wound between the pulsating hills left me feeling disoriented and warped. Thank goodness for the solid reality of Las Vegas.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Excitement in the Deep

While swimming today I watched a scuba group gathered around a cave. They acted excited like they saw something moving, but weren't sure of exactly what it was. Was it a ray, or maybe a shark?! They looked a little disappointed when a turtle finally swam out.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Two Ways

On my walk this morning I snapped a photo of this guy on the beach. I guess daubing paint could be relaxing, and it certainly brings attention from lots of people.

Then again, I really like the large print I made of my version - done with a little point-and-shoot camera and Photoshop (click on the image below to see what I'm talking about).

Two different methods, yet I'm sure we were both happy with the results.

Sense of Humor VS Bad Marketing

You decide.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sea Hunt

Yes, I was out in search of large marine animals again this morning. The sun was shining, the water was gloriously clear, and relatively calm and warm. A great day for a very long swim which led me into a group of whales for an extended period. It was perfect except for the tiny glitch of my camera not working. By the time I got it fixed the whales had moved on. As usual, the water was cloudy near the whales even though it was crystal clear near shore.

I was fascinated by two spear fishers near shore. They would dive down to the bottom and lie there in wait for a fish to come by. There is no way I can hold my breath for thirty seconds, and these guys were down for up to two minutes at a time. Wow.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cliff Hiking

Due to recurring small injuries, Doug has not been able to play much tennis recently. So our Saturdays have been occupied by great adventures like hiking and snorkeling.

This morning we hiked south along the coast from our house to Makena State Park. Most people are only familiar with the park's beaches, and it has been way too long since we've explored the high crumbling cinder cliffs.

We visited four of our old favorite caves and even found a new cave today. We also spent a long time sitting at the top of a cliff watching the whales go by. It was hunger which finally drove us back to civilization and lunch with the tennis players.

I Ate the Model

I get way too focused while working. I was concentrating on my photo shoots at the Four Seasons Resort Maui yesterday and entirely forgot to make a blog entry.

I did my first ever commercial food shot, which was of a Wagyu steak from the Kobe district of Japan. I met Chef Roger of Duo restaurant who told us about the health benefits of Wagyu steak. According to him, and to this Wikipedia article, this steak is heavily marbled, but with healthy fat. According to Wikipedia, "Because of the Wagyu cattle's genetic predisposition and special diet including beer and sake,[1] wagyu yields a beef that contains a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids[2] than typical beef. The increased marbling also improves the ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated fats."

Maybe I should be eating more beef. I must say that the model for the shoot was delicious and practically melted in my mouth.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Should Have Been Here

Today was one of those days. The first place I went to swim I heard, "You should have been here yesterday, there were sixty or seventy dolphins for a couple of hours." All I saw was a large shark swimming back and forth, so I decided to move on.

At the next beach I saw several kayaks and small boats pulling away as I arrived. When I asked what was going on, I was told "You should have been here five minutes ago, several whales swam by just off shore." Later at the same beach I was told, "You should have been here yesterday, a monk seal was playing with the snorkelers."

Even though I swam for almost four hours today, the only whales I saw were from the beach. I did have fun swimming with this manta ray, though. You should have been there.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Midnight at the Oasis

I felt like a voyeuristic sheik of araby today. I only saw the world through through a camera viewfinder from 8 this morning until 7 tonight. And what I mostly saw were yards and yards and yards of colorful silk. No levolor blinds for this house - instead, lots of ceiling to floor (and then some) drapes. I anticipate some interesting silent movie dreams of riding through the desert on a white horse.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Trio at Duo

Doug and I had dinner tonight at Duo (a relatively new restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort) with our friend Lynda. Their specialty is steak, and for good reason. I have had good steaks before at many fine restaurants, but never like this! The meat truly melted in my mouth and was served with a demi glace (sauce) which broke da mouth. Ono! (local Maui slang for incredibly delicious)

Now I understand why I have been hired by a magazine to photograph one of their steaks this Friday. These steaks are special.

Continuing with the melt in the mouth theme, they brought a mound of cherry flavored cotton candy to finish off the meal. What fun, I haven't had cotton candy since I was a child - plus, I got to play with my food. Take that, mom!

Monday, January 21, 2008

No Egrets

We went to see the movie "The Bucket List" tonight. It was light, easy, totally predictable entertainment which was redeemed by a clever script.

...and by the conversations which it generated afterward.

I have done some embarrassing and even shameful things in my life, yet I have no regrets. I don't even regret never having had any children. But the movie wasn't so much about regrets, it was more about what remains for us to do in our lives (with an emphasis on how we can enrich the lives of those about us, but I don't need to go there tonight).

Superficially, it asked the question, "What do I want to do before I die?" And I can contentedly answer, "Nothing! I have led an amazing life and there remains nothing I yearn to do, see, or experience." It is a good place to be.

Now, to digress only slightly... There are large white wading birds which love to hang around the swimming pools where we live. They deposit large amounts of poop on the pool furniture and deck tile which doesn't always clean up. So, if I had one wish to give to the residents of Makena Place, it would be that we would be able to live our lives without any egrets.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

I was a nerdy bookworm wimp all through school; a little chubby and wary of exercise. I live a laid-back island lifestyle here on Maui. My ocean swims (including Sundays with the Pink Cap Swimmers) are all casual and easy going. I drive a beat up old car and wear old shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops.

So what happened to me this morning when I participated in the Aluminum Man Biathlon? I became competitive. I was an animal. I swam the entire ocean course hard, and even ran some of the road race.

And right now my aching body is screaming at me "What were you thinking?!?"

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cosmic Fingerprint

Whoa! Today was like a real weekend. Snorkeling with Doug in front of the house, time in the hot tub, sitting around eating bon bons while surfing YouTube, some correspondence, a movie, sunset, and finally the Australian Open on TV. You would almost think I live a normal existence.

I never get down time. What a treat.

The whales were singing up a storm today. I felt like I was in the middle of a Sondheim musical at the moment when the music swells and everyone is simultaneously singing their very different parts. Cacophonous, yet stirring - magical. Doug pointed out the swirls in the sand near shore, almost like fingerprints from above.

Friday, January 18, 2008

(don't) CALL 9 1 1

Since I did not see any whales before getting in the water, I swam directly out from my house, hoping for the best.

For a swimmer in the water it is not possible to see any signs of whales. Boats, yes; whales, never! The best I can do is go to an area where whales have been seen before, then hope that one swims by to check me out. Even when a whale is close, the only way to know where to look is to listen for their breathing above water. So this morning I swam, then stopped and listened, swam, listened, swam, listened - nothing, nothing, nothing. Then suddenly fifty yards in front of me a baby whale breached (jumped out of the water). And was gone. I listened intently, but heard nothing but sirens from shore. Those pesky sirens were getting louder and not going away. How annoying.

Finally a jet ski from Maui ocean rescue approached and told me that they had to haul me in. Someone on shore had reported a swimmer in distress (if you have ever seen me swim, you know how they got that idea), and 911 dispatched police cars, a fire engine, and a marine patrol to rescue me.

Oh well. There's always tomorrow. But please, don't call 911. I'm not drowning, I just swim that way.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Swimming in Circles

I just finished one of my work projects. I always feel a sense of relief when I am caught up and have nothing hanging over my head.

I enjoyed chatting with several friends at the beach after my swim this morning. Boy was I cold, I was chilled through and through. But it was worth it, the water was clear and I got to watch these three Spotted Eagle Rays continuously swimming in a circle.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wouldn't you know it. On one of the few days I did not swim last week, a Whale Shark made an appearance (click HERE for the story) in my usual swim area. My friend POG (Poor Old Greg) told me about riding Whale Sharks in past years when he's encountered them. Sounds like fun, maybe someday...

I noticed lots of outrigger canoes paddling offshore during my walk today. Must be a regatta coming up. Normally they are painted with an Hawaiian motif, these with the stars and stripes seemed unusual.

My friends, Joe and Gretchen, took a whale watching cruise today. They showed me the most amazing whale photos which they took by holding a disposable underwater camera over the side of the boat. Humpback whales seem much bolder around boats than around swimmers. Then again, who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sleepy Time

I got to swim for an hour this morning with 14 spinner dolphins who were in sleep mode.

Dolphins can NEVER SLEEP. I am so glad that I am not a dolphin. I love to sleep.

Since dolphins have to come up to the surface to breathe, their breathing is always a conscious choice. It is not a reflex action like it is with us, so they must be awake to breathe.

Instead of sleeping, they go into a zoned-out rest state, kind of like how I drive on an interstate highway through the desert. They kind of pay attention, but mostly go through the motions without really thinking about it. They usually gather with friends in shallow clear water with a sandy bottom so that no predator can sneak up on them. Then they slowly swim in large circles.

Because of their defensive posture while resting, they don't allow unknown creatures to get too close. At least that is my excuse for not getting better photos or video. Click HERE or below for the video of today's encounter.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Out of Breath

It was my privilege today to photograph another spectacular Maui residence. The client regaled me with tales of her husband's recent not-so-nice encounters with Tiger Sharks. I don't want to hear those stories! I'm planning on swimming in the ocean tomorrow, I don't want to be thinking of shark attacks with every stroke I take!

I went for a run this afternoon. Whooee! I am in great shape, how could I possibly be puffing and panting like that?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Do Not Try This At Home!

Due to continuing high surf on the usually tranquil south shores, our Sunday swim group found the water too murky to swim. It wasn't hard to talk ourselves out of getting wet since we were all huddled under our towels shivering in the cold 72 degree (22 celsius) breeze.

And yet, somehow, we managed to overcome the dreaded group inertia, and all moved down to Big Beach. Surprise, surprise, there it was sunny and warm and the water was calm. Standing on shore we could see three groups of whales out a bit. So we got in. While not crystal clear, we could at least see the bottom. We swam uphill past the nude beach until the water got way too murky, then swam back downhill to the south end of Big Beach (uphill = against a strong current and into a wind chop). What a fun group of people! It was especially great seeing coach Janet again.

By the way, these before and after versions of today's underwater photo show what can be done by a Photoshop Professional on a closed course. Do not try this at home!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Whale Dude

When I was attacked by a 12 foot Tiger Shark about twelve years ago, people started calling me Shark Boy. With all of my recent cetacean encounters that nickname is gradually being replaced by Whale Dude.

And how apropos. I bought my first ever bathroom scale yesterday and found myself to weigh 20 pounds more than Doug. Whale Dude is right!

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Mile Too Far

We had another day of high surf today and the water was murky as a consequence. I know better than to swim in murky water (elevated risk of shark attack), but I thought I would quickly pass through the cloudy water into clear water beyond. So, ok, I swam out way too far this morning.

And then the whales were taunting me. I could hear them singing so very loudly that I knew they must be close by. I even heard them on the surface breathing, and when I can hear them breathing they must be very close. But nothing. I was cold and tired but kept being teased to stay a little longer. Finally, one of the whales had pity on me, surfaced near by and swam up to me before diving down out of sight. Hooray!

Did I mention how far out I was? Too far. The murky water seemed to have spread farther out, the wind was whipping the waves up so they were crashing over my head, I was tired and the shore wasn't getting any closer. It got to the point where I began bargaining with God. You know, "If you let me make it in alive, then I promise to..." Only, of course, I can't finish those sentences here in public, because I then might have to live up to them.

And, in case you were wondering, somehow I made it to shore, exhausted but alive.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Whale Nest Discovered

I had to fight high surf to get out into the ocean for a swim this morning. The sandy bottom was stirred up near shore so I swam out deeper. The water soon cleared, but further out got murky again before once again clearing up and staying clear. After half an hour I decided to head back.

I had just hit the murky water when a boat pulled up behind me and stopped. This behavior by a boat means there must be a whale nearby. Sure enough, thirty yards ahead between me and the shore was a whale on the surface breathing. So I stopped and waited for it to pass. I followed the boat a little way but saw nothing more. On my way back to the beach another boat zoomed up to me and stopped. Sure enough, following along behind me was a whale on the surface. The water was too cloudy both times to see anything underwater.

While I rested on the beach I noticed two whales repeatedly swimming back and forth at about the same distance from shore every time. They would take a couple of breaths, then dive deep (tail up then sliding down into the water is a sign of a deep dive). Only the water wasn't all that deep where they were swimming.

By the way, every time I've seen a mother and baby whale, it has always been in murky water. I am constantly amazed by television shows and magazine photographs of whales in clear water, because I always see them in cloudy water.

Humpback whales come to Maui to give birth, usually in shallow water. Someone once asked me how the whales dealt with all the sharks which must show up when the whales give birth. I have never noticed sharks anywhere around the whales which I've seen.

So here is my theory: I think it is possible that humpback whales display nesting behavior when the female is about to give birth. They find a location for the birth, then proceed to stir up the sandy bottom in that area. They hide from predators, not only visually, but by blocking their own scent with the stirred up sediment.

Hey! It's possible.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Charming Rats

"Surf's Up", which I reported on a few days ago, was worth seeing, a bit hokey, but told from a really clever point of view. Tonight I have another animated film to recommend. Ratatouille. It is a film with heart which I loved. Definitely the best animated movie that I have seen in some time, and certainly the highlight of my day.

I spent most of the day in front of the computer working on photographs. I love the creative challenges but get tired of staring at a CRT monitor for hours on end. I did force myself to get out and decompress along side this lily pond though.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Whale Songs

I swam out to a large group of kayaks this morning. When I finally reached them they told me, "You should have been here five minutes ago." That's okay, I got to hear lots of whales singing. And if you have never heard them sing, I highly recommend this web site Click on the link and let them sing in the background for a while. I am listening to it as I write this, and it is exactly what I hear while swimming. Share the experience with me.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Big Tease

For exercise I alternate walking and swimming, and today was a walking day. A good part of my route is along the shore in Wailea and I watched three different groups of whales just off shore. One group swam out, one swam north and the other group followed me home. I wanted so badly to swim with them, but without goggles it wasn't going to happen.

After an exhausting walk I like to take a dip in the ocean, and there they were, although quite a way off shore. Calling to me, "Don, come swim with us." But again, no goggles. Hopefully they will come back to play tomorrow for my swim day.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Big First Swim

Wow! What a huge turnout for our first Sunday swim of the year. Two swim teams showed up at the beach, one from New York and one from Vancouver. I was amazed that these kids spend so very much time in the water and yet for many of them it was the first time swimming in open water. There was a lot of trepidation about sharks, so it was a good thing that Bruce took the morning off. They were excited to see sea turtles. The eel we saw was unusual in that it stood its ground instead of running away (click on the photo to see the large version).

Sometimes visiting kids are not nearly as adventurous as my swimming friends, but these kids were lined up to jump from the jumping off rock.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Singing and Dancing

Thanks to the miracle of Netflix, Doug and I have been doing a review of the greatest Hollywood musicals (according to some article that I read somewhere). We have seen some downright freaky films including a Busby Berkeley musical from the 40's which he must have directed while under the influence of something mind altering, and a Judy Garland and Gene Kelly musical which was so bad it was great. Now, while I'm a fan of Fred Astaire, Doug will go running from the room when I put one of his movies on. We were both very pleasantly surprised by "Royal Wedding" even though Jane Powell was no Ginger Rogers, which in this case was a good thing. Yes, the story was lame, but "Royal Wedding" has to be my favorite so far.

Of course, we watch a variety of films, and this evening's "Surf's Up" was a hoot (and the DVD extras were fascinating)!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Siren Song

Wonderful news: after a good night's sleep, my iPhone is working again. A good lesson for me...

Today was spent in front of the computer. These are a couple of my bread and butter shots. One shows a living space in context with the other spaces around it (living room, dining room and kitchen; and how they relate). The other is my signature shot of a house as seen from across its pool. By the way, the house is available if you are interested.

Oh, and I did get out into the ocean for a short swim. I didn't see much, but was serenaded by an entire chorus of whales. Their singing was so clear and loud that I kept saying to myself that "they must be near. If I only swim out a little more perhaps I will see one." Truly sirens of the deep.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Crazy Kapalua Weather

I spent the day today in Kapalua photographing a beautiful home which I have been working on for the past two weeks. While it was sunny at home in Makena, the weather changed constantly up at the north end of Maui. Sunny one moment, pouring rain the next, followed by more sun and more rain. And then as I was finishing up, the lawn sprinklers came on and completely soaked me and my camera. The camera seems to have survived, but my iPhone is acting strangely.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Close Encounter

On my ocean swim this morning I swam out toward a group of kayaks. They kept moving away and I kept following. An hour and a half later in very deep water I finally caught up with them because they were not moving - they were just floating there. I spoke with one of the paddlers and she told me that they had been watching whales. Then they turned and paddled back to shore.

So there I was, tired, at least two miles out and all alone. Time to head home. I started swimming then I saw a couple of white stripes way below me. They were so faint that I wasn't sure if there really was anything there. I turned on my camera and took a couple of snapshots (the photo here is enhanced way beyond what I could see). When the lines did not move or change, I decided that it must be a whale! Wow! Then I realized that I was directly above it and it would eventually come up for air. So I began backing away. Then I noticed another set of white lines - directly below me and beginning to rise. Now I was backing away more quickly. I switched my camera to video mode and started it running as I was trying to get out of the way. All steadiness left my hands as the first whale headed directly for me! Was it going to ram me? It turned at the final moment and passed right along side me. Wow, wow, wow!! Click HERE or below for the Video.

This year really is starting out right. By the way in case you were wondering, I did finally make it back to shore.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Great Start

Doug and I got an excellent start to the New Year by visiting a snorkel spot called The Aquarium this morning. I still can't believe that in his 16 years on Maui, Doug had never snorkeled there. Lots of tropical fish and clear water today. Click HERE or below for the Video.

Our afternoon was spent in a movie theater watching "P.S. I Love You." We are both suckers for romantic comedies and this one was both VERY funny and very weepy with a great sensibility.

After getting in touch with our feminine side we went to a sports bar to watch the University of Hawaii go down to defeat in the Sugar Bowl. It reminded me of our days living by Wrigley Field in Chicago and suffering with the Cubs.

Football notwithstanding, 2008 is starting out to be a Great year!