Posts Tagged ‘Hans Rathje’

The Springs Fire

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Pock pock pockata pock pock pock….

I had been dreaming of helos, hovering.

I awoke to the stacatto rhythm of rain on the roof. In the dark, I figured it must be around 3 am. I was wide awake and thinking about the events of the last few days. Deep breath. Hmm wow, first time I have been able to take one of those in awhile. Funny what we may take for granted. Little things like breathing. My wife lay on her back next to me, I could hear the faint rattle in her chest as she slept.

We both came home from doing an editorial shoot for our little local publication, Deep, and realized we had caught a bug. As is sort of normal for me, the viral infection had rapidly spread to my lungs. So in the two weeks since that night, almost to the day, I had been sort of laid up and battling a mild case of Pneumonia. It was now gone. Pretty cool.

Four days prior, my phone had rung at 7 am. Hans Rathje was on the line with a surf report and something else. “Hey we have another fire, and it is doing some strange things to the light. Swell is pretty big. Wind is hard offshore some places. What are you doing?”

“Ah I have been laid up for awhile now. Let me finish what I am doing, and I will wander out and find you. Maybe a swim will do me some good”

A couple hours later as I wound my way towards Coast Hwy 1 through the Oxnard farm fields, I saw the smoke blossom. Pulling off to the side of the road, I shot an Instagram image, posted it, them shot a commercial file with my 5DM2. Wind was 30 knots steady ENE, a hard Santa Ana blow right down the central wind corridor, which runs from the high desert to the sea, at the Southern edge of the coastal plain in which we live. All of this was quite unseasonal. Being the beginning of May, we were a ways off from what we call “Fire Season” here in So Cal. Yet there it was, and I knew in a minute’s time the conflagration was headed for the water. If the Santa Ana wind condition did not relent, nothing would stop the flames from meeting the watery finish line we play in almost daily.

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Fifteen minutes later I had checked the surf at a few places, found Hans, and we looked at a back wind hacked, largish SSE swell. This is a very unusual direction and size for May. I have only seen it a few times in my life. The swirling wind had sufficiently decimated surface conditions that we wrote off looking further. Close but no cigar, never works with the bar of work we produce. Conditions need to “be there”.

So up a coastal canyon we know well we went, where we could have an aerie view of our coast. We had a long talk, as we watched the fire billow up in the Santa Monica Mountains  which lie between our deserted stretch of coast, and the densely populated valley beyond.

“Here we go again” The Rathje’s home up valley from us and the current fire starting point, had been surrounded by flame more than once. The FD had saved their home and those of their neighbors. Their fires had started from arcing power lines. The incident had eventually wound up in court as both the homeowners and the FD endeavored to prove liability-foreknowledge of the existing hazard by the utility company. They had recently won a judgement against the company. It was being appealed. No one fights a massive utility conglomerate without risk and expense. They tend to not play nicely.

I had photographed the power lines. Looking through 1800 MM of lens, the melted arc points on the lines were quite obvious to me. What they said was both a sad diatribe against the utility company, and a warning about the infrastructure our society has in place in areas prone to high risk natural disasters. Stupid. Maybe worse ( intentionally negligent)

So we talked about a lot and watched. Looking across the canyon we could see a sole home on a ridge line. It has always sort of been our dream home, with the combination of it’s remoteness and view, being something every surfer would aspire to in some ways. The fire would cross over it most likely.

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In short order we both headed home. Hans headed up valley past the conflagration and I returned to West Ventura and my own home on a coastal valley foothill.

This photo is a satellite image from NASA. In it you can see the geography-topography of the venturi which regularly funnels hot desert winds down to our coast when a High Pressure locates in the four corners region of the Western US. This is the blow dryer zone. Amazingly they had a great image taken of our fire and it was online and available. We do indeed live in a remarkable time.

 

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Later that day I rang Hans from my office. No answer. My gear was still in the car, and I had been monitoring the blaze and the weather. The wind was still blowing, the fire inexorably moved towards the coastal canyon vents. I figured I had better go be where I need to be. But as I woke early this day and took that first clear  deep breath, I realized an explanation was in order for what I am about to describe. This is why.

People tend to follow what others do, when what was done brings any critical acclaim-success. That can be hazardous to public safety. So I want to predicate the images with a bit of information about myself.

I am a professional in many respects. More than being “a guy with a camera”, I have worked and shot in a wide variety of exceedingly high risk scenarios all over the world for a variety of editorial and commercial concerns which run the gamut of uses from News through Art. In process of acquiring both my equipment and multiple skill sets, came the acquisition of a detailed understanding of weather and natural disasters. In addition I am a highly trained first responder through my affiliation with K38 Rescue where we are regularly exposed to and tutored in risk assessment and management.

In what I do both in the water or out, very little is left to chance. You learn early on to watch your exits and to not ever encourage people to do what you do, lest by your example, you put them in harm’s way. The short of it is that I know in every circumstance, the risk must be worth a certain potential benefit, in order for me to pursue a shot.

So with that in mind, the short description and imagery which follow, illustrate what I saw that evening. First responders have a job to do in Natural disasters. If you have not been trained in Ops as one, I strongly suggest that you stay away. The situation may likely not benefit by your presence. Something to consider. (I always engage this thought process)

This is what I saw as I headed back in. Hwy ready to be closed. Fire billowing over Laguna Peak, which has had it’s radar installation burned out before.

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I checked all the canyon vents and figured out where the fire would come down. Chatted with a CHP officer who stood at his post at a road block to that Canyon I had been up in with Hans earlier that day. I told him what I was doing, and what I knew. I did not envy the guy. Embers were beginning to fall, and it was getting smokey. You could see what was happening.

I worked my way through an image series and went down on the beach and shot from where I had been doing our little magazine swimwear shoot. A thick plume churned up beach. The sky flowed with crimson, various orange tones, and deep blacks and rich greys. The diorama which exists in a fire near water is a rapidly shifting one due to a number of things.

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I was very conscious of the proximity of the fire and knew that the up coast exit could be shut off by flame in a relatively short time, so I got my gear back in the car and with the southern exit clear and under no threat, headed back west up Hwy 1 and collected a few more images. As I stood atop a roadside sand dune, 600 MM lens in hand, I saw a stream of lights coming down coast highway in the rapidly deepening gloom. There they were, the emergency fire service responders.

I cannot adequately express what this is like to watch. A cavalcade of vehicles of all types and from various divisions of service, lights flashing, headed back down to where I had just come from. I knew they would likely begin to stage there. I thought about our dream house on that canyon ridgeline. I knew they would likely save it, in spite of it being mid chimney.

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Proceeding back up to Point Mugu, that landmark known so well for the myriad number of films and car commercials shot around it, I collected a few more images as emergency services shut down the Hwy a few miles upcoast. A Sheriff parked behind my car as dark fell, and rather than talk to him, give my media credentials and stay, I simply waved, got in my car and left. This place really did not need me there any more. None of the rest of my ability to be there mattered. Not one bit.

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Half an hour later, my wife and I were sitting in Mai’s having steaming bowls of spicy chicken pho on Main St in Ventura. My lungs ached a bit and I thought about what lay ahead. The winds would change soon. Weather was headed in. Everything would be okay. I had simply witnessed the natural cycle and man’s endeavor to manage living in a high risk environment for episodes like this.

Later that evening I posted one photo from my favorite beach, to my personal Facebook page (I do not have a photography business page) and later learned that the image went viral when Jon, who manages some of our other company web endeavors, called to tell me about it. In a few hours over 250k people had gotten to see what I had. By the next day the number had doubled.

Last night before bed, an e mail had dropped into my business address. It was from one of the fire engineers who had been in the air. He had seen the photo and asked for a copy for his office. I think almost more than anything else from this day, I was very honored by that. In everything we do as Artists, our work should come down to serving others. That matters to me a lot.

Awhile ago a scientist, my wife (a designer) and I founded a company after a very unique event called Sea-Space Google birthed the concept for it. It is called OceanLovers. It is a for profit company, which drives Science and Education based change with the intention to fund people and organizations who are making a positive impact on the Oceans. It connects people, and provides accurate information about our blue marble. It actually creates change. Pretty neat.

So I made a collection of imagery for Oceanlovers called the Springs Fire collection. Part of the proceeds for all Art sold through Oceanlovers goes to each Artist. (The collections and list of people waiting to contribute, grows daily, look in a week and it will all be different) but 50 percent of all sales goes towards developing new technology and projects and support for the Blue Voices around the world which architect sustainable change. It is a hopeful concept.

When someone supports Oceanlovers,  in effect, they are voting for some tangible change and living hope.

You can find the Springs Fire Collection here.

The Oceanlovers Facebook page is a place where you can find educational and entertaining, art centric Ocean culture daily, and connect with a growing tribe of like minded individuals.

Aloha oe. A hui ho.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A California Opus

Saturday, July 9th, 2011
Napa Orange Gold

Napa Orange Gold

Chapter 5 in the California Series.

I have not always lived in California. My Dad was going to college on the GI Bill in Milwaukee Wisconsin, at Marquette University. I had never asked him why, being from Hawaii, he chose the Mid West. He met my Mother there. That was where my two Brothers and I were born.

We were sick a lot as infants. The family pediatrician had told my parents that our Hawaiian genetics may have been to blame, as we did not tolerate the cold of  hard, Midwestern Winter very well. In fact, I ended up in the hospital. I remember the experience vividly. It was a bleak time of laying in an oxygen tent in a ward, and staring out a third floor hospital window, looking at the City, watching.

Eventually, the family moved to California where my Father explored his career as an Engineer. My parents bought a home in Whittier California.  The design of the first computer, as well as launch of the Space program, became a regular part of our household, via my Dad’s work.

In some ways, we were healthier in the warmer climate of California. However, a problem arose. I developed allergies. Those caused a lack of energy, and attendant respiratory problems. I began getting injections twice a month (one in each arm), which helped alleviate the symptoms. I still get a phantom muscle ache, when I think about those shots.

I recall days where one could not see the nearby foothills, which created the basin in which Whittier is located, such was the density of the smog prevalent in California in the 1960’s. It had been around this time that the massive citrus groves disappeared from the area, being replaced by housing tracts and strip malls. Part of a methodical, concreting over of the Los Angeles area.

I was already a swimmer at this point, having learned to bodysurf, ride foamies, and inflatable mats, at the beaches in and around Newport, Huntington, Palos Verdes and South Bay. I swam for a local AAU team. But those allergies were a persistent problem. The only time I had true respite, was when we were at the beach.

Due to my diminutive size, and sort of sickly nature, my parents decided that I needed to wait to get a surfboard. By this point, it had been a topic of discussion for a couple years. But my water activities, which included fishing and diving, kept me pretty busy.

I craved those idyllic long days at the beach. I have fond memories of ten hour days in the water,  a piece of chicken, or a few rice balls, snatched on the run, from the picnic lunch my Mom would have made, very early that morning, as she loaded up the white 1955 Chevy wagon, for the long (to me) drive to the beach. I had fallen for California.

Timeline

Timeline

(more…)

BMX

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
Hans

Hans

I had been immersed in a swimwear shoot and building more imagery was the last thing on my list of things to do. But Hans call came on the heels of a 16 hour day on the computer and the passage of a cold front which left a rather dramatic sky.

So I made my way out to Chez Rathje, and their private custom BMX track which somehow, had not only survived the torrential rains here on the coast, but now had a couple new ramps as well. With Spring in full bloom we managed a quick shoot with the Canon5D M2 on a boom with the strobe set to high speed synch and had a little fun.

Liquid Militia

Liquid Militia

Hans was wearing a Liquid Militia shirt. Always thinking. Liquid Militia is an apparel company which is action sport centric. As the other guys were hurriedly packing up the car for a road trip Hans got to do laps for the camera. No crashes in spite of oxygen debt.

High As It Looks

High As It Looks

Life is what occurs in the short strokes as we are busy making other plans. I love spontaneity and talented people.

Flying

Flying

Here is a Red Bull production of the amazing Danny MacAskill in, “The way back home.”

Two

Monday, February 7th, 2011
Dash

Dash

This is the second installment in this series on many loves. It is about Surfing.

Not many people know exactly why they surf. It just is what they do.

Point of view

Point of view

Surfing  gives a lot to the participant. It often gets to the point of  seeming to be a greedy avocation. The more you get, the better you become at it, the more that it drives you.

I have surfed all of my life. My Dad tossed me in a pool at 4. I swam. He then taught me to bodysurf. I never looked back. Only forward. It is still that way today for me. Indeed, for many of us. Surfing teaches one to look down the line. It can also bestow a certain level of gratitude, that sadly is often lacking in our culture today.

Sublime

Sublime

Not many people know these two things about me:

I have always been a surfboard builder. It is a part of my heritage. I have built close to 40,000 of them in my life. I have hand shaped 15, 999.

I did a surf and weather report on local radio in Santa Barbara for almost 15 years. Rising at 4:30-5 am each day I would do my weather work up, check the surf, and was a part of a live morning radio show. It was fairly common for me to phone the report in from my shaping room in downtown Santa Barbara. I did this at approx 7:20 am each day. Five and sometimes six days a week.

That is a lot of surfboards. And those were a lot of reports.

I did them both for the same reason:

To put something back in to the sport that gave me so much. It was about gratitude. It was about commitment. I do not know how much it mattered in the long run to anyone else, but it mattered to me. Because if surfing and the ocean benefited me, it could positively affect a  culture, and my community.

I am just wrapping my seasonal surf work. I have never produced so much high bar imagery in a series of 27 days swimming with a camera. The Gold Coast, where I live, that stretch of shore that extends from Gaviota to the Los Angeles County Line, has offered up water and weather conditions that were so pristine,  I set a new bar for my surf work.

I have a new editor at Corbis Images. It should be interesting to see if she gets this. Funny thing about raising the bar: you can never lower it.

Pristine

Pristine

It used to be considered common knowledge that you had to leave here to do high bar work. Hawaii, Indian Ocean, anyplace but here. I have proved that it is just the opposite. There is a reason I call my coastline Golden. It really is.

Seth Godin has this to say about where we live and work.

I have again, been amazed at how alive my stretch of ocean is. The number of sharks, seals, dolphins, bait balls, fish, pelicans and other sea birds I have seen is astounding.

The surfers who I have worked closely with the last month are:

Larry Ugale, Lars Rathje, Hans Rathje, Ted Reckas, Jeanette Ortiz, Sierra Partridge, Donna Von Hoesslin, Dean Hotchkins, Chris Vail, Sam Witmer.

The gallery below is a teensy slice of over 500 new works. Short boarding, long boarding, body surfing, skim boarding, SUP riding. Hope that it inspires you. Click on any of the images to toggle through as a slide show.

Everything was shot on the Canon 5D Mark 2 system and has companion motion picture to go with it.

Surf Session

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

It is actually sort of rare for me to shoot surfing centric images. Often what is required to make a great image is even more complex than what is necessary to make a great break fire on all cylinders.

So having everything line up: talent, weather, swell, tide, attitude, schedule, is pretty rare. But when it happens. The quantity and bar of the work produced is mind blowing.

This week has been session after session.

This was yesterday.

Perfect day for what I do, when I finally  focus on surf.

Hans Rathje is the surfer. One of those guys who does everything well. Snowboard, BMX, Skate, Swim, a Lifeguard, and is 100 percent on point when it comes down to reading weather and swell. At 6’3″ you would never imagine how fast he is. Unusual for a big guy, that quickness.

This morning he was off. We both were. I slept in. He was off doing a swim test for his Rescue Diver Certification.

There is an amazing amount of swell and diverse weather heading in here right now. This has been quite the season.

If you get a chance read this story that I wrote which was published in Deep Magazine. Weathering Fall.

What I wrote on has come to pass. Lucky us who live round here.

The ocean is alive.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.

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