Posts Tagged ‘nature photography’

Risk Perception

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Risk Perception

The image above was shot during the 2010 Maverick’s Challenge where I worked as support and Photographer for K38 Rescue, who ran Event Ocean Safety and in process was in charge of training a cadre of local watermen to be a Rescue team. That local team was headed up by Vince Broglio. It was a big and perfect day. Possibly the biggest, best surf, ever paddled into for a competitive event.

The quote is something Shawn said in one of our project groups this week. And I immediately turned it into an Oceanlovers Blue Note. Blue Notes are wisdom gleaned from the Sea, basically. You can find them here on Oceanlovers’ site, and you should be able to right click grab them. They are meant to be shared.

I study risk. Have for a long time now. As someone with a background in high risk competitive sports as well as a depth of Ocean experience, if I were not risk aware, I would not be sitting here typing on a Saturday morning. But this week has prompted me to want to expound a little on Risk Perception. You see, Risk is always there. But it is our understanding and awareness of it which allows us to potentially manage some of that potential threat to our own and other’s life and limb, with our choices and actions, and hopefully, to come away unscathed.

This is a very complex and layered subject. I have written a little bit about Shawn and I’s affiliation and relationship here in this regard in Peaking in Seconds and Feet. The people I work with via K38 Rescue and in my other various affiliations, are world leaders in various aspects of emergency response. We all support each other, mentor, and yes hold ourselves accountable, as members of a large Community. Accountability is everything when managing risk.

Understanding is what we strive for, as responsibility for our own safety and that of our subjects as professional imagers, needs to underpin our life. Without that you would see a pattern develop in and around your work which would include injuries-damage  to yourself, equipment and subjects. So we study to learn the risk, safeguard ourselves, and push for a more pleasant experience and to set an appropriate example for others.

Let me underscore something, speaking of accountability. I have never been hurt filming or shooting. With the exception of smacking Sean Tully, one of my long term collaborators in the head, when a lip grabbed an overly large waterhousing, I have never hurt or lost anyone. (I repaired Sean’s scalp wound. Being able to do that is another story) So in almost 15 years of filming all over the world, that means no bad cuts, head injuries, sprained or broken anything. Zilch. Nada. Zip.

I believe it is possible for anyone to have that track record. But Risk Perception, it is multi-layered, and I want to share one of the layers here.

This week has been full of Kite board filming and stills shooting. I consider this subject and utilizing a water POV to be exceptionally high risk for a number of reasons. A photographer could suffer instantaneous death from a variety of means. I am not going to go into the details, but this week it went smoothly. Here is one of many images collected and a part of a film I am developing. And yes, another Blue Note.

Blue Note: Kite

I always watch the Ocean. My connection to it is so involved and intimate, I am not going to endeavor to explain the relationship in a technical manner. But I will share some precepts.

My wife has been surprised to see the large volume of very high bar water work I have generated this Summer along our coast. That is unusual, as it is rare for the large combination of variables I require to attain my image quality bar, to happen in Summer. She sees the commitment and struggle, some of it anyway, as we talk about managing the vast array of details which comprise a career. Nevertheless, she has been remarking on what has wandered in the pixel door lately.

Two days ago things lined up for a special evening. I had been watching a break for some time now. Studied it, learned the parameters of tide swell, current, conditions etc. I thought it had potential to provide for some great work. But I had not yet swum it.  Eventually understanding risk comes down to going. You must go and challenge your understanding at some point, in order to convert the experience into knowledge.

Driving down Coast on a hot, blue, placid day I was inexplicably unsettled inside. When I got to the break I had thought we would be filming at, perfect little shoulder to head high peaks threw out in hollow top lit blue cylinders, in an idyllic California-esque  beach day. Woo hoo! But inside was a voice.

Looking down coast at that spot I had been watching, I saw a few waves break and recognized that today was likely as good a day as ever to swim the place. Lars Rathje arrived, who is one of my close collaborators. His younger brother Hans was on the way. With increasing excitement we watched a few well overhead sets roll through and I carefully loaded my SPL waterhousing, placing the Canon 5DM2 with wide angle zoom into the case, setting everything and then buttoning up and prepping the port. It is a routine and process which I have done literally thousands of times.

I tugged my wetsuit on, grabbed my housing and fins and we picked our way down the cliff to a narrowing sandy beach strewn with the odd big rock. Neither of us was 100 percent on what the bottom looked like. We suspected it would be soft sand as we had seen the break shifting a bit over the course of a year, and that shift usually indicates sandbar movement related to littoral flow.

As we got to the water’s edge I turned to Lars and said this on the most perfect beautiful risk absent day one could ever imagine. “Pay close attention out here today. Really close attention. There is something not right about this.

And we swum out. Below are the first and last frames I shot that night. Easy, perfect, brilliant, fun. Right?

First Frame

Last Frame

Here is what happened.

The lineup features two peaks, one a left and one primarily a right. On high tide (tide was filling in) a side wave pushes across the lineup creating an explosive and dramatic backwash condition. Part of what we were there to experience was the water morph. The first wave Lars barely got into it via the back door and as the side wave hit it kicked open. That dry hair shot above was the first one of the evening .

We had to play everything very close due to the combination of conditions, so frequently we were in touching distance. That is not so unusual for water work. I actually call this type of shooting “contact work” as one is generally within touching distance when one shoots. You endeavor to have the ocean and your approach create a near miss scenario. We both laughed that in the first 5 minutes we had nailed it. That does not happen too often. Perfection is complex. It takes some effort.

An hour later a wave double concussed and as I came back to the surface I saw that my housing had leaked. The dreaded Death all Water Photographers seek to avoid was in process. Due to the design of SPL’s system, the camera sits on a plate which keeps it elevated. You can technically semi flood a housing and not lose the camera if you are careful. “Hey Lars, I am out. Housing leak. Going to the beach and see if I can fix it. Camera is still alive.” Hans had just paddled out to join us.

I swum in, managing to keep the housing out of the water and in the shore pound saw I would need to take a wave to the body. In spite of backing in to the beach, I was very aware of my position. I knew that one big rock was nearby and where it was. The wave slapped me ashore and housing held high, I was swept up the beach right past that rock. Hmm. An hour down and several high risk potential things had gone down.

I climbed up the cliff, went to the back of my car, and disassembled, dried, cleaned and re assembled my gear. A half hour later I was back at water’s edge. The boys had moved back up the beach. The lineup was empty. I normally love that. But inside the voice was an alarm bell still. I had a close look, nothing apparent, dipping my housing, it was holding the seal and all seemed fine, so into the blue I plunged, and in 50 yards I was in perfect position for a beautiful backwash blast. The loud crack as the two waves blasted into oblivion made for a great capture. We all sort of live our lives in the impact zone, those of us that do this, and we truly love being there. So we mind the blasts. That is part of our innate risk management

Popping up I saw a sea lion gliding by. He was acting skittish. Not unusual. They tend to be a lot like dogs and are sometimes very friendly and at others, stand offish or aggressive. He disappeared. I noticed that I was the only thing on the surface. Then came that voice and something new: a tap on the shoulder. Something was out there with me. That never alarms me believe it or not. I just watch the water, keep my housing down around my legs and pay attention. It is not uncommon for sharks to come up and take a look at me and the sun was getting low on the horizon. It was nearing dinner time for the Sea.

I saw nothing. It had been awhile and the long period Southern hemi swell seemed to be lulling out so I worked my way into the shorepound, wishing that the boys would come back so we could shoot a bit more surf stuff. Near shore my inner alarm went off. It is this imminent collision intuition one has that was saying “Do not be here”. So I swam back out. Yep. As a blue wave danced onto the sandbar I saw the shadow and profile of the shark. Looked like a 6-8 footer.¬† I could not tell what type but assumed it to be a Thresher. Sort of reminded me of a Tiger though, by it’s movement. But that would be odd. He was headed away. The “alarm” went off. My inner voice was still alert.

I set about capturing and creating the images I was after, and in a bit Hans swam out to join me sans board. Bodysurfing the warm, slabby wedges. We connected a few times and were both laughing. In a bit we saw Lars wander back down the beach with  a stunning looking woman with him. They chatted a few minutes and he joined us, and began to work some difficult angles.

An hour later as the sun began to drop behind a coastal mountain to our West, I had bait rise flash all around me, and fish flew out of the water, encircling me in a silvery rainbow. I laughed. But I knew something caused that. I had seen it before swimming a remote wave in Mexico right before a very large Tiger had appeared mid wave and shown me the door.

Swimming back out, a wave doubled up and I eased under it. Uh oh. Shallow spot in the sand bar. The lip bounced me off the bottom, rag dolled me and as I surfaced, I saw some scratches on my housing port. Shoots. Damage. Repairable and the marks were not in the lens’ line of sight. Whew. Next wave was perfect. Nailed it. Then Lars, who was sitting further outside said “Hey David, check it out, we have a bait ball just offshore. Wow, did you see that? Two dolphins, a baby and an older one!”

We worked the last half hour alone as Hans had gone in and was watching us as the light ebbed. Then Lars went in, and I was out alone in the stillness of evening, light waning and realized that all was quiet inside of me. I swam to the outside shot a couple more frames and began to work shoreward. A set missed the outside sandbar and doubled up just as a backwash wave hit and I shot a final last frame, that beautiful one above.

So I dragged you along on this tale to explain that though what I do looks easy, and I make it out as such, one of the primary reasons is that I know the risks, yes, but that my perception is highly trained and tuned. That part is not so special nor as arrogant as it may at first read. It is how we all should be, who have a grasp on what it means to be human, living in a body, designed to walk the land, but composed largely of salt water, and wedded to the Sea.

Below are a few more of the 24 A list images from the evening.

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Awards and Praise

Thursday, July 25th, 2013
Backlite

Backlite

The above image was shot a short while ago. For me it is sort of the peak of  what is possible with modern DSLR imaging. The detail and various aspects which make an incredibly complex subject rendered to perfection are all there. This is why I am not posting the two images which are being discussed below, in  a pasted in conversation with one of my editors at Corbis.

My work evolves. It is far better than ever before. If that process was not building in such a way, I would stop. But many who die, who have reached bottom do not stop. And they are tenuously still in Publishing.

Here is that conversation.

“Wow, congratulations on the award”

It was funny Michele. I was at the Surfer Poll awards shooting for the magazine when someone came and found me and dragged me up on stage in front of about 3 k people, where my editor said ” A lot of people want to know how you did this, and how it was lit?”(It was one of the first images created using high speed sync flash, which Canon had innovated)

My answer as I looked out at the crowd: “I read the Canon manual. It is right there on page 18″ Everybody laughed and I grabbed the award and went back to work.

This image came on the heels of another magazine cover for The Surfers Journal which some in the industry called the greatest image descriptive of the sport in it’s History.

All that stuff is nice, but you cannot eat praise or awards.

Why Corbis matters. And it keeps me in the water somewhere in the world every day. Thank you !

Now back to the point of this post on Awards and Praise.

The way my work moved forward was via the connectedness and support of professional publishing which was run as a purely editorial concern firstly, to provide real time documentation of the sport as it occurred around the world. The second order of the day was advertising.

As the world morphed publishing reversed and editorial became advertorial and what we refer to in Marketing as the race to the bottom began. Then the publishing bankruptcies began. Out of this a restructure occurred when most professionals were jettisoned and literally told not to bother submitting work as it would not be looked at. Publishing then engaged a green new crop which could be more easily controlled and taken advantage of more or less. I won’t go into it, as the explanation is one of photobiz tediousness. But basically the publishing companies hit bottom and figured out a way to stay there.

Cue social media where a photographer can display his work and progress and connect directly to the market via Blog, Facebook, Twitter et al.

Cue Publishers who now say shunned senior staff cannot be published because they showed their work to a few people via their networks and that makes the image “dead”. What that says to me is not unlike the conversation of a jealous girlfriend who saw you talking to another woman and beat you up for it when you return home together each day. It just does not make much sense.

This is why.

Social media allows an Artist to connect his work and that of his publications to a far greater-different audience. The lack of understanding of how Permission based marketing and social media which is based upon it is exactly why publishing is hitting bottom perpetually. They do not understand the concepts of generosity and connection. Yet all great Art is based upon those things.

So what does that say about the greenies working for those struggling publications and the content itself?

Here is a cool vid I did for Blue Mind 2013 on Block Island¬† recently, which was part of a presentation I did on Beauty and it’s effect on Humanity. I bookended at the event with painter Ran Ortner, whose work I love.

Here is another I built using the latest iteration from Adobe of LR5 which allows motion to be included. It is created for a fantastic project which serves the restoration of US Military severely wounded (Purple Heart Veterans). The project is called the Never Quit Challenge which will be a historic return to NYC and Ground Zero of our people who sacrificed everything, in service to this Nation. The project details are in the video liner notes. Never Quit Challenge:Dancing Girl.

This image is from the Ocean Lovers Collective Blue Notes Project where we are building change that matters.

You can also support this incredibly ambitious project and my work, by purchasing Art via Ocean Lovers’ online store. Browse the site. See who is involved, and what we are about. If you like it, climb aboard. We are creating a new better world via intelligent approach to caring for people and the Oceans. There even is a new Realtime Gallery where work is uploaded as it is created around the world. Change that matters is collaborative. We need YOU for any of this to matter.

Blue Note of change

Blue Note of change

No plans to visit the bottom ever.

Onward! Aloha nui Loa.

Connecting

Friday, September 7th, 2012
Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design

In Nature, Mankind can see a remarkable intelligence exhibited within the context of  the architecture of systems themselves.

The reality is, that if we really want to see a land thrive, the best way to assist is to recognize the role of the individual.

Each has a part, and purpose, that if respected and watered, will enable the system to function with remarkable vigor. It is why many of us believe and live the tenet that “everyone matters”.¬† Because they do. Not in an identical manner, quite the contrary. They make a difference by us allowing for their diversity.

One of the better examples that I have read regarding biodiversity and modern culture, dropped into my e mail reads today, and is entitled “Business Lessons from a Quiet Gardener”.

So as we thrash through this awful economy, with all manner of trouble trying to grab the wheel in National, State, and Municipal Governance, maybe think a little bit about those in your garden, and how best to water, or maybe just provide a little bit of nourishment from your own existence.

Because when one thrives, in a biosystem, the potential for others to do so, increases as well. Lets do that: thrive.

Thrive

Thrive

For God and Ocean: A National Prerogative.

Thursday, June 14th, 2012
A Natural Perspective

A Natural Perspective

In watching the Platform Horizon Wellhead Blowout event, and our Organizational response to it, I was at once impressed and appalled by the dual scopes illustrated. At the time, and to this day, I see the event as a diatribe against an innate inefficiency and possibly abject failure of our Philosophy of Regulatory Control, where we politicize and adversarilize items of great National and Environmental interest, and thereby ask and answer the wrong questions.

In effect, we are endeavoring to solve problems using the same line of reasoning and thought, which created those problems. I could illustrate it in great detail in the following paragraphs, but most people’s eyes would glaze over. So I won’t. Suffice it to say, we need to change how we look at things.

In the past year I have gotten to attend some fairly high level, think tank  type events, where people who care more about the world, and the Oceans than themselves, have come together to examine our systems, which regulate the direction of man and his involvement in the natural order of our existence here, on this blue ball.

Blue Marble

Blue Marble

It has been informative, educational, inspiring. But all that being said, I have to posit something. “So what? Will that make us better?”

It might. That depends.

Clear Reasoning

Clear Reasoning

Lately, I have been involved a bit in helping on a project to resolve the radiation issues evolving from the ongoing Fukushima Nuclear disaster. A group of Scientists on their own, have actually innovated a solution that removes radiation from sea water. One of them was at my home the other night, and brought a paper written when they were 15 years old and a Parochial school student. They read it to me, and at the end, this well know research Scientist, one of the foremost in their field in the World, said this:

“I should have stopped right here. At the age of 15, I got it. I had the answer.” I have to agree.

What the paper, which was entitled “The Environmental Obligation” said in essence, was this. That we ought to approach our involvement in the natural world as stewards, and do it as unto God. That we were given a sacred trust, and have a larger moral obligation to ourselves, to approach all involvement as if we were answering directly to the grand Architect personally, because we really do, eventually.

She absolutely understood the value of higher accountability at 15 years of age.

But we do not engage in that fashion today. It is about money, it is about National Security, it is all done as a short term psycho-socio fix (as in drug fix) designed to make us feel better. But that does not creating a healthy economic nor environmental future. In fact, it is killing us all.

Those think tank events? Well they make me feel better. They give me hope. There are solutions. But we will NEVER see them implemented with any great positive effect anywhere, with current lines of reasoning and regulatory control firmly in place, because those control systems are out of step with both Natural Order and God. They serve money. They need to serve efficiency, not entropy,  if there is to be any real level of  public safety and sustainable progress implemented.  That is a common sense. No huge mystery or complex formula is needed.

Here is a newsy fluff piece from the Huffington Post. Many have probably missed it. But it is a teensy telltale regarding what we did on the Gulf Coast and which was both facilitated and exacerbated by the EPA, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, formerly known as the Minerals Management service. (Yea, the acronym really does sound sorta like “bummer”)

Read it carefully. This little story many will miss, is a grain of sand type telltale, an understatement possibly akin to the tip of an iceberg regarding what we did in the Planning, Mining, Regulation, and Disaster Reparation process.

The disaster reparation process was the largest endeavor of it’s kind in the History of the Oil industry. It was massive in scope, bigger than I can explain here in a few paragraphs. But here is the deal, really. What we did was akin to holding a beach cleanup party. In reality those are pretty stupid in the grand scheme of things, because the waste should never be there in the first place. And for every piece of waste you see? Well, there is a grand effect that you do not see.

Then there was the Corexit. Now, today, there is broad spreading death. There is a lot of money to be made in all of this for some entities. But not much efficiency. So the net large investment is really just massive capital loss for the Nation and the World. Corps just tack expense onto the cost of goods sold, increase the price (easy to do on an inflexible type commodity) and maintain their ROI levels. In effect, YOU pay for what they, and Regulatory control¬† do, or in this case DON’T do: Protect the Environment and National Interests. Because in reality, that is not what they are designed to do.

We really need to change this, if we want our Nation’s interest to be served. If we really give a rat’s ass about our children, our heritage and above all, our service to God. There is something very pertinent and important in the concept of “duty”.¬† This must begin with us.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts on point essay on the importance of Biodiversity is one of the best reads I have encountered in awhile. “Biodiversity and the Environment: Silent Spring for Us?” It describes the regulatory process’ role in our Socio-Economic system quite well.

About a¬† year ago, my friend George Orbelian, sat me down in his home at Ocean Beach in SF. “David, what are we going to do about Fukushima?” I laughed. I mean all things considered, it was a ridiculous question. Until we all began to really look at things in a different fashion.

A little over a¬† month ago an editor of mine got a hold of me. He was deeply concerned about Fukushima. He had actually been up there, and had seen people surfing near the disaster location and was appalled. “What can we do? What is really going on? This is being down played.”

What I had to tell him was this.

“You are fucked. You have killed the land, you have killed the Sea, and now your people are in deep trouble and this problem? It is a matter of National Security.” Then I put him in touch with all of the informational sources on the disaster and told him to seriously consider what he writes and reports on, as it would possibly not help things. I mean, where do you put a country full of people when a City like Tokyo has Rad levels in it’s soil, roughly akin to being classified as nuclear waste?

We can fix this. But what we have in place is not working. We should kill it off and start over with a  system that is collaborative rather than adversarial. You can get mad at a donkey for being one, but really that never gets anything done. Either shoot it, or give it carrot.

If we do not change what is in place, we have failed our children, we have disgraced ourselves, we have not honored what God has given us, and we helped destroy our Nation in process.

That is why I always produce and post so much beauty from the Ocean and Nature in my work. To make people fall in love. If we do that, really love and cherish what we have, then we will protect it. Really protect it, and not be mislead by the morally corrupt and bankrupt entities of the world.

Take a good look at this wave image below. In it is every color of the rainbow. That is important to recognize. Here is why. Colors represent energy signatures, frequencies of sound. So what this image is saying is that all creation is contained within the signature of the sea. If we fail to recognize that, then we lose much. But the sea? It will do what it always has, just without humanity as it exists, as we know it.

House of Mirrors

House of Mirrors

That is how we make a difference.

That is how we will matter.

We can do this.

Let’s start over while we can.

Seth Godin (again) says something very smart about Fear. “I don’t even know what I am afraid of”

Below are some incredibly beautiful images of a pretty darned healthy Ocean, shot off the California Coast near my home in Ventura California, and in San Francisco. Could it be better? Of course. Will it ever? Only if we change what we serve.

Everything to gain if we do. Everything to lose if we do not.

You can take THAT to the bank.

 

Letter to a Friend

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Sometimes waking moments are comprised of a tap on the shoulder regarding someone I care about. The note below, is as a result of one of those mornings. The person I sent it to, is someone who I respect as a visionary human being.

The images here, are what occurred when the ocean reined over first consciousness, and I rose to meet it.

“Found myself thinking about you today.

Just a note to say hi, and that I hope everything is going well, where ever you are, when this finds you.

Been dealing with incredibly smart and compassionate human beings lately, as well as some amazing donkeys with heels dug into the sod of the past.

I am constantly surprised at how people still feed at the pig trough of Political slop, which seems to be helping send this country down a dark alley.

Makes me appreciate the ocean’s singleness of purpose.

¬†¬† Aloha oe.”
A sea of light will always overcome the heart of darkness.

¬†“Is more always better?

Sometimes, only better is better.”¬† Seth Godin

Here is a unique and beautiful piece of music by Nahko, called Medicine for the People. Sent along by Jeff Parker

You can see and purchase my Art based work here, at Solitary Exposure.  At Corbis Images, if you have a Commercial request, and in various publications world wide. It is my plan to connect as many people as possible to the sea. In that is a unification of heart and purpose, as well as harmony.

Our world needs that. More than ever.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.

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