Posts Tagged ‘canon 5dm2’

The Value of Story: Mavericks

Friday, January 31st, 2014

I am just back from witnessing the spectacle which is the Mavericks Invitational big wave event at Pillar Point, Half Moon Bay, Ca.

There are a huge number of stories surrounding this event, and I must select a few, and share those in Editorial. I worked this event with Deniece Watkins Smith who is a budding Photographer, sage Silicon Valley Real Estate Agent and wife to Cary Smith of the Pillar Point Harbor Patrol. We shot the event together. It was a lot of fun, challenge, and rich with story!

Here is a great piece on the value of Story.

Here is Go Pro’s take from 2013.

Keep in mind that 2014 was almost double the size and Go Pro was ready for it.

Story is everything. Pictures help. Here are a few from Mavericks. The first two are Deniece’s. She was great to work with on this. The shot of Ian getting wrecked on his SUP in the intermission is priceless. The one of Twiggy emoting behind Jeff Clark on hearing of the win is Photojournalism golden.

Click on the images for a larger view.


_MG_1738 _MG_1865 IMG_6934 IMG_6960 IMG_6995 IMG_7000 IMG_7033 IMG_7065 IMG_7144 IMG_7158 IMG_7196 IMG_7205 IMG_7224-3

The image below is what I saw when I got home from Mavericks. Ventura, Ca. I was immediately away again. This is proving to be a rather Historic season for me in terms of quality and volume of work produced. I am still shooting on the Canon 5DM2 system and it continues to allow me to set a bar for imaging that is quite high.


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.





Surf Photography and the Super Telephoto

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013


A few of us have been discussing the declining economic validity of Surf Photography and ensuing demise in editorial based content for awhile now. Recently, changes to baggage rates by air carriers have added yet another challenge to those Photographers and Cinematographers whose content topics require super telephotos in the attainment of the rather high bar required in action sports imaging.

The image above was shot with the Canon 5DM2 and the 600F4 IS lens with 1.4x v2 teleconverter on a monopod. Add up the original equipment cost of these items (all recently serviced by CPS BTW) and you come up with a dollar total of approximately 10 K. The entire dimensional weight of the system makes it theoretically possible to place in a carry on bag for airline travel and thereby avoid the risk of check in baggage damage of using a heavy Pelican 5150 case and paying an extra 150-300 dollars for that bag each leg of your trip.

Here is where I am going. At today’s current market rate, that same kit will cost out at approx 16.5 K and due to the inept nature of TSA and increasing silliness in Customs, can create a massive boondoggle as one passes through those security checkpoints. One sage colleague of mine who has possibly logged more air miles than any of us, related a horrific episode at LAX Customs recently, when they searched his gear and threatened to confiscate it (think terrorist, not action sports or nature enthusiast).

So one recent tack and possible solution has arisen. The telephoto zoom. Here are two. The Canon 200-400 f4 IS, and the Sigma 120-300 F 2.8. The problems with telephoto zooms are largely compositional. (most of us know we need the 880 MM of a teleconverted 600 F4 frequently) The benefits are various. But the economic issue remains the same.  Approx 13k for a lens to create imagery that in an editorial market may not ever pencil out, at the approx $100.00 per page current buyout rate.

I will keep my 600 F4 IS V 1 and no way EVER purchase the V 2 as it makes no economic or real imaging sense. I will use it when budget and access requirements make sense.

No way will I purchase the  F 4 200-400 IS. Do I want it? Absolutely. Does it make any economic sense? None whatsoever. Then there is the look of F4 versus the look of F2.8.

I absolutely will purchase the Sigma  120-300 F2.8. Do I want it? Umm, not really, to be honest. It is a little heavy, likely not as technically on point as the Canon. But here is the deal for me. I like the look of F 2.8 especially for Fashion, and teleconverted on a crop factor body, like the new Panasonic GH3   or with the soon to be released Metabones speed adapter, the system is economically feasible, would have an outstanding look, and be able to create a realistic kit carry on for air travel that would be far less glaring to the potential jack ass working what we all laughingly refer to as “security”. It is a great compromise that makes sense in every way.

Accomplishing the goal of producing compelling high bar imagery on demand, any where in the world, in an economically feasible manner, has never been so challenging and so rewarding, as it is today. Rather than be under a black cloud about the downside, I am going to choose to focus on my own goals and have some fun with the shifting diorama within the Photography industry, where disconnection from market realities by Canon and Nikon and radically improved market focus from relatively small players and lesser knowns, is creating some fantastic opportunity for all of us as we move forward in this increasingly interconnected digital world.

Thanks to all of my remarkable colleagues for pushing the envelope in Photography and Cinematography in their own work, and in the generosity they display by always being willing to contribute to the ongoing discussions that define who we are: an independent creative group of freelance professionals, which will hopefully forever be at the core of authentic and high bar content creation, around the world in this crazy and fantastic, challenging, shifting diorama.

Below are a few more 88o MM images from this week.

Aloha oe. A hui ho.












Waking Dream

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011
Waking Dream

Waking Dream


Ever have one of those mornings where you awaken to an exceptionally pleasant reality? The scenario could be anything. But everything in your emergent diorama, is as a sensory massage.


A persistent tap-tap-tapping drew me as a man on a rope, to emerge from a rich and multi-hued pool of color, which slid warmly across my skin, as head to toe, my body emerged into the dimness of a small room.


I have dreamed in color for a long time now. It is no coincidence that in my craft as an image maker, the principle endeavor is to recreate what I experience via dreams, in the reality of a world that often, does not (nor should) reveal things in the light of my inner vision.


Eyes adjusting to the dimness, overhead in  grey smoked dark, I could discern the blurry, whirling, form of a large fan. White 4 foot long blades reduced to motion, as they stirred the humid dankness. The whop whop whop noise as the white blades cut shadow in the recesses of the mahogany stained wood crafted ceiling, just within eye reach: that had been the tapping noise.


Accounts of death suggest that hearing is the last sense to leave. In dreams, sound can be a sub psychic trigger, a subliminal suggestion. The process, is not unlike that which a hypnotist would use. I have found that many creatives experience that thing known as a waking dream. As one matures, the ability to bring substance into the shadow reality which is inhabited by the conscious light of day, (our workaday lives) can grow.


I have often suspected much of what we see around us in culture, is a result of this process, that of the waking dream,  which is suggestive of new potential and possibilities. The famous names who gave this account as being part of their process is impossibly long, from Inventors, to Philosophers and every pursuit of man that lies between the two. In deeper spirituality, you will find people who have learned to induce that state, as a tool.


The scent of clove and prayer, mixed with wood smoke. In a synchronous response,  several cocks crowed in unison. I was on Bali. In the stillness, soft breathing and a cocoon of warmth lay turned towards me. And slowly, I slid out from under a cool sheet, and in the dark, found clothes, camera and lenses. In moments I was roof top 40 feet above all else around our home stay in Ubud, Bali.


Ubud is a hilltop city. Our building was one of the taller ones apparently, which offered an aerie from which to peer out on East, West, North, and Southern, horizon points. From that spot, it seemed as if you could reach the firmament visually. Roughened concrete under foot, the weight of my Canon 5DM2 and L series lens hanging from my apish human form, I moved into a waking dream, and watched.


As the eastern horizon began to lighten slightly, the flow began, as all creation within a 360 degree sphere were considered as elements for a possible composition. Imaging is not much different than creating music. It is probably just how mankind was wired originally: to assemble and focus energies.


And for two hours, I played in the swirling light,  read the shifts, and saw what I had in my dreams. Onto a digital palette it went, a waking dream.




I have no illusions about myself, nor what my role is in the world.


As I finished up under the weight of the morning chorus, a work written as a result of experiences in Seychelles, came to mind. Such was the experience this daybreak. Michael Kew is am amazingly perceptive writer. His words follow….


[“You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities….” (Ezek. 28:18)]


[And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18)]

Anachronistic Tableau

Anachronistic Tableau


Pulsating, it rose in crescendo and veered to a different timbre. The melody soaked into the scene, resonating from the light with hues more potent than the notes themselves. Lifting, dropping, coalescing in vibrancy like a climactic omen. The place quivered in unison before and beneath. Instantly, a small vestige of shadow appeared in the color.

Bright white burst into silence, and all fell in awe as He exhaled…expelling the source of that orgasm of sound. The seething flameball arced through the heavens, swift as lightning, rolling in a thunderous shriek of anger, shock, and pain. Its source reeked of a new emotion: hate.

Writhing and steeped in spite with remnants of glory and brilliance, spinning off into the darkness, strata of divine obedience and empyreal beauty redeemed from Lucifer’s being. His transgression? No tempter for him, no blame—only one to account for and to. And his body touched the cold dirt of earth, raped of the light of praise, strength, solace, love.

Black, hollow, empty. A shell of what he had been, Satan slithered into the inky depths of his new found netherworld. Leering to the heavens, the night flickered with sparks, which faded, one by one, as a third of all God’s siblings followed in Satan’s fate.


[And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Gen. 2:7)]


(From the story “Bridge to Eden”, by Michael Kew)


Pushing open the intricately carved wooden doors of our bedroom, in seconds, I was undressed and sliding in between plain white sheets, arms slipping around the nude, soft, sleeping form of the woman I had flown around the world to be with.  As I softly kissed her neck, she stirred. “Welcome to Bali, David”.


Garden Dreams

Garden Dreams

Waking dreams are powerful things. Everybody is made for a purpose, and would do well to come to the understanding of where they fit, within the context of a more grand architecture. When that occurs, the dim understanding of how life works: brightens. That is a good thing to have happen in this existence. It is the essence of true creativity. This world is all about entropy. We are architected to be agents purposed with averting that. Those are the marching orders of creation. You see it wherever you look.

Best thing on can do really, be looking.

It informs the heart.




Here is the trailer from an interesting little film starring Robin Williams. A Waking Dream come to us through the artistry of Cinema, that is the melding of multiple Arts.

Below is a little gallery of images from my first few days here on Bali. Hope they create a tableau for you.




Waves: Neo Creative

Monday, January 17th, 2011


I needed to shoot more wave and water surf work after the past couple months like, umm, well let’s just say, I did not need any more work to satisfy my commercial or editorial clients.

But right now I am buried in post production work from multiple back to back swims over the course of several days. My feet have a couple ulcerous sores which are oozing blood. Caused by not having time to rinse some gravel out of my Da Kine fins in between sprints after a promise.

I have probably shot close to 10,000 winners in this genre. But the past several days saw a new tack for my creativity that came to fruition as a result of further exploration of the coast and the limits of the Canon 5D Mark 2 imaging system and Lightroom by Adobe.

What had heretofore been impossible and not even dreamed of beyond the canvases of Artists like Robb Havassey, Wade Koniakowski and Ron Croci, I have now found to not only be possible, but in a way to be better. Why? Because it looked like what my psyche saw.

It is a trip swimming around in the first few minutes of light. Often I see things that make my heart sing but which my words and camera do not seem able to communicate adequately.

That barrier broke this week. It happened all at once after 12 years of exploration.

Here are a few samples.

Seth Godin had this to say about pursuing a dream, and more.

Whew! Got it!

Whew! Got it!

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.