Posts Tagged ‘Santa Barbara’

The Ties That Bind.

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Alex's Flag

Been awhile since I have been able to write here. We have had an intense last few weeks. Deaths, Industrial espionage, amazing shooting days, Birthdays, you know: life.

I have been thinking on this the past two weeks, likely due to the betrayal experienced in the espionage. (I was serious)

Question I asked myself:

What is the difference between a Colleague and a Competitor?

A Competitor will grab your hand so they can pull you close, which facilitates a stab in the back.

A Colleague grabs your hand and pulls you up, so that together you may form a community.

Best to properly identify the people one invites into your community-family.

There is health and happiness in that.

Oh and we built a Calendar! You can find and buy it here, along with some other goodies which Donna has designed. It was a spur of the moment thing. Some people got theirs today and I hear they look great!

And Corbis is doing something pretty cool. Online image updates to my commercial library by live link.

Here is that link.

Here are a few new images. Every picture tells a story, or maybe leads to one.

Aloha oe.

Hans triple XS

Brendan White at Rincon

Chumash Bath

Golden Wave


The Percolative Effect of Mike de Gruy

Monday, February 13th, 2012


Mankind in Nature

Mankind in Nature

“Self-knowledge comes from knowing other men.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Oft times I will awake with my soul in what could be described as a jumble.

Ever use one of those old percolating coffee pots? The type which, when the water boils, it spews forth, on to fresh dark ground coffee, and the rich aroma of it will fill an abode with such a heady fragrance, that it pulls you from sleep? Well of course you have. That is where the social axiom arose from: “Wake up, and smell the coffee.” Well my position, is that our soul grasps the scent and composition of a thing while our bodies are in repose.

Today was a good example of the percolative effect. I woke with this in my heart. 5 am. Percolating. Effervescing. I could not rest. Out it came, onto the ground as dawn broke.

Yesterday was the Memorial Service for a colleague. Mike De Gruy.

Watch this TedX talk.

The phone in my little MS3 rang through the car’s bluetooth as I wound down Coast Hwy 1 on a stunning Santa Ana late afternoon recently. I was on my way to do a camera test of a recent repair by Canon on my 5DM2. Dr. Andrea Neal’s pleasant voice echoed out of the car’s speakers as I rounded Mugu Rock and saw the plate blue glass of the Pacific, extending forever in a windless, haze free, rare gem moment.

“David, Mike DeGruy died in a helicopter crash in Australia today”. My immediate response was: “Oh shit!”. The words hung in the air. It was as if I were a cartoon illustration, and the bubble scrawled on paper with the words, stared back at me. We rung off.

As I nosed the car down the sweeping turns made famous by a myriad of films and commercials, I rang my former Film Commissioner, and dear friend, Martine White, who was now back in the field working production as a Locations Manager.¬† When she picked up, the first thing that she asked, was if I had gotten her e mail? “Nope dear, on the road. Just back from Hawaii, and running a camera test before a Motion Picture shoot in SB tomorrow with Misa (My sister, a Santa Barbara Choreographer). Mike?”

I could hear the¬† sorrow in her voice. All of us in Production are close. We are soldiers in the battle of making a living in the field of content creation, which defines so much of what popular contemporary culture is. When one succeeds, we rejoice. When one suffers, we offer comfort. But when one dies….

Well, death is a process. We each as creatives need to figure out how to be. Because sure as the sun rising, someone will ask the question of us: “What do you think-feel about….”

“Mike died on a scout in Australia David” He and a pilot. The helicopter went down on takeoff. I am very sorry.” ” Ah yea, me too Martine. I just heard a moment ago. I am doing some work at the moment. I will get back to you in a bit.”

And there it was. A pebble had dropped into the creative blue pond of our lives, and the ripple created by metal to tarmac was spreading throughout the world. Mike DeGruy was dead. I had no words really. No feelings. Just a numbness. I have lost friends and colleagues to Helos before. It happens. As in much of what we do, there is an imminent signature of great danger beneath the facade of safety when we work. All of us recognize the potential risk. We prepare for it. Some of us train diligently.

I hate Helos. My aerial vehicle of choice is an overhead wing Cessna. I had a test pilot from the company explain to me how to ditch one at sea before. Unless you hit something, you will likely walk away from most incidents in a fixed wing small plane, or swim away. But sometimes, a Helo is the only tool for the job.

I did my camera test, and late that night I began my online research into the incident. A short search and I found a crash site photo which told me what I needed to know, professionally. This is what occurred to me on examination. I am guessing that both Mike and the Pilot thought that they could make it.

A chain of events occurred, which created a moment, that took their lives. All of us have those. Life is precious in it’s frailty, really. But in an incident filming, you plan, and never stop in your focus, till you return home, crew and yourself, safely to friends and family.¬† I was pretty sure Mike would have been expecting to pull it off, even as they hit the ground. I would.¬† None of us ever loses that focus. Ever. And Mike was good at this survival stuff.

Camera Test

Camera Test

My insides had begun to move regarding this.

Last night we all met in Santa Barbara at the Fess Parker Double Tree resort in a huge rotunda.

Donna and I were late of course. But we got there in time to hear one of Mike’s brothers tell Mike stories. De Gruy was one foking bright light. There was not one of us there in what was likely a crowd of multiple hundreds, who had not been touched by his passion and love for the Oceans, Mankind, and Community.

As the rotunda service ended, I stopped to speak with one of the guys wearing a mic doing security, who had asked me about the camera I held, as we walked in. They wanted to make sure no one was photographing. We had a funny moment when I had looked up at him and said, “We are at a service for a dead camera man” . He got it, and as Donna assured him we were not there to film it, he and I shared a laugh, in an intense instant of sorrow. THAT was de Gruy.

I shook his hand and thanked him for serving that day, it turns out he was a fan of Mike’s as well, and said he had really enjoyed Mike’s work. My response was this. “We all did. He made a lot of it. And it will be around forever.”¬† With a faint smile to each other we parted, and Donna and I walked to the beach where a soliloquy of sorts would occur.

In the course of all of us making a concentric circle around a big sand castle Octopus, and baskets of flower petals, I shot a bit and observed. What happened some may see as happenstance and a natural occurrence.



My relationship with Nature and God does not allow me that perspective.

As family and friends adjourned to the surf line, and a Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol boat sped near shore and let fly with it’s water cannons, and we all bid farewell to one of our own, I watched something develop almost instantaneously in the sky above. As the sun set behind the Santa Barbara Mesa and afterlight blossomed, I watched as one cloud became two, and a massive red exclamation point expanded over the Western Horizon.



In my native culture, we believe that the soul leaves here for the next plane in the West, it sort of follows the sun.

Some things and people never really change, but they do evolve. That cloud meant a lot to us all.

I would imagine he had seen friends and family gathered, and just then had caught a glimpse of what lay ahead of him. He was just like that. A living, glowing, exclamation mark.

Possibly one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen, that cloud. I think we all knew what he was saying.

Aloha oe.




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.




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.

Surfing Is

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
David Pu'u, Self Expression

David Pu'u, Self Expression

The motivation for this piece began with the publication of the following story in the WSJ, to which I contributed an image of my girlfriend Donna Von Hoesslin. Read the comment section, post story, and you will see a diversity of opinions (including mine) that are quite revelatory about each person‚Äôs point of view regarding surfing. Those statements reveal everything about those people’s depth of involvement with the ocean. The commentary engaged me.

I have always been a surfer. At four years of age I knew that goal was what my life would be about. To know the ocean, (and to surf) became my path.

In a lifetime of study and involvement in all things water and ocean related, I learned many things about the ocean that never cease to amaze and moderate me as a human being.

Waterwoman, Hailey Partridge

Waterwoman, Hailey Partridge

Water has got to be the single greatest creative foil for mankind ever. It always wins. (You cannot compress it.) It is alive. Within it, and especially the sea, is contained the genetic signature of all life, which ever existed.

But what I find remarkable, is that as a Hawaiian, my ancestors gifted the sport, and the resulting culture that arose, for reasons many may not readily comprehend. I have long been convinced that surfing and the resulting relationship with the ocean serves to be a mirror of who and what a person is. In it, is a near perfect reflection of everybody’s true compass heading for their lives.

As I document and observe the people involved with the ocean, to me, the depth of every single human being is readily apparent by seeing how they relate to water.

In  a world of people aspiring to be called: surfers, surfriders, eco warriors, watermen, and all manner of ocean branded things, it is readily apparent, what surfing is to those people. You can always tell who really comprehends the ocean,  and whether that person is there to simply use it to brand their movement or maybe just find a means of validating themselves.

Hard to fake it with something so vital and alive as the sea. She always triumphs. Even if her own time frame is an eternal one. It is we who fade into her, and eventually she is us.

Performance as a Mirror of Involvement

Performance as a Mirror of Involvement

Seth Godin was thinking along similar lines today. His Blog.

My ancestors knew exactly what they were doing.

Like the ocean, truth is eternal.

Carmine Rush

Carmine Rush

Best to embrace it.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.