Thursday, July 21, 2011

South Shore Sunset
Woke this morning to a cool, steady rain...

While much of the mainland swelters in record shattering heat, the islands are enjoying an uncharacteristic weather pattern of strong, gusty trade winds, frequent trade showers, cloudy skies and pleasant temperatures along it's windward shores & slopes.

This, of course, makes for pleasant living & working conditions... cutting down on the sweat factor & need to water the gardens. For certain photography projects, however, like the one I'm in the middle of at the moment... current weather conditions are hanging things up.

Studio bound yesterday & today as a result. Yesterday, we were to have been working on a campaign requiring beach shots highlighting the pristine water and blue skies of the Maui fantasy vacation. We got grey instead and things have been pushed back a bit. Which is just as well, really. Required permits for filming on State & County beaches have been a challenge to obtain with new hurdles recently imposed by the state. For instance, approximately 30 days ago, a requirement that all vehicles on site must now carry $1 million in liability coverage, whether or not they are used in production was instituted. While this is being fought by the State Film Authority, the new policy stands for the time being. Insurance underwriters require time, several days I'm told, to up coverage and then draft & send new certificates of insurance that must accompany each location's permit application.

We've also learned in the process that if you plan on sending talent into the ocean, a certified Ocean Safety Officer must be hired to oversee the production during the water-shot portions. Said Ocean Safety Officer must also write up a Rescue/Safety Plan for each location which must be submitted along with the rest of the paperwork required for the permit application.

A process begun last thursday... all requirements met, all hoops jumped through, all application paperwork in order & submitted, we now wait... for the governing State agencies, namely the Department of Land & Natural Resources, to sign off on the permits. Still waiting...

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to submit a bid for a hospital project. The assignment called for environmental portraits for up to 10 doctors & other medical staff, in multiple locations within the hospital environment. The Art Buyer requested expenses for stylist/wardrobe person(s) & their travel to & from Maui to be included. Usage request was for a Buy Out.

Taking all of this information into consideration... I prepared two options for the client... knowing full well that they would balk at the costs of a copyright buy out,  that their ultimate goal was to not have to come back to me to re-license rights of use every 2-5 years. Also knowing that doctors are notoriously late for appointments, I budgeted for a two-day shoot, planning on 5 portraits in 5 locations each day This would allow me, crew & stylist only 2 hours to move in, set-up, compose, light, test, groom, dress, shoot & re-pack for each portrait subject in their corresponding environment during a minimum 10 hour day not counting a break for lunch. The budget also allowed for a day of scouting locations at the hospital to determine rough camera angles, lighting requirements, access to power, etc.

License option #1 offered the client unlimited use in perpetuity with exclusivity for five years. This gave the client ultimately what they wanted, usage-wise, without sending the budget thru the roof; still allowing me to retain licensing rights to other, non-competing entities in other markets after the initial 5 year embargo. Without going into proprietary details, I'll just say that my budget for Option# 1 came in well over $10k... a bargain compared to a budget for similar projects on the mainland (I'll go into this a little later). Option# 2 granted the client a full transfer of copyright as requested and carried a much heftier cost.

To cut to the chase here, I didn't win the assignment. In my brief, customary post mortem with the Art Buyer, I learned that the winning bid was roughly $3k less than my Option# 1 and was from a Honolulu photographer who also had to fly in to do the assignment & would probably also need lodging for at least one night. 

I was feeling a little bad about not winning this one... we had put a lot of effort into preparing the proposal, given the client many suggestions about wardrobe & art direction ideas that we felt would really kick up the final impact of the images. Then I learned of the winning proposal (don't worry, I don't know who you are) I didn't feel so bad... there's no way I felt I could produce the quality of work this client deserved by shaving off time required in order to get the budget down around $7K. 

Then in a moment of serendipity, I log onto A Photo Editor's blog this morning to find that Rob had posted another of his ongoing Real World Estimates series. This entry, again in collaboration with the Wonderful Machine group, outlined the estimating thought process going into an estimate for a project very similar to the one I write about above, this project differing only in the number of portrait subjects (15 instead of 10) and the inclusion of video capture. The estimate includes a 2 year license for local print collateral & web use of up to 17 images only. You can find the entire discussion here. Be sure to click on the individual estimate forms contained in the article, enlarging them to view the actual breakdown of costs.

I feel much better now about the bid I submitted. I know we gave it our all, offered a lot of suggestions for art direction and costed out each expense & creative fee competitively. Still, it's never easy to lose work to a low bid. That, however, has been made a little easier to take given the fact that a quick look at the books this week showed that for the year 2011, business is back in the saddle and a steady flow of excellent, stimulating assignment work has been coming in. Just this morning, another hospital project arrived via email... and from the very same Art Buyer. Her hands were tied by the State to accept the lowest bid on the last one. This time around, the project is smaller in scale, but the budget is already outlined and it is doable.

Early in the week, a big project we have been working to secure for nearly a year now got the green light. Commissioned by a large resort management chain based in Florida, this assignment will involve travel to four islands to capture architectural images at 10 different resorts. Plans are underway already for Phase One where we will head to Kauai for at least nine days of shooting. Then it will be off the the Big island again for five days, a few days on Oahu... 
This project alone will help round out the books, putting things back into the black column and helping to fill the financial hole created during the past two years of assignment doldrums. 

But, I'm still waiting for those permits to be approved... still waiting for a sign that the weather will break and turn less hostile to tropical fantasy photographs. We are now tentatively scheduled to shoot next monday. The weather forecast thru next wednesday is looking less than promising for our morning location. Art Directors, Producers & talent from Honolulu still need to book flights to be here on shoot day...  and I still don't have those permits...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

May You Find Your Way In Peace

It is with a great & heavy sadness that I mourn the passing of friend & inspirator of many years.

Charles Ka'upu, Jr. - Hawaiian Chanter, Kumu To All, World Traveler, Kolohe Kane died here on Maui early this morning, shortly after returning from Japan & Okinawa. He was 53.

I am speechless... as, I'm sure, are all whom he touched along his way. His loss is sudden, unexpected. A great man in heart, in stature... possessing a voice that shook both heaven & earth, Charles' departure leaves a void. 

Aloha Friend.

Charles Ka'upu, Jr. 2005

Charles performing with HAPA:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Postcards From The Edge Of The World

The call came in early tuesday morning. "Tomorrow is the day! Let's do it!" said the voice on the other end of the line. The voice belonged to none other than old friend, celebrated author & recently "retired" nationally syndicated columnist Tad Bartimus. 

I first met Tad roughly ten years ago when she first decided to settle here on the island. Tad & her husband had fallen love with the remote village of Hana, nested on the craggy, lava strewn, wind tossed and wave beaten eastern coast of the island... maybe not exactly the "edge of the world" but it might as well be. 

Separated from the civilized parts of Maui by a narrow, formerly pot-hole filled & winding road of fifty-two one-lane bridges... Hana seems like another country separated in time & space. Hana Maui offers the visitor none to the great Disneyland-Golf Course By The Sea attractions most guests of the islands seem to come for. There's no shopping mall, no golf course, one hotel and only a handful of bed & breakfast joints and campgrounds for the adventurous traveller. There's a general store & another small market. There's one gas station (I noted that the price for regular was $6/gal). Cellular phone service is spotty at best. 

What Hana does offer is the opportunity the really get away from it all with it's pristine empty beaches, secluded waterfalls with the obligatory pools for cool, refreshing swims in icy mountain water. Every shade of green is proudly on display along the roadside as your drive out, each winding turn growing deeper in shade &  verdancy. Frequent rains impregnate the air with moisture... you can smell mother nature working overtime.

Ah... but I digress. Let's get back to Tad; the reason I found myself hurling thru the hundreds of turns and over those narrow bridges along the eastern coast well before dawn last wednesday morning. I mentioned at the beginning of this screed... already out of control long before I've gotten the the meat of the matter, that Tad was retired. Certainly a misnomer of the first order... the word retired implies that one now has free time to pursue their bliss or to do nothing at all. And, while Tad is definitely pursuing her bliss from what I could see during my brief visit, inactive she is NOT. Tad retired her widely read column a year ago and is now writing for local state publications these days... that is, when she's not busily involved in her tiny community. And involved she is... Tad has truly embraced the Hana lifestyle & from what I could see, Hana has completely reciprocated and embraced her back. 

My part in all of this was to drive out and capture portraits of Tad in her environment to illustrate one of her recent stories destined for print publication. The photo editor even upped the editorial fee because I was going to have to go to Hana to complete the assignment. I wasn't going to tell him that Hana is, hands down, my favorite part of the island & any reason to head out that way was A-OK by me.

Tad, the retired columnist, had other plans for me in the works. When I awoke & checked my email in the pre-dawn hours of wednesday morning, she had already sent a list of things I should get familiar with & photograph in anticipation of another handful of articles she was pitching to various publications while I was in town.

Our plan was to meet at the hotel where she and a group of kupuna (elder community members) met regularly to exercise in the heated waters of the hotel pool. "The bobbing-heads", she called them... "lovely folks".

Arriving at the hotel gates at the appointed time, I was warmly greeted by a feisty group of seniors... men, women, Hawaiian, Haole... all residents of the village. As a gentle rain began to fall, the heads slid gracefully into the water to begin their routine. I watched quietly as an elderly, wheel-chair bound gentleman was rolled onto the deck by an obviously devoted wife. Frail & challenged on land, he entered the water and was immediately set free, swimming lap after lap of the large pool's length, an immovable smile plastered across his lips the entire time.

The women gossiped among themselves, flirting shamelessly with the buff young hotel fitness guide as he led them through a series of aquatic maneuvers. As the rain drifted in a thick mist, I lay prone beside to pool with a long lens as these gracefull heads drifted in & out of my view... the soft light ethereally illuminating the blue water.

At the end of the pool session, a small group of the women approached me asking if I had heard the expression "banjo on my knee"? I nodded the affirmative in response, a little confused, when one of the women lifted up her knee, the others cackling in laughter...

"Banjo On My Knee"

Next on Tad's shot list was a trip to Mahele Farm, the Hana community garden. Here, family groups and kids from local schools come & go... planting, weeding & maintaining what looked to be about a 2 acre plot of land brimming with leafy greens, beans, corn, herbs, tomatoes, the ubiquitous taro and god-only-knows what else. The activity when I arrived showed small groups of men, women & children busily tending to the plants while in the shade of a wooden lean-to, another group sorted through the abundance of the morning's harvest. 

The word Mahele means "to divide". In exchange for a couple of hours of labor in the fields each week, those that choose to participate in the roots agriculture program take home as much of the bounty as they wish or need each wednesday. I talked to a few of the people working the fields who told me that there were maybe 20 or so families that showed up regularly to till the soil each week, but the produce they took home each week fed hundreds of Hana residents.

Impromptu "classes" were also being held with the school age kids about how to farm... how to plant & tend for the plants,... basic classes in sustainable organic agriculture.

The sprit of cooperation and shared effort here was so obvious immediately upon my arrival. Also obvious that there was something growing here besides food crops. Seeds were being planted both in the soil & in the souls of the participants. 

Kaio Martin works a small patch of carrots tucked amongst the elephant-ear leaves of a taro patch
Seth Raabe, agricultural expert/advisor at Mahele Farm, shares a "bean-eating" grin

Sadly, I had only an hour at the farm (I'll be back!) before I had to meet Tad again and begin work on my actual assignment. This time, we met at a small tidy home, nestled in a small neighborhood overlooking Hana Bay. The home, occupied by "Dot" one of the "bobbing heads" from earlier in the morning, has become the defunct "social club" in town. Dot, a retired beautician for years at the hotel, is the resident beauty expert and hairstylist extrodinaire. In a  enclosed sun porch converted to a make-shift salon, Dot tends to the coifs of the towns fairer sex... no fees are charged but clients will usually leave behind a donation for her services. In the shade of what's left of the porch not entirely enclosed, friends gather to play backgammon, catch up on news and gossip or sip on a cool drink. Known to everyone as "Dot's Social Club", this is THE place to get the inside scoop on what's going on in Hana & beyond.

After an hour or so at Dot's, I had a handful of reasonable Tad portraits and we were off to meet more friends & take more pictures. Time doesn't allow for any of that now... but we will continue this little tale very soon.