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Dolphin Rescue

 
 

*This is long but worth the read. ** I know the pics are bad quality but it's the best I could do considering the circumstances of the rescue and with a little point and shoot I was using at the time of the rescue. 

I try not to talk about myself, post selfies, and go on and on about what I do for a living on social media.  I like to just let my photographs, my art, speak for itself.  But this... I have to post. 

I have been working on tour boats on and off for the last 2 years.  We take people out to enjoy our beautiful ocean and enjoy the living sea here on O`ahu and in Kona, on the Big Island. While working for @HawaiiExperiences I have seen so many amazing things. Every day in the water is unique and I love it!   Spinner dolphins are probably my favorite creatures to spend time with.  I love their personality, the way they play, and I absolutely love watching how they interact with each other.

When we are out on a tour, I am in the water taking photos of our encounters along with our guests, a tour guide and 1 to 2 safety swimmers.  We show our guests where the dolphins are and have them look at them from the surface.  We do not chase the dolphins, we do not drop in on top of the pod, and when they decide they are finished swimming with us, they leave.  It's a beautiful experience for everyone to be able to experience dolphins in the wild and in their environment and not pay to see the poor dolphins acting as slaves in abusement parks in captivity. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to document these amazing creatures with a camera.

A few days ago the pod was finished swimming with us and went their own way.  The guests were all out of the water and back on the boat and only my friend Julie, who was the tour guide that day, and I remained.  I ducked my head back into the water so I could take my fins off when I spotted something directly under me on the ocean floor about 50-60ft below.  It was a female spinner dolphin, all by itself, and barely moving as it hugged the sandy bottom.  I signaled to Julie to look with me and we both noticed that the spinner had what appeared to be fish netting wrapped all the way around her entire body.  It turns out that it was not fishing net but a very large section of plastic barrier netting used on land.  We looked at each other and immediately knew we had to try and save her if humanly possible.  

The dolphin was moving very slowly, still hugging the bottom.  It could not move its pectoral fins because the netting was wrapped so tightly.  The blow hole of a spinner dolphin and it's eyes are in line with each other and the netting started just an inch or so behind her eyes and blowhole, wrapping around both her pectoral fins, dorsal fin, tail stock, and tail fluke and trailed off about 2 to 3 feet behind her.

We floated on the surface following her slowly as she made her way along the bottom just hoping that she would soon surface and breathe.  About a minute later she started ascending slowly.  Julie and I positioned ourselves within arm's length of each other and directly over the spinner.  The spinner turned and recognized that we were there and surfaced directly in between us.  She exhaled from her blow hole and did not attempt to swim away or dive back down.  She was asking for our help and we were happy to assist.  I wrapped both of my arms around the back half of her body between her dorsal fin and tail fluke. There was no fighting, thrashing, or trying to get away, she just calmly laid in my arms breathing in and out several times.  She was exhausted and let me just hold her while Julie carefully unwrapped the netting from around her body.  It took Julie about 30-45 seconds to unwrap her and once she was finished I asked her if the netting was clear and if she got it all?  Julie excitedly said yes and I gently let go of the beautiful creature and watched as she slowly glanced back at us with a look of appreciation on her face.  She slowly began to swim and move with normal flexibility just under the surface.  We watched her head off into the vast blue distance as she no doubt went to go find her pod, her family that had no choice but to leave her behind.

Julie and I were high-fiving, hugging, and screaming with excitement as we held the evil, man made monstrosity out of the water and signaled for our boat to retrieve us.  We couldn't believe what just happened and were so thankful that she had come to us for help. 

I like to think that we not only saved her life but also the lives of her future offspring, her offspring's offspring and on and on for generations to come.

PLEASE re-think plastic, remember to take your trash with you when you frequent our beautiful beaches and if you see any rubbish near our shorelines, please pick it up and take it with you.  If we don't take care of this beautiful place we've been blessed with, who will?

PLEASE, don't buy a ticket to a dolphin show or "swim with dolphins" program anywhere in the world. They ALL contribute to what is going on right now in Taiji where they are slaughtering and capturing dolphins from the wild just so that aquariums, dolphinariums, swim with dolphin programs, resorts and amusement parks can keep their concrete tanks filled and bring in more money. 

Go out and enjoy them in the wild where they belong. 

Hawaii Photography Tours Features Michael and CreationScape

I am always honored and never take lightly when someone recognizes the hard work that goes into my images. Hawaii Photography Tours just added me as a Featured Photographer on their homepage and I'm super stoked!  Chris Rose and Hawaii Photography Tours are absolutely amazing for what they provide for photographers here in Hawaii and I couldn't be more honored to be interviewed by them.

 

National Geographic Picks "Sea Ninja" as Winner of Underwater Challenge

When I was growing up I remember walking down the stairs into my favorite place in my Grandparen's house... the basement. There in the basement with wonder and amazement, I stared down the tall bookshelves that housed hundreds of National Geographic magazines. Mawmaw and Pawpaw had been collecting them for years and for me, they were an unending source to feed my sense of creativity and expand my small world into a big one.  I would flip through the pages and just dream for hours of what it would be like to travel to all the places I'd seen literally all over the world and what it would be like to have interactions with the animal I'd seen running through the plains of Africa or swimming in the great seas that cover our planet.  I'll forever be grateful to my Grandparents for this. 

This morning I awoke to the news that the National Geographic Channel on Instagram had selected my image "Sea Ninja" as the winner of their "On Assignment" challenge in the category of "Underwater".  I can't tell you the flood of emotions and excitement that brought me and the overwhelming sense of accomplishment.  I know it's not legitimately published in their magazine but for me .... it felt just the same.

I will continue to capture the wonders of this world and share them with the world and maybe one day ... just one day ... one of my photos will be printed in one of those yellow bound books and some other kid will be inspired by what their eyes see.


To get your very own print of "Sea Ninja" visit the CreationScape Online Store and Gallery.

CreationScape Raises Money for Local Charity

On the evening of May 2nd, I made my way into the artsy community of Kakaako in Honolulu to participate as a guest artist at a charity event.  I was completely floored and honored to be asked to help raise funds for Project Focus Hawaii.  ProjectFocus Hawai’i, Inc. is a nonprofit organization established in 2005 as a means of giving at-risk children a healing voice through the medium of photography. At ProjectFocus, photography is used to teach at-risk children to express and gain perspective on their experiences. The program strives to enhance self-esteem, self-awareness, and self-reflection, all critical components in fostering the resilience necessary to make a fulfilling life from challenging ingredients.

Here is an interview with the founder about the event:

They approached me to donate some of my prints for a silent auction during the event.  I donated 4 high definition aluminum prints and to my delight, my prints brought the most money in for the charity out of all the other artists! What??  That seems so unreal... I was completely humbled to hear it! Not only that but one of my pieces brought in the highest bid for one piece!  

 I was also completely taken aback when I saw the other artists my work was hanging next to.  Some of the best photographers I know of donated and I got to be counted amongst them. WOW!  Some of the other artists included my friend Alisa Greig ( alisagreig.com ), and two guys who I have admired for their artistry and aspired to be like... Jay Greiner ( Jay's Instagram Feed ) ... and Clark Little ( clarklittlephotography.com ).  Again, to be on the same wall as these guys means the world to me and I count it a complete honor.

Now for the most amazing part of the whole evening... getting to meet the wonderful people who bid on and won my pieces!  A highlight of the evening was to learn that the co-founder of the organization, Laurie ( Laurie's bio ), won my piece "Laying Low".  I was thrilled that she loved my work and just had to have it :) Here are the wonderful ladies that walked away with my prints:

All in all it was a wonderful evening celebrating amazing people who make a huge difference in children's lives every day and I'm so glad myself and CreationScape got to be a part of it! 


If you would like to purchase any of these 4 prints from the auction, they are available now at the brand new Creationscape.com online store and gallery!  They are available on professional photographic paper prints, canvas, and these beautiful and light-weight high definition aluminum prints!  What's great about the aluminum is that they are completely waterproof, UV proof, and scratch resistant ... not to mention the colors really pop on these beauties and they are light-weight and easy to hang!

Actor Chris Egan's CreationScape order gets delivered!

Chris Egan and Michael Hardie hold new aluminum prints. 

I just delivered my latest print order to my new friend and actor, Chris Egan!  You may recognize Chris from his films: "Letters to Juliette", "Eragon", and "Resident Evil: Extinction, or more recently from his lead role in the television show "Dominion". 

Chris had noticed the Creationscape gallery on Instagram and loved several of my images and wanted to buy some for his personal collection.  What's really cool is that I had just finished watching season one of Dominion and was loving the show when Chris contacted me!  He was going to be on Oahu for a few days and wanted to know if I could meet up and hand them off. 

I love meeting up with and hand delivering prints to clients when I can.  Seeing the joy and excitement as they unwrap them makes all my hard work and effort worth it.

Chris is not only an amazing actor and very skilled at his craft but he is also very kind and down to earth. I'm thrilled I was able to provide something he'll enjoy for years to come! 

If you would like to order Aluminum prints like these or any other products please click here


What it's like to visit Outer-Space

No, I didn't actually pay $250,000 and hop aboard one of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space flights, but ever since I was a kid and even to this day I have yearned to journey out of our earthly atmosphere and experience the open expanse above.  I'm not sure if I'll ever get the opportunity in this lifetime to go interstellar but I did recently get to experience the next closest thing. I traveled with my good friend & diving partner Alberto to the Big Island of Hawaii to do something I always said I'd never do ... jump into the ocean at night, under the cover of darkness, into the abyss where you literally see nothing. Well, I conquered my fear and what I experienced was nothing short of extraordinary.  Join me as we journey into Garden Eel Cove and encounter the majestic, gentle giant of the sea, the Manta Ray.

Diving with Manta Ray in Kona, Hawaii 


Here is some excellent background music to go along with this particular blog post. Enjoy.

 

Let me start by saying that I did my research on the best company to use for this once in a lifetime experience and I'm so glad I did.  I decided to go with Big Island Divers in Kona. They were not only professional but made us feel like we were the only ones on the trip.  I highly recommend them if you ever get the chance to take part in this experience. 

The trip consisted of 2 dives, 1 twilight dive and 1 night dive.  First the twilight dive.

We headed out toward our dive spot - Garden Eel Cove.  The sea was very rough and the weather was not pleasant at all. Windy, rainy, and very choppy seas made the trip very uncomfortable on the way out as those on board were being tossed around and the rest were trying to stay warm.  The amazing staff at BID made us as comfortable as possible and let us know right away that the weather, although bad, was not so bad that they would cancel our trip... something we were all worried about.

We finally made it to Garden Eel Cove and the scene was very surreal.  

The sun was almost down, the sky's were a worrisome grey, and it was misting on us... probably the closest you're going to get to a winter day in Hawaii.  Once we anchored down and got settled we started getting briefed on our first dive.  The knowledgeable staff told us about the landscape below, what we may see and the normal rules about staying together and not killing yourself. We started suiting up and almost immediately we started hearing reports that the giants we came to see during the night dive had already started arriving and they were under the boat. There was also a pod of bottle nose dolphins in the area that I immediately spotted not to far from us.  We were all ecstatic and were now in high gear trying to get all suited up and ready to 'giant stride' into the cove. 

 

TWILIGHT DIVE - GARDEN EEL COVE

I can't explain the feeling you get as you're standing on the edge of a boat looking into the deep knowing that there are giants underneath you... but it's something I wish all of you could experience.  I'll give more information on the mantas a little later when we journey through the 2nd dive but for now I'll just show you some photos.

Surreal doesn't even begin to explain the feeling of navigating above the sloping, coral landscape.  Peace, tranquility, and eerie silence is what enveloped me.  I could barely comprehend what I was seeing... I knew it was real but it felt more like I was in a dream state.  I'll let the photos speak for themselves.  In them you will see my first encounter with the gentle giants I've come to love as they glide effortlessly along side, underneath, and above me ... also an absolutely amazing coral mountain slope and other fascinating sea life.

 

Use left and right arrows to scroll through photos 
 

DIVING AFTER DARK - OUTER SPACE 

Re-surfacing and climbing back onto the boat I realize this will be an evening I will absolutely never forget!  If the adventure would have ended right then and there I would have been left in awe, telling of my experience for the rest of my life... but it didn't end ... in fact there was so much more to behold, but to experience it I would have to conquer one of my deepest fears.

I don't know why but I think we have all been afraid of the dark in one way or another at some point in our lives.  Whether it's in your bedroom as a child or walking down the street at night with no street lights... there is something that has the power to grip and paralyze you.  In my adult hood I had defeated all other forms of being 'scared of the dark' accept for 1 area... the ocean!  The thought of sinking into the vastness in complete darkness where the only thing you can see is the tiny beam of light coming from your little light just terrified me.  I had come too far.  I was not backing down now. This was it!  My heart was about to pound out of my chest as we were sitting there in the dark, listening to the safety briefing and teetering back and forth on the rocking vessel. 

We're all geared up, our heads are spinning from all the information we'd been given, our LED tracking lights are connected to our BCDs so we don't get lost in the darkness, and we are ready to jump into the unknown.

I'm standing on the edge of the boat and it's my turn.  I have the same churning in my stomach that I had the first time I ever jumped out of an airplane at 12,000 ft... the only difference is ... this time I can literally see nothing... I thought, "at least in outer space you can see planets and stars"... here, nothing.  I put my regulator in my mouth ... uttered a silent prayer and leaped off the boat.  I was immediately disoriented and felt cold. I was confused, wet, and desperately trying to orient myself with the surface and trying to find the light of our underwater guide.  Breathing very heavily I finally got my bearings and could see our guide over near the anchor line of our boat.  I quickly swam over to meet him ... grabbed onto the line and began to calm myself and control my breathing. There we waited on the rest of the divers in our group to come meet us so we could descend to the ocean floor and witness something beyond amazing.

Garden Eel Cove is one of the only places on earth where you can experience and get up close and personal with Giant Manta Rays at night as they gather in large groups to feed.  Here are a few facts about these magnificent, gentle creatures:

1.) Mantas can grow to nearly 25 feet from wingtip to wingtip, live for a quarter century, and will consume about 60 pounds of plankton and small fish each day by filter feeding.
2.) Despite its size (1-2 tons - the weight of a average car), manta rays are completely harmless to humans with no stinger and 300 useless skin covered little teeth. Being filter feeders, the standard diet consists of crustaceans, plankton and small fish.
 3.) Mantas have the largest brains of all 32,000 species (approximately) of fish known to date. They display intelligent behavior, such as coordinated and cooperative feeding.
4.) Like leopard sharks, manta rays can be individually identified by the spots on the underside of their bodies.
5.) Mantas, were once tagged with the unflattering name “devilfish” because the cephalic lobes attached to each side of their mouths resemble horns. When extended, the flattened lobes help direct food into their mouths.
6.) Giant manta rays, in particular, are truly deep-divers. To keep these large brains warm these rays have an amazing counter-current heat exchange system going on within their veins and arteries, which allows them to become effectively warm-blooded, or at least keep their temperature more stable than most fish.
7.) Mantas produce only one large baby on average every one to three years. They also grow slowly and have a long lifespan, some wild manta rays have been seen over 30-year-periods.
8.) Mantas have no bones in their massive bodies, their structure is made of cartilage. 

 

We are now all on the ocean floor shining our lights up toward the surface to attract the plankton that the mantas will be feasting on.  Snorkelers are on the surface shining lights down toward the floor thus creating a crazy light ball in the middle.  The plankton have to be the dumbest creatures on the planet because every night around the same time these lights show up and they think, " It's light outside ... that must mean it's morning time... think I'll go see what's going on over there", and then they become a meal for the hungry and excited dinner guests!

The photos will explain the experience far better than I can so I'll leave you with this:  

I can literally say this was one of, if not the best experiences of my life and I urge you, if you ever get the chance, do it!  These giants, with wingspans of up to 16 ft were larger and heavier than most cars and were gliding around like massive spaceships that I've only seen the likes of on Battlestar Galactica.  They were so graceful in their movements, displaying twists, turns, summersaults, and scooping down right on top of my head ... touching me... but not harming me.  The draft and wake of their powerful bodies would drag me through the water as they passed by. Most of the divers that were with me were picking up rocks on the seafloor and putting them in their laps so they wouldn't be swept away by the manta's current.  Being so up close and personal with these majestic beings made me realize once again, just how small I really am in this world.

 

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For more daily photos, follow Michael on Instagram
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