Monthly Archives: March 2019

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Whale and calf in the warm waters of Hawaii, photo by Bill McDowell

When I first saw this photograph I was struck by its beauty: the blue waters with an island in the right hand corner background; the Humpback whale’s tail, its graceful curve as the ocean water cascades off of the flukes. Then I noticed the clear image of the baby in the left foreground. What a magnificent shot!

I kept looking at the photo, entranced by it’s clear delineations, especially of the calf. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a photo like this. On further study, I noticed that the right fluke of the Humpback (in reality, it would be her left fluke) is not only damaged, but half gone. When I went to sleep, my last thought was what could have caused it? In the morning, I started researching. Two hours later, I’ve learned a lot.

For the last four years, my husband and I have lived in Hawaii in the winter. (When we were younger, we’d say that when we got old, we’d do just that. One day, we looked in the mirror and decided unanimously that it was now or never. The time had come!) We love the Big Island (Hawaii) and love sighting the whales that come by from December through March. But I wasn’t extremely curious about the whales–just accepted their presence while marveling at seeing them breach and slap their tails loudly on the water’s surface.

photo courtesy of Jennifer Muscatel

I knew that the Humpbacks left Alaska in the fall, but I didn’t know their annual migration of 6,000 miles is one of the longest of any mammal’s. It takes them six to eight weeks to reach Hawaii. This is where they mate, give birth, and begin nurturing their calves. A calf spends about a year with its mother.

But seeing the injury made me curious. I now know, for instance, that it’s called lobtailing when a whale sticks their tale into the air, swings it around and slaps the water. It’s thought that lobtailing could be a form of communication or a way to loosen parasites from the tail. It’s very loud.

So back to the injury. What could cause it? In my reading, I found out that there could have been a killer whale attack, or a collision with a ship. But the number one reason for the whale tail injuries is that the whale becomes entangled in some fishing gear. Of course, I have no notion of what caused this Mama Whale’s injury. I just wish the both of them well on their long trek back to the reality of icy waters in Alaska.

  • Whalefacts.org has a lot of other great information.

Double Exposure

I had the most interesting experience yesterday—it was also enlightening.

On my walk every morning in Hawaii, I pass by the Canoe Club, a private facility for members of Hualalai Club. Yesterday as I chugged up the incline I noticed a photo shoot in session. Since I do the Members Blog, I stopped to take my own picture of this Hualalai happening.

Ah hah, I thought. This is the demographic they aim for: a young woman and a middle-aged man.

I took several photos of the set up and then of the silver haired photographer taking the photo of the couple lounging by the Jacuzzi. I guessed this photo would end up in a magazine, either advertising life style or the swimwear the two wore. I could see the woman was young and beautiful (although I never saw her face). Although I was at a distance from them, the man looked much older than she was.

I left and walked back home, creating a whole story about the modeling session, the models and the photographers. It was a good story with all kinds of judgments and critical assessments. I was happy with the picture I’d taken and the picture I’d created in my mind.

Then last night, I met all of them: the photographer, his assistant and the two models. It was a mind blower! I didn’t want to give up the story I’d woven for the actual reality, but what are you going to do when you’re confronted with the real people?

The man was much younger looking close up than from a distance. The woman looked just how I thought she would even if I’d imagined her.

“So here’s what I thought,” I told them. “Whoever you were shooting for, the demographics were a young woman with an older, successful man.”

“Thanks a lot, I think,” the man said.

“You look much younger, now that I’m meeting you,” I said.

He grinned, looking even more boyish.“ Now that’s good to hear.”

“How old are you?” I asked.

It turned out he was 53 and she was 40.

“Ah, so I wasn’t far off.” I gave them my know-it-all smile.

I told the photographer I’d taken a picture of him photographing the couple. “I hope I framed it well,” I said.

I turned to his assistant. “It was so early this morning it looked like you needed a cup of coffee to keep you awake.”

She looked startled and then gave me an embarrassed smile.

It turned out they were all from Oahu. The man was a teacher who worked with students from the Marshall Islands. I’d worked with students from there the year before when I volunteered at Palamanui Community College, so we chatted for a while.

As my husband and I walked away I said, “I feel like was just in a Woody Allen movie.”

“What do you mean?”

“Remember in “Annie Hall” when Marshall McLuhan shows up? That’s how it felt. Kind of like a bent reality.”

As I tried to fall asleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about meeting the real people who’d become figments of my imagination. It was interesting. But also a bit more than unsettling.