At a certain depth you become negatively buoyant and you naturally start to sink. The sensation of being pulled down into the depths can feel unnerving at first especially as the pressure of the ocean starts to squeeze you. But once you learn to embrace it, it changes everything. It’s one of my favorite feelings as it feels like you are being pulled home all while given the sweetest ocean hug. 💙 . Photo by @cinematowski
The pod was swimming towards us but right before they reached us, they veered off slightly and we could barely see them pass by underwater in the distance. “I guess they aren’t interested in us,” I thought as I swam to @krystlejwright to tell her we should go back to the boat. But right when we lifted our heads out of the water to talk, we saw dorsal fins on the surface in the distance. “Something is happening,” I said; she nodded. We had spent enough time with them to recognize how they move together in unison- but this was different. Dorsal fins, all moving in different directions, towards each other, weaving in and out of a circle with deliberate speed and precision. “They’re organizing themselves to hunt aren’t they?” Krystle grinned and nodded again. We just floated and watched it all from a distance; the birds started to circle above them and the energy of everything came alive. Right then, the circle of action started moving our way! Instantly there were orcas everywhere, speeding by! It was intimidating and fascinating all at once. Then just like that, it all went quiet. I looked down into the darkness and saw nothing. Nothing except one single bubble slowly floating up right to us. I watched the bubble grow and when it broke the surface, it popped, revealing the dead herring it was hiding, snapped in half like a pencil, the air had been escaping it. Orcas use their tails to slap and stun the herring, then carefully eat them one at a time with such precision. This one was stunned so hard, its spine snapped. It still felt too quiet as I took a dive down to where the bubble came from. Then I saw them- poor little guys. A small dark cloud of herring, huddled together in such fear, I swear I could see them trembling as I approached them. I backed away, honestly not wanting to scare them more and right as I did, a big beautiful bull orca swam up from the blackness below and we both faced each other in a vertical position, belly towards belly, before he continued up onward to fetch his wounded prey. All I could do was watch in wonder. Those moments will forever be engrained in my mind. This photo by @krystlejwright is of that magnificent bull.
I once had a 5 minute conversation with a girl I met in a beer garden. It was an environmental fundraiser and I was diligently doing my part for the planet by drinking my overpriced beer when she came up and introduced herself. She said her name was @krystlejwright and she had an idea she’d like to talk to me about. She asked me to join her on a Norwegian expedition to the Arctic in winter. She was a photographer, hoping to document diving these frigid dark waters and also hoping to capture images of orcas while we were at it. I said I was in. She seemed surprised; I was too. And just like that, my $20 beer and our 5 minute conversation were done. I didn’t see her again until a year later when we actually met up in Norway. We braved the cold; we endured the darkness -and we drank whiskey. We got along like sisters who had known each other our whole lives. We talked all night through the boards of our bunk beds. And yes, we also swam with orcas. There’s a million details I’m leaving out of this story- of how hard Krystle worked and sacrificed to make this all happen, how I received my plane tickets 2 days before the trip, how she treats both her work and her crew better than most high-end creative companies do. Or what made me say yes to begin with- reoccurring dreams from my childhood of black and white creatures from the deep. Dreams that would leave me with chills to last a lifetime. But I guess the point is, sometimes you just get a good feeling about someone; sometimes your goals will never add up if you measure them with the wrong set of rules; sometimes you simply have to trust your curiosity over common sense and see it through. The first shot by @trent_mitchell_ was when we emerged from the depths where we swam with a pod of orcas. Usually after a dive on a shoot, you talk about the shot. I knew we didn’t quite get it down there in the darkness so I looked at Krystle and shrugged. But I made a funny face as I did because I couldn’t hide my heart from exploding with joy over what we just saw. She threw her head back- the laughter poured out of her. Trent erupted next. No words, just minutes of pure laughter rolling like thunder through the dark sky. 🖤
Surround yourself with light, beauty and love. We all have a sense of belonging in nature if we let ourselves find it. It’s where we come from after all -and it’s what we are. Glad to have found mine way down here. 🐟🖤. Photo by @perrinjames1
I was on a shoot for @staywildmagazine . I had been looking forward to it for a long time but when it came, my heart felt broken. The day prior, my mom had fallen again and broke her back. I immediately flew to Maui be with her and realized this was the official start of a new stage of life for the strongest woman I had ever known. I spent 24 hours at her side, then she urged me to go and get on with my work and life. I returned to Oahu, surrounded by a great crew of people but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t smile or fake it. I finally told them I had a hard time accepting that I left my mom’s side to do work but I also didn’t want to break my commitment to them as they had flown a long way just for this. Scrappers, the guy in charge, immediately told me, “Kimi, next time do what’s best for you. We would’ve hopped on a plane to Maui and met you there or understood if you needed to cancel completely. Don’t ever hesitate next time.” This was actually the second time I was told this on a shoot when I found myself too worried about my mom to concentrate. We paused production and talked like old friends and I let myself cry about the gut wrenching pain I feel when I see her suffering and can’t help her. It felt good to talk about it and though it didn’t change the reality, it helped me release some of the pain and see the beauty of all sides of love. It was right then, in the most polite and compassionate whisper that photographer @jennysath asked, “Is it ok if I take your picture, just as you are?” I nodded and kept my head down for a moment before looking right at her- knowing that my truth is the best and only thing that I can give to this world. And it won’t always be pretty or cheery but it still deserves to be seen. Shortly after this, Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I now feel so grateful for these moments and lessons because they validate to me how damn lucky I am to still have time with her. Now I’m combining my love for my mom into my creative work- as our next film will be about her ❤️. It’s been bonding and beautiful. I am SO grateful to not only share her great story but also keep it forever. Mahalo @olukai for believing in this!
Papua New Guinea friendships are constantly still going through my mind. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t sat still enough since to let them sink in or even start to process them. But maybe life isn’t always about processing; it’s about feeling. I feel them a lot; I miss them a lot. And I’m grateful for that.
I appreciate the feeling of missing people. It actually means a lot to me and feels like a gift I get to take with me wherever I go. It used to make me sad to miss others but now it’s a souvenir of sorts that serves as proof of love. I miss my mom and my family when I’m away from Hawaii. I miss people who have passed away and left this physical world. I miss a horse named Tanunga who years ago, safely got me through a journey across Botswana, Africa and took care of me dearly the whole time. I miss my old dog Tonka and can still retrace every inch of his furry body and how happy I felt to pet him and have him as my baby. I miss so many people I’ve simply met along the way. I’d run out of space if I were to name everyone I feel myself missing yet somehow that persistent aching makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. When you give love, you get love. -no matter what. For love comes in many forms. And to know all sides of it, the hard and the happy and cherish the wholeness of it all makes me more whole too. With every aching sensation and each tear that sometimes falls, it almost always ends in a blissful grateful smile because I can’t believe how lucky I am -to still have so many loved ones, no matter where they are, still making me feel. . Photo by @coco.la.nebbia
Back in the arctic circle and getting ready for the cold. It’s been a while since I did any serious cold water diving and it’s definitely bringing back some memories from the past. My body starts to clench up just thinking about those “ice cream headaches,” the pins and needles poking any exposed skin on my face, my fingers going numb and all the other pains and hardships that come with wetsuit-freediving these kinds of waters. But I also remember the beauty, the magic and the sense of mind-blowing discovery that takes over all else while exploring this world. I can feel my body going back and forth, both preparing and dreading it at times but with every step closer, I can feel it say, “OK, I got this.” . Photo by @harborhouselife