A Pearl Harbor Photo Pilgrimage.

A low-light sensitive imaging sensor and a perspective control lens were used for capturing this dramatic predawn view of the Pearl Harbor National Monument's new visitor center for - Seattle Architect The Portico Group. Photo by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

A low-light sensitive imaging sensor and a perspective control lens were used for capturing this dramatic predawn view of the Pearl Harbor National Monument’s new visitor center for – Seattle Architect The Portico Group. Photo by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Multimedia essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Whether you’re a filmmaker, fine-artist or commercial photographer, you need to be resourceful in a full-spectrum of talents to have viewers take a serious interest in your work.

For the past 12 years I’ve made traveling to the Hawaiian Islands a priority.  In this tropic paradise, my experience is one of creative renewal, brought on by inspiration from the Island’s “Aloha spirit” and dramatic volcanic landscapes.

Iconic view of Diamond Head, from Waikiki. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Iconic view of Diamond Head, from Waikiki. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

On the Island of Oahu, Pearl Harbor, has been a great interest for me. Some years back, The Portico Group — a Seattle architectural firm began exploratory work for designing a component of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Pearl_Harb_VC_BPP_e76

In 2008, I contacted a principal architect, Mike Ham at Portico with news of my planned travel to Oahu.  At that time, preliminary stages of design were just taking place and there wasn’t much opportunity in photographing the site. Undeterred, I made arrangements for a window seat on a Hawaiian Airlines, Boeing 767, which would allowed access for aerial photographs of the Pearl Harbor site. Fortunately, clear weather did allow me to photograph the Monument on approach to Honolulu Airport.

There are beautiful architectural design elements within the visitor center. This one captures a Zen like composition. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez

There are beautiful architectural design elements within the visitor center. This one captures a Zen like composition. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez

Upon returning from the trip to Oahu, my aerial photos were emailed to the architect.  I followed up with a phone call … although the feedback was polite it was revealed the timing was still too early in the project for the firm to consider using photography.

If you’re a dedicated photographer, you realize the value of patience and learning from both success and failure while reaching for your objective. This applies to resourceful technical and creative approaches, which are used to achieve your vision and the equally challenging strategic applications used for marketing that unique vision.

Looking back from the Arizona Memorial  towards the new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument Visitor Center.  Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Looking back from the Arizona Memorial towards the new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument Visitor Center. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

By emailing new photographic work over several months, I kept in contact with Portico and learned in 2010 that the project was nearing completion.  Unfortunately for me, I would not be able to attend the December 7th dedication and would be arriving in Hawaii two months later. It was decided by the architectural firm, that a local architectural photographer would be hired to shoot the new center.

The new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument's Visitor Center is a popular destination for national & international visitors.

The new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument’s Visitor Center is a popular destination for national & international visitors.

Undaunted, I asked for the opportunity to photograph the visitor center in February, with no financial obligation to the firm.  The architect agreed to this offer by providing me with a National Park Service administration contact in Honolulu.

Youth and elders view a globe showing where the conflict in the Pacific  was fought during World War II. Photo: David Johanson Vaquez ©

Youth and elders view a globe showing where the conflict in the Pacific was fought during World War II. Photo: David Johanson Vaquez ©

A couple of weeks before flying to Hawaii, my contact allowed me to view images the Honolulu photographer took back in December. The photo coverage was good, with many angles of the new center shot, using various times of day for best light.  This review confirmed my approach would have to be a new approach from what was previously used. With the help of some intense research methods using Internet images and information gathered, I became familiar with the site’s geographical attributes before arriving.

At 30-thousand feet in a Hawaiin Airliner Boeing 767, we begin our decent as we approach the Island of Oahu. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez ©

At 30-thousand feet in a Hawaiin Airliner Boeing 767, we begin our decent as we approach the Island of Oahu. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez ©

The February, 2011 flight to Hawaii was pleasant and as the plane was approaching Oahu I could clearly see Honolulu. However, after de-boarding the plane, blue sky had given way to a partial mixture of dark clouds.  Phoning the national park services, contacts, the staff informed me the forecast was not promising for my intended early morning photo shoot. So I decided to be flexible for the next week, while watching local weather forecasts for an early morning photo opportunity. After a few relaxing days under a blend of tropical sun mixed with passing clouds, a favorable forecast came in for the assignment.

Entrance to the Pearl Harbor National Monument's Visitor Center. The Battleship Missouri & USS Arizona Memorial are in the background.

Entrance to the Pearl Harbor National Monument’s Visitor Center. The Battleship Missouri & USS Arizona Memorial are in the background.

Traveling in darkness I arrived at the site, prepared to use the predawn light.  Scouting the visitor center a few days before, revealed a hill, which would be ideal as a shooting platform. Using some available artificial low light, I took a series of carefully composed photographs. Soon twilight gave way to sunrise, revealing a vibrant panorama backdrop of multicolored clouds in my viewfinder.  As morning light lit the visitor center, I joined the legions of visitors descending upon open gates.

The forward magazine of USS Airzona exploded after being hit by a Japanese bomb , December 7, 1941. Frame clipped from a color motion picture frame taken from on board USS Solace.Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection

The forward magazine of USS Airzona exploded after being hit by a Japanese bomb, December 7, 1941. Frame clipped from a color motion picture taken from on board USS Solace.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection

The "Tree of Life" sculpture,  is used as a universal symbol for renewal and rebirth of life.

The “Tree of Life” sculpture, is used as a universal symbol for renewal and rebirth of life.

The shores of Pearl Harbor, and the Arizona Memorial, have persistently drawn me to this honored site. Several members of my family have served in the military, and I have gratitude for the dedication and sacrifices during their time of service.  What began at this historic site, as a surprise Japanese attack, on an early December 7, 1941 morning, brought our country into WWII.  The individuals, who were under fire here, exemplify the strongest dedication to preserving and defending our nation, particularly those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. An unseen force pulls me to this place, and I offer homage to what happened at his historic site.

This photo which was taken September 1941, is part of another essay on Cuba and Panama, which was impacted by the Pearl Harbor attack.

This photo taken in September 1941, is part of another essay on Cuba and Panama, which was impacted by the Pearl Harbor attack.

The first photo essay I posted using WordPress was about my mother as a young girl traveling to Cuba and then Panama by a steam-liner in September of 1941. My grandmother was taking my mom and her baby brother to the Canal Zone to meet with my grandfather who was stationed there with the Navy. They had only been united for a couple of months before Pearl Harbor was attacked. My mom along with all Americans were forced to evacuate, for fear of a Japanese invasion. A German U-boat shadowed the ship my family was evacuated on in the Gulf of Mexico and I’ve included a link at the end of this essay for a related story on the Pearl Harbor attack.

USS Missouri "Mighty Mo" Iowa Class Battleship - The last battleship built by the U.S. and was the historic site on which the Japanese Emperor  signed the surrender agreement to end World War II.

USS Missouri “Mighty Mo” Iowa Class Battleship – The last battleship built by the U.S. and was the historic site on which the Japanese Emperor signed the surrender agreement to end World War II. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

My appreciation for 20th century history is another reason for my interest in this National Monument. Historically the Pearl Harbor attack represents a great milestone, a solid beginning as Pax Americana —[the U.S. ascending position as undisputed world leader for the second half of the 20th Century.]

Once inside the Monument’s entrance, helpful park service staff greeted me, as they were expecting my visit. The beautiful tropical morning light illuminated the site ideally as I photographed the visitor’s center from all the best angles.  Pearl_Harb_VC_BPP_e815

Leaving Pearl Harbor after a successful shoot, I felt fortunate the weather had been so cooperative, as it produced a combination of soft, diffused light with interesting clouds to ad sky texture.

Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

For my remaining visit on Oahu, was an enjoyable and relaxing time with family and friends.

At Jackie & Mark's home we're etertaine with some live Hawaiian Music.

At Jackie & Mark’s home we’re etertained with some live Hawaiian Music.

We all came together for couple of nights to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday in Hawaiian style with great food, live music and Hula dancing.

Our Hawaiian host coach the Johanson father & sons act to do "The 3-Step Male Hula Method"

Our Hawaiian host coach the Johanson father & sons act to do “The 3-Step Male Hula Method”

Celebrating the former Marine, Dave Johanson's 80th-birthday near Honolulu, Hawaii.

Celebrating the former Marine, Dave Johanson’s 80th-birthday near Honolulu, Hawaii.

Waikiki umbrella 2011

Of course I found some time for my personal photography work. Hawaii has some remarkable subject matter, which is always worth discovering. Pearl Harb essay 2011

Beside the gorgeous tropical landscapes there is a diversity of Ocean Culture to experience.

On the Island of Oahu there are urban scenes with blends of South Pacific, Asian and North American cultures creating a unique, Pan-Pacific experience.

One of my creative specialities is night or low-light photography. The moon over head gave a halo rim-light on the palm trees.

One of my creative specialities is night or low-light photography. The moon over head gave a halo rim-light on the palm trees.

Honolulu has some high-density urban environments with high-rise hotels and condominiums.

Honolulu has some high-density urban environments with high-rise hotels and condominiums.

Perhaps the sense of renewal I experience while working and playing in Hawaii is due to this unique fusion of culture created on the Islands.

A night view overlooking Waikiki Beach and the volcano crater Diamond Head. David Johanson Vasquez — ©

A night view overlooking Waikiki Beach and the volcano crater Diamond Head. David Johanson Vasquez — ©

Photo: David Johanson Vasquez ©

Photo: David Johanson Vasquez ©

Pearl_Harb_VC_BPP_a1373

Pearl_Harb_VC_BPP_2ec1432

A skyline view of Honolulu's Waikiki area. —David Johanson Vasquez ©

A skyline view of Honolulu’s Waikiki area. —David Johanson Vasquez ©

Another influence I draw from this land is the constant vibrant growth of plant life — along with continuous volcanic activity, which never slows down as it furiously creates new land on a daily bases.

Upon returning to a cold winter in Seattle, several days went by before a meeting could be scheduled with the Portico Group.  Once the meeting did take place, a couple of lead architects, along with marketing manager, Leigh Tucker, reviewed the photographs I brought in.  The response was enthusiastic and appreciative for the photographs presented, along with compliments for my approach of using subtle light to help illuminate compositions. Two dramatic photographs were purchased at the presentation in order to meet a deadline for an architectural awards competition-taking place that week. These initial purchases covered all my expense of travel and lodging  while on Oahu. Within days, more images were acquired from me, which featured views not included in the earlier photography completed at the December dedication event.

This rewarding photographic experience was a classic lesson in fortitude, patience passion and not giving up, no matter how challenging the odds are.

Nighttime on Waikiki Beach.— David Johanson Vasquez

Nighttime on Waikiki Beach.
— David Johanson Vasquez ©

Mahalo nui loa! ~

Resource Links for more information and learning:

World War II Valor in the Pacific – World War II Valor in the Pacific National

Monument

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument – Arizona Memorial

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument | National Park Foundation

The Portico Group | Architects | Landscape Architects | Interpretive Planners | Exhibit Designers

Flights to Hawaii, Hawaii Vacations & Travel – Hawaiian Airlines

Male hula dance: Learn the movements…

Pearl Harbor Images

A Glimpse Into Havana’s Legendary Watering Hole | bigpictureone

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A Glimpse Into Havana’s Legendary Watering Hole.

By: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

This intriguing photograph is from September 1941 with only a few short months before North America entered World War II. The people gathered in this photo are in the old section of Havana, Cuba; at a bar whose name was Sloppy Joe’s.  Jose Garcia owned the bar, a popular sandwich on the menu called, “ropa veija,” is what inspired the bar’s name.

The woman sitting in the first row, situated between the two gentlemen is my grandmother, Alicia Klukas Vasquez.  My mother, uncle and grandmother were all traveling together on a large ocean liner from Brooklyn, New York to the country of Panama. The first port of call was Havana Cuba, a sitter on board the ship watched over my mom and uncle, while many passengers, including my grandmother’s group explored Old Havana.  I vaguely remember seeing this photo, at a young age, so it didn’t have a lot of significance for me back then. This week after being asked to scan the photo for making prints was the first time I really looked at the image. Now, the intriguing group of people, in a scene charged with atmosphere as if from a Golden Age of Hollywood movie, captivated me. In doing research I learned this bar was where Hollywood celebrities and world artist of the 1930’s through the 50’s would go when in Cuba.  Writer Ernest Hemingway lived in Havana when the photo was taken, and was a good friend as well as a loyal patron of the bar’s owner. Sloppy Joe’s attracted iconic actors; John Wayne, Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracey when they arrived in Havana. Learning of the watering hole’s patronage, I enlarged and examined the background in detail, to see if a famous face was peering from the shadows.  The bar remained popular and active until the end of the 50’s when Fidel Castro’s communist revolution closed the doors in 1959.

After the ship departed Cuba my grandmother and her children arrived in Panama where my grandfather was stationed in the Navy. Now united, the family was together for less than three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Fear of the Panama Canal being invaded by the Japanese army, required all American citizens to be evacuated. On an ocean liner once again, my mother and her family were halfway to New Orleans when a German U-boat submarine began stalking their ship in the Gulf of Mexico. The captain of the ocean liner desperately, but wisely had all families bring their children above deck to line the railings for the U-boat’s German crew to see it was a civilian passenger ship they were about to attack. Fortunately, the wolf-pack sub slip quietly under the sea and was not seen for the rest of the voyage.

A fortunate update on Sloppy Joe’s in Havana has it being restored and should reopening in the near future. I hope the opportunity for me to travel to Cuba with my camera comes soon, as I would love to revisit Sloppy Joe’s and attempt to photograph the same camera angle used to capture that moment-in-time when my grandmother was there with her party.