Mauna Kea

February 16, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Photos have a genuine power to inspire, change and provide a sense of wonderment to a person or to people all at once. Taking photos over the past decade has given me the most immeasurable thirst for adventure and exploration on this rock called Earth.

For the first time in 10 years, these photos are being shown together. I’ve shown one or two over the years but not like this. These photos are for me the best I’ve taken. I've travelled to some amazing places on this planet but the reason why these selection of photos for me are the best and will never be bettered is purely because for me they capture the essence of exploration and adventure, the intangible desire to explore, challenge the boundaries of what we know and where we have been and ultimately where we are heading. Every time I look back at them, I get re-energised, I feel truly alive.

Sometimes you need what I call ‘constants’ in life, key markers in which you can look back on to see how far you've travelled, not necessarily in the literal sense but emotionally, psychologically, and mentally. These selection of photos are my ‘constants’ and one of the most powerful.

It’s hard to describe the feelings that went through my mind witnessing the sun setting above the clouds. To say it was an awe-inspiring experience is an understatement. Standing there was an achievement of sorts, notwithstanding that I was still able to breathe. Mauna Kea is one of the only places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in about 2 hours, so altitude sickness is a high possibility. There's 40% less oxygen than at sea level at Mauna Kea. I certainly felt it but we made stops on our ascent to acclimatise. It’s weird breathing thinner air, we were told to move and walk slowly, don’t rush. That was the mantra as told by our guide.

Hawaii was the midway point on my round the world trip back in 2005, it was the destination for which I would relax for a week as the previous 2 months was just non-stop travelling around Japan, Australia and New Zealand. I’d been taking photos since Japan, but nothing would prepare me for Mauna Kea. Having only spent 3 days on Waikiki, and on our way out of our hotel, we hastily decided that Waikiki was boring, well I got bored of it and we headed to the hotel travel rep and within 20 mins had booked 4 days on the Big Island.

I loved everything about the Big Island and I felt more relaxed. Being surrounded by wild landscapes was a breath of fresh air. It was on the very first day that we went for a walk to get our bearings from the hotel and came across a tour company offering visits to Mauna Kea and the only day they did was on the second to last day of our visit. After deliberating for all of 2 mins, plumped up payment from my card and paid for the tour. That being sorted, we headed to a nice ocean view restaurant and ordered chips, and chicken burger with pineapple.

These photos offer a deep personal reflection on not just me, but on life and the whole universe. A universe with some estimated 100 million black holes in our galaxy in which time itself doesn’t exist. Yet time is something we as humans celebrate as well as something we denounce. The world isn’t perfect and there is a lot of sorrow and heartache that takes place on this planet. When you think about it, this lonely speck’ is full of amazement. All around, there is life, with boundless variations of colour, all weird and coming in wonderful shapes and sizes. We humans, while capable of the most atrocious crimes also have the infinite capacity to do good. The technological innovations, the knowledge in the sciences and the wide canvas of the arts never cease to surprise me and every one of us, every day. As a photographer, I use my camera as a tool for exploration, as an instrument to evoke change and ultimately to connect us all, as images speak the same language, when it comes to taking photos and using the moving image, there are no barriers.

We all live in the vast cosmological black but if you look around, there is also the light. We are the very stuff of the cosmos. The atoms that were born from exploding stars, billions of years ago. We came to be out of the confluence of matter and energy to realize ourselves and to know what surrounds us. A quote by Professor Brian Cox saying ‘we are the cosmos made conscious and life is the means by which the universe understands itself’ sums it up.

In the vast cosmic darkness on other planets, other life exists, all made of the same atoms we are made of and like us, they too are searching, searching for answers. The yearning to look to the stars is the same no matter what planet you're on.

We really only know a handful of people on this pale blue dot that we call home.

We that all said, it still can feel lonely when we know that the only thing that is certain is the emptiness at the end of our existence. We rarely talk about it or address it but does linger in our minds from time to time. From the moment your born, time starts ticking.

Over the years, some have said to me how can I live without believing in a God, heaven or hell. How empty I must feel and sad I had no one to look up to or pray to. Religion was an ideology that went through my mind. I’m not religious and lost faith with it when my dad died over 20 years ago. I believe in myself and ultimately I'm in control of where my life is heading. Proof of this was happening right there and then. But actually, for all my apprehension caused by the void, I truly feel more alive than most people I know. Done things which most will never do in their lifetime. I’m alive and lucky that, in all the magnitude of space, a place that we can barely grasp, I'm committed with the privilege of exploring and seeking adventure, and meeting the people I love. A wondrous chain of events shaped our lives and made all of us meet in the vastness of this cosmos. This through travelling all over the world. That's truly amazing, suffice to say its pure awesomeness!

We live in a world where as much as we talk of global peace, inherent democracy that works for all, we as humans will never achieve such heights of fancy. History has shown us to be greedy, selfish, murderers and stupid but more importantly that we as a species like all others have flaws in which are not easy to talk away or hide and ultimately unless something happens, the only thing that is killing us is ourselves. The planet will survive just fine without us and has done in the past.

We forget we are lucky. How happy we should be, even if things don't work out as we want in life. This is a tall ask in this day and age, in that we should put aside our hate and sadness. Instead, we should be conscious of what we have and embrace the brief moments and time we share, the universal supernovas of genuine love and care that permeates throughout the planet with the light of a million Gods. Life, is going to be fine and to finish on a favorite quote of mine by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment'.


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