Posts Tagged ‘west hawaii today’

Here is a piece that I did yesterday. It is Marquesan and Ana’ole style. It was constructed to represent the warrior nature of this individual but it also has protection elements as well as family.

It is becoming common practice for me to post work and identify the individual components so that the collector can reference my blog at his/her leisure to familiarize themselves with the symbols.

So, here we go!

Just a note on the terminology, I will use the Marquesan term before the Hawaiian term. Example: Marquesan word/ Hawaiian word.

a- Etua/akua, this godling or ancestor symbol is meant to impart sacredness to the tattoo.

b- Mata hoata/maka nui, this symbol represents the face, eyes, nose and mouth (in this case a row of niho peata/ niho mano, or shark’s teeth). It is essentially another set of eyes which act as protection as they are on constant alert for potential danger.

c, d- Niho, the symbol of a tooth. This symbol adds purpose to the piece as a protection element, meant to ‘bite’ or deflect any potential danger. The large niho is augmented by 5 smaller niho, a number in the Fibonacci sequence (FS).

e- Etua/akua, this symbol is placed in the back ground of the piece as a whole and only half of its body can be seen.

f- Ku, god of war. This Ana’ole symbol is at the top of the hierarchy of this piece and represents the foundation of the tattoo. Ku is seen here with three niho mano (shark teeth) behind his eye, representing himself, his wife and son. The warrior symbol, koko atu, which is a derivative of the Maori face moko, is found on the nose and cheek. The later curl reflects the Golden Ratio (1:1.6)

g- Ihe, spear. This symbol is placed on Ku’s head and represents the warrior spirit. It is inset with 8 niho, again in FS. This coincides with the 5 niho below, since 8 divided by 5 = 1.6 which is the Golden Ratio.

h- Papua, garden or enclosure. This symbol corresponds to symbol ‘o’ below, which completes this circuit. This symbol is open to accept mana (power) while ‘o’ is closed to  enclose the mana once obtained.

i- Poka’a, this is symbol is represents a device used to carry heavy burdens and is a strength motif.

j- (Row of) Hope vehine, this symbol represents twin sisters. It is a protection symbol as well as a sign of the divinity of the tattoo since the sisters (in Samoan myth) brought the art of tattoo to Polynesia.

k- Opea/manu. This symbol is of the tern or sea bird. It is a symbol represents divinity and heaven.

l- Aniata/ Ao. This is a symbol that represents clouds or heaven. It is a complimentary symbol that brings divinity to the area tattooed. it was also used as a symbol of defiance.

m- Kohe ta, sword. This is a symbol of the warrior and is shown here inset with two rows of niho.

n- Ama/ ahi, (billowing) fire. This is the symbol of fire or flame.

o- See ‘h’ above.

Aloha and peace!

Part 1

Things were better when I was a kid.

Life wasn’t something that required a credit card, a password or any device with an acronymic name to enjoy. I wasn’t counting calories, concerned about keeping my sugar or sodium intake in check and certainly didn’t give a damn about my abs.

We had 3 channels on TV, the radio played rock, oldies and disco and you had 2 types of blue jeans to choose from: Levi’s or Wranglers. One made you a rad, the other made people gag with a spoon. The two fast food joints were known for their differences; one flame broiled their patties, the other fried them, and you chose were to dine according to your mood.

But those were luxuries found only on the mainland. In the islands, you could go to Tex’s Drive In, Dick’s Coffee Shop or Cafe 100, distinguished only by the quality of their gravy. You wore the pants that were handed down to you or bought on sale at Woolworth’s.

At night on the black and white, you could watch Star Trek re-runs if the rabbit ears were cooperating, followed by Happy Days and Lavern and Shirley. Your choice of footwear was simple: Rubber boots, rubber slippers or cowboy boots; farmer, beach bum, hillbilly.

Life was simple: Get up, eat a loco moco at Cafe 100, go to Itsu’s to buy bait, beer and hotdogs, head down to 4 mile to fish all day while my dad drank with his friends on the side of the road.

How much better could life be?

Star Wars? Oh yeah, I saw that in the movie theater. Ditto, Raider’s of the Lost Ark. Video games? That was when the ONLY place that kids wanted to be was the arcade, and it cost money. The look on your parent’s face as they forked over another fiver whose fate it was to be fed mercilessly into machines that returned the investment with sound effects and perspiration, priceless.

It was a simpler time.

There weren’t as many people, traffic was something that occurred in places like New York or LA, fantastical places unto themselves. People were friendly to one another; they didn’t exchange suspicious looks. No one worried about being mugged, tagged, flash mobbed or twittered about. There wasn’t H5N1, mad cow, GMO crops or Ethanol. No one had to worry about someone stealing their PIN or piggy-backing on their WLAN.

However, what existed in abundance was aloha.

Aloha: Hello, goodbye, love. Those were the good old days. So, where did it all go?

Recently, my wife Anna and I went to visit my mom in Idaho. She was born and raised on the Big Island back in the plantation days, which according to her, was a time that was less glamorous than it sounds. Back then, they were lucky if they got a new potato sack dress for Christmas. They ate what  grew in the garden or was raised in a pen. They watched the knobs on the tube radio.

Life was simple, perhaps too simple.

My mother saw living in Hawi as a trap, a dead end. She wanted more for herself and her son, so as soon as she could she packed me up and headed to the mainland. Although I returned to my home to spend summers with my father and the rest of my family over the next decade, my mother never looked back. She was done.

But I digress.

Despite the fact that the only racism that I have ever experienced in my life occurred in Idaho (granted that was before Idaho underwent a ‘cultural revolution’, yikes), upon returning with Anna, I encountered some of friendly folks that I had met in years.

Genuinely friendly, people.

Cashiers making minimum wage who were eager to engage in conversation over the health benefits of quinoa. Strangers on the street or in the malls that were smiling at one another. Waiters who really seemed to care if our french fries were crispy enough for us, who were willing to stand over the fryer themselves to ensure that we received the deep-fried, chipped spuds of our liking. It was both refreshing and alarming. Refreshing because I was beginning to think that geniality was dead, alarming because I live in the aloha state, which has become, over time, bereft of its intrinsic commodity.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fantasize about living in Celebration, nor am I the type of person who enjoys engaging door-to-door solicitors of any kind, in any sort of debate. I enjoy my space as much as the next guy or girl. I prefer to sit in the least crowded section of a restaurant, I turn the chat function off on Facebook.

Am I guilty of killing aloha? Did the ideal somehow arrive at its current moribund state because of something that I or my generation had done? Now that we carry, at any given time, an average of three devices on our person that can not only receive radio, TV and streaming data, but help us find our way, do our taxes and make phone calls, shouldn’t we all be happier? Perhaps a better question would be: Where has our happiness gone?

Sunday, May 18, 2008 7:35 AM HST

Many people find that Hawi offers a perfect blend of sunshine, cool trade winds and a laid-back lifestyle. Driving down Akoni Pule Highway, meticulously manicured lawns front rustic, plantation-style homes. Along with a mixed plate of businesses, there are churches and schools.

There is a sense of entering a special place that has somehow managed to retain the quaint charm and small town atmosphere, despite the influx of people moving in from the mainland or other parts of the state.

Hawi is in many ways a time capsule — an artifact of the way Hawaii used to be. When looking for a place where everyone in town knows one another, where there is no mail delivery service and most stores close at 6 p.m., then Hawi is where you want to go.

But if looking for work, it is best to look elsewhere.

Almost all of the businesses, at least the ones that can be seen lining both sides of the street in downtown Hawi, are owner operated. Most stores are manned, day in and day out, by their respective owners.

Such is the case with Maria Short, proprietor of Short – Sweet Bakery and Cafe in the Kohala Trade Center. Although she employs a staff of three, she still finds herself in the shop 50 to 60 hours a week.

“We were blessed from the outset of having a strong clientele base and unlike most restaurants who experience a two to three year stint getting out of the red, we were fortunate enough to start off in the black,” Short said.

She attributes most of that to the fact that her husband, Dean, does a lot of the construction and maintenance work himself. His help was key to the bakery’s initial renovation and kept building costs to a minimum.

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Kainani Bello works the checkout stand at Takata Store in Hawi. – Photo By Brad Ballesteros | Special To West Hawaii Today

Then there is Takata Store, arguably one of the largest and most successful businesses in Hawi. It employs between 35 to 38 people, a majority of them full time. Jobs range from stocking and bagging to running the registers. Many of the employees have been there for a long time, some from when the grocery store was located in the building that is now the home of the Bamboo Restaurant.

Teri Takata, operations manager, said the reason why there is such a low turnover is that once people get hired, they are considered part of the Takata ohana. Offering people jobs that are secure and giving full-time employees medical benefits and profit sharing, as well as keeping the atmosphere positive, has proven to be the recipe for keeping employees around for a while.

“(The job) needs to be fun. When the workers are enjoying themselves, it gets reflected in their attitude and their work,” Takata said.

Some people prefer that philosophy to what’s offered by working at one of the hotels, which some say are notoriously lacking in regards to flexibility and worker satisfaction, not to mention the commute.

Takata said some people are willing to take a cut in pay from working at one of the hotels if it means having a job closer to home with good benefits and a pleasant working environment. Currently, all of the people on staff live in Hawi or one of the nearby towns.

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Pookie Ah Sing works in the produce department of Takata Store. Here she fills bags with boiled peanuts. – Photo By Brad Ballesteros | Special To West Hawaii Today

For younger people looking for a first job, Takata Store is one of just a few places to find work. Shige’s service station and the Kohala Coffee Mill are other steady options.

If not planning to work in one of the above mentioned industries or opening a private business, jobs in Hawi are hard to come by. Even then, it may not be enough.

Pamela Gorman is a young mother who decided to quit her job at a local coffee shop to start Bizzy Beez child care service out of her home. She remodeled the downstairs of her house, obtained the proper licensing and is currently supervising four children. But with the rising cost of living, she has found that working a part-time job at the Kings’ Shops in Waikoloa was needed to supplement her income.

“It’s hard to find work in Hawi. Most of the places have workers that have been there forever, so there aren’t too many options,” she said when asked why she didn’t look for work locally.

Cindy Medeiros works for Kohala Elementary and Middle schools as a custodian and cashier. She averages more than 30 hours per week and, together with her husband’s income, said her family lives fairly well. Although she confesses with the rising cost of living, it’s still not enough. She has no time to work an additional job and the convenience of working in town far outweighs the need to find work elsewhere.

“I’m not driving to Waikoloa or Kona. No way,” she said.

Could it be that Hawi is becoming a bedroom community?

Not likely, for the fact that it already is one. Since the plantations closed, and the hotels began to pop up, people have been driving to where the jobs are. The fortunate few who get to live and work there consider themselves lucky.

Vernon Emeliano, head chef of the Bamboo Restaurant, also runs a yard service as a second source of income. Prior to running the kitchen, he worked two jobs down at one of the hotels, sleeping in his car between shifts. Although he now makes two to three times less than he did working as a valet, he wouldn’t have it any other way. He lives across the street from the restaurant. His commute is measured in steps, not miles.

“I’m blessed to live here,” he said.

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Meat cutter for Takata Store, Hana Akana, says he got his job after graduating from Kohala High School in 2000. – Photo By Brad Ballesteros | Special To West Hawaii Today

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 8:28 AM HST

A piercing scream sends a flock of birds into the sky, accompanied by the unmistakable sound of a zip line in use: Part giant zipper, part angry hornet. The rider becomes increasingly smaller as she travels swiftly down the line toward the landing platform. Her family applauds as she touches down on the structure.

“That was pretty awesome,” said Karyse Lee, a visitor from Alberta, Canada, as the guides unclip her harness from the line. “Can I do it again?”

That was the question on everyone’s mind that day, and for good reason — zip lining is addictive. Now, thanks to a newly opened business in North Kohala called Big Island Eco Adventures, all those adventurous, adrenaline junkies have a place to get their fix.

“It was all quite serendipitous,” said Big Island Eco Adventures office manager and co-owner Shawn Simon, when asked why, with the current economic situation, she and her partners decided to start a business of such magnitude. “We just had to trust the process. That, and we want to make people happy.”

At a time when usage rights for much of the tourism-oriented land in North Kohala, owned mainly by a large overseas company, are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, Big Island Eco Adventures, or BIEA, secured access rights through several private landowners.

“It was all based on the availability of the land. We had this venture planned for some time, but the determining factor was definitely access to the area,” Simon said.

Inspired by other zip line companies currently operating in the state, such as on Maui and Kauai, Simon and her husband, Jay, along with another couple, Randy and Elisa Andrews, decided the time had come for them to make a paradigm shift away from their day jobs and commit full-time to their new collective endeavor.

Needless to say, they hit the ground running.

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Top: Adam Beckman, of Beatrice, Neb., left, receives final instructions from guide Haaheo Neves before his first zip. Bottom: Visitors are transported in a Pinzgauer, an old Swiss army vehicle that is ideal for the drive up to the site where the zip lines are located. – Photos By Anna Pacheco | Special To West Hawaii Today

At the forefront of BIEA’s philosophy toward the environment is conservation. While constructing the 150-acre course, all of the trees felled were processed, milled on-site and then used to construct landing platforms, bridges and a quaint gazebo-like structure where guests can relax and enjoy refreshments while on their zip line adventure. Because of this, the structures have an unrefined, natural look that blends in nicely with the surroundings.

Another critical component to BIEA’s philosophy is to hire directly from the area community, utilizing the knowledge of the residents to ensure that the tour retains its distinctive Kohala flavor.

Guide Haaheo Neves, said that this is the best job she has ever had.

“I still work at the King’s Shops for now, but once things get going I want to work here full time,” Neves said. “It’s so fun, I never get tired of being outdoors.”

Another guide, Justin Terry, keeps it simple — “I love my new office.”

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Left: Stewart Hartfield, of Alberta, Canada, cheers for his wife, Darlene Hartfield, as she zips over the treetops. Right: Guide Justin Terry, right, is at the end platform, ensuring a safe landing for Adam Beckman, of Beatrice, Neb. – Photos By Anna Pacheco | Special To West Hawaii Today

BIEA requires their guides to be certified in first aid and puts them through a monthlong safety course ranging from dealing with apprehensive riders to midline retrieve and rescues.

The history of the zip line is one that isn’t easily defined, although many agree that the practice probably began sometime during the late 19th and early 20th century. It was utilized by Tyrolean mountaineers as a means of transporting people and goods around hard to reach, high altitude living areas.

A modern zip line is markedly superior to what was used in the past and is generally made from either galvanized or stainless steel. The cable’s diameter can vary and the thickness is used to determine the ultimate load the cable will allow. The cable is fixed at both ends, in this case to large, old-growth trees, which serve as anchors.

Riders wear a full-body harness, which the crew at BIEA painstakingly fit to each person at the base yard. Attached via carabiner to the harness is what makes the zipping possible, a heavy duty trolley, which is basically two small, steel wheels that lock onto the main zip line cable. Once the rider is clipped onto the line, it’s all down hill from there — literally. The act of braking is performed by the guide at the other end of the line, who uses a line break mechanism to slow swiftly approaching riders.

BIEA insists their policy of wearing a helmet is probably overkill considering the already stringent safety code they operate under, and the protection they offer is mainly for the six-wheel drive Pinzgauer, which transports up to 10 people to the course, which is two miles off-road from the main highway. It can get a little bumpy, but then that’s also part of the adventure.

There are eight runs at the BIEA course bordering the Kohala Forest Reserve, which range from short 200 feet long, 10 feet high “keiki” runs, to the more adrenaline surging 950-foot runs that are well over 300 feet from the ground. The size and weight of the rider ultimately determines top speed, which, no matter the size, is never slow. Waterfalls and breathtaking views are in order for those not fixated on just making it to the other end.

Darlene Hartfiled, visiting from Alberta, Canada, was enjoying her second time on a zip line, her first taking place in the jungles of the Dominican Republic.

“They were surprisingly safety oriented,” she said, of her first-time experience. “But this is much nicer. Much more to see.”

First-timers father and son, Bob and Adam Beckman, visiting from Nebraska, also plan to skydive as a family. “This is great fun. I could do this all day long. Do you think they’ll let us?”

The last run is near 1,000 feet, which takes the rider high above the forest canopy. The biggest difference between this one and most of the earlier runs is that there is no launching or landing platforms. To take off the rider is basically required to step off of a high cliff. Stopping requires the rider to do a bit of running as they make their approach.

“Make sure you scream to let the tour behind us know how much fun you’re having,” Terry told the group.

By the sound of it, everyone was having a blast.

BIEA is currently running four tours a day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Capacity for each tour is 10 people, adults or children. The cost is $159 per person and the four-hour tour comes complete with light refreshments and full outfitting. BIEA is currently running a daily tour in conjunction with Paradise Helicopters, which also includes a helicopter ride. Riders are recommended to wear closed toed shoes and knee length shorts or long pants.

BIEA also offers kamaaina rates. Call the main office at 889-5111 to make reservations, or visit the Web site,

Sunday, November 1, 2009 7:32 AM HST

Some say it’s a chance to hone their skills. For others, it’s a family affair. But ask driver George Berdon and he’ll say, with a smile, racing is “all about the rush.”

Brothers Mitch and George Berdon Jr., of Kailua-Kona, make the trek to the Hilo drag strip at least twice a month to get their racing fix. The two-man team, despite only racing for three years, have produced a competitive car, thanks to many dedicated man hours and of course, cash. Mitch, the mechanic of the team, said they have spent more than $20,000 on their Volkswagen Beetle drag car. With wide slick tires and an obscenely large turbo charger hanging off the back, the car does not look like something that would generally be seen on the road.

The Big Island Auto Club oversees daytime operations during the 10-month racing season, which begins in January and ends in October, with races occurring once monthly over a designated weekend. Current BIAC President Brad Miprano said on any given event weekend, there can be anywhere from 60 to 120 cars participating, not to mention motorcycles and trucks. Some weekends, however, are busier than others.

“Labor Day was crazy over here. There were 3,000 people in the grandstands, 150 cars and tents all the way down the drag strip. It was pretty awesome,” Miprano said.

Drivers compete for trophies and cash, depending on the times their cars post, but the real prize seems to be bragging rights. Cars are categorized by how fast they can move down the 1/4-mile track and assigned a time bracket. This occurs during a qualifying period, which often takes place the day before the actual race. Cars with similar times are pitted against one another to keep the race fair.

For some people, racing is often a family affair with several generations of racers competing throughout the event.

Denny Duquette, owner of Island Performance in the new industrial area of Kailua-Kona, brings his entire family with him to the races. Not only do they help with setting up cars from a mechanical standpoint, they also race. His father, Roger, and wife, April, race their own cars as well. With his son poised to begin racing next year the family will be running a total of four cars next season.

“I just got tired of watching from the sidelines. I spent a year doing that then decided I would give it a go,” April said after being asked how she got into the sport. In her ’08 Dodge Challenger she has posted some impressive times; her best is in the high 10s.

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During a time trials run, George Berdon Jr. (Volkswagen Beetle) gets the drop off the starting line against another racer. – Brad Ballesteros | Special To West Hawaii Today

For those who just want to get on the track and race without the formalities and restrictions of bracket racing, there are the Outlaw races, which typically take place in the evening and go on throughout the night. The Outlaw races are open to all people and are overseen by the Big Island Hot Rod Association.

Kohala resident Sky Olson, an Outlaw racing regular, has spent nearly $100,000 on his 2005 Subaru WRX Sti. Olson said the main reason he prefers the Outlaw races to the more formal bracket racing is that drag racing allows him to troubleshoot and fine-tune his car, which is an ongoing process.

“I’m not out there to beat anyone, I’m there to dial my car in,” said Olson, whose times in the low 11s means that no matter what his intentions may be, he is still pretty quick out there.

From the event coordinators to the announcers in the tower to the helpers on the track, all of the men and women who make the races possible do so on a volunteer basis.

Announcer Geoff Lauer has been involved in the drag racing scene on the Big Island since it began back in Kona at the Old Airport in the early ’70s. During his time as an announcer at the Hilo Dragstrip he has only seen a handful of injuries and no fatalities. To ensure safety there are paramedics and an ambulance on standby.

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Mitch and George Berdon Jr. team up wrenching and racing their ’65 VW Bug. The 2332 cubic centimeter engine propels the Bug down the quarter mile in 10.9 seconds at a speed of 125 mph. – Brad Ballesteros | Special To West Hawaii Today

It costs up to $10 per race, and all vehicles must past mechanical and safety inspections. The Outlaw races charge an additional $20 dollars to race all night long.

Hilo Dragstrip not only offers an International Hot Rod Association-approved 1/4-mile strip but also a kart track, a dirt track and a 1/4-mile dirt oval.

Paul Maddox, of Holualoa, hopes Kona will one day soon have a facility similar to Hilo’s.

“It’s important to have a place for the younger crowd to race, so that they’re not racing on the streets,” said Maddox, an ex-racer who understands the need for a place where people can fulfill their competitive urges in a safe and controlled environment.

His project, the Kona Motorsports Park, has been inching forward over the past 14 years but the biggest obstacle he has encountered so far is a lack of funding. In order for the project to move ahead, many things still need to be done to satisfy county and state requirements, not to mention taking into consideration the preservation aspects of cultural burial sites. An environmental impact survey will need to be performed and the cost for that alone is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost of the proposed race course is easily in the tens of millions. Not one to be daunted by protocol, Maddox is optimistic that perhaps when the economy recovers, there will be a renewed interest in the park and an environmental study will happen.

In the meantime, West Hawaii residents will continue making the journey to Hilo’s drag strip for their racing fix.

For those interested in finding out more information on racing at the Hilo Dragstrip, contact the Big Island Auto Club track office at 961-2456. Those interested in more information about the Kona Motorsports Park project are encouraged to visit

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65-year-old Roger Duquette roars down the quarter mile in his ’93 Chev, S-10. Roger has been timed doing the quarter mile in the 10 second range for speeds up to 130 mph. – Brad Ballesteros | Special To West Hawaii Today

Friday, March 13, 2009 9:06 AM HST

What do seas of rolling clouds, barren volcanic landscapes and the Horsehead nebula have to do with Hawaii, a place known more for its pristine white and black sand beaches, near perfect year-round weather and aloha spirit?

Everything, if your name is Jean-Charles Cuillandre.

As staff astronomer of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Cuillandre wants to show you just how important it is to recognize that Hawaii is special not only because of its boundless tropical beauty but also because of its proximity to the heavens.

In his newly released film, “Hawaiian Starlight,” Cuillandre showcases not only his skill as an astronomer and cinematographer, but the unrelenting patience required to create a movie, which took more than seven years to produce, from more than 60,000 still shots.

Audience Award winner for Experimental Film at the 2008 Maui Film Festival, his movie defies a specific genre but by no means does it alienate any of its audience. On the contrary, the images that he has captured and managed to convey are not only breathtaking and mind blowing, but educational as well. The 45-minute movie is more of an experience, than a spectacle.

“Make no mistake, my intention was not to create a slideshow. I want to share with people the beauty of the universe,” said Cuillandre.

A native of Brittany, France, the young Cuillandre spent his early years marveling at the splendor of the night skies before deciding that his calling was to be an astronomer. Inspired by Jacques Cousteau, Cuillandre felt about the stars the way that Cousteau did the seas. Fresh after receiving his doctorate in astronomy from the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, he received the opportunity of his dreams while searching for post-graduate work — a chance to work at the CFH telescope at the top of Mauna Kea.

He immediately fell in love with his new home.

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Left: West Ridge on Mauna Kea. Right: Horsehead Nebula. – Photos By Coelum And Jean-Charles Cuillandre | CFHT/Special To West Hawaii Today

“I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do if I didn’t live in Waimea,” he said.

The idea behind the film came to him after spending many hours scouring the night skies from the 3.6-meter CFH telescope, which was also the first international collaborative effort on Mauna Kea. Instead of creating essentially what would be considered a slide show from the images that he and his colleagues had painstakingly gleaned from the heavens, he decided to impart with the viewer a perspective that only a handful of astronomers and astrophysicists were blessed with experiencing, life above the clouds.

For most people that go about their daily lives below the cloud line, the observatories appear like ominous white specks to the naked eye.

The movie opens with the clouds churning across the barren volcanic landscape with the urgency and fluidity of water, as cars zip up and down the mountain like a trail of frenzied ants. He captures an almost human side of the observatories as they seem to come to life, moving with a precision and beauty that belies their initial appearance. Quite like sleeping giants, they guard secrets that only a few people will ever witness first hand.

Next gorgeous, almost three-dimensional pictures of nebulae and galaxy clusters tantalize the mind with such vivid clarity as to appear fake or touched up.

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Top: Orion Nebula. Bottom Right: eil Nebula. Bottom Left: Jean-Charles Cuillandre, a staff astronomer of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea, released “Hawaiian Starlight,” a video showcasing the beauty of the universe. – Roland Pacheco | Special To WHT

“Nothing you see in this film has been altered or enhanced in any way, digitally or otherwise,” Cuillandre said.

Cascading star fields, eclipses and shooting stars add to the intoxicating splendor of the film, which caused more than one audience member to vocalize their amazement.

The soundtrack for the film, taken from the popular video game Halo, adds to the overall feeling that what you are seeing is indeed something very special and other worldly.

Technology obviously plays a crucial role in such a monumental endeavor and according to Cuillandre, it was only because of recent technological advances that he has been able to create such an elaborate show. For example, the digital camera used in the CFH telescope to capture images thousands of light years away, has a staggering 340-megapixel resolution while the active lens area maintains a size comparable to a small suitcase. Twenty years ago it would have been impossible to capture as much detail as it is today.

Cuillandre, also an electronics engineer, created some of the apparatus required to undertake filming such sequences as the clouds blowing across the mountaintops and the sun rising and setting, which could take up to eight hours or more of shooting at a time. He also wrote the code used for processing the data images obtained by the camera, which helped him achieve the overall look and feel that he sought.

“The visuals were absolutely incredible. I really, really enjoyed the show,” said Wayde Harvey, who stood in line to get his DVD signed by Cuillandre.

Although Cuillandre was pleased with the response that viewers have had over the past seven years of prescreening and production, he assured that this film is by no means his coda.

“The project is not over,” he said. “Such work is never really finished.”

A good thing since several audience members were anxious to see what he would come up with next.

“Hawaiian Starlight” is a film that was made to be enjoyed by all ages, by scientists and nonscientists alike; the DVD itself is packed with features that are informational and would not be out of place in the classroom. For more information on “Hawaiian Starlight,” images taken by the CFH telescope or would like to purchase a DVD, visit