Sea change: The photography of Sarah Lee

The earth is 71 percent water.

The human body is 60 percent water.

For the next several months, in my neck of the woods anyway, both of these things will be frozen solid. 

Before I get going here, let me just say that I'm a big fan of ice. Ice is one of the few things I like in my cocktail (other than the cocktail itself). I appreciate what ice has done for hockey. I enjoy cutting holes in ice and extracting fish. But goddamnit anyway. In the end, I prefer water when it's moving around. When it's pushing me this way and that. I prefer water when it's alive.

Case in point is the work of photographer Sarah Lee. She's born and based on the Big Island of Hawaii and her love of moving water comes through in every image. Her still photos are amazing. 

And the video at the top of this post? Yowza. It's a teaser for a short film she collaborated on called Kainos which, as far as I can tell, hasn't been released. But oh man I'd love to see it.

Earlier this year I wrote about freediving photographer Daan Verhoeven. His work, to me, carries serious weight. There's a stillness to what he does – an almost religious sense of gravity. It's stunning.

Sarah's work is stunning too, but in an entirely different way. It's an outright celebration of moving water – swirls of slivering beauty and brute force and the lucky ones that have found their place comfortably within it. 

Sarah was kind enough to let me share her images. Not only that, she signed off her note with "mahalo nui." Some people are just cool like that.

Check out more of her work, underwater and alongside it, on her site.

Fossil Diving! Venice, Florida! Right on!

So you probably know Venice, Italy – with its wonderful canals and gondolas. And you probably know Venice, California – with its wonderful canals and roller skate dancers with their comically ambitious boob jobs. But whatcha know about Venice, Florida?

Venice is a smallish town/series of interstate exits between Fort Meyers and Tampa. Like much of Florida, there doesn't seem to be much happening away from the water. But the beaches of Venice, and the waters offshore, give it the absolute finest tagline for a city that I've ever heard: "Shark Tooth Capital of the World."  And as if shark teeth aren't cool enough, these Venice shark teeth are fossils. 

I know! My 12-year-old-boy brain reels! 


So why are there fossils in Venice, Florida? It's time for a quick lesson in paleontology. If you're turned on by big words, darling, make yourself comfortable. This is gonna get kinky.

During the Cretaceous period (50 million years ago), Florida was under water. During the Oligocene (30 million years ago), sea levels began to drop and north central Florida became an island. Then during the Miocene (20 million years ago), that land mass...

Geez louise. tl;dr. Prehistoric geology evidently isn't my kind of kink. Here's a link if you wanna learn more. But in a nutshell: the dry parts of Florida used to be wet, and the wet parts of Florida used to be dry. Go back and forth like this for tens of millions of years and, I don't know, evidently you get fossils. 

So back to Venice. Five years ago we visited Casperson Beach (which is a real beauty) to look for shark teeth. They're laying and/or buried along the water's edge – pointy little black or grey buggers that you find by sifting through the sand. Looking for them was a perfect activity for my kids who were 8 and 11 at the time. It's a perfect activity for you too if you like to pair your OCD with a little sand and sun. Over the course of an afternoon we found 50 or so fossilized teeth: a mix of mako, lemon, and bull shark mostly.

If you want the big stuff (megalodon teeth, mammoth fossils, etc.), I was told at the time, you need to do a dive boat off shore. This year, that's finally what I did. Because, you know, I want the big stuff.

So two weeks ago I boarded the Hammerhead, a 31 foot dive boat run by Megaladon/Florida West Charters (who I'd definitely recommend). We left the harbor around 7:45 am with 10 divers total, for a 20 minute boat ride to an area called "the boneyard." On the way out, Captain Dan did a nice session on what we were looking for, why it was all there, and so on. Then we anchored and in we went. It's an easy two-tank dive, relatively shallow (30 feet) with no current. Visibility was only 4 feet or so (due to storms), but no big deal since you're looking right in front of you the whole time anyway.

So yeah! You creep along the bottom carefully peeping at every damn thing you can find. Every now and again, one of the things turns out to be a shark tooth or a dugong rib from a 14 million year old manatee. New fossils reveal themselves in the shifting sand over time (the sea is a bit OCD herself), so there's always plenty down there if you're patient/lucky.

Over the course of 90 minutes or so, I found more than a dozen dugong rib pieces (heavy and black as night) and other fossils including jaw bones from whales and grind plates from rays. I found a bunch of fossilized shark teeth too, including one big megalodon tooth.

The best discovery, though, was this: I also found a dive partner. Because when I got back, I barely got done laying out the fossils when my 13-year-old son Tobias asked... "How old do I have to be to go scuba diving?"


So this past weekend he did a Try Scuba class at a local pool and loved it. (35 bucks all gear included!) He's starting online classes now and should be certified in time for our trip to St. John in July. 

That right there is about as good as it gets.

If you have any questions about diving for shark teeth in Venice, or Try Scuba classes, hit me up in the comments! I'd be happy to share what I know.


Goats and limes and oysters oh my!

A friend I haven't seen for quite a while recently stumbled across Bring Limes. 

She sent me a nice note in which, among other things, she mentioned that she's reached a bit of a personal plateau. After kicking some serious ass in the corporate world over the years, she's wondering what's next.

Now, she tells me, she's working on a plan to become a goat farmer. Of course, the fact that I've felt the same farming urge, only with limes, shouldn't come as a surprise. But I feel a lot of urges. All the time. In fact there's stuff careening through my head right now that I won't even remember in... wait, what was my point? Heh.

My friend though? It seems she's serious. And I hope she figures it out. First of all because goats are awesome, even with their freaky-ass eyeballs. But more important I can't think of too many things that provide connection to, and meaning for, our lives on planet earth the way farming does. 

This video is a great example of that. If you like farming or oysters or the sea or incredible french guy voices, I bet you'll like it.

Our life is determined by the tides and the sea. Which is good because we can’t just make something up. The wind and the sea are unchangeable. You don’t mess with it. You don’t cheat with it. So it’s very important to us.


Those of you that know me know this: Johnny don't surf.

Not that I haven't. And not that I won't again (hopefully soon, I love it). It's just that in my neck of the woods, the only rideable waves are called "wakes."  And the closest we get to surf's up is "snow's down." 

So why am I diving into another surfy post? Because this: Surfers make the best videos. That's just how it is. Or at least they make the most soulful ones.

Trust me, I've at least dabbled in pretty much every solo sport there is: winter, summer, action, silent, hook, bullet, esoteric-stuff-that-white-guys-with-dreadlocks do, you name it.

The point is, my interests tend to careen. And with each new obsession comes hours of youtube time. So it's with absolute certainty that I say no one draws the connections between who they are, and what they do, as well as surfers do. 

The short film "Out of the Black and Into The Blue" is no exception. Of course, the surf footage is spectacular: Ridiculous sets – the likes of which I've never seen. And ridiculous rides – the likes of which I can only imagine in my wildest Spicoli dreams... right before me and Mick wing over to London to jam with the Stones.

But this is not a surf film. 

You can watch it as a surf film, yes. I'm sure director Luke Pilbeam would appreciate it, since that's the film he made.

But once you've watched it, play it again with your eyes closed.

Just listen.

This is a life film. 

Of course, that's the film Luke made too. Surfers just get that kind of thing.

"It's difficult to explain to those who haven't found their calling..."

Props to Luke Pilbeam (Director), Nick Tsang (Music), and Joey Brown (Words).

Twenty-Eight Feet: life on a little wooden boat

Every single thing about this short documentary is perfect. David Welsford traded his previous reality for one on the sea, living aboard a 50-year old sailboat he restored himself. The simplicity of small spaces and the sea, all together in one life. Damn. 

You can learn more about David here.

Good things come in waves

Good things come in waves

Doing what you love is an easy choice when what you love is lawyering, or doctoring, or marketing. It gets tougher, though, when what you love doesn't quite make sense.

Clark Little has created a life for himself that, on paper at least, doesn't quite make sense. Hell, it doesn't even make remote sense. Clark Little is a professional taker of wave photos.

To be clear, this ain't no hobby. If you google "most badass wave photographer in the world," Clark comes up first.

How did it come to be? Why? 

Read More