My First Image in National Geographic Magazine

NGM spread small

Since I was a child and my parents had a subscription to National Geographic Magazine, escaping to remote locations, excavating ruins and experiencing exotic animals was always just a page flip away. For me NGM has always been the gold standard for not only nature and conservation but also great photography. David Dubilet’s surreal underwater scenes, Steve McCurry’s Afghan girl, Chris Johns Camel’s crossing the Sahara, Paul Nicklin’s Emperor Penguins, and the list of amazing photography in the magazines 125 year history goes on and on. I am honored to have one of my favorite images, the underwater view of the mass swim start from the 2011 Kona Ironman World Champs that won World Press Photo in 2012, published as a double page spread in the March edition of National Geographic Magazine’s Visions of Earth section. It’s always been a dream of mine to be published in the magazine and can’t thank NGM enough for deeming my photograph worthy to be in the same pages as the greats. Pick up your copy of National Geographic today or go to their website here and order your own custom print of my image!


Night Dive with Manta Rays

Here’s a couple minutes of video shot with my GoPro Hero2 from a recent night dive with 12ft Reef Manta Rays off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Beautiful and docile creatures that feed on the plankton attracted to our torches, and an average-sized manta is estimated to consume 44–66 lb of plankton per day and can get up to 18ft and 1500lbs! You can see each manta rays individual markings on their underside which act as a fingerprint for identification, and the more time you spend with them in their environment you really get the feeling that they are very intelligent animals. Superfun dive and I recommend it to anyone who has the chance, it’s like being on another planet for an hour.



KONA, HI – OCTOBER 8:   A general view of the mass swim start for the the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship on October 8, 2011 at Kailua Bay in Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Donald Miralle) Canon EOS-1D Mark III Lens: 15mm Aperture: F5 Shutter 1/1000th sec ISO:640


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In my last full day of shooting, I was excited to cover Team Synchronized Swimming and Athletics highlighted Bolt going for the gold repeat in the 200m final. It was going to be a long day with having to set up the underwater remote at the pool, break it down and pack up my locker there, and then make it over to the track and get a descent shooting spot for the 200M. Setting up remotes for athletics was out of the question because I couldn’t get there in time to do so, and I actually would rather just focus on the event with my cameras in my hands.

In team synchronized swimming, Russia leads all teams into the free routines with a score of 98.100 points after performing a perfectly executed Russian Dance theme. China, bronze medalists in Beijing 2008, finished second with 97.000 while Great Britain, finished seventh with 87.300 at its first team event in the Olympic Games. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge made an appearance up in the stands behind me, cheering for Team GB and I got my paparazzi shots in. I was very happy with the photos I ended up shooting at the synch swimming, especially the underwater camera which was placed at the one position that I knew they would pass through, at the start where they entered the water. For this shot you have to focus slightly outside the water from the bottom of the pool, so my friend Al Bello stood on the pool deck while I focused from the bottom.

At the track, I decided to shoot from from the end of the photo moat just around the bend from the finish line, which had given me great results for the finish and also more importantly for the initial reaction and jubo of athletes. After settling down in a spot I was happy, the rest of the photographers around me were very accommodating and we spent the three hours waiting for Bolt shooting the shit.

It was no surprise that not only Usain Bolt led the Jamaicans into a sweep in the 200 meter sprint for the gold, silver, and bronze, but that the OBS Handheld video guys ran out on the track immediately (and I mean right after!) the athletes crossed the finish line and smothered them with their wide angle lenses, blocking all still photographers from getting a clean shot of the action. At the London Olympics it is really sad and disgusting how bad the TV invasion of the athletes personal space has become immediately after they cross the finish line. I really hope one of the athletes complains (especially when their cameras are a couple inches from their face after they are crying from losing an event) because TV barely gives room for the athlete to move. So most photographers got a great shot of the back of the head of the video idiot, rather than the   gold medalist.

The photo if the day came in them men’s 800M final where World Record Holder David Rudisha won his first Olympic gold medal with the kind of world-record performance that has made him almost untouchable the last three years. The 23-year-old Kenyan won the final with his long stride in 1 minute, 40.91 seconds, breaking his own record he set in 2010, and setting the first world record on the track at the London Olympics. After crossing the line, he pumped his fist while the other competitors threw their arms up in the air stunned, and continued to celebrate which made for great photos.

At the end of the night, it was a great feeling turning off the cameras for the last time in  London, knowing that it was a job well done and I would soon be home in San Diego with my family. Before I rolled out, I said goodbye to a handful of photographers in the trenches from all over the world who come together every four years to document the best in the world going higher, faster and stronger.

New Cover of Lava, the Kona Edition

The school of fish and competitors at the mass swim start at the Ironman World Champs in Kona 2011. (Photo by Donald Miralle fo LAVA)

So there I was, sitting on the bottom of Kailua Bay trying to preserve the air in my tank and keep my camera dry in it’s housing like I have on the first week of October in the years past. To get the underwater mass swim start photo from the Kona Ironman World Championships, I’ve always had to wake up about 4:30am to get into the water with my full scuba and underwater camera kit and watch fish go by until the cannon blast starts the swimmers at 7am. But the difference with this year and past years was the fact that the large surf a couple days before raceday kicked up sand and mixed up the water making it more cloudy, which didn’t lend to the clearest water with the best visibility for photos. However, these conditions brought larger schools of fish that I hadn’t seen in the past, swimming in the shallows of the bay looking for food.

So as I was sitting there at about 6:59 am, 30 feet on the bottom of the bay, trying to line up schools of fish, below schools of man, without getting too many of by bubbles from my mouth and regulator in the frame, and getting the correct exposure/focus as well, when I noticed in the corner of my eye the battery was blinking. All I could think was “shit my camera is going to die before this start, and I’m gonna miss it all”, and less than a minute later I could hear the muffled cannon fire, the surfboards holding the line of swimmers open, and the mass of humanity swim overhead. Click, click, cli… and I got about 2.5 frames in the first second of the race before my camera crapped out. All I could do was swim back to land and pray that I got one usable frame out of all the time and preparation that went into that morning.

A week later as I entered the office of LAVA, the official publication of Ironman, to show my images from Kona to the Publisher and Editors of the magazine, I had one image in mind from the 60+ I was showing that stood out in my as the strongest contender as the cover. It wasn’t a classic image of Chrissie Wellington crossing the finish line, nor one of Craig Alexander crushing the course record becoming the first man to win the 70.3 and Ironman World Champs the same year, but rather an artistic frame of anonymous swimmers amongst a school of fish in the Bay. I’ve shot all but one of the cover photos run by Lava, and they are usually lit, stocky, tight action or portrait shots; so this scene setter from Kona was a long-shot by those standards. The fish frame was one of those images and moments you get once in your lifetime, where all the elements line up, and preparation meets opportunity. The Editor Brad Culp went to bat for me on this one, and after a couple heated debates over what the best cover image should be, they went for it. It’s my favorite cover shot yet and it’s for the best as all the other triathlon magazines will have that stocky image of the finish line or running,  while LAVA will have that different shot that no one else runs.