Thursday, July 19, 2007

An Eulogy for James D. Watt the Marine Wildelife Photographer

Marine wildlife photographer, James D. Watt, passed away peacefully at around 9:00 am in the morning of July 19th, 2007, surrounded by his family and friends. If you didn't' know, he had been battling with lung cancer for about a year. Very fortunately I was able to see him, kiss his forehead and say goodbye to him last week just before he entered into the ICU.


wildlife photographer James D. Watt photographing friendly humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, Pacific Ocean, Model Released - MR#: 000044

I've known Jim Watt ever since I arrived in Kona, the Big Island of Hawaii in the summer of 1997. Doug Perrine (another professional marine wildlife photographer, a good friend of his, my photography mentor and my former boss) took me to his house at the slope of Hualalai volcanic mountain to meet up with Jim and his family.

I still remember the first time I met him at his house. He told me to remove my shoes. A Japanese style... and I thought it's kinda funny because an American man told me (a Japanese) to do so. Later I learned that it was customary to do so at any Hawaiian house - the custom was inherited from Japanse immigrants and spreaded all over the State of Hawaii.

Since then, we never stopped talking about marine wildlife photography. We knew immediately that we were connected through our common interests: diving, fishing, photography, boating, marine life and the love of the ocean.

For these nine years in Hawaii, Jim and I went out on the ocean together for countless times. For those who knows me very well perhaps heard me saying all the time, "I did this and that with Jim," or "Jim said this and that"... again and again...


wildlife photographer James D. Watt and manta ray, Manta birostris, at night, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean, Model Released - MR#: 000007

We both had our own boats. Sometimes we went out on my boat, but most of the time I went on his because he likes to be the captain. I handled all the "stinky" baits (he calls it) for him when we go fishing or shark diving.

When the water is too chilly in the winter, Jim made me jump in the water first to see if animals are friendly enough to photograph or not (although 90% of the time I was able to get better shots by doing that, ha ha). One time we fished so many tunas until we broke our rods in half. A few time we ran into the storm and fought our way back to the harbor on my 17 foot boat...

I have so many good and exciting memories and eposodes with him, but there is only one truth about them. We never had a bad time when we were together. Even when nothing happened out on the ocean, we talked for hours about our next big adventures, next big Apple gadgets, next good food & drinks... and you know, all other guy things... We only had great time together perhaps because of his great personality. He was always positive and funny, and seemed to have no downtime. I totally admire him on that and wanted to be like him, too.

I learned a lot from Jim. Without a question, I wouldn't be who I am today if I didn't meet him. He took me under his wing and taught me how to get closer to various marine animals, how to fish around Kona, how to drive a boat in a rough sea, where to dive... etc. etc. I seem to have an endless list of things that I learned from him... I will miss him, my friend, mentor, the greatest inspiration of my photography.

On February 26, 2007 at Puako, Big Island, Jim was able to attend my wedding ceremony despite his worsening condition. My wife and I, as well as many guests who knew his condition, were so happy to see him having a good time there. He ate a lot and laughed a lot on that day, and even took some great wedding pictures for us. We had a great time together on that special day of my life.

Thanks for the great memories, Jim. I love you, buddy, and I know you will be with me forever out there in the ocean. Aloha, Jim.

Masa Ushioda

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