Kindred Kayakers
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E-motion

I use a variety of vehicles for my photographic excursions — car, motorcycle, scooter, even a bicycle. Yet my favorite was my kayak, “E-motion.” (Yes, I named my kayak.) Using a weather-sealed Pentax K5 camera with a plastic bag wrapped around a Tamron lens, I would launch E-motion from the lake shore and head out to photograph “whatever.” Mostly other kayaker friends or even hot air balloons practicing “touch and go’s” off the water. Great fun. And somehow I have managed not to drop my camera overboard, or worse, flip my kayak. So make note of that, if you want to give this a try.

My go-to destination for aquatic adventures is Elephant Butte Lake, the largest of the precious few lakes in New Mexico. And it was here, in the solitude of paddling around the remote eastern shores of this desert lake, that my intuition first began to vie for my attention.

A Whisper in the Wind

Early one morning, while slicing across the mirror-like surface of the water, I was feeling very zen in my rhythmic cadence of paddling, gently punctuating the still calmness of the new dawn. Then came a bright sense of inner warmth, as if something was about to be revealed. It was like a whisper drifting across the still water from the remote shore in the distance, “Come. A hidden treasure awaits he who can find it.” Amused, I stopped paddling and just glided along for a while — tuning into wherever this impression was coming from.

“There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.”
~Rumi

Slowly drifting to a stop, I began to explore those far shores through my camera’s viewfinder, with the zoom lens cranked all the way out to telephoto. Enjoying a giddy anticipation like a child at play, I noticed that certain rock formations seemed to be tugging at me, backed by wispy cirrus clouds set aglow in the dawn of a new day. Still not sure what I was looking for, I just began composing and shooting.

“Know what it is to be a child… To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.”
~ William Blake

Transition

Paddling around under the golden light of sunrise, in and out of small coves in the shoreline, I clicked the shutter at whatever felt interesting. I must emphasize the word “felt,” because I now realize that this relaxed curiosity about one’s feelings was key to allowing what I now call my “transition,” to gently begin. But alas, the rising summer sun of New Mexico soon sent me heading for shore, with my prized digital catch of the day stowed away in my dry-bag.

Once home, I quickly uploaded my images in anticipation of finding something special, to help me delve deeper into the magic of this new creative impulse I felt. I was looking for some kind of emerging theme in it all, some kind of validation of what I felt out there on the water. And so I carefully examined each image — over and over again. But no matter what perspective I entertained, nothing really stood out. Maybe some nice texture in the rocks from the oblique angle of a rising sun, but… that was it. No enlightening “ah-ha!” revelation was to be revealed that day.

Confusion

And so the next morning I headed out to try it again. Obviously, I must have missed something. I paddled, got in the zone, followed my heart, and clicked the shutter. But once home, peering into my monitor — again, just a bit of nice texture. I felt confused, took a break and came back to look again. And then mind’s commentary just had to chime in, “Hmm… rocks. More rocks. Lot’s of rocks. Goooood work!”

It seemed my experimentation with this new creative process was a bust. My deep creative impulses were still a mystery from somewhere deep within me — or quite possibly, just something I ate for breakfast. How was I ever going to express what I was feeling? And so, despondency began to set in. And mind, always helpful in avoiding personal growth, was quick to offer up, “…hey, maybe I can sell my camera on eBay and buy a used piano… or take violin lessons? Tennis anyone?”

Sense of Purpose

Yet most mornings, as the horizon would light up, I would awake knowing what I had to do. Trying not to think about it much, I would load up my Subaru Forester with camera, life jacket, paddle and kayak, to head out once again into the pre-dawn. A part of me seemed to have an unwavering (and totally illogical) sense of purpose in paddling for miles across the lake every morning. Heeding the call, I just knew there was something “out there” for me to discover.

Today, I’m glad I listened to that feeling, gently allowing myself to follow my heart without (much) criticism. Please join me next week to learn what I discovered beyond those distant shores. Until then, try listening to the inner voice that doesn’t use words — and photograph “whatever.”