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Feature Image by: Paul Jurak

Kayakcameraman: An Accidental Artist

For me, the pairing of kayaking with photography is about escapism and discovery — two things that help me immensely, since taking on the fight with Cancer. 

I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in late 2010. I went for all the checks and scans, and then was left high and dry because I didn’t have private health insurance. Weeks later, the tumour had dramatically increased in size, affecting my ability to walk. I had to admit myself to the emergency department. Thankfully the tumour was removed soon after. 

When it returned again in 2011 — this time in my lymph nodes — I undertook an intensive nine-week chemotherapy program to try and ‘kill the termites’. It was during my third cycle of chemotherapy — the worst — I noticed an ad for a sea kayaks sale. I’d never kayaked before, but had always wanted to. I remember thinking it would be a brilliant way to rebuild my body and mind. I bought two kayaks that afternoon.  

Cow sniffing front nose of a kayak

"My love for photography began on my maiden voyage with my eldest son, Tully."

I managed to capture a quick back-shot with my phone and the image looked absolutely amazing. But, I quickly realised that I was going to need a camera that could withstand the elements I’m exposed to on the water and capture higher-quality shots. So I bought the waterproof and nearly indestructible Canon Powershot 20D, and eventually upgraded to the Powershot 30D

Once I became more familiar with photography and how to control the output I bought a DSLR-the EOS 70D-to take out kayaking. I use it paired with the EF 18-200mm almost all of the time, which gives me a great focal range. This is important because I don’t like changing lenses mid-paddle as you can imagine!

Hot air balloon at sunrise with rainbow
image of red kayak tip between two bridges

Experiencing the soft, early light on the water is totally unique. 

"Seeing the light dance across the water’s surface with each moving ripple is hard to explain in words, but can be retold through the simplicity of a photograph."

I always start the creative process with an idea of the story I want to tell, or the feeling I want to create from that moment in time. I vary my techniques and probably break all the rules of photography; I’m not a professional and I’m untrained. 

leafless tree in fog and water reflection

Hot air balloon over lake

To be honest, I just shoot from the eye. I’ll shoot directly into the sun, go for ridiculous and obscure angles, or partly submerge my camera in the water. I’m constantly learning through trial and error — having a blast along the way.

My photography inspiration was fuelled by an image of mine that was a finalist in the Canon Light Awards compact category. I used my trusty Powershot D30 to capture the shot. This win gave me the confidence — and a platform — to further my passion for photography on a larger scale. 

Since Canon Light Awards, I’ve been approached by an embassy in Canberra to hold an exhibition later this year, which will showcase my images to all the embassies of the world.

Canon light awards winning image

The Canon Light Awards compact camera finalist image.

Out there on the water I’m immersed in another world, and I’m treated to some of the most amazing natural light shows from Mother Nature. I've dodged coal tankers in Newcastle Harbour, and been lost in the beauty of the North and South Coasts of New South Wales. 

Once I was kayaking in the wetlands of the mid-north coast when an elderly local came along in a canoe. 
I said, “Mate, it's beautiful here.” 
He replied, “Can you believe that people have lived in this area all their lives, and never seen this?” 
This resonated so strongly with me. It’s something that propels me each and every day, to discover something new.  

Black and white image of Paul Jurak on kayak

"When you’re looking through the lens you’re always looking for the best the day has to offer."

Why wouldn’t you want to experience and share this? Images and story by Paul Jurak — A.K.A. Kayakcameraman.