I almost called it a day. I would have come home with no photographs. My mind was set on getting to an outer strip of sand separated from the main beach by a mile long lagoon, about a quarter mile wide. To save time—because it was late in the day—I twice tried to cross through the water, and both times stopped with tripod and camera bag over my head, and the water still getting deeper. Walking around the lagoon would get me there too late; the sun would be down. Disappointed, I turned around, sloshed through the last few feet of water, and set my gear down for a moment on the beach and looked back. I put the bag on my back, grabbed the tripod, and turned away, walking back towards the families that were packing up their towels, coolers, and beach toys. And that’s the moment I turned it around. I had been in my head for the last few minutes, kicking myself for getting to the beach too late, violating one of my big rules, but that head space is not where photographs come from. I consciously threw all that thinking away, and rose up, like an animal on the plains, searching. Right there—back over towards the water—something sparkled back at me. I went towards it, now in the space of curiosity that drives me. The sparkling light was touching a serrated beach pattern, a beautiful abstract playground removed from a sense of scale reality. I moved quickly as the light was changing, loving what I was doing, being connected. I made a few photographs, and the light changed.
I felt full, and I looked up. Just past a little stretch of sand, waves were coming together, creating wonderful lines and textures filled with pinks and blues. Into the water I went, wet and happy, and I continued to work.
The sun set and the stage of color was set. Hundreds of shorebirds arrived, running in and out of the water’s edge, feeding. Their darting energy seemed like a parade orchestrated by the whimsy of the waves. I watched and worked and played until light and color left.
Completely alive, I walked back towards the parking lot. I turned back a few times—the birds were still feeding, they started to blend in darkness with the waves, and soon I couldn’t make out bird or wave. I took a deep breath, reminded myself to show up earlier, and smiled at the gifts.