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Outer Banks Guide > Outer Banks Blogs > Eve Turek's Natural Outer Banks Blog

Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Gratitude List
Sometimes in order to get where you’re going, you just need to keep walking. Sometimes as a photographer, I need to keep clicking until something, The Thing, clicks.

I went to the ocean one morning recently at what turned out to be dead low tide (which was still plenty high, given the winds of the past couple of days pushing the ocean onshore.) I do not believe my timing was a coincidence as I am still soaking in the “turn of tide” metaphor, and I wound up photographing as lowest-low began to yield to the shore’s draw of the waves back to itself.

Earlier last week I drove down one morning to Pea Island’s North Pond, where the Black Skimmers that nested near the jetty on the island’s northern tip had moved once the chicks fledged. As I drove, I thought about those Skimmers. I thought about intention, too, and timing, and intuition, and synchronicity, and all the reasons I photograph. In all that thinking I asked for a meditative image born of an experience in the natural world that I could share. When I arrived, I decided to walk by the bulkhead instead of through the tree tunnel and out onto the first viewing platform. I’m so glad I heeded the impulse—when I reached the spot where I would have been stepping off the platform I saw dozens of egrets and tri-colored herons atop the shrubby trees at the higher path’s edge. I likely would have spooked them had I been walking topside. I’ve never seen so many perched there before; in fact, I have never seen that many tricolored herons at Pea Island at such close range, ever. Two visiting photographers met me as they were walking out and I was glad to point out the herons and explain how unusual for me to see them there. South Pond, which has been devoid of wading birds during my every visit this summer, was full of more egrets, ibis, and herons. I’d driven down with more than a little regret that I hadn’t been able to leave the house earlier, but turns out I was right on time for the images meant for me. The lone visiting photographer who was still photographing Skimmers when we met said no birds had been in that pond when he arrived earlier in the morning. The entire experience made my gratitude list.

Speaking of gratitude lists, I began a practice of listing my gratitudes 11 Aprils ago on the advice of close friend and fellow photographer Karen Watras. I and my family were in a season of sorrow, and she suggested making a list at the end of each day of ten things I was grateful for that day. She promised it would shift my perspective, and it did. The list became a quest to be alert for items to include and re-awakened my heart and eyes to the abundance of gifts nature bestows. Two Aprils later, we opened for our first season as the new owners of Yellowhouse Gallery, having bought the business the winter before from Jack and Sue Sandberg. I think the two events—focusing on gratitude and resuming a fulltime creative, photographer’s life—are related.

Often what made my list were the smallest blessings—a ladybug landing on my arm (I had one of those this past week), the feel of the first cool breeze heralding autumn’s arrival (haven’t quite felt that yet though the clouds have looked more like fall than summer lately), or looking down and spotting a fluffy down feather from a newly fledged winged-somebody (seen several of those). Big items make my list, too, like visiting with out of town friends or family (enjoyed some of both recently) or taking a vacation ourselves. While our annual trip won’t come for several more months, I have been off island a few times in the past few weeks. I participated in a photography outing with fellow members of CNPA’s Outer Banks region. We left the Outer Banks and booked a pontoon boat tour on the James River in Richmond to photograph Bald Eagles. That reach of the river has several nesting pair, and our captain and guide, Mike Ostrander of Discover The James, shared a clear love for and knowledge of the river and the birds. You’ll see a couple of images from that trip below. While I photograph eagles here, I had more chances in those three hours to watch eagles in flight—and fishing on the water—than I have in years here.

By far my happiest jaunt was traveling inland about three hours to meet newest grandson, Cash Michael, for his one-day-old birthday. Babies hold such joy and promise in their tiny hands. I could start every gratitude list for the rest of my life with his name, and my son’s name, and Pete’s name, and the name of all the rest of my family members and friends. But Karen told me that repeating gratitudes day in, day out, is really cheating. The idea behind the practice is not to take who and what we love for granted and repeat their names by rote, but to be alert for the gifts each day brings us new. The day before, as Cash was making his way into the world, I was photographing baby hummingbirds in Kitty Hawk when one suddenly fledged in a blur of wings. A few minutes later a swallow-tailed butterfly visited the remaining baby bird, which took its own first flight later in the afternoon. Having the chance to photograph a mother and baby hummingbirds for the second time in my life (thanks to the generosity of the photographer friends whose tree Mother Hummer chose) was a whisper of a prayer answered and its own gratitude entry.

Over the years I’ve shared the practice of gratitude with family, friends, and strangers. Can you see yourself taking five minutes at the end of each day and jotting down in a little notebook ten things you are grateful for from that day? I promise you, as Karen promised me, the practice will change your life. Images of some of the experiences I’m grateful for over the past couple of weeks are below.

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I call this image--and the one below--Salt Bath. Can you guess why? Good thing I wore my quick-dry britches!

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These were so much fun to do! In photography as in life, timing is everything.

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The determined energy of the now-incoming tide buoyed my outlook as it soaked my knees.

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Recent evening image--here I am on a tripod and shutter open just under one second. What I feel here is the pull and tug of the water going out. I like the misty wispiness, which feels like "release" to me -- a gentle letting go.

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Look at all these tricolored herons! Some years I am lucky to see one or two grazing the flats.

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Plenty of birds this bright morning on Pea Island's South Pond.

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Mature Bald Eagle flying over the James River, Richmond.

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Bald Eagle with breakfast. Often, after a parent eagle would fly off with a fish, it would entice its newly fledged baby eaglet to chase it to help teach it how to feed on its own eventually.

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Our newest grandbaby was born about an hour after I watched this mother hummingbird feed her youngest baby--who fledged later that afternoon.

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Beauty is everywhere. I showed our neighbor's two young sons how beautifully radiant this little fly is when seen through my macro lens.

posted by eturek at 3:20 PM

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