God Is Alive And Well And Living In The Florida Everglades – By Kenny P.

Photography by Kenny P.

I’ve been a photographer since I was 11 years old. I had my own darkroom and loved everything about the hobby. As an adult, I worked as a Still Man for commercials and movies and shot tons of modeling composites. Once my addiction progressed, I neglected photography like I did everything else.

Fast forward to 10 years ago. My mother had just passed away from a very sudden illness and I went into a brief funk. I knew that I’d eventually get through it, but each day had an overwhelming sadness that permeated my existence.

My wife knew that a DSLR camera had caught my eye, but I felt that it was too much to spend on myself. She surprised me for our wedding anniversary and bought it for me. That camera changed my life. I started out by photographing the kids, and then landscapes of the Miami area…and then one day I went into the Everglades and I tried my hand at nature photography. From day one, I was hooked!

“I began to notice that a preternatural calm would take over my body, even on the drive there.”

I started going out every weekend shooting nature pictures. I began to notice that a preternatural calm would take over my body, even on the drive there. My breathing would get slower and my mind clearer. I normally listen to classic rock very LOUDLY in the car, but when going in the Glades, I started listening to New Age, Classical or Meditation music. It all became part of my total experience. With 24 years clean, I started viewing Nature as my higher power.

So now it brings me to why I wrote this piece. About 5 years ago, I was driving down Snake Road in the Everglades. This road abuts the Miccosukee Indian village and is comprised mostly of farmland. There’s a canal on both sides of the road where I often found deer, feral hogs, otters, raccoons and many birds and gators. It’s a photo rich environment for those that are paying close attention.

On this particular morning, I drove through some fog as the sun was rising like a huge orange ball. There’s a fence bordering the road the entire way and I’m looking to frame it in the sunrise shot. Then I spotted it. There was a giant spiderweb across the fence. Every crosshatch in the web had a tiny drop of dew on it. In the drop was a perfectly clear image of the sun coming up. It was gorgeous!

I immediately hopped out of my car and grabbed my camera and a tripod (because of the low light). I started clicking away and the shots were incredibly beautiful! Then, out of nowhere, a male great blue heron, in bright mating plumage, hopped up on a tree stump perfectly framed with the glowing spider web. It was an awesome image!

I grabbed a couple of shots, but the heron flew away. I was disappointed, but it came right back…and in its mouth was a large juvenile black banded water snake! So now, picture this! I have a gorgeous sunrise, captured in the spiderweb. Off to the left and perfectly framed is this colorful great blue heron with an equally colorful snake in his mouth! I took a couple of shots with my flash and everything came together perfectly! It was, without a doubt the best photograph that I’ve ever taken!

At noon, after my shoot, I had a “meetup” with about 20 of my photographer friends at a local deli. I should tell you at this point that all of these friends are better photographers than I. No false modesty, just a fact! Anyway, these guys all shot with very expensive, high-quality cameras. All of them owned Canons or Nikons and they were very opinionated as to which made the better camera. My wife bought me a Sony camera. I never really researched it….remember it was a surprise. My photographer buddies never missed an opportunity to make fun of my Sony. “Get a real camera Kenny” was a common tease thrown my way. It was good natured, all in fun, and yet deep down a resentment was forming.

The day of the “great blue heron spider web shot” I was in seventh heaven. I got the definitive Everglades shot. It had everything in it, beauty, color, and action. I couldn’t wait to rub it in the faces of those smug Canon and Nikon owners. I had my laptop with me so I pulled off to the side of the road and downloaded the files from my storage card and headed towards the deli for lunch with my friends.

After the download, I deleted the images from the card and put the card back in my camera. When I got to the restaurant, I went to edit the pictures and at that moment I got a message: CORRUPTED FILES. There was nothing there….and I had already deleted the storage card. There was nothing….nothing to show them at all. I was so upset that I sat in my car in the parking lot and I felt like crying.

What came to me at that point was life changing.

I reflected on my mission at that lunch, to rub my fantastic photo in their faces. I was filled with ego, false pride, and resentments. I started to think about how lucky I was to even have the experience that I had that morning and to be grateful that I was able to appreciate the beauty in that moment. I was aware, from that time forward that I was in a sense, in a “partnership with my Higher Power every time I took a photograph in Nature.

It was a brief sharing of the moment. Anyway, that day, I told my friends at lunch what had happened. Their response was amazing. They had better equipment, but I was still getting some amazing shots. Some of them were even considering switching to a Sony!

So this brings me to yesterday when I was out in the Glades and getting some really nice shots when I came across this great white egret with a juvenile banded water snake in his mouth. I got the settings perfectly and even captured the shadow of the snake on the body of the bird. What a moment, what a shot! My first thought, though, this time….was how lucky I am, that my Higher Power allowed me to share in this beauty! I don’t ever want to stop feeling the gratitude for this spiritual connection with Nature. Thanks for letting me share.

About MrClean

I got into photography at the age of 12. By 13 I had my own darkroom set up in a shed behind my house. I was really into it until I got so caught up in drugs that I could barely focus and I often sold my camera equipment for drugs. Fast forward to when I had 24 years clean and my mother had just died. I went into a funk after her death and my wife wanted to cheer me up with a camera that I'd been eying as an anniversary present. I hadn't taken a shot for almost 35 years but it came back to me right away. I found that I had a real affinity for photographing nature. Today I'm a member of the Audubon society and I'm in the Everglades just about every weekend. One of my specialties is Macro photography (close ups) which has truly opened my eyes to the little things in life! I find that my time in Nature helps me get in touch with my higher power.
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10 Comments

  1. I love this, the images, the tension in the telling, and the lesson. I have had those moments where an sad result has helped me focus on intention. Then I recoup the event in my memory and hold it dear. Sometimes, too, I am also allowed a second chance.
    Your photos and your demeanor are a joy. Thank you.

  2. Hi Kenny, sooo happy that you have rediscovered such a wonderful passion that has given you and others much joy. I am new to this site and thrilled I found a beautiful share from you. Looking forward to enjoying some of your wonderful photos. Stay blessed __/l\__ Jen R. (xnavygal)

  3. This story had me captivated Kenny as do your photos…I enjoy taking amateur photos. It helps me relax and I find it exciting. Yesterday I took a photo when I woke up in the middle of the night of my roomy’s cat all curled up on my bed with my stuffed animals. When I went to put it on my laptop I deleted it and when I went to search for it I couldn’t find it…no clue where it went. I remind myself I have so many pics and might get the shot again…Thanks Kenny.

  4. The lead words should be highlighted in bold red font like other pieces I notice here! This is one of the most moving stories I’ve read in a long time. How wonderful you returned to your passion and can share it with all of us. Thank you again and again for showing us that it’s never too late to return to who we want to be and as clean and sober, celebrate spirituality everywhere with such gusto! Here, here!!

    • Joanne, the highlighted text in Kennys piece happens to be blue. It’s called formatting. Not to make anyone elses piece stand out more than others. The new way of formatting on The Cafe is to highlight main points in essays, and I choose different colors to make them look bright and interesting.

  5. in a way, you let yourself off the hook.. that competition and drive to prove yourself..god, while in the everglades and everywhere else, took hold of that download and stored it in his eternal file..corrupted no more.. love you ken!

  6. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

  7. Your photographs make my day begin with an “aahhh”. I love seeing them and I love knowing that you loved taking them. I thank you for the gift you give us all; and I hope you never stop feeling that moment of joy when the perfect picture presents itself and you are the one to take it for us—the lucky ones who get to enjoy it. Love you, Kenny boy—-keep those magnificent images coming! Your loving Aunt Mickey

  8. Keep on living in gratitude…..that is our truth…
    We always are open to growth…

    David

  9. Love this story! Some of your shots that you post leave me in awe. Thanks for sharing! Terry

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