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Taking our lake to farther shores

Emma Macdonald

He is an accidental artist – a cancer-surviving plumber who found his calling taking photographs of Lake Burley Griffin in all her daily and seasonal permutations.

Now Paul Jurak – known to so many Canberrans as the Kayakcameraman – is finding national acclaim for his eye and uncanny ability to translate the stillness of a morning sunrise into what looks like a landscape painting.

Earlier this month, Paul attended the Canon Australia Light Awards Grand Finale after being announced one of four national finalists for Compact Photo of the Year.

His image, of his trusty kayak – which he fondly refers to as the “Red Chilli” – with its nose pointing down the barrel of a light shaft between the roads of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge – caught judge Abraham Joffe’s eye as “a really pleasing image and actually quite striking.”

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The winning photo described as a “striking” image.

Paul was given the reins to the Canon Australia Instagram account for a week in December as part of the award and he loved his immersion in the photographic world during the Sydney gala event.

It has been an amazing journey for the tradie-turned-photographer, who pledged to himself that if he survived testicular cancer he would indulge his long-held desire to buy a kayak and appreciate each sunrise and sunset while bobbing on the lake.

That was five years ago, and now few Canberrans would not have come across one of Paul’s images, either on his own popular social media platforms, in The Canberra Times, in a number of local galleries or hanging on the wall as part of his calendar series.

“I just can’t believe some days,” says the ever-humble father of three.

While he did not take out the national compact photography prize, Paul is thrilled with the exposure and recognition.

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“Who would have ever thought that a plumber who paddles a sea kayak would ever make the finalists list for Canon Australia’s photo of the year competition?”

“I only started photographing five years ago and I’m absolutely humbled and still in disbelief that this has even happened, it’s only just sinking in, to be honest.”

Paul maintains that his early starts and quiet, reflective floats across the lake are his religion. While he continues teaching his trade at the Canberra Institute of Technology during the day, Paul will load his kayak on top of his car and leave his quiet Ainslie cul de sac for a posse among the early-morning LBG crowd most mornings.

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If the weather is right – and Paul is constantly and almost reflexively checking the skies – he will duck out to capture the sunset as well.

And if he can’t get onto the lake, he can regularly be found clanging a ladder across the side of his house and clambering across his roof in order to get the golden night-falls.

Paul’s images are not digitally enhanced and he posts daily to his Instagram account @kayakcameraman and to Facebook.

To this day he remains committed to showing off Canberra from a different perspective – on the lake looking out rather than on the shore looking in.

“Every day is different, every cloud, every shaft of light, every colour on the trees, every ripple on the water. I can’t imagine I will ever get sick of it.”

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Paul Jurak in the Red Chili: Image by Mark Moore

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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