Rain or shine, Paul Jurak can be found most days on the waters of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin, quietly snapping photographs of the city and surrounding landscape for kayakcameraman.com.
After taking up paddling in 2012 to help rebuild his body and mind after chemotherapy treatment for testicular cancer, Paul discovered that the best views of Canberra were to be found from the lake, and usually with the front tip of his kayak in view.
And, six years later, it was the National Library of Australia turn to discover him. In 2013, the library recognised the significance of Paul’s beautifully captured Canberra dawns and scenery by adding his website and photographs to the national archive.
We sat down for a quick chat with the man himself, Canberra’s renowned Kayak Cameraman, Paul Jurak.
What do you love about photography and paddling?
There’s nothing like it; light and water are a beautiful combination. When I’m out on the water with my camera, I’m in the best head space. This is my place of meditation. My daily paddles provide me and my social media/website visitors with stunning views of nature in all its various lights.
Since you’ve been paddling and photographing it, you’ve become interested in Lake Burley Griffin’s history. What particularly fascinates you about its past?
I’m fascinated by architect Walter Burley Griffin’s 1912 vision of a lake for Canberra and how his design was interpreted and changed in the years before and after it was built. As well as finding old photos of the lake and talking about it with others I’m particularly interested at the moment with how the lake and its surrounds are changing. New developments, such as the Kingston Foreshore and the New Acton precincts are transforming the city and allowing people to connect more readily with the lake.
Have you had any tricky adventures on the lake?
I’ve had a few close encounters with sculls which have suddenly appeared from a blanket fog) in the early hours of a minus six-degree morning. Sometimes the visibility can be as little as a few metres so I have to have my wits about me. Another unique experience was when a curious cow on Dairy Flat (directly opposite the Kingston Foreshore) decided to inspect and lick the nose of my kayak. Of course, this made for a great photo opportunity!
Your favourite Canberra vantage point
The lake. Its launch areas all provide different views but guide you towards the main basin where you can capture the iconic architectural sights such as the National Carillon, National Library, National Art Gallery of Australia, Black Mountain Tower, War Memorial and the National Museum of Australia.
Your favourite season
Winter. My senses come alive when I’m paddling on a minus eight-degree morning, cocooned by a blanket of thick pea soup fog with limited visibility. Then, once the sun rises and begins to burn through the fog, I witness extraordinary sights such as mist dancing on the water’s surface, stunning silhouettes of architectural structures and people being active.
Don’t leave Canberra without…
Seeing a sunrise from the lake or a sunset over the Brindabellas. And the Canberra Balloon Spectacular held in March is definitely one for the bucket list.
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