A Different Path

Jez and I camped at Kiptopeke State Park for a few days, just before shooting the Baltimore Brain Tumor Walk. It’s an annual pilgrimage I make each Autumn to do some birding and photography during Fall Migration. Just because of the way our schedule worked out, we were several weeks early for the best action, and I didn’t get a lot of great wildlife stuff. (I did get some, though, and those shots are forthcoming.)

Being the wonderful and thoughtful person she is by nature, Jez offered to pose for me out in the park. It’s not the first time she’s jumped in front of my camera when things went sideways.

It took awhile for me to get all the BBTW shots done, and I had just finished them when our relationship ended last week. I’d had the Kiptopeke shots on the back burner, so they’re still just sitting on the hard drive, waiting for me. (I have her permission to use them still, of course, and I’ll post some at some point.)

So there they sit, and I’m undecided if I’m ready for them. I don’t know if they’ll make me feel better or worse, so I’ll marinate on it a bit.

Something I’ve already been marinating on is how to look at, and deal with, this experience. It’s painful. It hurts. I’m crushed. I am utterly and completely heartbroken. But it’s beautiful in it’s own, sad, wonderful way. Jez isn’t a fan of putting her private life in the public eye, and I’ll of course do my best to respect that even now. But I will say from my perspective that our relationship, including the end, was notable for its communication and its functionality. It *worked*, like an adult relationship is supposed to. It ended as well as any such intensely intimate relationship possibly could, I think.

But it didn’t end, exactly. Not really. It’s more of a transitioning to something different. An intimate friendship, perhaps. I’d like that. We’ll see how it evolves. We’re shooting a wedding together in a few weeks, in fact. She’s become quite the photographer since she first expressed an interest in being behind the lens, and I’ll always be happy to call her my partner, even if that means something different now than it once did.

Jez has, for reasons I understand and respect, chosen a different path. I love this shot. And it evokes in me now the same beautiful, but gut-wrenching, feelings as the evening she said goodbye. I didn’t know, couldn’t see, what this shot would come to symbolize for me at the time. It was just a beautiful shot of someone I love very much.

But there’s a secret about the path in this shot, something you cannot see from where we were standing at the time, something you cannot know unless you’ve traveled that path before, and I have.

It’s a long path. It travels pretty far. Sometimes a person can walk it all in a short time. Sometimes it takes bit more. It passes through all sorts of terrain. It goes through wildflower fields, it passes a beautiful lake. It snakes through an incredibly dense pine stand, so dense you can’t tell where you are or where you are going, but for the little bit of path you can see behind you, and the little bit you can see ahead. More fields, more wildflowers. A beautiful, dark hardwood forest. It’s quite a journey. It’s big, and long, and beautiful, and sometimes even a little bit scary.

But after awhile, after all of that, it brings you right back around to this exact spot. See that path coming in from the right? Yeah, it’s the other end of this same path.

Just sayin’.


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Louis Shackleton is an intimate portraiture artist and wildlife photographer formerly based in Wilmington, NC. After 3 years of traveling the continent in his 2001 VW Passat, he's now settled in Seattle, Washington.

Head on over to the About page to read more about him and his work.

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