I took this photo 17 years ago today. Sunrise over Trinity Beach just north of Cairns in Queensland, Australia. I remember the exact date because I made two decisions that day that changed everything for me.
The first decision I made was that I wanted to be a photographer, full-time. I'd spent the last few years exploring film photography (digital cameras were still insanely expensive and produced low quality photos), I remember sitting on the rocks watching the sun rise and taking photos and thinking, I want to do this all the time, I want to find a way to make a living from doing this. It took some time, but in 2009 I went full-time.
The second decision is a less great one, we were travelling back to Brisbane, stopped in at Mission Beach and I decided to climb a coconut tree to pick some coconuts (not the first time I'd done this). While at the top of a rather tall coconut tree my shoulder dislocated and I suddenly had zero strength in that arm... the arm that was keeping me in the tree. I fell about 7.5 meters to the ground, hitting the trunk of the tree on the way down and broke my back in two places (L1 & T12).
I don't really remember anything after coming away from the tree, the people I was travelling with said I "bounced" after hitting the ground. My first semi-intelligible words were "help me up, I'm just winded", luckily they had more sense than I did and they had already called the ambulance. I was taken to Tully Hospital and then transferred to Cairns Base Hospital.
The first doctor I saw very casually told me I'd never walk again. I told him in no uncertain terms that I'd walk again and that he could leave the room. My poor mother and sister flew up to Cairns to come see me, I remember being far more worried about how Mum was going than what I was going through (probably the pain-killers they had me on). Meanwhile Dad was back in Brisbane juggling his business, running a church and daily calls to us.
It took quite some time to get to a point where I could sit up again, then many months of physio / rehab to learn how to walk and even just stand without falling over. 17 years later my back still gives me grief and there is a fair bit of nerve damage, I can barely feel my feet most days. It feels like I'm wearing 3 or 4 pairs of thick knee high socks most of the time, on a good day it drops down to just the 1 pair.
I'm grateful for the support of my family through that time and every single day I am grateful that I can walk, especially considering my favourite photography projects are getting out hiking in the mountains (with a good dose of snow please).
Anyway... that's a little of my story, hope it prompts you to be grateful for the little things we all tend to take for granted and ignore (myself included).
The photo was shot on film and scanned as a negative.
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All photos posted are copyright Paul Pichugin unless otherwise stated.