on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Ebb and Flow

Riding the Waves of Creative Energy

Colleen Miniuk-Sperry

Colleen Miniuk-Sperry fled the grey cubicle walls at Intel Corporation in 2007 to pursue a fulfilling full-time outdoor photography and writing career. Her credits include National Geographic calendars, Arizona Highways, AAA Highroads, National Parks Traveler, and a broad variety of other publications. She has served three times as an Artist-in-Residence with Acadia National Park.

Colleen is putting the final touches on her next book, Going with the Flow, a part-memoir, part adventure travel story on how she paddled her way out of adversity and into happiness on Lake Powell and the Colorado River.”

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In April 2015, my life took an unexpected and devastating turn. Two weeks prior to my 14th wedding anniversary and four weeks prior to my 40th birthday, my husband (who had also been my best friend for 22 years) and I decided to separate. After experiencing an outrageous amount of success throughout my charmed life, the word “failure” had never entered my vocabulary, and I felt like I had failed at one of the most important things to me in my life. My soul died.

As the emotional storm tossed me into a whirlpool of despair, I sought to redirect my pain into a new dream. I decided to stand-up-paddleboard (SUP) the 141-mile length of Lake Powell, a reservoir along the Colorado River on the Utah/Arizona border. In November 2015, my 64-year-old mother and I launched on a 14-day journey. However, like my marriage, it too did not go according to plan.

On the fourth day of our trip, we encountered unpredicted crosswinds that stirred the lake waters into five-to-six-foot swells.

While navigating through the disappointment and shame, in the aftermath, I learned how to go with the flow, not just in my life but also in my photography. My struggle with personal trauma is a dramatic example of this newfound attitude.
As one wave after another slammed into my paddleboard, I watched the swells toss my mother’s kayak against the sheer 400-foot cliffs bordering the lake for almost two hours. Small grottoes threatened to swallow her and her kayak whole with each outgoing wave and then smash her with the next incoming one. 



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