This weekend I had the opportunity to meet a fascinating man. Lazaro Ruda is a wildlife photographer. Lazaro taught me ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau wrote, “People protect what they love.” Lazaro loves the ocean and its creatures. His art declares this love and, as a result, expands our appreciation of these gifts from the sea.
I met Lazaro at the South Miami Arts Festival on Sunday. I was drawn to his booth by this photograph. As my daughter and I gazed at the different pictures and creatures captured in time within all their splendor, Lazaro mentioned each photograph held its own story. He’d be happy to relay their stories to us if we were interested.
Jessie and I were indeed. Interested.
Lazaro and I share a love of sea turtles. Sea turtles are hatched from eggs their mother lays buried deep in the sand on the beach where she was born. Once hatched it can take up to a week for the little baby turtles to dig out of the nest of sand their mom has buried them under for protection. Protection from the elements, and from all the creatures who roam the beach and are hungry. Once the tiny turtles break through the sand barrier, there is no protection. It’s a bee-line for the water where, maybe, he has a modicum of a chance to swim and reach some semblance of safety before someone bigger appreciates him as an appetizer.
Lazaro volunteers his time to patrol Palm Beach during hatching season. As residents of South Florida, we know modern lights have become an unintentional destroyer of the sea turtle population. Sea turtles hatch at night. The hatchlings break through the sand and head toward the light which they sense is the sea. Artificial light sets the babies off in the wrong direction. They only have enough energy and moisture contained within their shells to last for several hours. The hatchlings have to get to the sea soon to survive.
Lazaro is scheduled to volunteer once a week. He goes every day. Why he does it is for creatures like this pocket-sized guy pictured here.
Lazaro is convinced our friend is a guy because he found him lost. Wrong side of the road. Across A1A. 7-11 parking lot. Palm Beach.
Wandering around on the asphalt. Not asking for directions. Still dark with a peak at the sunrise. Meandering along his way. Hurrying. Purposeful. That’s when our guy met Lazaro.
Lazaro was on his way home when he saw the adventurer exactly where a turtle is not supposed to be. Going completely in the wrong direction. Everything going badly for our friend at this point. Future bleak.
Lazaro saw the motion on the pavement. Couldn’t believe his eyes. How did this guy get way over here? Lazaro picked up the small creature and realized there was still a lot of life left in this little guy. Even after his arduous journey, the tiny turtle was raring to go. Feet flapping. Swimming in air. Lazaro cradled our new friend, walked back across the main street, through the beach sand and back to the shoreline.
Lazaro purposefully stopped a few feet short on the sand to let the turtle take his first steps towards home independently. After the night this guy had, he deserved the victory lap into his ocean.
Lazaro dropped down with his camera on his belly to capture his shot. With a different perspective, he grasped even more clearly the beauty of this moment.
Our friend was getting home just in time for a perfect sunrise.
As Lazaro focused his lens, he saw that the tiny turtle had all fins up and was just resting in the moment. On pause. Looking around. Taking it all in. Appreciating. Taking a minute to breathe in the salt air. Savoring that first, grateful glimpse of home.
Lazaro captured a perfect moment early that Palm Beach Morning. He calls it The Hopeful Future.