• Justin Key

Behind the Title - Blue Skies

Updated: Jun 6

"Blue Skies" - by Willie Nelson



For the majority of my photos, the song it's paired with tells the story of the moment it was taken. "Blue Skies" however, sums up an entire trip to Aruba that culminated with this photo of a divi divi tree in the sand. The slow, light-hearted melody resonated with a few moments early in the trip but by the time we watched our final sunset through this tree I'd been in a "Blue Skies" state of mind for days.


My wife, Sarah, and I have been traveling together since we started dating. Travel was a passion for both of us and we soon realized our incredible chemistry on the road was helping strengthen our bond as a couple. After our first year of marriage vanished in the blink of an eye, we decided to celebrate our anniversary with a trip that would allow us to slow down and reconnect. This brought us to Aruba.


The decision to visit Aruba wasn't a difficult one. Sarah had been dying for a tropical vacation and with our anniversary in October, we needed a location outside of the hurricane belt. Aruba hadn't seen a hurricane in ten years and with a good mix of activities for me and pristine white sand beaches for her we booked our flights. After our first day, it became clear we made the right choice.


Our first day was spent at the beach with resident flamingos soaking in the sun. Laying in hammocks over the clear Caribbean water watching the pink birds strut the beach was the perfect way to settle into the island vibe. Normally, I get stir crazy at the beach but swaying under a clear blue sky with my foot dangling in the water relaxed away my desire to move.


The song "Blue Skies" has an upbeat melody but is set to the pace of a head-in-the-clouds stroll. The lyrics are cheerful but have nowhere to be. It's a song in total satisfaction of the moment with the intent of savoring every detail contributing to the feeling of bliss. It's a song sung by a person in love.


For me, the "Blue Skies" melody began playing on our second night. Staying at a quiet boutique hotel across from the beach, Sarah and I decided to toast our first year of marriage with a bottle of wine in the quaint oasis they'd designed in the center of the complex. The small pool glowed in a jungle of tropical flora that provided a curtain of privacy. An open-aired lounge area of hammocks and deep-cushioned couches was nestled in the corner dimly lit by accent lights placed in the trees. With only the sound of chirping insects and lizards, Sarah and I fell into deep conversation as we sipped down our bottle of wine.


The following morning, the lack of an alarm was just one more thing to be thankful for. After a night of flowing conversation, I felt more connected to Sarah than ever and had no interest in anything but further enjoying her company. We savored a bounty of breakfast options on our patio as the morning passed. A day at the beach was the only thing on our agenda and with no need to fight for real estate we sipped our fresh fruit juice until the time felt right.


Later that evening, we continued our anniversary celebration with a gentle sunset catamaran ride. Complete with an open bar and a playlist of island music to serenade us, the boat drifted through the calm evening water. Laying in the netting at the front of the boat with my arm around Sarah I felt any lingering points of stress dissipate. As we watched the sky turn colors I realized this was one of those rare perfect moments in life.


"Blue skies

Smiling at me

Nothing but blue skies

Do I see"


That feeling hung around all week. From snorkeling a shipwreck and seeing lobsters and an octopus to bobbing in the shallows together, every moment spent with Sarah was perfect.


"Bluebirds

Singing a song

Nothing but bluebirds

All day long"


One evening, we settled on a hidden beach tucked in a forest of mangrove trees. We'd arrived in the afternoon to explore a bit before returning to our hotel before dinner. As the sun began to paint the sand gold we found ourselves watching the sky turn colors through a mangrove tunnel. With our feet in the sand at the edge of the lagoon, I set the camera aside so I could absorb every second of the moment with my wife. Normally I would have been running around looking for another shot but I knew the only thing that mattered then and there was Sarah.


"I never saw the sun shining so bright

Never saw things going so right

Noticing the days hurrying by

When you're in love, my how they fly"


On our final day in paradise, we walked to the beach where the divi divi trees reside. I waited the entire trip to photograph the old trees in the sand but when we arrived I felt no rush to break out the camera. Instead, Sarah and I waded out into the turquoise water and watched the fish swimming over the flawless white sand between our toes.


As the sun began to set we made our way over to the divi divi trees where I composed "Blue Skies". The tree was packed with character. The trunk was warped and twisted, the leaves were jagged and sharp, I elected to blow out the blue sky to place all attention on the tree itself. The photo is a perfect representation of our time in Aruba, a simple composition and yet full of important details. Pair it with the easy-going tune, perfectly expressing the feeling of love, and that memory of Aruba comes floating back.


"Blue days

All of them gone

Nothing but blue skies

From now on"

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© Justin Key Photography