A Legacy of Smoke and Fire

This was not the scene I had been looking forward to photographing during my first visit to Glacier National Park, while on a road-trip ranging from the deserts of Arizona, up the coast of California, and inland through incredible terrain to reach these dramatic mountains; I had been anticipating lush green forest and beautiful valleys framed by the sharp outlines of enormous ancient peaks, with an excess of crisp late-summer sunlight and photographic opportunities.

The scale of the landscape did not disappoint, but as we packed up our tent and camping gear from a forested campsite on the valley floor, readying for a scenic drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road, the acrid smoke of nearby wildfires began to settle through the trees. The sunlight had the burnt orange hue now well-known across the North American West as fires ravage huge swaths of wilderness. Still, the park rangers indicated the road was open, and as it was our primary route to our next campsite we set out on a surreal, smokey, sobering drive.

As Going-to-the-Sun Road led us up from the valley, the smoke could be seen rising in great grey plumes and settling across ridge-lines, creeping downslope, and filling the sky between mountains. Quickly the views became vast – glacier-carved, rugged, rocky slopes with the clearly defined striations of an ancient geologic prehistory, swaths of green forest punctuated by the first brilliant yellow leaves of fall, and across it all a blanket of heavy, shifting blue smoke.

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My eyes stung as we descended through Logan Pass and the air became increasingly more difficult to breath. My husband had fond memories of a lovely forested trail just off the main road, with a tumbling creek passing beneath an arched bridge, and as we watched for likely candidates, the road crossed into a stark landscape of recently-burnt forest.

We found the spot, easily accessed at Baring Creek, and decimated by fire in 2015; surrounded by skeletal trees and scorched rocky ground, set against smokey mountains, the creek ran clear and fast, but there was otherwise an eerie stillness to the scene. No rustling of wind through leafy trees, no birdsong, and an unsettling sense that the danger of active wildfires were only a few ridge-lines away.

Having lived most of my life in California, fire season and its consequences are not new to me. I often observe recent fire scarring in familiar landscapes, and have nearly always see a shift in the species that take hold once vegetation starts to return. Seeing a forest in this state of blackened, skeletal remains was new to me – it is unclear whether the trees will ever recover, or if what was once a verdant forested mountain slope may now be destined to become a rocky, scrub-covered slope as the decaying trees eventually fall.

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Much of our recent trip was shaped by fire; we could not take our planned route up the coast of Oregon due to evacuation orders along the highway, and even our inland detour was so choked with smoke that visibility became severely compromised and the sun disappeared in a cloud of orange-brown haze. We were lucky to drive along the Columbia River Gorge before it became a fiery inferno, and I am now wishing we hadn’t been on such a tight schedule and could have stopped to enjoy more of the old-growth forest before a carelessly-started wildfire stripped the landscape of green trees.

Even after leaving Glacier National Park and crossing through badlands to the open plains of Saskatchewan, we were greeted with news of fires further north in the province, and the smoke has been impacting us at home.

Fire is a necessary element in many ecosystems, but decades of overly aggressive wilderness fire suppression combined with extensive drought has made fire conditions exceptionally combustible. With time, many of these places will recover and life will return, but in so many instances the landscape will be irrevocably changed. I look forward to returning to Glacier National Park, Montana, to see how the landscape changes with the seasons, and hopefully I will be able to document the next phase of recovery from wildfires in this beautiful place.

Glacier National Park, summer
Smoke fills the sky between mountains and drifts through a canyon at Glacier National Park, Montana as viewed from Going-to-the-Sun Road

A full set of images from Glacier National Park can be found at www.apkphotography.com

Thoughts on the shifting landscape of time…

“Antipathy toward time clouds personal and collective thinking.” – Marcia Bjornerud⁠⁠
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Morning light and blowing snow across the rolling landscape of Southern Alberta, February 2020⁠⁠
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One year ago we were settling into a new, strange routine. I had already been working from home, and we already enjoyed the occasional convenience of delivered groceries. But now there were daily news briefings to watch, headlines to anxiously scan, family and friends around the world to check-in on with frequent urgency. Making sure the pantry and freezer were well-stocked and offering to help procure household goods for neighbours. Watching as future plans like concerts and travel were postponed, or cancelled altogether.⁠⁠
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Even though the content of my time did not seem to change dramatically, my sense of it shifted wildly from day to day, hour to hour. Soon a pattern emerged, with one relatively productive day of focus and work followed by several days of gnawing anxiety and distraction. We retreated into rewatching familiar funny TV shows, anything escapist we could binge watch. I read books and played countless video games. I digitized an entire library of 20+ years of film negatives.⁠ Then came spring gardening, a single summer escape for an isolated long weekend at the lake, the last warm sunroom days of autumn. And winter again, prolonged dark and cold with hope on the horizon.⁠⁠
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Limbo is a terrible place to be. We all encounter it in some form, at some point in our lives, but many of us are fortunate to have not had to make it our home until recently. It is exhausting to be at odds with time; resisting it’s relentless march while constantly baffled by how inconsistent our experiences of it can be. I know that a year ago I did not expect a swift solution to the pandemic, I sensed that we would have to linger in this crisis in order to overcome it, but I had no concept of how it would feel a year later. There is still a very long road ahead, and I think my relationship with time may be forever changed.⁠

Summer Reflections | Riding Mountain National Park, Canada


“After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful? Because it is.”

― Margaret Atwood

Blue summer skies and fluffy white clouds mirrored in the water of Whirlpool Lake at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. The dazzling colours of summer are fleeting in Canada, and in this scene there are vivid blues and greens. The dark forest recedes along the horizon while a breeze skims the surface of the lake, softening the reflection of trees and sky.

Bright blue summer sky and fluffy clouds reflected in the water of Whirlpool Lake at Riding Mountain, National Park, Canada

This is Treaty 2 Territory, land of the Métis, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)⁠.⁠

I encountered this moment of wilderness reflection on a short summer hike last year. Exploring Riding Mountain National Park means many opportunities to view lovely small lakes like this, and I am always hoping to spot some wildlife on the opposite shore. The breeze (mostly) kept the mosquitos away, and nearby meadows were bursting with late summer wildflowers. As a photographer, a landscape reflection like this is impossible to resist. The scenery and elements allow for beautiful compositions and studies of balance, which I particularly enjoy capturing.

There is often a sense of serenity in photos of natural reflections. When I look at these images now, I am transported to a calm, breathtaking time and place. The texture of air moving across water reminds me of vintage glass windows and how their rippled texture smudges the colours in the sky. The mirror-like surface of the water makes the natural light even more magical. Whether viewed as abstract textural art or as a study in landscape reflection photography, Whirlpool Lake in Manitoba is a special spot that I hope to photograph again soon.

See more of Riding Mountain National Park photographed throughout the seasons, with prints and licensing available, custom inquiries always welcome.

Water Lily & Lotus

With bright flowers emerging from the water, contrasted by the rounded geometry of simple floating leaves, water lilies and lotuses have inspired artists and poets, symbolizing deep cultural meanings for centuries. Exploring the beauty of a water lily or lotus plant through photography is a welcome creative challenge.

These aquatic plants are a lovely subject for floral photography, and they make stunning botanical prints full of reflections and texture. The minimal natural forms translate well to fine art interpretations. The flowers bloom in many colours and a single water lily blossom or lotus flower can be both striking and serene.


Water lily or lotus, what’s the difference?

Water lilies (Nymphaeaceae) and lotus (Nelumbo) are most easily identifed by observing how they grow. Most water lily flowers and leaves float at the surface of the water, while lotus flowers and leaves emerge to rise above the water’s surface on longer stems. Both of these families of aquatic plants prefer shallow, calm or slow-moving watery habitats, such as ponds, lakes, and streams.

Water lily & lotus flowers from around the world

I’ve been working in my archives lately and have come across several images of these remarkable plants and flowers. Captured over the years, my water lily photography may not be quite like the magnificent impressionist representations such as those found in Claude Monet’s water lily paintings, but I can see why he was drawn to repeatedly explore their beauty.

My water lily and lotus photography has mostly been inspired while in botanical gardens, and the images in this post include examples from New Plymouth, New Zealand and San Francisco, California. There are also wild pond lilies (Nuphar) from Canada seen on a recent summer hike in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba.

Colourful symbolism & deeper meaning

Representing rebirth, enlightenment and hope, water lily and lotus flowers also carry different meanings depending on the colour of their petals; pink for knowledge, white for peace, purple for power. The blooming petals tend to be solitary flowers against lush rafts of leaves, or reflected in dark, glassy water. Water lily flowers are the official state or national flowers of several countries, and their leaves are potent symbols often used in heraldry designs. I think of them as a peaceful plant, thriving in the transitional space between water and air. Do water lilies hold a special meaning for you?

Find more examples of these fascinating plants in my
Nymphaeaceae, Nelumbo & Nuphar gallery, with prints and licensing
options available and custom inquiries always welcome.


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Uncertain Road

I woke last night in the darkness to the rumbling sound of a heavy train passing through the city, threading through the quiet neighbourhoods with its horn calling a long, keening wail.

I lay awake listening as the sound repeated, feeling anxious, sad, wishing that I might wake in the morning to a world no longer brought to its knees by an invisible but very real threat.

What a strange, uncertain time we find ourselves in, where the act of waiting quietly for danger to pass has suddenly become a collective endeavor. I have been wandering through my archives, in search of images that can adequately communicate the mood of the moment, and this recent photo from a roadtrip across Western Canada in early February keeps coming to mind.

Snow blows across the landscape and Crowsnest Highway in Southern Alberta, Canada

The trip was a spontaneous one and feels like it happened a lifetime ago now. The foothills and prairie of Southern Alberta were shrouded in blowing snow and quickly passing clouds, and the harsh landscape provided a beautiful contrast to the rugged forests, mountains, and coastal terrain of my destination in British Columbia. When the road was obscured and the weather uncertain, there was nothing to do but continue on to the next waypoint, and I am trying to keep that sensation in mind now as we all travel down an uncertain road together; eyes on the horizon – keeping a safe distance from each other of course – we have to believe that the way will clear eventually if we just stay the course.

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Looks pretty scenic to me…

Winter landscape and ironic sign, Point Lobos, California

⁠ A little unintentional humour from Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in California where crashing waves, rocky cliffs and unique forests come together beneath blue skies.⁠

I’ve neglected this blog for too long while working through a sea of editing, organization, and big personal life changes. Lately I have found that when sitting down to write, the words haven’t been the easiest to come by…good thing I speak best through images!

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Summer Horizon | Big Sur, California

Having spent a couple of years on the Canadian prairie now, I realize that what I miss most about the California coast is not exactly the ocean itself, but rather the air; dense fog, constantly shifting breezes humid with sea mist, and the resulting ethereal quality in the light. I find that this image captures that sense of layered expanse very well, shot along the Big Sur coast where a stately line of trees delicately screen the distant horizon beneath a blanket of swirling fog. Blue and yellow-gold are the summer palette of my childhood, and I love how these colours become more vivid as the season progresses toward autumn.

Prints available here!

More moments like this can be found throughout my photography archives, especially in the California galleries, with stories and travel tips shared here on the blog:

Of Land and Sea | Point Lobos, California

As a favourite slice of coastal Californian wilderness, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve has captured my photographic eye on many occasions. Every season brings new colours and light to the landscape and seemingly endless sea, but every now and then, I like to investigate a familiar place with shades of black and white in mind.

These two images were both created on the same day; bright sunlight at water’s edge with the sparkling Pacific ocean waves along the rocky coast fading into the distance, and dappled soft forest light falling over the repeating natural pattern and texture of whale bones.

I love discovering how the larger features and themes of a place are so often echoed in the details, and it can be particularly satisfying to use black and white photography to explore and emphasize these similarities and contrasts. The bones and smooth shoreline rocks catch the sunlight in similar ways, highlighting their beautiful natural textures.

To see more Point Lobos photography, visit my archives – licensing and fine art prints are available.

Lost in the Details | Venice, Italy

Italy is all texture and patina, and in summer the city of Venice is rich with seemingly endless variety; every detail and architectural style basking in the luminous reflected light of warm sun on water.

While I only had a few days to explore Venice, the number of photos I captured there far outnumbered all other locations I visited in Italy. Around every corner was a striking new visual surprise, a glimpse through history, and an invitation to keep walking just a little further…

Accommodations were in a historic palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal, and the rich textures of age and time could be found throughout the halls. From ornate plasterwork and window details to the high-water mark of the historic 1966 flood, carved into the stone door frame.

On one day’s wander toward the university district, I came across a quiet courtyard and art gallery on the campus of the Università Ca’ Foscari; exquisite venetian glass windows and beautiful architecture were a welcome quiet escape from the bustle and heat of the summer crowds just outside the university gates.

Textural brick and stone, plaster, faded paint and layers of patina, all mixed with the cascading light and shadow of winding, narrow passages. Enjoying these details required an acceptance that I would get lost somewhere in the streets of Venice, and it quickly became one of my favourite feelings as I relinquished all sense of direction and simply soaked up the sights.

And on and on…for weeks after visiting Venice, Italy for the first time, I dreamt of being happily lost there, following the winding streets past softly-hued pink and yellow brick walls and ornate, elegant cathedral windows. Find more sun-splashed piazzas, shimmering canals, and Venetian details in my gallery of Venice, Italy images.

My first impressions and more beautiful scenes from Venice, Italy can be found in my blog archives, Venice, Italy : Love at First Light.

Winter escapism | Bright and bold Barbados

This January morning, I am sitting at my kitchen table, watching the deep midwinter pre-dawn gloom just outside. Cars hiss along the street in icy darkness, their headlights illuminating canyons of piled snow. It is 7:29am and there is still no sign of the sun.

Being from California where gardens never stop growing, I am particularly drawn to the quiet, dormant beauty of this season in Western Canada; the stillness and insular peace of a snowbound prairie horizon is more comforting than I expected. When the wind whips down from the North, the cold air carries drifting curtains of snow, and even the trees appear to shiver.

However, while I genuinely enjoy these philosophical moments of winter from a cozy indoor perspective, it has also become my habit to use the short days and dark hours to escape into editing colourful photos from warmer places and times. I’ve started 2019 off with a dip into last year’s visit to Barbados…

This was my first trip to a truly tropical climate since living in Hawaii over a decade ago. Immediately, the vivid blue hues of the water and the unabashed lushness of the plant life were a tremendous relief after a few months of monochrome winter weather.

Gentle sea breezes filtered through curtains of palm fronds and the constant soft movement of clouds and waves were hypnotic and soothing. Looking at these photos, I can almost feel the calming warmth of this slice of Caribbean paradise…

If you need a little more warm weather and colourful, tropical escapism, this batch of scenic details and many more have been added to my Barbados Scenery & Flowers gallery.

Sunset Water Abstracts | Vancouver, BC

Pink sunset light mixes with dusky blue sky, reflected by softly rippling water where False Creek meets English Bay on a calm, quiet summer evening in Vancouver.

Abstract textural water; mixing shades of pink and blue as the calm ocean reflects a colourful sunset in Vancouver, British Columbia

I captured plenty of general postcard-sunset-scenes, with mountains in the distance or a silhouetted tree to compliment the colours, but I have been particularly pleased with these abstracted photos of the beautiful light skipping across small glassy waves.

Abstract textural water; mixing shades of pink and blue as the calm ocean reflects a colourful sunset in Vancouver, British Columbia

This series of blue, pink, and coral sunset water scenes has been added to my ‘Liquid Light’ collection, which highlights photos in which I’ve explored the movement, texture, and abstracted forms of light mixing with water in interesting ways.

Abstract textural water; mixing shades of pink and blue as the calm ocean reflects a colourful sunset in Vancouver, British Columbia

Often these dappled, fluid scenes remind me of impressionist paintings, and thanks to a particularly vivid sunset on an evening walk at the aptly named Sunset Beach Park, very little editing was necessary to highlight the contrasting and complimentary colours.

Abstract textural water; mixing shades of pink and blue as the calm ocean reflects a colourful sunset in Vancouver, British Columbia

As the light faded from the sky, the colours on the water slipped toward more muted, pastel shades. The form of the waves and sense of movement became more apparent as shadows deepened, and in editing I found that a wider, panoramic choice of cropping brought forward the subtle pattern and abstracted texture of the water’s surface.

Wider views of this sunset and other Vancouver, British Columbia scenes can be found in my archives, prints and licensing available.

Forest fog | Big Sur, California


Mysterious, dark, quiet; a grove of trees in the coastal mountains of Big Sur, full of mist and morning light. I’d arrived at the campsite after dark, chasing the sunset down the winding curves of Highway 1 and setting-up camp as stars appeared overhead. During the night, fog gathered along cliffs and settled into valleys, and I woke to find the forest shrouded in soft layers of light.

Camping on the California coast is often a damp, chilly affair, and this day was no exception. The warmth of a small fire, the coziness of a sleeping bag and a book, the sound of the nearby ocean all helped to pass the time. 

Trees become ghostly figures as evening fog creeps into the coastal woods of Big Sur

As the sun settled again to the west, the early evening light filtered into the deeper, shadowy corners of the forest grove and campground, and I was able to capture this layered scene full of contrasts and soft tonality. The branches of the trees lend a sense of enclosed space; a cathedral of organic shapes and windows of light. Of all of my Big Sur experiences this moment  remains one of my favourites, full of the restorative, meditative mood I found present in that particular time and place.

This elegant, peaceful scene is available as a fine art print in my Black & White Prints collection. To see more Big Sur Photography, visit my Big Sur, California collection.