Velella Velella

It was on a whim one day, a short drive down the coast from Monterey, California, to see if the rumors were true. Unusual sea creatures washing up, gelatinous, some completely clear, some bright blue, with delicate translucent sails.

Velella velella stranding on the beaches of Carmel, California

Arriving at the beach, at first glance the tangle of kelp appeared to hold tiny circles of tissue paper. As I walked closer to the breaking waves, I saw at my feet small groups of jelly-like forms, some with splashes of vivid color. It quickly became apparent that many of these ocean travellers had washed ashore and dried out for lack of water. Luckily, some fresher specimens remained.

Velella velella have many names, from “sea raft” to “by-the-wind sailor” and are actually colonies of hydroids; each circular cnidarian raft and sail is made up of many hydrozoa, sailing the open ocean propelled by the wind.

A stranding like this one occurs when the wind drives the Velella velella to shore. They are carnivorous, feeding on plankton caught with their dangling tentacles. In the same ocean surface community as the better known Portuguese Man o’ War, Velella velella are likewise toxic but relatively harmless to humans, though they should not be touched or handled if it can be avoided. I chose only to take photographs, crouching in the damp, pebbled beach and kelp as the tide came in, marvelling at such strange natural beauty. I had lived close to the ocean and visited  these particular shores often for nearly 10 years, and had never before seen anything like these tiny ocean wanderers.

Velella velella stranding on the beaches of Carmel, California

Find more photographs of the beautiful Velella velella, with prints and licensing available in my archives

Sunset on the Manitoba Prairie

It was a long journey, to arrive in this beautiful, pastoral scene. This image is from last summer, shot from the window of our car as my husband and I sped along country highways to a cozy cottage in the Manitoba forest.

Having spent over 10 years living a nearly idyllic life on the coast of California, the Northern prairies were never a place I’d thought I might move to. Since capturing this fleeting, golden moment, I have been granted Permanent Residency in Canada, and I am starting a new chapter in a new landscape.

Sunset pastoral, Manitoba
A pastoral scene of grazing cattle at sunset in the countryside of Manitoba, Canada

Summer on the prairie offers some of the most spectacular skies I have ever seen, and on this warm day we’d watched thunderstorms and billowing clouds scattered along the horizon in every direction. As we turned North, the warm light from the setting sun seemed to skip across the pastureland, and the scene was reflected along the glassy water of a lake. This is the day that brought much closer the sense that I would soon be arriving in a new home, and I found myself enchanted by the peacefulness of the landscape, contrasted with the constantly changing sky above and all illuminated by the incredibly long golden hour that low, flat horizons allow.

Find prints of this scene and more Manitoba landscapes at www.apkphotography.com

State of Grace I & II

Sometimes the moment in which a photograph is captured becomes an unintended meditation. In this particular pair of images, there is for me the quiet memory of a small, soft, brown-feathered finch. I found her one morning in a patch of sun, beneath a window into which she’d flown, perhaps confused by the reflection of a pale desert sunrise. There was still a chill in the air, and her tiny body held no heat.

Some might think it morbid, but I chose to spend a few moments observing this tiny, fragile, exquisitely evolved form, and her wings in particular were captivating in the light. Appendages of grace, shaped to move through and with the air itself, I have no doubt that such feathers are some of the most elegant and miraculous structures one can observe in nature, so I shot a few photos before returning the tiny finch to the desert sand.

I have added these two images to a collection of square prints sized and priced for the casual art collector. These meditative, softly detailed feathers are available in sizes that start at $30 USD, with gallery canvas wrap and standout mounting options available.

I will periodically be adding new images to my Open Edition Square Series print collection in the months to come, so please check back for announcements or subscribe to this blog for updates.

To purchase ‘State of grace I’ & ‘State of grace II’ please visit apkphotography.com

Harbor seal mothers and their playful pups

On the sheltered beaches of Monterey, Carmel, and Point Lobos, one can catch a lovely glimpse into the lives of harbour seals.  This time of year, the cute harbour seal pups are beginning to explore their watery homes, and their mothers keep a watchful eye as they swim through the swaying kelp forests and quiet coves.  Some of the pups are particularly plump and round, and as they get brave enough to swim away from their mothers, there are moments of playful freedom in the surf.  Once a pup realizes that they can no longer see their mother however, they will cry, short sad little calls that bring their mothers quickly to their side.  The pups only have 3 to 4 weeks before they will be weaned, and witnessing this precious time that they have with their mothers is quite a special sight.

See more harbour seal interactions and behaviour in the APK Photography Harbour Seal gallery.