Descent, architectural detail | San Francisco, California

Wandering the streets of San Francisco with a camera has always been a rewarding experience; along with being an interesting, often picturesque urban environment, there is endless opportunity for the unexpected.

This is a favourite image from my archives, captured on a relaxed summer afternoon of city exploration. I had never ventured far into one of the commercial complexes near the Embarcadero Plaza, and was wandering through the network of bridges and walkways that linked shops and restaurants in a canyon of office buildings and hotels. At one crossing of paths, I noticed a stairway leading down to the level below, and paused to admire the echo of form, texture, and tone in the large fern that grew in the curve of the stairs.

Architectural urban detail, a woman walks down a spiral staircase in downtown San Francisco

While composing the frame and trying to balance shapes and leading lines, a woman walked down the stairs, and as she reached the bottom I captured a single frame. I had not planned on the human element, but I love how it adds a sense of motion to an otherwise static scene. In black and white, the texture and tone of the mosaic floors and fern become more cohesive, and the spiralling, circular structures of concrete, plant, railing and tile frame and compliment each other, tying it all together.

This image is included in my Black and White Prints collection, and offers both architectural interest and a timeless moment full of details that invite reflection.

Love at First Light | Venice, Italy

Arriving in Venice, Italy is no small task; by plane, train, or car, one must reach the edges of a more familiar modern landscape, and then step onto a boat that will draw one into a world both foreign and familiar. I was immediately entranced by the narrow passages, absence of cars, and sunlight cascading past crumbling walls, illuminating colours and textures that could only exist in a floating ancient city miraculously moored in a marshy, shimmering lagoon.

Everything you have heard about Venice is true. It is romantic, multi-faceted and incomparable. It can also be crowded – there is one other way to arrive in Venice, and that is on a cruise ship – as I work my way through a few other batches of photos from my Italian adventures, I will have some specific observations to offer about that particular mode of travel and the impact it has on these magical places.

I managed to avoid the masses of summer tourists simply by committing to a daily routine of picking a direction, and getting lost in the winding streets of the city. Around every corner interesting architecture, delicious food, and more inviting avenues awaited.

Off-the-beaten-path, grittier scenes could be found, although overall Venice is remarkably tidy, with clean streets and canals. Graffiti is a part of the urban Italian landscape, as it is all over the world, and in some instances it offered unique photographic opportunities.

Staying in a palazzo on the Grand Canal afforded me central access to many different districts of the city, and even within a short distance from the palazzo gates, the variety of cafes, restaurants, shops and sights was abundant. In the evening, the canal glittered with golden light as boats plied romantic sunset waters; I could have sat by the ornate windows and watched the passing gondolas for hours.

From a photographic perspective, Venice is astounding, and of the hundreds of images captured over the course of three days there, I still have many more to edit. See more of my photos from Venice, Italy here, where fine art prints and licensing are also available.

I will be sharing more images and thoughts on this special city, as it was such a remarkable and photogenic experience. I am already thinking about my next visit to Venice, and would love to hear in the comments if you have ever visited and what you might recommend I explore when I return!

Fano, Italy

Where the landscape of pastoral, rolling hills and fortified villages perched on small craggy peaks meets the Adriatic Sea, the ancient city of Fano offers a unique Italian experience, far from the throngs of summer tourists who tour the country.

Charming, narrow, cobblestone streets? Check. Quiet neighbourhoods and bustling market squares? Check. Colourful details, textural walls, doors full of character and the occasional friendly dog in a window? Check.

The first historical mention of Fano dates to 49 BC, when Julius Caeser ruled the region. By 2 AD a wall and large arch had been constructed around the city, which can still be seen today at the main entrance to the older downtown district.

Wandering the streets it is easy to get lost, but taking note of some of the distinctive churches throughout the city can offer useful waypoints. Cafes offer sunny nooks for enjoying an afternoon espresso and around every corner is another arched passage, revealing more colourful buildings and the sort of elegant patina that Italy is known for.

With so much to see in and near Fano, Italy, this city and its history could fill the better part of an Italian vacation. I enjoyed how easily one could find quiet places to explore between the layers of old and new. While many Italians know Fano for its beaches and holiday atmosphere along the waterfront, if one ventures toward the heart of this ancient place, there are many beautiful, meditative moments to be discovered.

See the full set of my photos from Fano, Italy in the APK Photography archives, prints and licensing available.

Corinaldo, Italy

Corinaldo, Itay is a quintessential, charming, enchanting hilltop village in the Province of Ancona. Surrounded by well-preserved 15th century walls, the maze of quiet, narrow cobblestone streets are a welcome escape from more crowded Italian destinations.

The views are remarkable, from the ramparts and even from the heart of the town, from which one can see the lovely pastoral countryside of the Marche region. A little cafe sits at the top of these picturesque steps, and offers a wonderful place to pause for a refreshing drink and lunch.

The array of colorful doors and the textural, faded patina of the buildings provides countless photographic opportunities, and the sheer variety of door designs were quite remarkable,

As one wanders through a narrow cobblestone passage, the sudden appearance of the ancient stone walls can come as a surprising juxtaposition, and when these medieval structures are viewed from slightly further, the position and layout of the village makes even more sense.

A visit to Corinaldo, Italy is highly recommended; it may offer a more intimate Italian experience during the busier travel seasons, and even hosts some remarkable festivals that bring its medieval roots to life. I was only able to spend an afternoon exploring, and as a brief stop on a driving tour of the Marche region it was my favorite experience of the day.

See the full set of my photos from Corinaldo, Italy in my archives; prints and licensing available. A collection of Doors, windows, details collected while travelling through Italy is also available.

Fort Ross, California

On the wild, rugged coast of Northern California sits an unexpected historic site, a fort and trading outpost founded by Russian settlers in the early 1800’s. At a time when the colonial and enterprising interests of the Spanish, British and American nations were converging on the region, and Mexico also laid claim to Alta California, the Russian-American Company sought to establish settlements in a part of the region populated only by the Kashaya Pomo Tribe, from whom the Russians negotiated the purchase of the land for Fort Ross.

 

I grew up in nearby Petaluma, California and have fond memories of visiting the Fort Ross State Historic Park as a child. The most active years of the fort ended in the mid 1800’s, but I always found the buildings, walls, and grounds to feel as if the history of the region was not quite so distant.

 

While driving North along Highway 1, it was a spontaneous decision to visit the park on a late summer afternoon. The path from the visitor’s center winds through a pine forest, down along a creek and past a grove of eucalyptus, then across a clearing to the entrance of the fort.

 

It was a quiet day on this visit, and I spent some time exploring the buildings and various vantage points throughout the settlement.  Hawks circled over the forested hills while the ocean crashed below the nearby cliffs. When the Russians landed in the area, they found a landscape rich with resources and agricultural opportunity. The Russian-American Company found lucrative fur-trading too, but their activities along with those of the Spanish, American and British fur traders decimated the sea otter population that has only recently been able to recover, with the aid of extensive conservation work.

 

My favorite structure at Fort Ross is the lovely little Russian Orthodox Chapel. It is not entirely true to the original chapel design, as the structure was once modified for use as a stable, knocked down by the 1906 earthquake, and after being reassembled,  destroyed by an accidental fire in 1970. Still it is a striking space, full of texture and interesting architectural design.

 

Interestingly, the current upkeep and operation of Fort Ross State Historic Park is funded by a Russian entrepreneurial company, and in 2012 an unofficial delegation of the Kashaya traveled to Russia. Restoration work and research of the site continues, and this will continue to be a wonderful place to visit, highly recommended as an educational picnic spot on the Sonoma coast of California.

As I left Fort Ross on this visit, I glanced at the ground below the West-facing wall, and spotted the feather of a Red Tail hawk in the red and gold fallen leaves of a giant eucalyptus tree. Despite the history of active settlement and now steady-stream of visitors, Fort Ross is still an outpost in the wilderness, and if one pauses to take it all in, it seems almost possible that time here stands still.

 

To see the full set of my Fort Ross, California photographs visit apkphotography.com – many of these images are available as Open Edition Prints and for editorial licensing.

Meet the Muse: Fort Point, San Francisco

The personally creative side of my photography goes through variations of inspiration and focus.  Sometimes I have the time and energy to create extensive, comprehensive bodies of work, and sometimes my muses emerge over long periods of study, often with many returns to the same subject over many, many years.

My love of Fort Point, San Francisco, began as a child with an old manual SLR camera and countless rolls of black and white film.  It was a place my family would frequently stop to visit on our way into or out of ‘the City’ when visiting with friends or playing tour guide to visitors from out-of-state.  These two shots are from one of those early rolls of film, scanned ages ago when the at-home scanning technology was still rather limiting.

We likely visited Fort Point so often due to my father’s photography hobby, which I suspect led him to love the place then as much as I do now; with an overwhelming array of juxtapositions, angles, textures, layers of light and shadow, the intersection of Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge is a photographer’s paradise.

Now, I’m the one pitching it to visiting friends who want to spend a day in San Francisco, and it’s likely that for many years I’ve always managed to end the day at this historic spot, camera in-hand, without really thinking about my ulterior motives.  Fort Point has emerged as one of my most beloved muses and I never tire of hunting out the details and architectural compositions that I find so interesting there.

Explore more of Fort Point, San Francisco in my archives.  Fine Art prints are available, please note that due to the range of resolutions and cameras used over the years, some photographs will be available in larger sizes than others.

Echoes of the past

Some places have a special kind of nostalgia, often unexpected and off the beaten-path.  San Francisco’s Fort Point National Historic Site offers many angles on both the water and striking architecture, from a strategic spot beneath the Golden Gate Bridge at the entrance to San Francisco Bay.  A photographer’s dream location, the light is always interesting and the compositional opportunities are seemingly endless.  I have rolls of film shot here when I was a child, enthusiastically clicking-away in the echoing halls while sight-seeing with my family. I’d love to work with a model or two in this space sometime, but for now I’m content to explore these familiar arching passages and the dramatic setting for structure’s sake.

under the bridge

Explore this incredible spot a little further in my photo archives – and be sure to visit it yourself on your next trip to SF!

Urban angles

Took a short break from my current series of portrait projects to pull a few images from the archives for some creative consideration. These architectural compositions were discovered while spending an afternoon wandering through San Francisco. Late afternoon light fell between the buildings, bouncing and glittering from one wall of glass and steel to another. As someone who spends relatively little time in larger urban spaces, I find the similarities in structure to be remarkable, as the man-made landscape often echos the world in which it is built.

sunset city canyon