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:
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.
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.
During the warm sunny days of October, the trees of Big Sur and Pacific Grove welcome visitors who have traveled great distances to reach clusters of trees along the central California coast; monarch butterflies, with their flashing bold orange and black wings flitting from tree to tree bring an extra bit of magic to an already beautiful place.
Monarch butterflies gathered in Pacific Grove, California, late February 2016
Migrating monarch butterflies gather in the forests of Pacific Grove, California
Seeing one butterfly alone is a beautiful sight, but as the monarch butterflies congregate on mossy branches and in the boughs of cypress and eucalyptus trees, their gathering numbers create a stunning, delicate and lively tapestry of colour and movement.
October is my favourite time of year to camp in Big Sur; one morning as the sun warmed the campsite I sat contemplating the beautiful light and quiet forest, a small group of monarch butterflies flitted through the lower branches overhead, dancing through patches of sunlight as they fed and rested. As their movement is rather unpredictable, I waited patiently as they moved in and out of focus and finally managed to capture the image below of a single butterfly in flight.
A migrating monarch butterfly feeds in the forests of Big Sur, California
Over the years I have visited the spots known for congregations of migrating monarchs, and I have gathered all of my monarch butterfly photographs into one gallery, with many Monarch Butterfly Migration images available for licensing and as fine art prints.
At certain times of year the color of the ocean waves below the cliffs of Big Sur take on a vibrant, blue-green hue, laced with swirling white froth. I have seen this gorgeous color most often in the late summer, when the fog has given way to endless blue skies and the air is quiet and still in the warm sunshine.
I captured this particular image from a warm ridge in Big Sur, looking down into a cove of constantly moving waves. The otherworldly color churned from light to dark against the rocks below, and I could have watched the ocean all afternoon.
Around the time one calendar year changes to the next, it is easy to become absorbed in reflecting on the recent past. In this case, 2011 flew by with alarming speed, and it is hard to believe that 2012 has already arrived. Rather than dwell on what has been, however, I am very excited by what is next. Many changes afoot for this blog and my photography – from new digital darkroom tricks to some incredible print collections and fine art offerings.
These two images, both shot on the same beach in Big Sur, are from a recent exploration of longer-exposure photography. Living on the coast affords me easy access to some spectacular coastlines awash in sunset colours and misty waves, and I hope to bring you more of these peaceful, scenic images in the coming months.
Having long believed that the journey is the destination, I am as much a fan of the act of traveling, as I am a fan of actually arriving in a new place.
Last weekend was a marathon roadtrip though, through a landscape altogether strange to me – Southern California – and I returned home with a mountain of images depicting an arid, hazy landscape dotted with bold and incongruous human developments. I am mesmerized by landscape photography in general, and many photographers have done an incredible job of cataloging the environments and horizons that shape our lives. In my own work, I am gradually exploring those familiar themes of human endeavour vs. an ever-changing geography. The landscapes of the American west, and California in particular, are close to my heart and I hope to further explore our relationship with the magnificent and daunting terrain here at the edge of a continent.
This weekend, I will be back on the road, this time to spend barely 36 hours in the high-mountain deserts of Southern California. Traveling from the soft hills and cool climate of the coast, across the vast Central Valley blanketed by orchards and agriculture, and then up to 4000 feet where the plants are all spiny and the rocks jagged, my camera will likely spend the entire trip in my lap, ready for any tantalizing cast of light across the passing landscape.
I have some very specific shots I’d like to attempt once I reach my destination, but even if they are complete failures, I’ll have immensely enjoyed the journey…
Once you visit, this landscape will always be a part of you, and any photography of Big Sur will instantly bring you back to this breathlessly beautiful coastline.
‘Special’ isn’t the right word for Big Sur. There is magic in the mist, as the mountains descend to the sea, where crashing waves endlessly carve coves and cliffs. It feels like the edge of the world, a place one might escape to for a life of meditation on the mixing of water and sky along the distant horizon.
Also – very photogenic locale. Like being inside a postcard.