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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Snapshots and Small Prints

It was a long, bitterly cold winter here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the instinct to hibernate meant I spent my digital darkroom hours organizing and cleaning-up catalogs and archives of photos. There has been a day or two of steady gentle rain, and while the air is still crisp (and dropping below freezing at night) there is finally a softening of the landscape as green grass and evergreens emerge from the dull brown and grey of the past six months.

My thoughts have turned to the garden – I am working with a new yard, new climate – and I am looking forward to the warm, humid summer months, however brief, because they will bring a depth of colour and light that is special to that time of year. New plants will mean a return to my personal work to abstract florals and surreal botanical images, which have long been favourite subjects.

Humidity creates condensation on a window, against which the green leaves of a tree are pressed and backlit

This image was actually captured with my phone a few years ago, back when I had a less-seasonal garden in Monterey, California. I have recently rediscovered this photograph and love the way the lush green leaves pressing against the steamy foreground window also blend into the shadowy branches beyond. The focus falls narrowly while repeating shapes echo throughout, and splashes of colour from green to yellow to a spectrum of blue invite the eye to wander around the frame. All of this behind the striking textural details of of water drops on the glass.

Every now and then I am able to capture with my phone a lovely little snapshot like this, and while it is true that the best camera is the one you have with you, these files are only suitable for small prints. Luckily, smaller prints are also an affordable, versatile interior decor option for photo art, and I have put together a collection of Small Prints images suitable for printing up to 8×12, available as giclée canvas wrap prints, mounted on modern bamboo, or as archival fine art prints ready for framing. Sometimes small images like this one can make a big impact, and these momentary intersections of light, colour and texture are beautiful to behold.

In full bloom, Paphiopedilum maudiae

While familiar in form to most of us, orchid flowers retain a sense of the profoundly exotic, especially those blooms of the Paphiopedilum variety.

These distinctive orchids have been collected from their forest floor and canopy habitats of Southeast Asia, and are now widely cultivated and hybridized. I have never managed to keep a Paphiopedilum maudiae orchid happy among my small houseplant and orchid collections, but I have been lucky to see many of these dramatic flowers at orchid shows and greenhouses.

This pair of fuzzy pink and chartruese lady slipper orchids are some of my favourites, with both stripes and spots in varying shades and petals bristling with tiny hairs; striking and delicate all at once.

I have collected many photos of orchid flowers over the years, and have gathered the most stunning specimens into a gallery of Orchidaceae images available as fine art prints. I have not had a chance to identify most the the specific orchid varieties, and if you are an orchid aficionado who is good at plant identification, I have a print-discount code for you in exchange for a few good taxa tips – leave a comment on this post if you’re interested!

  

 

Agave Study

Sharp red thorns, pale green leaves, catching and shaping the bright New Zealand sun in the Wellington Botanic Garden. The variety of geometric shapes and contrasting textures make an agave plant particularly appealing to photograph, and in this image I sought to balance the light and shadow throughout the frame, highlighting the repeating pattern of the scalloped and pointed agave leaves.

Wellington Botanic Gardens, New Zealand

This image is the newest print offering in my Botanical Prints gallery, available as a fine art archival print, Giclée Canvas Wrap or Bamboo mounted print. Every print is made to order and custom options are always available; for more information about my print production and finishing options, please visit my Fine Art Print Info page.

Pukekura Park | New Plymouth, New Zealand

Over the years travelling has taught me a few important lessons; I will always pack more than I end up needing, the journey is usually just as remarkable as the destination, and never, ever pass up the chance to spend a few hours in a local botanical garden.

Pukekura Park in New Plymouth, on the west coast of the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s northern island, is a lush jungle of foliage and water. I visited on a quiet Saturday morning in April, and enjoyed wandering the paths as they looped around lakes, past a waterfall, and across the beautiful red Poet’s Bridge, which dates back to 1884.

In some sections of the park, it is easy to forget that one is actually in a bustling small city; the size of the trees and depth of the fern-filled groves were captivating and invited leisurely exploration.

Emerging from a trail through one of these dense forests, a large lily-covered pond is revealed where bright blue Australasian swamphens foraged across the lily pads.

Displayed on the water is a sculpture titled ‘Aotearoa’ by Michael Smithers; Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand, meaning “land of the long white cloud”. A few days after visiting the gardens, while driving south to Wellington from New Plymouth, I saw the namesake beautiful rolling white line of clouds stretch across the landscape.

View more photos from my Pukekura Park, New Zealand experience in my archives, with selected images available for prints and licensing.

Rare Iris Series

Of all the flowers I collected and grew in my coastal California garden, this dark, mysterious iris was an all-time favorite. The colors of the petals were so rich, so unusual, when I found the plant for sale at a native plant nursery, I knew I had to have it.

For several seasons it bloomed happily in the shaded patch of bulbs and lilies near my front door, and on a softly overcast day I knelt in the rich soil to capture these photos of my rare iris. To this day, I have not been able to pin down an exact name (identifications welcome!) and my best guess, based on provenance, is some variety of Pacific Coast Iris, possibly ‘New Blood’. Regardless, I will forever be hoping to find this variety again, as these maroon deep purple shades are rare in the flowering world, and made even more striking by the flames of golden orange and yellow in the center.

Native iris, detail

These three images are now available as fine art prints, and can be found in my Botanical Prints collection – custom sizing and styles are always available, please use the Contact form to reach me and we will work together to bring these dramatic, stunning iris flowers to life once more!

Welchman Hall Gully, Barbados

Nestled in the upland, interior mountains of Barbados, Welchman Hall Gully is a remarkable place to see both native and exotic jungle plants, observe a troop of green monkeys, and explore the dramatic geologic formations which are actually the remnants of an enormous collapsed cave system.

Arriving at the trailhead, a table of fruits, seeds, and wood offers an opportunity to see at-a-glance the abundance and diversity of the plants that thrive in the gully. A side-trail leads to an overlook, with sweeping views of the countryside, down to the ocean below.

The limestone walls of the gully let the bright tropical light filter down through the jungle canopy, and the lush green layers of foliage are full of endless textural variety.

Deep in the gully the trail meanders into a grove of nutmeg trees, and while I’ve used freshly ground nutmeg in the kitchen, I had no idea how it grew and how striking the freshly fallen seeds are. The trees seemed rather unassuming, tall and slender, and the fleshy fruit falls to the ground, splitting on impact. The nut, wrapped in bright red tendrils of mace, holds the seed. Millipedes feasted on the fallen fruit.

Welchman Hall Gully is lined with stalactites and stalagmites, remnants of the limestone cave structure that collapsed to form the narrow terrain now full of life. Tree roots, vining plants, and mosses have taken hold along the rocky walls.

While I did not get close enough to the troop of monkeys to capture any good photographs, I did come across some colorful jungle dwellers and flowers. The chickens and many of the plants are of course exotics, not native to Barbados, but they seem to have found a home in this beautiful, bountiful climate.

This was a lovely day-trip while visiting Barbados, a change of pace from the sunny beaches, and a quiet escape from some of the more crowded scenic spots around the island. The trail is well-maintained and an easy walk, with many informative signs placed throughout, and for anyone looking to experience another side of Barbados, Welchman Hall Gully is highly recommended.

Find the full set of photos from this travel destination here, available for Rights-Managed Licensing and as fine art prints.

Scarlet poppy flower and raindrops, macro

Everyone knows the copper, orange-gold of California poppies, particularly as they form drifts of color across the hillsides of a Western summer landscape. This poppy is of a slightly different variety, a shade of deep scarlet red that I’ve not seen in the wild. It was a prolific garden bloomer however, scattering seeds every season and thriving in the sandy soil of my coastal backyard.

Scarlet poppy, waterdrops
A scarlet red California poppy seems to glow, as it drips with raindrops

I saw this particular bloom after a light rain shower, as the sun came out from behind the clouds, and I couldn’t resist capturing the vibrant color and jewel-like water droplets in full macro detail.

This image has been a favourite for custom print orders, and I am releasing it as a Limited Edition of 30, sized 8×12 and printed on fine art paper with luminous colours and beautiful detail. Find this stunning flower art print and more like it at apkphotoprints.com

Lithops, Flowering Stone

Of all plants, succulents are among the most varied and unusual to have found a place in my garden. They offer a range of colors, textures, shapes and sizes that make for particularly interesting macro photography.

Lithops plants are native to South Africa, and resemble the pebbles and rocky landscape in which they evolved. They seem to be forgiving houseplants, and bloomed often in the mild coastal climate of Monterey, California.

These two macro images are a Lithops plant at different stages of blooming. The leaves look like pale green rocks, and the flower emerges as a tightly held bud, with hints of the vibrantly colored petals about to unfold as the flower opens.

Lithops flower macro
Macro of a tiny succulent flower, bursting with little orange petals

Macro of succulent lithops flower
Macro of blooming Lithops flower petals

Both of these images have been added to my Open Edition Square Prints gallery, and to find more unique botanical images and photographs of succulents, please visit the archives at apkphotography.com.

 

Just beneath the surface | Tofino BC

Tofino, British Columbia is a place of many wonders where the sea and forest meet;  it is sometimes rugged, sometimes gentle, and the interaction of texture and light is always captivating. Walking along a broad, shallow beach one morning at low-tide, I encountered the beautiful sight of sandy shallow tide pools, where kelp gently swayed just beneath the surface of crystal clear northern Pacific ocean waters.

Observing the backlit, undulating golden kelp leaves as they shifted gracefully in the swell of a turning tide, I could see fish and small crabs darting beneath the leafy canopy along the sandy ocean floor. At the water’s surface, the contrast between the form of the kelp structures and the dark, silky waves tempted me to wade into the cold water up to my knees, just to catch the right angle of light across the scene.

The tide came in quickly, as it does on this dramatic stretch of coast, and I had to retreat back to the slightly higher ground of the wide sandy beach. The variety of kelp in these northern waters was on display, with a few delicate specimens strewn across the sand.

This was a lovely location, peaceful on an early sunny summer morning, which invited a full contemplation of the natural beauty in a landscape of contrasts. To see my full set of photographs from Tofino, British Columbia, please visit the Tofino, BC gallery at aplphotography.com