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!
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:
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.
It was just another blustery, spring day on the California coast, with scattered rain showers and blank overcast skies accompanying my drive South from Santa Cruz to Monterey. With glimpses of the ocean and soft, rolling hills opening to loamy and verdant valleys, the scenery along Highway 1 can be beautiful in any weather.
After turning inland through fields of strawberries and artichokes then skimming across the Elkhorn Slough with its swath of intertidal wetlands, the highway bends back to meet the ocean as Monterey appears ahead. Approaching the stretch of sand dunes that mark the beginning of expansive, wild beaches just South of the Salinas River, I felt the brute force of a powerful wind blowing in across the Pacific ocean. Then I noticed the clouds.
At first just a heavy smudge on the horizon, an undefined darker grey in a sky already laced with rain and mist. These clouds quickly became distinct above the white-capped Monterey Bay; fast-moving, dark and dramatic, their undersides carved into undulating ribbons of green and blue with a curtain of heavy rain following close behind. I had my camera with me that day, and immediately pulled off the highway to a small beach access and overlook.
The air felt charged with raw energy and a few other brave souls had stopped to take in the storm as it blew quickly onshore; I managed to capture only a handful of images before the heavy rains arrived.
I will never forget the exhilaration of watching the strange sky above, and the speed with which the entire system passed from sea to land was truly incredible. Glad to get whatever photos I could of this storm, I take them as proof that bad weather makes for excellent landscape photography, and the best camera is the one you have with you (though it doesn’t hurt to carry some of your better gear around from time to time). This surreal cloudscape scene is now included in my collection ‘An Ocean Above’ featuring a variety of dramatic clouds and abstract skies.
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.
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.
Sitting at my desk here in wintery Winnipeg, Manitoba, it is easy for me to get nostalgic for the winter landscape of my childhood in coastal Northern California. The wet, rainy season would often start in late October; gentle showers after a crackling dry summer would turn the golden-brown hills green in only a few weeks. After a month or two of frequent rain storms, the yellow wildflowers add their vivid colours to the lush landscape. By January, winter on the California coast is often the most vibrant season of the year.
This image was captured recently while stranded in traffic on a highway blocked by downed trees and power-lines after a particularly gusty, dangerous winter storm. The wind blew heavy rain sideways across the green and yellow fields, and the raindrops on the car window created an interesting pattern in the foreground of an impressionistic scene.
As this image was captured with my phone camera, it is only available in smaller print sizes, but the bright pop of colour and the unexpected textural details make it a unique, beautiful image when printed. You can find this textural abstract and many more like it in my Small Prints Archive.
I am acclimating to the frosty, white snow and brown muck of Canadian winters, and I enjoy the shift in perspective that comes with experiencing the seasons in a new place, but I will always miss the emerald green landscape and cloudy skies of these California winters and I look forward to visiting during the rainy months. How does winter look where you are?
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.
While on a walk through the coastal forest of Mendocino County in California, I came upon a quietly running clear stream. Sunlight filtered through the trees above, illuminating the rippling water as it passed over smooth, multicoloured stones, creating ribbons of light across the shadowy stream-bed. I only shot two frames of this spot, close and abstracted in black and white to emphasize the tone and texture of the contrasting liquid and hard rocky surfaces. A fluid moment in time brought to life by the shimmering motion of light through water.
It is that time of year again, with the rumble of engines and smell of race fuel filling the air, the automotive extravaganza known as Monterey Car Week is almost here. I will not be attending the various racing and vintage car show events this year, but I am honouring the occasion with the release of some of my favourite automobilia images from over the years. Find more Monterey Car Week photographs in my archives, with work spanning a decade of races and Concours shows; with both prints and licensing available.
Race fans admire a 1957 Corvette at Laguna Seca during the Reunion events of Monterey Car Week
Spectators admiring vintage automobiles at the Carmel Concours on the Avenue event during Monterey car week are reflected in the windows of a classic Porsche
1912 Packard 30, descending through the corkscrew driven by Brian Blain at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion during Monterey Car Week
Looking for some artful Automotive Abstract images? I have curated a collection highlighting the details of a wide range of cars, from vintage Porsches and Ferraris to unique hot rods and restoration projects.
Detail of green paint and patina, and chrome hood ornament of a vintage Buick, seen at the Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue event during Monterey Car Week
Dark tones and chrome reflections of a classic car, seen at the Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue event during Monterey Car Week
A 1935 Bugatti Type 57S driven by Jim Hull at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion during Monterey Car Week
My automotive photography archives cover historic and reunion races, street car shows, and both the Pebble Beach and Carmel Concours events; if there is a particular car you are looking for, please contact me with the details and I will do my best to see if it is included in my library.
Two vintage racecars battle for position on the Laguna Seca racetrack, Monterey CA
A rear angle view of a vintage racing automobile, abstract patterns of light gleaming across the curves of the blue body.
Scenes and details of vintage and classic cars, seen at Laguna Seca during the Historic racing events of Monterey Car Week
Are you lucky enough to be attending Monterey Car Week this year? Here is my post from last year, highlighting some of the most accessible events of the season, including tips on where to catch some remarkable free shows and photographic opportunities: A Photographer’s Guide to Car Week in Monterey, California
HMSA racing participants line up on the starting grid of Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey
Racecar humor, in the paddock, a 1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia GTV sports eyes over headlights at Laguna Seca during the Reunion events of Monterey Car Week
A powerful racecar kicks up dust as it descends through the notorious Corkscrew section of Laguna Seca, in Monterey
The complete APK Photography Automobilia Archives are full of unique and interesting car culture photos. It has been a pleasure to explore and photograph the world of rare and notable automobiles, and I am looking forward to returning to celebrate Monterey Car Week again in the coming years.
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.
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.
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.
A macro close-up of a black California native iris flower in profile, dusted with golden yellow pollen
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.
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!