“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” – James Baldwin
Fair warning, this is not a happy post, and beyond a shared mood, the text has very little to do with the image.
It has become increasingly difficult to focus on what is right in front of me. There is a deepening, bitter edge to each day, and I know the root of it is a pain which is being experienced at personal and collective levels everywhere. So many aspects of the social contract have been broken, or worse, are proving to have never existed at all. The events of January 6th were unsurprising but still a shock; after an hour or so of live coverage, I felt my mind retreat, curled into the fetal position where I sat, and fell asleep. I take pride in not looking away from even the most jarring images, but I’d hit my limit. On so many levels, it was a day of terrifying white nationalism and grotesque systemic racism on full display. And we can expect more of the same because the hatred espoused by racists is rooted in fear and pain, which they will continue to avoid addressing.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself marveling at layer upon layer of heartbreak and frustration. Are we still in the midst of a pandemic, bracing for the consequences of holiday gatherings and travel? Did my neighbours have yet another string of visitors every day this week, despite lockdown rules? Have members of my local government been taking tropical vacations while telling the rest of us to stay home, in the midst of a particularly dreary Canadian winter? Has the weather been unusually warm and dry, both here in Manitoba and back in California, indicating yet another record year as climate change grinds away like a foregone conclusion?
I look for the good news. The unassuming heroes and helpers, the small signs of progress. I know that there are reasons for cautious optimism, and I am doing my best to cling to hope instead of hate. Part of that process is to occasionally let the weight of everything fall out of focus and acknowledge the pain. We’re allowed to feel hurt and angry right now, so as to better regroup, refocus and move forward, because we have a long, long way to go.
From recent travels to California, these vivid yellow pincushion protea flowers stood in bright contrast to their dark green foliage. Spotted while on a waterfront walk in Monterey, with blustery spring showers and fast-moving clouds overhead, these fresh blooms were a welcome colourful reminder that spring is just around the corner.
I didn’t set out to find such a powerful weather photography subject, 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 included in my collection of sky and cloud photo prints, featuring a variety of dramatic clouds and abstract skies.
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.
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.
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!