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!

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.

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.

Te Hoiere / Pelorus River, New Zealand

On the last day of our New Zealand adventures, we had a short drive to the ferry in Picton at the northern end of the South Island, and wanted one last taste of the amazing wilderness we’d encountered across the country during our two week ramble. Perusing the map and a guidebook that pointed us toward lesser-traveled locations, we spotted a scenic gorge at the Pelorus River bridge, which happened to be on our route.

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The path to Te Hoiere river winds through lush forest, ferns and colorful berries, and is shaded by tall trees. While most people seemed to choose paths to the bridge itself, we picked a trail that led a little further up the gorge. It was quiet, peaceful, and we hadn’t even reached the water yet.

Emerging from the forest, we discovered a beautiful crystal clear river, tinted green, meandering through smooth boulders and colorful rocky riverbanks. The texture of the stones, and clarity of the water was so inviting, we lingered in the afternoon sun, soaking up the natural beauty.

I hope to return someday, with the time for a swim. This was a special place, unexpected and just far enough off-the-beaten-path to feel removed from the usual scenic destinations in New Zealand. We found it to be a lovely spot to catch our breath after so many busy days of exploring the country, and a perfect ending to a wonderful adventure.

Find the full set of photos in my archives, from my visit to Pelorus River and from locations around New Zealand; prints and licensing available.

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.

Wellington, New Zealand

Vibrant, friendly, artsy and laid-back – not words usually associated with a sizeable capital city, but Wellington, New Zealand offers all of this and more. Wellington is set in the forested hills of the southern tip of New Zealand’s North island, and encompasses sandy beaches, a busy waterfront, and a beautiful, windy harbor.

Wellington, New Zealand view from Mt. Victoria
Views of New Zealand’s capital city Wellington from Mt Victoria lookout

A great place to start a day of sightseeing in Wellington is at Mount Victoria Lookout, which provides scenic panoramic views of the city, from downtown to the open ocean. A beautiful Maori landpole statue, or Pouwhenua, provides a cultural contrast against the city skyline. The triangular form of the Richard Byrd memorial points to Antarctica, and commemorates how the famed polar explorer used Wellington as a base of operations for his expeditions over the course of 27 years.

Down along the waterfront, a colorful marketplace full of local arts and crafts, housed in shipping containers, looks out across waterways used for frequent dragonboat races and sailing. During this particular visit, pianos were located throughout the city, and attracted serious and casual musicians alike.

 

The city provides an accessible mix of public spaces and unique neighborhoods, with a wide variety of cafes, shops, and an active local beer scene. It seems that along every avenue, another sculpture or piece of public art is hidden, waiting to be discovered.

For a view of the city from another angle, it is an easy walk from the waterfront to the Wellington Cable Car, a funicular railway that ferries passengers from the shopping district of Lambton Quay to the suburb of Kelburn up in the hills. This is a wonderful way to reach the botanical gardens of Wellington, and to see another lovely panorama of the picturesque city.

The adjacent suburb of Newtown, just south of the Wellington’s downtown, offers a charming neighborhood packed with quaint shops and cafes, and hosts a vibrant street festival. One surprising find was the Monterey Bar; I was visiting from my home in Monterey, California, and this bar featured a large mural of the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, among other references to my central California home.

I look forward to visiting Wellington, New Zealand again someday. I found it to be a friendly, accessible city with much more to explore than could be experienced during my short stay. One of the most unique and lovely aspects of  Wellington is how after a long day wandering the bustling streets, one has only to head South to the where the suburbs meet the sea, and suddenly one can feel the rugged, wild beauty for which New Zealand is so well known.

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Coastal suburbs tucked in the coastal forest, outside of Wellington, New Zealand

To see more of my travel photography from New Zealand, visit apkphotography.com Prints and rights managed licensing available.

Desert Spring

Spring in the desert is a gorgeous display of contrasts, with lush vegetation and colorful flowers blooming against the hard edges of a rocky landscape, punctuated by the sharp spines of cacti in a seemingly endless array of shapes and sizes.

One of the best places to see this display of natural springtime exuberance is at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, a hidden oasis in the Sonoran Desert east of Phoenix, Arizona. After a rainy season, the creeks are lined with fresh green growth, and the gardens showcase plants from arid environments all over the world.

The vibrant flowering cactus are striking on a sunny day, in shades of yellow, pink, and red, surrounded by spines. The varied texture of desert vegetation is eye-catching too, and while studying these forms in the warm desert light, I spotted a pale green spider who seemed to have evolved to match the cactus on which it hid.

Even the lizards darting across nearby rocks were colorful, matching the shades of pale green, blue, pink and yellow of their environment.

The arboretum has some unique historical sites, relating to the original development of the land by Boyce Thompson as a winter home in the early 1920s. The gentle walking trails that meander through the park pass a manmade lake, historic structures, and informs the story of the property becoming a center for propagation, research and education in the late 1920s.

A springtime visit to the deserts of the Southwest is highly recommended, and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is a wonderful place to explore the rich biodiversity of desert species at the peak of their seasonal beauty.

View the full set of spring at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park photos, prints and rights managed licensing available.

St. Nicholas Abbey, Barbados

In the lush highlands of the Caribbean island of Barbados is a beautifully preserved slice of history; St. Nicholas Abbey is a sugar plantation and rum distillery, boasting a Jacobean mansion built in 1658, beautiful gardens, and a richly preserved historical and cultural context that is expertly conveyed during tours of the house and property.

Entering the grounds, the large trees and sweeping pastoral views are striking, leaves and grass gently blowing in the steady ocean breeze and lush greenery filling every corner of the gardens. The elegant house has been carefully restored, and while it shows a bit of its age in weathered paint, it is remarkably well-preserved even after hundreds of years in the tropical climate.

Inside the house, details like a shell-encrusted chandelier and portraits of historic owners of the property add color to the stories shared by the tour guide. Walking through the home, the grounds of the plantation are glimpsed at open windows.

After pausing in a quiet courtyard, the tour continued on to the rum tasting room. Originally the stables, this charming building has been renovated by the current property owner who also happens to be an architect, to house a museum, gift shop and tasting room. Here we lingered amongst the barrels and exhibits of artifacts, including slave records, before being shown a remarkable film of archival footage from the 1930’s detailing life on the sugar plantation.

After our refreshments the tour continued on a leisurely walk through lush gardens to the bottling and production facilities. In the bottling and labelling facility, formerly the Overseer’s Quarters, rum bottles are hand labelled and the corks adorned with a leather badge, stamped in-house.

The factory and adjacent distillery includes displays of equipment for growing and processing sugar cane, and for the production of rum. The architectural details and dedication to preservation found throughout the property were remarkable, and one of the nicest surprises were the remnants of a large windmill behind the factory, where workers were piling cane for processing.

After the tour ended, we wandered the grounds, basking in the highland breezes and balmy sunshine. Artifacts are cleverly incorporated throughout the gardens, offering some unique photo opportunities.

I absolutely recommend a visit to St. Nicholas Abbey in Barbados, not only is the rum delicious but the opportunity to enjoy a close-encounter with the rich and varied history of Barbados is placed front-and-center when one takes a guided tour of the plantation property. This is a travel destination apart from the typical crowds closer to Bridgetown, and a strong sense of hospitality and pride in the place and product is very apparent.

To see the full gallery of my photos from St. Nicholas Abbey, Barbados, please visit apkphotography.com

*As a footnote, this is the first batch of images I am sharing from my new Fuji X100F, for which I could not resist using the Velvia film simulation when editing. While I continue to shoot with my full-frame Nikon D800 dslr, I wanted a smaller camera for travel, and so far the Fuji X100F has exceeded all expectations. After a few more trips, I hope to share some tips and a full review of the camera.

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.

Moss Landing, California

Tucked between Highway 1 and the broad horizon of Monterey Bay on the California coast is the quaint, colorful, seaside fishing town of Moss Landing. On a whim one early spring day, I decided to explore the quiet streets and old storefronts of this weathered hamlet.

Tucked along the edges of Moss Landing Harbor and Elkhorn Slough, and extending up the banks of the Old Salinas River, many of the buildings in Moss Landing carry the sort of patina that only steady ocean winds and fog mixed with salt spray can create. Despite the aging, sometimes visibly decaying structures, bright colors are found all over town. Quirky, artful touches, an abundance of antiques, and endless textural contrasts make this spot an interesting place for photography.

On this particular day, the sky was a brilliant blue, with a constantly changing curtain of windswept white clouds blowing in from across the ocean. One of the classic Moss Landing postcard shots is of an old boat, at rest in a field, yet still somehow conjuring up a sea-faring spirit and salty resilience.

Moss Landing, California
An abandoned and colorful boat in a field, Moss Landing, on the California coast

There are some remarkable scientific operations based in Moss Landing as well, and a visit to these more modern sites of inquiry is especially worthwhile during one of their many open-house events. At any time however, in any weather, a brief detour into Moss Landing from the usual travel route North or South along California’s Highway 1 on the Central Coast, will reward off-the-beaten-path travellers with colorful character, an abundance of local restaurants to enjoy, and a lovely spot to spend a quiet afternoon with a camera.

To see my full set of Moss Landing photographs, or to purchase these images as Open Edition Prints, please visit the apkphotography.com

Glass Beach, Mendocino

I was hoping the rumors were true; a quiet, wild, little stretch of beach on the Mendocino coast near the city of Fort Bragg, strewn with colorful pebbles of sea-glass. As it turns out, this spot is definitely not a secret, as signs will lead the curious traveler from Highway 1 to the sizeable parking lot. On the day I visited, a steady stream of people meandered along sandy paths through meadows of purple and white wildflowers, and down to the beach.

I was not prepared for just how much glass there was, and in some areas the beach seemed more sea-glass than sand. This spot was used as a dumping ground for many years, resulting in a concentration of glass that is now the remaining evidence of such ecologically inconsiderate human activity

Glass Beach detail, Mendocino, California
Contrasting texture of rock and polished seaglass, details of Glass Beach at Fort Bragg, Mendocino, California

Smooth, translucent pebbles of glass in every size and color made beautiful textural patterns everywhere I looked. The diffuse light from an overcast sky made for easy photography, and I am curious to see this spot on a day with more sun, as the colorful contrasts might be even more remarkable. This was a quick visit during a long drive up the California coast, and after snapping a few photos I was back on the road with a small handful of smooth sea-glass pieces in my pocket. As it is a very active stretch of coast, with crashing waves and stormy winter weather, I expect that Glass Beach may change and continue to reveal colorful treasure for decades to come.

These two square images have been added to my affordable Open Edition Square Prints, and the full set of Glass Beach images can be found in the apkphotography.com archives.

Oakura Beach, New Zealand

Tucked between quiet beach towns on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Oakura Beach is a windswept, black sand slice of paradise.

The beach access is casual, a short walk through flowering flax, and down into low, soft dunes. My friend chose to cross the creek along a piece of driftwood, while I waded through up to my knees in the cold rushing water. Such an angle paid off, and got us a fun photo with which to remember this bit of our adventure.

As we wandered the windy shoreline, we found beautiful bits of contrast in shimmering sand, which from various angles offered a glittering black, iridescent purple, and silvery backdrop to shells and driftwood scattered along the high-tide line.

The rocky harbor of New Plymouth was visible through the mist to the North, and even with a bustling urban center so close, Oakura Beach felt like a wild stretch of coast we were glad we’d made the trip to explore.

Some of these images are available as prints, in my Open Edition print gallery.

To view the full set of Oakura Beach, New Zealand photographs, please visit the APK Photography archives.