Notes From a New Landscape | Craters of the Moon, Idaho

Big Souther Butte, Idaho
Big Southern Butte rises 2,300 feet from the Snake River Plain, Idaho

Last year’s marathon road-trip to California offered the welcome opportunity to experience some new atmospheric landscapes. The stark terrain of Idaho felt particularly surreal, after the rolling prairies of North Dakota and forested mountains of Montana. I have recently had a chance to sit down and edit my photos from Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho
A small windblown juniper tree clings to a ridge of a lava flow,
at Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

The geology of the Snake River Plain in Idaho includes a fascinating array of volcanic features, and photography at Craters of the Moon was full of inspiring details.

The calderas and lava flows are the result of a periodically active volcanic rift zone. The last eruption took place around 2,000 years ago, making this a relatively ‘young’ place. Only well-adapted species can survive in the harsh conditions of the region, and it is home to several distinct ecosystems rich in plant and animal diversity.

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho
The boughs of a pine tree catch the last light of day
at Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

I found the tenacious, twisted trees to be especially striking in the soft light of dusk. Surrounded by dark scree and rubble, the bristling green growth seems almost improbable. Yet trees, shrubs, grasses and lichen are everywhere, scattered sparsely across piles of basalt. These hardy species use what little soil their roots can find in the rocky ground, and over time can establish diverse communities in unlikely places.

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho
A light dusting of snow across a lava field, at Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

The colour palette and texture of the volcanic environment shifted throughout the day. Golden grasses and blue-green sagebrush in contrast against lava flows. Fast-moving clouds in pearlescent shades of blue and pink, disappearing over distant mountains.

I have released some of these Craters of the Moon photos as prints. Find more atmospheric landscapes and travel photography at prints.apkphotography.com!

Time Will Tell

Aerial photographs of the earth abstracted below reveal the indelible passage of time. Some textures and formations have taken millennia to emerge through forces of nature, and some have been more recently caused by human activity; all speak to a landscape that does not soon forget its experiences.  I have begun to gather these visual studies of time into a series titled “Time Will Tell“.

I have always been fascinated by the stories told by hills, valleys and mountains when viewed from above, and I have been fortunate to be raised in the world of general aviation; small planes, piloted by my father provided many low-altitude opportunities to see both the larger landscape and the finer details, and on commercial flights I always choose a window seat.

WM_aerial_BW_agricultural_hills

Aerial photography is particularly challenging, and I strive to convey a balanced sense of both distance and intimacy through the careful composition of each scene. Working around dirty window glass, atmospheric haze, and the constantly changing perspective force me to make quick photographic choices, and I find that my digital darkroom techniques are made more creative as I explore the mood, tonality and texture of each individual landscape. Throughout my archives I have more aerial landscape photos waiting to be edited, and I will continue adding to the “Time Will Tell” gallery and series for years to come as I gather more views from above; the wonderfully free, awestruck feeling of visually exploring vast, varied spaces from an aerial perspective is an experience that I will never tire of trying to capture.

Wild waves at North Point | Barbados Travel Photography

Travel photography of the crashing turquoise waves along the limestone cliffs of North Point Barbados,
North Point, Barbados is a dramatic stretch of island coast, overlooking water in which the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet. The limestone cliffs and boulders are studded with fossilized coral, and the crashing waves have carved tunnels and blowholes through the rock.

At the northern end of the island of Barbados, dramatic cliffs overlook the waters where the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet. Creating huge swells and smashing waves swept by powerful winds, with a backdrop plateau of limestone boulders and lush green plants, this is a wild and dramatic place.


The colour of the water is a stunning shade of aqua blue, and the swirling surf is mesmerizing. Some people venture out along the cliffs overlooking the churning surf, and nearby a restaurant serving local flavours offers a scenic spot to sit and take it all in.

There are paths winding along the edge, past blowholes and interesting ancient rocks bearing the marks of fossilized coral. There is even access to the caves below, famed for their populations of sea anemones.

This is a lovely day-excursion when visiting Barbados, and a fun travel photography subject. Even when it seems many people are headed down the path to the cliffs, once there, the space to explore allows one to quietly enjoy the wild, beautiful scenery in peace. Just watch your step, those blowholes are deep!

Find more of this stunning spot and other locations around Barbados, in my archives.

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.

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.

Deep canyon landscape

Spent maybe a little too long this morning playing in the archives, but I couldn’t resist. This sunset desert landscape is a panorama stitched from three photos.  The sun had just slipped behind mountains to the west, and only the faintest glow remained, caught by the buildings of Boyd Deep Canyon research center and a sliver of the distant Salton Sea.  The colors of the desert rocks and varnish are always surprising, but something about the softer winter light and clearer air of December seems to bring out even more dramatic color across the mountains.

I will be posting a great deal of landscape photography this year.  It has always been a favorite subject area, and I have quite a collection of untouched images from last year’s travels.  Landscapes figure quite largely in who we are and what our lifestyles and cultures have become, and as I find it difficult to separate myself from my environment, I am looking forward to studying it further. That it can be so magically beautiful and glow with amazing colors is simply a bonus.