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!

Site updates, new print shop, newsletter and more!

You might notice some changes around here…

The past few months have been full of behind-the-scenes website work, logo updates, and administrative maintenance across my portfolio, print shop, and licensing archives. My blog design has been updated too, to improve readability and more prominently feature my art photography.

Announcing my new online fine art print catalogue with custom framing and wall preview features.

Previously my print sales were through a rather clunky interface, and it was difficult to convey the advantages of the carefully chosen fine art mediums I offer. Now you can preview a selected image as a print, unframed or framed, on archival paper, canvas, metal, or acrylic. See framing options instantly and preview your design on a wall to see if all looks good, before you order. Check out my new print shop here!

Sign-up for my newsletter ‘For the Love of Light’ to receive special discounts, advance notice of limited editions and special content.

Last month I launched my newsletter, sharing an exclusive look at recent work and some new print releases. Sent out mid-month, I keep things simple and will be offering frequent discounts available only to newsletter subscribers. Sign-up for the ‘For the Love of Light’ newsletter here!

Explore my blog for more visual stories and photographic explorations!

A Legacy of Smoke and Fire | Glacier National Park

This was not the scene I had been looking forward to photographing during my first visit to Glacier National Park, while on a road-trip ranging from the deserts of Arizona, up the coast of California, and inland through incredible terrain to reach these dramatic mountains; I had been anticipating lush green forest and beautiful valleys framed by the sharp outlines of enormous ancient peaks, with an excess of crisp late-summer sunlight and atmospheric landscape photography opportunities.

The scale of the landscape did not disappoint, but as we packed up our tent and camping gear from a forested campsite on the valley floor, readying for a scenic drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road, the acrid smoke of nearby wildfires began to settle through the trees. The sunlight had the burnt orange hue now well-known across the North American West as wildfires ravaged huge swaths of wilderness. Still, the park rangers indicated the road was open, and as it was our primary route to our next campsite we set out on a surreal, smokey, sobering drive.

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park

As Going-to-the-Sun Road led us up from the valley, the smoke could be seen rising in great grey plumes and settling across ridge-lines, creeping downslope, and filling the sky between mountains. Quickly the views became vast – glacier-carved, rugged, rocky slopes with the clearly defined striations of an ancient geologic prehistory, swaths of green forest punctuated by the first brilliant yellow leaves of fall, and across it all a blanket of heavy, shifting blue smoke.

WM_GlacierNP-8017
Hazy late summer on Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park

My eyes stung as we descended through Logan Pass and the air became increasingly more difficult to breath. My husband had fond memories of a lovely forested trail just off the main road, with a tumbling creek passing beneath an arched bridge, and as we watched for likely candidates, the road crossed into a stark landscape of recently-burnt forest.

Signs of recent fire glimpsed beneath a bridge, Glacier National Park

We found the spot, easily accessed at Baring Creek, and decimated by fire in 2015; surrounded by skeletal trees and scorched rocky ground, set against smokey mountains, the creek ran clear and fast, but there was otherwise an eerie stillness to the scene. No rustling of wind through leafy trees, no birdsong, and an unsettling sense that the danger of active wildfires were only a few ridge-lines away.

Rushing water of Baring Creek, Glacier National Park

Having lived most of my life in California, fire season and its consequences are not new to me. I often observe recent fire scarring in familiar landscapes, and have nearly always see a shift in the species that take hold once vegetation starts to return. Seeing a forest in this state of blackened, skeletal remains was new to me – it is unclear whether the trees will ever recover, or if what was once a verdant forested mountain slope may now be destined to become a rocky, scrub-covered slope as the decaying trees eventually fall.

WM_GlacierNP_BaringCreek-8085
Burnt trees after a forest fire, Glacier National Park

Much of our recent trip was shaped by fire; we could not take our planned route up the coast of Oregon due to evacuation orders along the highway, and even our inland detour was so choked with smoke that visibility became severely compromised and the sun disappeared in a cloud of orange-brown haze. We were lucky to drive along the Columbia River Gorge before it became a fiery inferno, and I am now wishing we hadn’t been on such a tight schedule and could have stopped to enjoy more of the old-growth forest before a carelessly-started wildfire stripped the landscape of green trees.

Even after leaving Glacier National Park and crossing through badlands to the open plains of Saskatchewan, we were greeted with news of fires further north in the province, and the smoke has been impacting us at home.

Fire is a necessary element in many ecosystems, but decades of overly aggressive wilderness fire suppression combined with extensive drought has made fire conditions exceptionally combustible. With time, many of these places will recover and life will return, but in so many instances the landscape will be irrevocably changed. I look forward to returning to Glacier National Park, Montana, to see how the landscape changes with the seasons, and hopefully I will be able to document the next phase of recovery from wildfires in this beautiful place.

Glacier National Park, summer
Smoke fills the sky between mountains and drifts through a canyon at Glacier National Park, Montana as viewed from Going-to-the-Sun Road

The Shifting Landscape of Time

Morning light and blowing snow across the rolling atmospheric landscape of Southern Alberta, February 2020⁠⁠

“Antipathy toward time clouds personal and collective thinking.” – Marcia Bjornerud⁠⁠

⁠⁠One year ago we were settling into a new, strange routine. I had already been working from home, and we already enjoyed the occasional convenience of delivered groceries. But now there were daily news briefings to watch, headlines to anxiously scan, family and friends around the world to check-in on with frequent urgency. Making sure the pantry and freezer were well-stocked and offering to help procure household goods for neighbours. Watching as future plans like concerts and travel were postponed, or cancelled altogether.⁠⁠
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Even though the content of my time did not seem to change dramatically, my sense of it shifted wildly from day to day, hour to hour. Soon a pattern emerged, with one relatively productive day of focus and work followed by several days of gnawing anxiety and distraction. We retreated into rewatching familiar funny TV shows, anything escapist we could binge watch. I read books and played countless video games. I digitized an entire library of 20+ years of film negatives.⁠ Then came spring gardening, a single summer escape for an isolated long weekend at the lake, the last warm sunroom days of autumn. And winter again, prolonged dark and cold with hope on the horizon.⁠⁠
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Limbo is a terrible place to be. We all encounter it in some form, at some point in our lives, but many of us are fortunate to have not had to make it our home until recently. It is exhausting to be at odds with time; resisting its relentless march while constantly baffled by how inconsistent our experiences of it can be. I know that a year ago I did not expect a swift solution to the pandemic, I sensed that we would have to linger in this crisis in order to overcome it, but I had no concept of how it would feel a year later. There is still a very long road ahead, and I think my relationship with time may be forever changed.⁠

Winter Light Photography | Personal Work & Studies

As winter settles in, the sun is slipping lower and lower across the sky. During the winter solstice here in Winnipeg, Manitoba the sun barely clears the treetops. Such low-angled rays of light are magical, and to celebrate the season I’ve gathered some winter light photography snapshots from recent years…

I find that winter light is particularly well-suited to capturing surreal window reflections, allowing for layers of light and colour to blend with abstracted patterns. When illuminated from a low angle, snow becomes a textural wonderland of sparkling deep drifts, painted with fading light and blue shadows.

Trees and winter light

Filtering the last rays of golden hour, or catching a gilded glow in their bare branches against blue skies. Such stark winter forms are welcome whether framing sunsets or arching above city streets, as they lend shape and contrast to the winter light all day long.

Trees lend structure to the frosty winter air, and when they are illuminated just-so, they often compliment the bones of the landscape or urban environment, laid bare by the season.

Winter light photography and interior spaces

Casting soft, surreal shadows in unexpected places, light filtered through old glass windows is particularly irresistible to try and capture with the camera. Something as simple as an unintentional coffee cup still life might appear on a wall for a moment, painted in shadow and quick to disappear as the light shifts.

Often the swaying of winter branches will make these patches of light dance and shift, like light through moving water as seen at the bottom of a pool.

Varied views of the same cityscape

Downtown Winnipeg features a mix of old and new buildings. As their facades catch and reflect the winter light throughout the day, the mood and feel of the cityscape changes too. With the early sunset, lights in windows twinkle while the dusky sky still holds onto the last of the sunlight. The moon rises over the city with its glow softened by the icy atmosphere.

The golden glow of the winter light is especially beautiful contrasted with the blue shadows and snow of the cityscape, and I couldn’t resist the reflection of a sunlit building in the sideview mirror on a winter’s afternoon.

Windows become magical glittering surfaces

Frosted with ice crystals or illuminated by gently shifting shadows. Abstract layers of light are caught and transformed inside and out, and even though the daylight hours are short, there seems to be no end to the beauty that winter can conjure with a bit of moisture or moving light on glass surfaces.

The two images at the bottom left of these wintery window scenes are actually shots of frost accumulation on the inside of an old set of windows. The two images in the bottom right are of the same perspective through fluted glass at different times of day.

Of course a winter landscape is made even more beautiful by the light

Rippling sheets of icy clouds and endless shades of blue. Sunsets last longer, and the blushing glow of their colours is reflected in the snow and ice. Often the sky looks like mother-of-pearl, iridescent and luminous.

I love how the winter landscape is often a study in subtlety, with fence-lines and horizons blurred by blowing snow, and the sky a soft gradient veiled in lacy clouds. When the sunsets are colourful, it is always in shades made more vivid by the coolness of the surrounding scene.

Little details of domestic life are illuminated in beautiful light and shadow, turning the long winter months of staying mostly indoors into magical journeys through familiar spaces.

Something as simple as a tissue or glass of water can be transformed by the winter light. Of course the dog loves the winter sunlight too, and can often be found basking in the glow of those fleeting, low-angled rays of warmth.

All of the photos in this post are from various phone cameras. I find that winter light photography often inspires snapshots as it is such a fleeting and beautiful part of every day. To see new snapshots as I share them, just head over to @photoapk on Instagram and follow me there!

Summer Landscape Reflection Photography | Riding Mountain National Park


“After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful? Because it is.”

― Margaret Atwood

Blue summer skies and fluffy white clouds mirrored in the water of Whirlpool Lake at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. The dazzling colours of summer are fleeting in Canada, and in this scene there are vivid blues and greens. The dark forest recedes along the horizon while a breeze skims the surface of the lake, softening the reflection of trees and sky.

Bright blue summer sky and fluffy clouds reflected in the water of Whirlpool Lake at Riding Mountain, National Park, Canada
Whirlpool Lake on a bright summer afternoon, in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba


This is Treaty 2 Territory, land of the Métis, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)⁠.⁠

I encountered this moment of wilderness reflection on a short summer hike last year. Exploring Riding Mountain National Park means many opportunities to view lovely small lakes like this, and I am always hoping to spot some wildlife on the opposite shore. The breeze (mostly) kept the mosquitos away, and nearby meadows were bursting with late summer wildflowers. As a photographer, a landscape reflection like this is impossible to resist. The scenery and elements allow for beautiful compositions and studies of balance, which I particularly enjoy capturing.

Abstract textural reflection of clouds and blue sky on the surface of Whirlpool Lake, rippled by wind


There is often a sense of serenity in photos of natural reflections. When I look at these images now, I am transported to a calm, breathtaking time and place. The texture of air moving across water reminds me of vintage glass windows and how their rippled texture smudges the colours in the sky. The mirror-like surface of the water makes the natural light even more magical. Whether viewed as abstract textural art or as a study in landscape reflection photography, Whirlpool Lake in Manitoba is a special spot that I hope to photograph again soon.

Summer Horizon | Big Sur, California

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:

Monterey Storm | Weather Photography

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.

Dark storm clouds and misty falling rain over the dark water of Monterey Bay, with the coastline mountains in the distance
Fast-moving, dark and dramatic clouds sweep across Monterey Bay, California

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.

Late winter rain | California

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.

Raindrops on a window, scattered across the late winter green and yellow of wildflower fields in coastal California

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?

Te Hoiere / Pelorus River | New Zealand Travel Photography

Travel photography of a rocky river bank and dark green flowing water, framed by dense forest and a road bridge in New Zealand
A bridge crosses the rocky shores and cool green water of the Pelorus River, on the south island of 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. This beautiful spot happened to be on our route, and turned out to be a perfect afternoon to capture a final few dozen frames of New Zealand travel photography.

The path to Te Hoiere river winds through lush forest, ferns and colourful 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.

You can find the full set of Pelorus River photos in my archives, and selected New Zealand travel photography prints in my shop.

Sunset on the Manitoba Prairie

It was a long journey, to arrive in this beautiful, pastoral scene. This image is from last summer, shot from the window of our car as my husband and I sped along country highways to a cozy cottage in the Manitoba forest.

Having spent over 10 years living a nearly idyllic life on the coast of California, the Northern prairies were never a place I’d thought I might move to. Since capturing this fleeting, golden moment, I have been granted Permanent Residency in Canada, and I am starting a new chapter in a new landscape.

Sunset pastoral, Manitoba
A pastoral scene of grazing cattle at sunset in the countryside of Manitoba, Canada

Summer on the prairie offers some of the most spectacular skies I have ever seen, and on this warm day we’d watched thunderstorms and billowing clouds scattered along the horizon in every direction. As we turned North, the warm light from the setting sun seemed to skip across the pastureland, and the scene was reflected along the glassy water of a lake. This is the day that brought much closer the sense that I would soon be arriving in a new home, and I found myself enchanted by the peacefulness of the landscape, contrasted with the constantly changing sky above and all illuminated by the incredibly long golden hour that low, flat horizons allow.

Find prints of this scene and more Manitoba landscapes at www.apkphotography.com

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.