Looks pretty scenic to me…

Winter landscape and ironic sign, Point Lobos, California

⁠ 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!

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Of Land and Sea | Point Lobos, California

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.

To see more Point Lobos photography, visit my archives – licensing and fine art prints are available.

Dark and moody storm | Monterey, California

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.

Fast-moving, dark and dramatic clouds sweep across Monterey Bay

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.

Monarch Butterfly Migration

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.

 

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.

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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.

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.

Monterey Car Week Cometh

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Velella Velella

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.

Velella velella stranding on the beaches of Carmel, California

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.

Velella velella stranding on the beaches of Carmel, California

Find more photographs of the beautiful Velella velella, with prints and licensing available in my archives

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

Christmas, Historic Adobes | Monterey, California

Along with the Harbor Holiday Light Parade, Monterey, California has a particularly unique and charming December tradition – a walking nighttime tour of the historic adobe buildings scattered throughout downtown. One rainy night I joined a few friends to explore the lovely homes and government buildings that are lovingly restored and maintained as striking architectural reminders of the not-so-distant past of California.

Many of these historic sites include lovely gardens, and as we walked toward each stop on the self-guided tour, we were greeted by the glow of lights in the trees and the traditional painted angels that decorate the city of Monterey during the winter holiday season.

Each adobe had a slightly different story and seasonal decorations, often with a mix of old and new on display. Creaking wooden floors and subdued warm light lent each space a cozy sense of stepping back in time.

At the historic Custom House, dating back to around 1827, live music and dancing filled the main room. A Mexican flag on display pays respect to the role of this particular adobe building as the primary port of entry on the Alta California coast before the territory was claimed by the United States in 1846.

At a smaller building which holds the distinction of being California’s first theater, we were greeted by a musician on the front porch, and a decorated tavern space inside. The main portion of the theater, including the stage, has sadly fallen into disrepair and was not accessible. In the spring, the theater garden is one of my favorite secret spots in downtown Monterey.

Live music was a highlight of the evening, performed by volunteers at nearly every location. Even though some of the points of interest were a few blocks apart, it seemed that the holiday cheer filled the rainy streets in every direction, as we had only to follow the sounds of musicians and carollers to reach the next adobe.

City Hall was a bustling center of activity, with locals chatting on the steps and enjoying the decorated trees indoors and out. This building is still functional at the heart of the city, hosting several municipal offices and providing Monterey residents with a scenic park for casual gatherings.

Some of the larger adobes offered sweet holiday treats, cookies and cider, and at the historic building known as the Stevenson House (after Robert Louis Stevenson who lived there for a few months) a cheerful bagpiper roamed the rooms full of artifacts and notable art.

I had lived many years in Monterey before I took part in this lovely holiday tradition, and it was a memory I will treasure. The warmth and hospitality of Monterey and Californians in general was embodied in the welcoming cheer of these historic adobes.

The tour ticket fee benefits the California State Parks and their maintenance of the buildings, and I would highly recommend it to locals and visitors alike. For information and tickets, please visit the California State Parks website – Christmas in the Adobes.

To see the full set of my images from this magical holiday night, please visit the APK Photography Christmas in the Adobes gallery

A Photographer’s Guide to Car Week in Monterey, California

Ah, car week. Revving engines, gleaming chrome, throngs of automotive aficionados, and a complete range of events packed into every day, from pricey and exclusive gatherings to public downtown cruises, all offering plenty of photographic fun. Where are the best value photo-opportunities? What events are also just plain fun to experience? What kind of gear is best?

(Regarding gear: These three shots are from a Samsung Galaxy S5 – ye olde phone camera – the best gear is ALWAYS the camera you have with you. If you are packing an SLR kit, a wider-angle lens will work well at most of the more intimate events I note below, while a zoom or telephoto lens is an excellent tool for capturing races at the track.)

After living in the Monterey, California area for 14 years, I’ve seen nearly every car week event at least once, and I’ve learned a lot about photographing the larger scenes and delightful details of this car culture cacophony. Getting a traditional clean-shot of a car with no distractions in the background is tricky at nearly every event, and my single biggest piece of advice is to get comfortable with what the environment offers; as you’ll see in the photos below, the light during car week in Monterey is likely to range from overcast skies with diffuse daylight, to bright midday sun, to dusky dark urban street scenes, all packed with moving crowds of spectators. Be patient, be polite, and experiment with the added visual interest of the events themselves.

If you can afford to splurge on tickets and access to the headlining events, such as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, by all means, enjoy the show. For a free look at the same cars with the bonus of seeing them in motion, catch the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance which winds its way through several cities and scenic roads of Monterey County.

For a gorgeous and competitive spread of fine automobiles, a free-to-the-public option is the Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue, which allows attendees to get up close to the cars, speak with the owners, and watch the awards ceremony all in the quaint downtown setting of Carmel-by-the-Sea. The crowds can be thick at this event, and patience is key.

If homegrown hot-rods and the latest supercars are more your speed, Exotics on the Row is an accessible and fun event, held in the evening on Cannery Row. This gathering offers low-light photography enthusiasts a scene rich with glowing headlights and colorful Monterey nightlife, all free and walkable.

Around town, there will be an endless parade of interesting cars passing on the street, and adjacent to any event center or hotel hosting a car week auction, simply watching some of the rarest cars in the world get unloaded from transport trucks for their big moment can be a great photo-op. These shots are best found in the lead-up to the main week of events, or during the week following.

Finally, what has always proven to be a photographic goldmine, packed with unusual, interesting, and amazing cars with the added bonus of seeing many of them race around one of the most dynamic tracks in the world, is the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.

Laguna Seca classic car races
Vintage and classic cars ready to race at Laguna Seca racetrack in Monterey, California during the annual Reunion events of car week.

This is the event I’ve attended the most, and no matter which day one chooses to attend, a stroll around the paddock will provide even the most casual automotive photography enthusiast with plenty of colourful race activity and historic racecars.

Owners and drivers are happy to talk about their beloved vehicles and nothing beats a shot or two of the infamous Laguna Seca Corkscrew full of rumbling vintage cars barreling toward the finish line. Again, be patient, the paddock can be full of people taking it all in, and the most rewarding shots can come after waiting for a crowd to pass.

Over the years I’ve accumulated an extensive library of Car Week photography, all of which can be found in the Automobilia section of apkphotography.com. I will be cruising many of these events again this year, hoping to see some familiar automotive friends and new exciting cars.

I post frequently to Instagram during the week, please follow @photoapk for more inside angles on this amazing time of year in Monterey, and feel free to leave a comment if you’ve got any questions or advice to share.

Point Lobos, California

A true scenic gem of the California coast, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a revelation in every season. The dramatic rocky cliffs offer sweeping views to the South, and on a clear January day the distant mountains of Big Sur offer an otherworldly sense of scale to hikers who wander the Point Lobos trails.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
View of Big Sur from Point Lobos, California

Exploring the Northern coves and cliffs of Point Lobos reveals a surreal woodland, where afternoon light filters through gnarled, wind-blown trees and strange red algae thrives in a mix of sea-salt-spray and near-constant fog. This forest frames the landscape exquisitely, and around every bend a new postcard-perfect vista is revealed.

There are historical sites here too, as Point Lobos saw significant whaling operations into the late 1800’s. From the textural rocks and trees to the whale bones on display, the details of Point Lobos are rich with stories.

Winter offers bright, crisp, sunny days in between storms, and with spring comes a rush of vibrant life; beautiful Douglas Iris fill the shady green meadows with purple wildflowers, and the quietest coves become nurseries for plump harbour seal pups, playing in the shallows and lounging on the beaches.

In the summer and fall, the evenings are often moody with mist, and the tree-line can appear ghostly above the shimmering ocean water. No matter the season of time of day, any visit to the Monterey Bay would be incomplete without a walk along one of the many Point Lobos trails. For many years I was fortunate enough to live just up the coast from this special place, and with every expedition on which I carried my camera, I would see remarkable wildlife and seasonal changes set against an incredibly dramatic and powerful landscape. I have recently gathered my Point Lobos photographs into a new gallery, with many images available for licensing and as prints.

Learn more about Point Lobos State Natural Reserve 

Monterey Car Week 2015 | The Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue

It is an August ritual, the gleaming chrome, rumbling engines, shifting gears and crowds of automotive aficionados, all converging to transform Monterey, California into a car collector’s paradise.  From vintage automobile races to open-air shows, there are endless opportunities to see examples of fine historic vehicles and rare luxury supercars up close and in beautiful detail.  For more classic car photography and racing photography from Monterey Car Week, please visit the APK Photography Automobilia Archives.

I have been photographing automotive events for nearly as long as I have lived in Monterey, and it is truly remarkable to see the variety of cars and the passion of the owners and fans.  From a shooting perspective, these celebrations of automotive engineering and history are always well-attended, meaning that I have no choice but to work with the crowd and explore new angles from which to capture both the details and the larger feel of any given event.  Lately, I have become even more interested in capturing the interaction of the people and the cars, resulting in moments like the shot below.

CarmelConcours--2_WM

Of course, there is always the simple and deeply satisfying fun of moving in closer for those more finely tuned abstract and detail images, with the added challenge of highly-variable light/shadow intensities on shiny surfaces…

Visit my online print shop to purchase these images as fine art automotive prints, or to inquire about editorial licensing, please visit my Automobilia Photography Archives

Additional images from the 2015 Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue here.

Harbor seal mothers and their playful pups

On the sheltered beaches of Monterey, Carmel, and Point Lobos, one can catch a lovely glimpse into the lives of harbour seals.  This time of year, the cute harbour seal pups are beginning to explore their watery homes, and their mothers keep a watchful eye as they swim through the swaying kelp forests and quiet coves.  Some of the pups are particularly plump and round, and as they get brave enough to swim away from their mothers, there are moments of playful freedom in the surf.  Once a pup realizes that they can no longer see their mother however, they will cry, short sad little calls that bring their mothers quickly to their side.  The pups only have 3 to 4 weeks before they will be weaned, and witnessing this precious time that they have with their mothers is quite a special sight.

See more harbour seal interactions and behaviour in the APK Photography Harbour Seal gallery.