Water Lily & Lotus

With bright flowers emerging from the water, contrasted by the rounded geometry of simple floating leaves, water lilies and lotuses have inspired artists and poets, symbolizing deep cultural meanings for centuries. Exploring the beauty of a water lily or lotus plant through photography is a welcome creative challenge.

These aquatic plants are a lovely subject for floral photography, and they make stunning botanical prints full of reflections and texture. The minimal natural forms translate well to fine art interpretations. The flowers bloom in many colours and a single water lily blossom or lotus flower can be both striking and serene.


Water lily or lotus, what’s the difference?

Water lilies (Nymphaeaceae) and lotus (Nelumbo) are most easily identifed by observing how they grow. Most water lily flowers and leaves float at the surface of the water, while lotus flowers and leaves emerge to rise above the water’s surface on longer stems. Both of these families of aquatic plants prefer shallow, calm or slow-moving watery habitats, such as ponds, lakes, and streams.

Water lily & lotus flowers from around the world

I’ve been working in my archives lately and have come across several images of these remarkable plants and flowers. Captured over the years, my water lily photography may not be quite like the magnificent impressionist representations such as those found in Claude Monet’s water lily paintings, but I can see why he was drawn to repeatedly explore their beauty.

My water lily and lotus photography has mostly been inspired while in botanical gardens, and the images in this post include examples from New Plymouth, New Zealand and San Francisco, California. There are also wild pond lilies (Nuphar) from Canada seen on a recent summer hike in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba.

Colourful symbolism & deeper meaning

Representing rebirth, enlightenment and hope, water lily and lotus flowers also carry different meanings depending on the colour of their petals; pink for knowledge, white for peace, purple for power. The blooming petals tend to be solitary flowers against lush rafts of leaves, or reflected in dark, glassy water. Water lily flowers are the official state or national flowers of several countries, and their leaves are potent symbols often used in heraldry designs. I think of them as a peaceful plant, thriving in the transitional space between water and air. Do water lilies hold a special meaning for you?

Find more examples of these fascinating plants in my
Nymphaeaceae, Nelumbo & Nuphar gallery, with prints and licensing
options available and custom inquiries always welcome.


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Agave Study

Sharp red thorns, pale green leaves, catching and shaping the bright New Zealand sun in the Wellington Botanic Garden. The variety of geometric shapes and contrasting textures make an agave plant particularly appealing to photograph, and in this image I sought to balance the light and shadow throughout the frame, highlighting the repeating pattern of the scalloped and pointed agave leaves.

Wellington Botanic Gardens, New Zealand

This image is the newest print offering in my Botanical Prints gallery, available as a fine art archival print, Giclée Canvas Wrap or Bamboo mounted print. Every print is made to order and custom options are always available; for more information about my print production and finishing options, please visit my Fine Art Print Info page.

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.

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.

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.

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.