Winter Light Celebration

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 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 older buildings and newer highrises. 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. 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 shifting 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 often 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 subtley, 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 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!

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