Pigeon Point Lighthouse, California

Blustery, stormy skies and tempestuous crashing ocean waves are the perfect backdrop for a lighthouse and all of the history it represents. I’d driven past Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park dozens of times, passing by while driving the scenic and dramatic Highway 1 along the central coast of California. After years of admiring this picturesque spot from a distance, I decided on a rainy afternoon to pay a visit.

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Raindrops on the camera lens frame a stormy ocean horizon, Pigeon Point, California

The lighthouse was built in 1871 and is now a designated California Historical Landmark. The land on which it is built, and thusly the lighthouse station are named after a shipwrecked vessel, the Carrier Pigeon. The fresnel lantern is no longer in use, and is instead displayed in the visitor’s center, housed in the fog signal building.

The lighthouse itself is now closed to visitors due to structural concerns, and while attempts to fund restoration are underway, it could be decades before the view from the tower can again be enjoyed by the public.

The lighthouse keeper’s housing now serves as a youth hostel, offering a unique waypoint for travellers along the California coast. As with many such natural promontories in this part if the world, whale-watching and general wildlife viewing can be particularly accessible. In the spring, I have seen the surrounding shoreline covered in swaying meadows of yellow wildflowers, and in the winter passing storms paint the sky and ocean surface with moody colors and constantly shifting textures.

On any roadtrip along this stretch of coast, a stop at the Pigeon Point Light Station State Park is highly recommended. It is free, informative, and beautiful. On Saturday, November 18th 2017, a celebration of the 145th anniversary of the light station is being held, offering tours, music and various activities. For more information about the state park visit the California Parks & Recreation website and to see more of my photos from the lighthouse grounds, visit the archive at APK Photography.

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.

Just beneath the surface | Tofino BC

Tofino, British Columbia is a place of many wonders where the sea and forest meet;  it is sometimes rugged, sometimes gentle, and the interaction of texture and light is always captivating. Walking along a broad, shallow beach one morning at low-tide, I encountered the beautiful sight of sandy shallow tide pools, where kelp gently swayed just beneath the surface of crystal clear northern Pacific ocean waters.

Observing the backlit, undulating golden kelp leaves as they shifted gracefully in the swell of a turning tide, I could see fish and small crabs darting beneath the leafy canopy along the sandy ocean floor. At the water’s surface, the contrast between the form of the kelp structures and the dark, silky waves tempted me to wade into the cold water up to my knees, just to catch the right angle of light across the scene.

The tide came in quickly, as it does on this dramatic stretch of coast, and I had to retreat back to the slightly higher ground of the wide sandy beach. The variety of kelp in these northern waters was on display, with a few delicate specimens strewn across the sand.

This was a lovely location, peaceful on an early sunny summer morning, which invited a full contemplation of the natural beauty in a landscape of contrasts. To see my full set of photographs from Tofino, British Columbia, please visit the Tofino, BC gallery at aplphotography.com

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 

Santa Cruz, surfing Steamer Lane at sunset

In the stillness between waves, dedicated surfers wait in the rise and fall of a winter swell.  This image was captured shortly after a spectacular sunset had painted the pastel skies along the coast of Santa Cruz, California.

Santa Cruz, sunset scenes

These quiet moments are as much a part of surf culture as catching the biggest or most exciting waves, and a peaceful ocean scene like this reminds me of how we are all drawn to contemplate the sea.

Find this photograph and others like it in my Ocean & Coastal Prints archives.

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.

Adrift in a jellyfish exhibit

I had the pleasure of an after-hours visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium last week to view the new jellyfish exhibit. The previous jellyfish exhibit that closed a few years ago was a favourite haunt for photographing interesting movement and low-light compositions, and the new exhibit offers many opportunities to observe and photograph these beautifully surreal creatures.

Surrounded by moon jellyfish

This room in particular offers some exciting photographic challenges, as the cylindrical tanks are arranged in a room of mirrors, with tantalizing glimpses of infinity and interesting arrangements of light and shadow. Can you spot the photographer? It can be tricky to get out of the shot here!

adrift

These bright blue and white polka-dotted jellyfish are some of my favourites, with their intricate structures and vivid colours. To see more of these and other jellyfish, check out my archive of oceanic and aquatic animal photographs.

Monterey Bay Morning

From a recent Saturday morning in Monterey – went whale watching on a particularly windy, bright day. Only two whales were spotted, and due to the pitching rise and fall of the relentless ocean swell, I only managed a few photos of whales. However, sunny moments like this stern sunbathing seagull perched on a rusting fishing boat, were easy to come by in the sheltered harbour.

Once several miles out to the edge of the bay, I did enjoy the shifting textural landscape of the windswept water, and managed a few lucky shots of some rare birds skimming the waves. Here’s the view of the California coastline, as we motored out in search of the whales…

out to sea

As with many things, the rest of the photos from this adventure will have to wait, as I dedicate more time to preparing for some upcoming work.  I think this trip out to sea was much-needed, as I came back to land feeling refreshed and energized by so much fresh air and bracing cold salt spray.

New horizons

Around the time one calendar year changes to the next, it is easy to become absorbed in reflecting on the recent past. In this case, 2011 flew by with alarming speed, and it is hard to believe that 2012 has already arrived. Rather than dwell on what has been, however, I am very excited by what is next. Many changes afoot for this blog and my photography – from new digital darkroom tricks to some incredible print collections and fine art offerings.

Last light, Big Sur

These two images, both shot on the same beach in Big Sur, are from a recent exploration of longer-exposure photography. Living on the coast affords me easy access to some spectacular coastlines awash in sunset colours and misty waves, and I hope to bring you more of these peaceful, scenic images in the coming months.

Big Sur, sunset

just another day in paradise

just another day in paradise, originally uploaded by A.p.K.

Living in Monterey is pretty much like living inside a postcard. Every sunset has the potential to make the evening magical, as the lights of the squid-fishing boats come to life along a stormy horizon, and a few hardy souls brave the cold wind and waves to surf that last swell of the day.

Find more from my Monterey photography collection here.

Scenes from the Edge of a Continent | Big Sur Photography

Morning mist hugs the dark mountain coastline of Big Sur, California. Crashing ocean waves, jagged rocks, and In the distance, the Bixby Bridge add a sense of scale to the atmospheric landscape.
Misty Big Sur morning, with a glimpse of Bixby Bridge and the Pacific Coast Highway through the fog of coastal California

Once you visit, this landscape will always be a part of you, and any photography of Big Sur will instantly bring you back to this breathlessly beautiful coastline.

‘Special’ isn’t the right word for Big Sur. There is magic in the mist, as the mountains descend to the sea, where crashing waves endlessly carve coves and cliffs. It feels like the edge of the world, a place one might escape to for a life of meditation on the mixing of water and sky along the distant horizon.

Also – very photogenic locale. Like being inside a postcard.

Find more magical Big Sur landscapes and details in my Big Sur, California collection, alongside many more California art photography prints.