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:

Of Land and Sea | Point Lobos, California Photography

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.

Bright California sunlight glitters across the surface of the Pacific Ocean with the rocky coast of Point Lobos in the foreground, and mountains of Big Sur beyond.
Abstract detail of light and shadow falling across whale vertebrae at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

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.

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.

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

Aqua Ocean Water Abstract

At certain times of year the color of the ocean waves below the cliffs of Big Sur take on a vibrant, blue-green hue, laced with swirling white froth. I have seen this gorgeous color most often in the late summer, when the fog has given way to endless blue skies and the air is quiet and still in the warm sunshine.

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Swirling aqua blue-green ocean water, viewed from the cliffs of Big Sur

I captured this particular image from a warm ridge in Big Sur, looking down into a cove of constantly moving waves. The otherworldly color churned from light to dark against the rocks below, and I could have watched the ocean all afternoon.

This beautiful moment of abstract blue ocean texture and movement is available as an art print in my archives, at apkphotography.com

Glass Beach, Mendocino

I was hoping the rumors were true; a quiet, wild, little stretch of beach on the Mendocino coast near the city of Fort Bragg, strewn with colorful pebbles of sea-glass. As it turns out, this spot is definitely not a secret, as signs will lead the curious traveler from Highway 1 to the sizeable parking lot. On the day I visited, a steady stream of people meandered along sandy paths through meadows of purple and white wildflowers, and down to the beach.

I was not prepared for just how much glass there was, and in some areas the beach seemed more sea-glass than sand. This spot was used as a dumping ground for many years, resulting in a concentration of glass that is now the remaining evidence of such ecologically inconsiderate human activity

Glass Beach detail, Mendocino, California
Contrasting texture of rock and polished seaglass, details of Glass Beach at Fort Bragg, Mendocino, California

Smooth, translucent pebbles of glass in every size and color made beautiful textural patterns everywhere I looked. The diffuse light from an overcast sky made for easy photography, and I am curious to see this spot on a day with more sun, as the colorful contrasts might be even more remarkable. This was a quick visit during a long drive up the California coast, and after snapping a few photos I was back on the road with a small handful of smooth sea-glass pieces in my pocket. As it is a very active stretch of coast, with crashing waves and stormy winter weather, I expect that Glass Beach may change and continue to reveal colorful treasure for decades to come.

These two square images have been added to my affordable Open Edition Square Prints, and the full set of Glass Beach images can be found in the apkphotography.com 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

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.