Desert Spring

Spring in the desert is a gorgeous display of contrasts, with lush vegetation and colorful flowers blooming against the hard edges of a rocky landscape, punctuated by the sharp spines of cacti in a seemingly endless array of shapes and sizes.

One of the best places to see this display of natural springtime exuberance is at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, a hidden oasis in the Sonoran Desert east of Phoenix, Arizona. After a rainy season, the creeks are lined with fresh green growth, and the gardens showcase plants from arid environments all over the world.

The vibrant flowering cactus are striking on a sunny day, in shades of yellow, pink, and red, surrounded by spines. The varied texture of desert vegetation is eye-catching too, and while studying these forms in the warm desert light, I spotted a pale green spider who seemed to have evolved to match the cactus on which it hid.

Even the lizards darting across nearby rocks were colorful, matching the shades of pale green, blue, pink and yellow of their environment.

The arboretum has some unique historical sites, relating to the original development of the land by Boyce Thompson as a winter home in the early 1920s. The gentle walking trails that meander through the park pass a manmade lake, historic structures, and informs the story of the property becoming a center for propagation, research and education in the late 1920s.

A springtime visit to the deserts of the Southwest is highly recommended, and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is a wonderful place to explore the rich biodiversity of desert species at the peak of their seasonal beauty.

View the full set of spring at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park photos, prints and rights managed licensing available.

Fort Ross, California

On the wild, rugged coast of Northern California sits an unexpected historic site, a fort and trading outpost founded by Russian settlers in the early 1800’s. At a time when the colonial and enterprising interests of the Spanish, British and American nations were converging on the region, and Mexico also laid claim to Alta California, the Russian-American Company sought to establish settlements in a part of the region populated only by the Kashaya Pomo Tribe, from whom the Russians negotiated the purchase of the land for Fort Ross.

 

I grew up in nearby Petaluma, California and have fond memories of visiting the Fort Ross State Historic Park as a child. The most active years of the fort ended in the mid 1800’s, but I always found the buildings, walls, and grounds to feel as if the history of the region was not quite so distant.

 

While driving North along Highway 1, it was a spontaneous decision to visit the park on a late summer afternoon. The path from the visitor’s center winds through a pine forest, down along a creek and past a grove of eucalyptus, then across a clearing to the entrance of the fort.

 

It was a quiet day on this visit, and I spent some time exploring the buildings and various vantage points throughout the settlement.  Hawks circled over the forested hills while the ocean crashed below the nearby cliffs. When the Russians landed in the area, they found a landscape rich with resources and agricultural opportunity. The Russian-American Company found lucrative fur-trading too, but their activities along with those of the Spanish, American and British fur traders decimated the sea otter population that has only recently been able to recover, with the aid of extensive conservation work.

 

My favorite structure at Fort Ross is the lovely little Russian Orthodox Chapel. It is not entirely true to the original chapel design, as the structure was once modified for use as a stable, knocked down by the 1906 earthquake, and after being reassembled,  destroyed by an accidental fire in 1970. Still it is a striking space, full of texture and interesting architectural design.

 

Interestingly, the current upkeep and operation of Fort Ross State Historic Park is funded by a Russian entrepreneurial company, and in 2012 an unofficial delegation of the Kashaya traveled to Russia. Restoration work and research of the site continues, and this will continue to be a wonderful place to visit, highly recommended as an educational picnic spot on the Sonoma coast of California.

As I left Fort Ross on this visit, I glanced at the ground below the West-facing wall, and spotted the feather of a Red Tail hawk in the red and gold fallen leaves of a giant eucalyptus tree. Despite the history of active settlement and now steady-stream of visitors, Fort Ross is still an outpost in the wilderness, and if one pauses to take it all in, it seems almost possible that time here stands still.

 

To see the full set of my Fort Ross, California photographs visit apkphotography.com – many of these images are available as Open Edition Prints and for editorial licensing.

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.

Autumnal Gold

Seasons of transition always prompt me to pick up my camera more often; the slanting, evocative light of the sun low in the sky, the luminous colors of fresh spring growth or the brilliant golden, scarlet, orange palette of fall have always provided abundant inspiration. However, having spent most of my life in the mild climate of coastal California, this year’s visit to the much more northerly environment of Saskatchewan has brought me to an even deeper appreciation of the drama and fleeting beauty of autumn.

On a recent sunny weekend, I visited Wascana Centre in the heart of Regina, Saskatchewan. A series of colder days had signalled a distinct shift from summer to fall, and signs of the seasonal change had begun to appear around the city.

The man-made lake of Wascana Centre is surrounded by lovely parks, and the trees had begun to turn golden yellow, their leaves made even more bold against bright blue skies.

This seasonal color is fleeting, as I discovered last year when I first visited the park. On that day, the weather was cool and misty, and many of the leaves had already fallen from the trees, leaving only a hint of the brilliant autumnal display I was fortunate to see this year.

With a severe windstorm stripping the leaves from the trees earlier this week, the fall foliage display in Saskatchewan is quickly drawing to a close, with many bare branches above and deep piles of brown leaves filling the streets and yards of the neighborhoods below. I look forward to watching the last bit of this transitional season slip into winter, and will be eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring, when the cycle begins anew.

To see the full set of images gathered during Autumn in Regina, Saskatchewan, please visit the gallery at apkphotography.com

A few selected images featured in this post will be added to my Open Edition Prints collection, with announcements of specific print releases shared on my APK Photography Facebook page