Dark and moody storm | Monterey, California

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.

Fast-moving, dark and dramatic clouds sweep across Monterey Bay

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 now included in my collection ‘An Ocean Above’ featuring a variety of dramatic clouds and abstract skies.

Late winter rain | California

Sitting at my desk here in wintery Winnipeg, Manitoba, it is easy for me to get nostalgic for the winter landscape of my childhood in coastal Northern California. The wet, rainy season would often start in late October; gentle showers after a crackling dry summer would turn the golden-brown hills green in only a few weeks. After a month or two of frequent rain storms, the yellow wildflowers add their vivid colours to the lush landscape. By January, winter on the California coast is often the most vibrant season of the year.

Raindrops on a window, scattered across the late winter green and yellow of wildflower fields in coastal California

This image was captured recently while stranded in traffic on a highway blocked by downed trees and power-lines after a particularly gusty, dangerous winter storm. The wind blew heavy rain sideways across the green and yellow fields, and the raindrops on the car window created an interesting pattern in the foreground of an impressionistic scene.

As this image was captured with my phone camera, it is only available in smaller print sizes, but the bright pop of colour and the unexpected textural details make it a unique, beautiful image when printed. You can find this textural abstract and many more like it in my Small Prints Archive.

I am acclimating to the frosty, white snow and brown muck of Canadian winters, and I enjoy the shift in perspective that comes with experiencing the seasons in a new place, but I will always miss the emerald green landscape and cloudy skies of these California winters and I look forward to visiting during the rainy months. How does winter look where you are?

Delphinium Rain

Summer gardens here in Saskatchewan are abundant with flowers, and these pale blue and lavender delphinium blooms are from a volunteer plant in the one flower bed I have managed to tend this past year. It is a surprise every spring, as having not planted it, I easily forget that such a lovely plant is hiding, dormant between the chives and tulip bulbs all winter.

This particular stem of soft petals was broken by a heavy summer downpour during an afternoon thunderstorm. I looked out the kitchen window and saw it drooping heavily, and after the lightning subsided, went outside to see if it could be salvaged. The stalk was torn nearly through, and the flowers were drenched in rain. I cut the spike free, gently shook most of the water off, and put the two foot tall tower of pastel blooms in a vase.

The clearing storm provided soft, diffused light and seeing how some tiny waterdrops still clung to the flower petals, I ran inside for my camera. This was a wonderful opportunity to use my macro extension tubes, and the exercise of shooting manually, leaning in and out ever so slightly to perfect the plane of focus, was an enjoyable reminder of the photographic techniques I learned when shooting film decades ago.

A selection of these lovely summer flowers have been added to my fine art prints gallery titled Bloom and the entire collection of rain-soaked delphinium blossoms can be found in the APK Photography archive gallery Flowers & Plants.

Scarlet poppy flower and raindrops, macro

Everyone knows the copper, orange-gold of California poppies, particularly as they form drifts of color across the hillsides of a Western summer landscape. This poppy is of a slightly different variety, a shade of deep scarlet red that I’ve not seen in the wild. It was a prolific garden bloomer however, scattering seeds every season and thriving in the sandy soil of my coastal backyard.

Scarlet poppy, waterdrops
A scarlet red California poppy seems to glow, as it drips with raindrops

I saw this particular bloom after a light rain shower, as the sun came out from behind the clouds, and I couldn’t resist capturing the vibrant color and jewel-like water droplets in full macro detail.

This image has been a favourite for custom print orders, and I am releasing it as a Limited Edition of 30, sized 8×12 and printed on fine art paper with luminous colours and beautiful detail. Find this stunning flower art print and more like it at apkphotoprints.com

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.

WM_PigeonPointLighthouse-3817
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.

weather, light

northern nevada, originally uploaded by A.p.K.

Two of my favorite photographic ingredients – some fleeting condition like fast-moving clouds and rain, and the slanting rays of the sun. Even two images shot within seconds of each other can be remarkably different in tone and balance when captured under these conditions.

This was a lucky shot – on a working road-trip through Nevada where we stopped in Battle Mountain for the night as a large storm began to shower the region with rain and crackling lightning. Having walked one of the few main roads in town from our hotel to a cafe and back, I was glad to have carried my point-and-shoot camera as we turned to the mountains and caught a glimpse of the light and weather combined in a dramatic, shifting composition of landscape and man-made elements.

Abstract rain, night

Glittering raindrops fall during an evening storm, caught in the golden light of a streetlamp


Glittering raindrops fall across a windshield during an evening storm, illuminated by a street light.

I know, I seem obsessed with the weather lately.  Really, it is the irresistible interplay of water and light during this rainy season that captivates me completely.  The sheen of water across asphalt in the morning hours, the way puddles hold an after-storm sunset; it is a permanently transient subject, that just a breath of wind and a passing cloud can change entirely.  How can it not be satisfying to photograph?

This abstract rainy night photo is part of my Liquid Light water photography collection, featuring beautiful art prints of abstracted water and seascapes.