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!

Summer Reflections | Riding Mountain National Park, Canada


“After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful? Because it is.”

― Margaret Atwood

Blue summer skies and fluffy white clouds mirrored in the water of Whirlpool Lake at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. The dazzling colours of summer are fleeting in Canada, and in this scene there are vivid blues and greens. The dark forest recedes along the horizon while a breeze skims the surface of the lake, softening the reflection of trees and sky.

Bright blue summer sky and fluffy clouds reflected in the water of Whirlpool Lake at Riding Mountain, National Park, Canada

This is Treaty 2 Territory, land of the Métis, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)⁠.⁠

I encountered this moment of wilderness reflection on a short summer hike last year. Exploring Riding Mountain National Park means many opportunities to view lovely small lakes like this, and I am always hoping to spot some wildlife on the opposite shore. The breeze (mostly) kept the mosquitos away, and nearby meadows were bursting with late summer wildflowers. As a photographer, a landscape reflection like this is impossible to resist. The scenery and elements allow for beautiful compositions and studies of balance, which I particularly enjoy capturing.

There is often a sense of serenity in photos of natural reflections. When I look at these images now, I am transported to a calm, breathtaking time and place. The texture of air moving across water reminds me of vintage glass windows and how their rippled texture smudges the colours in the sky. The mirror-like surface of the water makes the natural light even more magical. Whether viewed as abstract textural art or as a study in landscape reflection photography, Whirlpool Lake in Manitoba is a special spot that I hope to photograph again soon.

See more of Riding Mountain National Park photographed throughout the seasons, with prints and licensing available, custom inquiries always welcome.

Water Lily & Lotus

With bright flowers emerging from the water, contrasted by the rounded geometry of simple floating leaves, water lilies and lotuses have inspired artists and poets, symbolizing deep cultural meanings for centuries. Exploring the beauty of a water lily or lotus plant through photography is a welcome creative challenge.

These aquatic plants are a lovely subject for floral photography, and they make stunning botanical prints full of reflections and texture. The minimal natural forms translate well to fine art interpretations. The flowers bloom in many colours and a single water lily blossom or lotus flower can be both striking and serene.


Water lily or lotus, what’s the difference?

Water lilies (Nymphaeaceae) and lotus (Nelumbo) are most easily identifed by observing how they grow. Most water lily flowers and leaves float at the surface of the water, while lotus flowers and leaves emerge to rise above the water’s surface on longer stems. Both of these families of aquatic plants prefer shallow, calm or slow-moving watery habitats, such as ponds, lakes, and streams.

Water lily & lotus flowers from around the world

I’ve been working in my archives lately and have come across several images of these remarkable plants and flowers. Captured over the years, my water lily photography may not be quite like the magnificent impressionist representations such as those found in Claude Monet’s water lily paintings, but I can see why he was drawn to repeatedly explore their beauty.

My water lily and lotus photography has mostly been inspired while in botanical gardens, and the images in this post include examples from New Plymouth, New Zealand and San Francisco, California. There are also wild pond lilies (Nuphar) from Canada seen on a recent summer hike in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba.

Colourful symbolism & deeper meaning

Representing rebirth, enlightenment and hope, water lily and lotus flowers also carry different meanings depending on the colour of their petals; pink for knowledge, white for peace, purple for power. The blooming petals tend to be solitary flowers against lush rafts of leaves, or reflected in dark, glassy water. Water lily flowers are the official state or national flowers of several countries, and their leaves are potent symbols often used in heraldry designs. I think of them as a peaceful plant, thriving in the transitional space between water and air. Do water lilies hold a special meaning for you?

Find more examples of these fascinating plants in my
Nymphaeaceae, Nelumbo & Nuphar gallery, with prints and licensing
options available and custom inquiries always welcome.


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Pukekura Park | New Plymouth, New Zealand

Over the years travelling has taught me a few important lessons; I will always pack more than I end up needing, the journey is usually just as remarkable as the destination, and never, ever pass up the chance to spend a few hours in a local botanical garden.

Pukekura Park in New Plymouth, on the west coast of the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s northern island, is a lush jungle of foliage and water. I visited on a quiet Saturday morning in April, and enjoyed wandering the paths as they looped around lakes, past a waterfall, and across the beautiful red Poet’s Bridge, which dates back to 1884.

In some sections of the park, it is easy to forget that one is actually in a bustling small city; the size of the trees and depth of the fern-filled groves were captivating and invited leisurely exploration.

Emerging from a trail through one of these dense forests, a large lily-covered pond is revealed where bright blue Australasian swamphens foraged across the lily pads.

Displayed on the water is a sculpture titled ‘Aotearoa’ by Michael Smithers; Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand, meaning “land of the long white cloud”. A few days after visiting the gardens, while driving south to Wellington from New Plymouth, I saw the namesake beautiful rolling white line of clouds stretch across the landscape.

View more photos from my Pukekura Park, New Zealand experience in my archives, with selected images available for prints and licensing.

Summer Prairie Skies

The sky is bigger on the prairie, and the sunsets some of the most gorgeous I have ever seen; constantly shifting weather, swirling clouds, and a golden hour that lasts forever…

Living Skies of Saskatchewan, sunset
A stunning summer sunset fills the sky above the open Saskatchewan landscape

As I spend more time travelling across Saskatchewan and Manitoba my library of spectacularly surreal sunsets will continue to grow – find them all in my Land of the Living Skies gallery – prints and licensing available.

Sunset on the Manitoba Prairie

It was a long journey, to arrive in this beautiful, pastoral scene. This image is from last summer, shot from the window of our car as my husband and I sped along country highways to a cozy cottage in the Manitoba forest.

Having spent over 10 years living a nearly idyllic life on the coast of California, the Northern prairies were never a place I’d thought I might move to. Since capturing this fleeting, golden moment, I have been granted Permanent Residency in Canada, and I am starting a new chapter in a new landscape.

Sunset pastoral, Manitoba
A pastoral scene of grazing cattle at sunset in the countryside of Manitoba, Canada

Summer on the prairie offers some of the most spectacular skies I have ever seen, and on this warm day we’d watched thunderstorms and billowing clouds scattered along the horizon in every direction. As we turned North, the warm light from the setting sun seemed to skip across the pastureland, and the scene was reflected along the glassy water of a lake. This is the day that brought much closer the sense that I would soon be arriving in a new home, and I found myself enchanted by the peacefulness of the landscape, contrasted with the constantly changing sky above and all illuminated by the incredibly long golden hour that low, flat horizons allow.

Find prints of this scene and more Manitoba landscapes at www.apkphotography.com

water + light

Feels a bit like time is slipping through my fingers lately – having completely rebuilt my archives of 30,000+ images, I’ve admittedly needed a little break from the digital darkroom and the endless queue of shots still waiting to be processed. An escape to the edge of the world, where dunes and sand melt away into endless ocean waves might be in order…

This particular sort of mix of light and water could keep me occupied for an eternity – it seems to me to be a place where that which should be easily described achieves a rather intangible quality, and even a simple walk along a beach with the steady flow and motorized hum of four-wheeling traffic can become something more ethereal from the right angle. Our relationship to these places is frequently overshadowed by all of the ways we try to impose a usefulness upon the landscape, when really, just being present at that intersection of time and space is the more fulfilling experience.

Memorial Day meditation

Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool, sunset

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. ~ Joseph Campbell

Today is traditionally a day for remembrance and for gathering with friends and family to celebrate the bountiful pleasures of the season.

I find it difficult to limit my Memorial Day meditations to just the fallen soldiers of countless wars. I think of their families and communities too. In recent years, the trauma and tragedy of war has played itself out as soldiers return home, burdened with endless nightmares and deeply challenging emotional scars – as the suicide rate climbs among the men and women who so selflessly put their lives on the line for their country, I find it shameful that we are not doing more to help them return to lives of health, vitality and peace. Even the most personal of wars can not be won alone.

I am also thinking of the leaders, large and small, who have dedicated their lives to the service of the nation. Having a visionary sense of one’s role and abilities as a leader, acting on those ideas, and seeing often difficult change through to an end is a remarkable task that most of us would not be brave enough to attempt, given the opportunity. It takes a particular kind of person to step into so great a role of responsibility.

We live in a world that is not likely to ever be free from conflict and war. Today is a day to consider just how lucky we are to have heroes in our midst everyday. From foot soldiers to leaders of nations, these are the people whose lives have been given up to something larger than themselves, and we might each aspire to living lives as selfless and dignified as those we honor today.