Looks pretty scenic to me…

Winter landscape and ironic sign, Point Lobos, California

⁠ A little unintentional humour from Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in California where crashing waves, rocky cliffs and unique forests come together beneath blue skies.⁠

I’ve neglected this blog for too long while working through a sea of editing, organization, and big personal life changes. Lately I have found that when sitting down to write, the words haven’t been the easiest to come by…good thing I speak best through images!

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Winter escapism | Bright and bold Barbados

This January morning, I am sitting at my kitchen table, watching the deep midwinter pre-dawn gloom just outside. Cars hiss along the street in icy darkness, their headlights illuminating canyons of piled snow. It is 7:29am and there is still no sign of the sun.

Being from California where gardens never stop growing, I am particularly drawn to the quiet, dormant beauty of this season in Western Canada; the stillness and insular peace of a snowbound prairie horizon is more comforting than I expected. When the wind whips down from the North, the cold air carries drifting curtains of snow, and even the trees appear to shiver.

However, while I genuinely enjoy these philosophical moments of winter from a cozy indoor perspective, it has also become my habit to use the short days and dark hours to escape into editing colourful photos from warmer places and times. I’ve started 2019 off with a dip into last year’s visit to Barbados…

This was my first trip to a truly tropical climate since living in Hawaii over a decade ago. Immediately, the vivid blue hues of the water and the unabashed lushness of the plant life were a tremendous relief after a few months of monochrome winter weather.

Gentle sea breezes filtered through curtains of palm fronds and the constant soft movement of clouds and waves were hypnotic and soothing. Looking at these photos, I can almost feel the calming warmth of this slice of Caribbean paradise…

If you need a little more warm weather and colourful, tropical escapism, this batch of scenic details and many more have been added to my Barbados Scenery & Flowers gallery.

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

Tofino, British Columbia

Any coastal locale in the month of May is likely to be a beautiful place, but Tofino, British Columbia seems to have natural beauty and charming village scenes to spare. Set in the forested mountain landscape of Vancouver Island, with wild west coast beaches, this stretch of Canadian coastline is bursting with blooming rhododendron flowers in May.

The flight into Tofino is scenic too, skimming along the mountains of Vancouver Island and dropping through the clouds on a final approach over the ocean, to land in the forest.

There are picturesque lodges of every size and price point, and every single one offers postcard views of the remarkable scenery. I enjoyed a memorable stay at Middle Beach Lodge, which is a short drive from the Tofino town center, and overlooks a gorgeous stretch of rocky forested shoreline and sandy beaches.

Tofino itself is very walkable, colorful, and full of art, food, and personality. This is a hub for sightseeing seaplanes and fishing expeditions. The restaurants favor fresh, local ingredients and there are almost too many enticing eateries to choose from.

On a morning walk along one of the quiet beaches, awash in the warm sun, sounds of the ocean and a gentle breeze, I discovered sea shells and natural treasures. At sunset, the entire landscape transforms into an ombre palette of peaceful hues and shimmering water, set against beautiful mountains on the horizon.

To see more photos from beach walking in Tofino, British Columbia, I have a story on the blog about the beauty of the kelp swaying in the tidepools; Just beneath the surface in Tofino, BC – and for the full gallery of Tofino photography, visit the apkphotography.com 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.

WM_wave_abstract_01
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

Moss Landing, California

Tucked between Highway 1 and the broad horizon of Monterey Bay on the California coast is the quaint, colorful, seaside fishing town of Moss Landing. On a whim one early spring day, I decided to explore the quiet streets and old storefronts of this weathered hamlet.

Tucked along the edges of Moss Landing Harbor and Elkhorn Slough, and extending up the banks of the Old Salinas River, many of the buildings in Moss Landing carry the sort of patina that only steady ocean winds and fog mixed with salt spray can create. Despite the aging, sometimes visibly decaying structures, bright colors are found all over town. Quirky, artful touches, an abundance of antiques, and endless textural contrasts make this spot an interesting place for photography.

On this particular day, the sky was a brilliant blue, with a constantly changing curtain of windswept white clouds blowing in from across the ocean. One of the classic Moss Landing postcard shots is of an old boat, at rest in a field, yet still somehow conjuring up a sea-faring spirit and salty resilience.

Moss Landing, California
An abandoned and colorful boat in a field, Moss Landing, on the California coast

There are some remarkable scientific operations based in Moss Landing as well, and a visit to these more modern sites of inquiry is especially worthwhile during one of their many open-house events. At any time however, in any weather, a brief detour into Moss Landing from the usual travel route North or South along California’s Highway 1 on the Central Coast, will reward off-the-beaten-path travellers with colorful character, an abundance of local restaurants to enjoy, and a lovely spot to spend a quiet afternoon with a camera.

To see my full set of Moss Landing photographs, or to purchase these images as Open Edition Prints, please visit the 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.

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

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.