Frozen Bubbles

You know those exquisite wintertime close-up photos of ice crystals forming on bubbles as they freeze? These are not those. You are looking at the messy, interesting results of an attempt at such photos though.⁠⁠
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Despite being plenty cold, it has been too breezy outside for bubbles. I thought the sheltered and well-lit space of my uninsulated sunroom might be a better bet. I was able to blow lovely bubbles and drop them onto a small pile of snow, but the sunroom was, well, too sunny. It had warmed to an ambient temperature of a balmy -10C or so (compared to the -20 to -30C temps outside lately). -10C may not be not quite cold enough for dramatic crystal formations, despite what so many internet tutorials say. The bubbles did freeze, looking a bit like surreal, shattered crystal balls, and I found a few frames from this session that are interesting enough to share.⁠⁠
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I’ll keep trying, since this is one of those winter projects that is relatively simple and contained, and can be done while staying home…⁠⁠

For some more traditional winter photography, check out the Winter photo gallery in my Image Bank.

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!

Recent work | Hopeful yellow flowers


From recent travels to California, these vivid yellow pincushion protea flowers stood in bright contrast to their dark green foliage. Spotted while on a waterfront walk in Monterey, with blustery spring showers and fast-moving clouds overhead, these fresh blooms were a welcome colourful reminder that spring is just around the corner.

Elegant yellow Protea flowers stand out against dark green foliage on a rainy spring day.

Protea flowers symbolize hope and transformation, and these golden arching forms of the stamen catch the light beautifully on a dark, moody day. Find this image and more fine art botanical, floral compositions in my “Flowers & Plants” archive gallery.

Descent, architectural detail | San Francisco, California

Wandering the streets of San Francisco with a camera has always been a rewarding experience; along with being an interesting, often picturesque urban environment, there is endless opportunity for the unexpected.

This is a favourite image from my archives, captured on a relaxed summer afternoon of city exploration. I had never ventured far into one of the commercial complexes near the Embarcadero Plaza, and was wandering through the network of bridges and walkways that linked shops and restaurants in a canyon of office buildings and hotels. At one crossing of paths, I noticed a stairway leading down to the level below, and paused to admire the echo of form, texture, and tone in the large fern that grew in the curve of the stairs.

Architectural urban detail, a woman walks down a spiral staircase in downtown San Francisco

While composing the frame and trying to balance shapes and leading lines, a woman walked down the stairs, and as she reached the bottom I captured a single frame. I had not planned on the human element, but I love how it adds a sense of motion to an otherwise static scene. In black and white, the texture and tone of the mosaic floors and fern become more cohesive, and the spiralling, circular structures of concrete, plant, railing and tile frame and compliment each other, tying it all together.

This image is included in my Black and White Prints collection, and offers both architectural interest and a timeless moment full of details that invite reflection.

In full bloom, Paphiopedilum maudiae

While familiar in form to most of us, orchid flowers retain a sense of the profoundly exotic, especially those blooms of the Paphiopedilum variety.

These distinctive orchids have been collected from their forest floor and canopy habitats of Southeast Asia, and are now widely cultivated and hybridized. I have never managed to keep a Paphiopedilum maudiae orchid happy among my small houseplant and orchid collections, but I have been lucky to see many of these dramatic flowers at orchid shows and greenhouses.

This pair of fuzzy pink and chartruese lady slipper orchids are some of my favourites, with both stripes and spots in varying shades and petals bristling with tiny hairs; striking and delicate all at once.

I have collected many photos of orchid flowers over the years, and have gathered the most stunning specimens into a gallery of Orchidaceae images available as fine art prints. I have not had a chance to identify most the the specific orchid varieties, and if you are an orchid aficionado who is good at plant identification, I have a print-discount code for you in exchange for a few good taxa tips – leave a comment on this post if you’re interested!

  

 

Agave Study

Sharp red thorns, pale green leaves, catching and shaping the bright New Zealand sun in the Wellington Botanic Garden. The variety of geometric shapes and contrasting textures make an agave plant particularly appealing to photograph, and in this image I sought to balance the light and shadow throughout the frame, highlighting the repeating pattern of the scalloped and pointed agave leaves.

Wellington Botanic Gardens, New Zealand

This image is the newest print offering in my Botanical Prints gallery, available as a fine art archival print, Giclée Canvas Wrap or Bamboo mounted print. Every print is made to order and custom options are always available; for more information about my print production and finishing options, please visit my Fine Art Print Info page.

Monarch Butterfly Migration

During the warm sunny days of October, the trees of Big Sur and Pacific Grove welcome visitors who have traveled great distances to reach clusters of trees along the central California coast; monarch butterflies, with their flashing bold orange and black wings flitting from tree to tree bring an extra bit of magic to an already beautiful place.

 

Seeing one butterfly alone is a beautiful sight, but as the monarch butterflies congregate on mossy branches and in the boughs of cypress and eucalyptus trees, their gathering numbers create a stunning, delicate and lively tapestry of colour and movement.

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October is my favourite time of year to camp in Big Sur; one morning as the sun warmed the campsite I sat contemplating the beautiful light and quiet forest, a small group of monarch butterflies flitted through the lower branches overhead, dancing through patches of sunlight as they fed and rested. As their movement is rather unpredictable, I waited patiently as they moved in and out of focus and finally managed to capture the image below of a single butterfly in flight.

Over the years I have visited the spots known for congregations of migrating monarchs, and I have gathered all of my monarch butterfly photographs into one gallery, with many Monarch Butterfly Migration images available for licensing and as fine art prints.

Transitional Light | Manitoba, Canada

Spring and autumn are rich with photographic inspiration, contrasted in blooming flowers and fresh growth or colourful falling leaves. However, my favourite aspect of these two transitional seasons is the same for both; a shift in the light, imbued with a sense of fleeting, golden time. It never fails to take my breath away, especially as summer slips into fall, and as the sun passes across the sky each day, a little lower in autumn or a little higher in spring, it casts a mood unique to these phases of declination.

These particular photos were captured in the early spring, just before sunset as the warm sunlight filtered through the cool shadows of a forest still waking from winter. I was drawn to the contrast between the bluish tone of the tree trunks and bright bursts of yellow-green leaves caught in the evening glow. Even though this is a springtime scene, it struck an autumnal, contemplative note as I stood in the fading light, trying to capture a sense of the transitional light and layers shifting before my eyes.

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These images are available as fine art prints in my Riding Mountain, Manitoba gallery – as some of the images are unconventionally cropped, please contact me directly for custom sizing options.

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.

Digital Darkroom Notes | First Steps

Two weeks in Italy is a photographic dream come true – colorful, textural architecture, beautiful sunlight, gorgeous landscapes and coastal scenery. Several memory cards later, after the fun of exploring and photographing is done, the post-processing begins.

Without fail, it appears daunting at first, and over the years I’ve developed a few simple steps that will help with the digital darkroom workflow, making the overall project more manageable.

In my early Lightroom days, organizing photos was an afterthought, but as my archives grew it became imperative that initial sorting happen before editing began. It can be incredibly exciting to dive right into an edit, and occasionally I’ll allow myself the pleasure of a little preliminary editing of an image I’m particularly excited about, h, but for any larger project I try to stick to sorting first, editing after.

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With travel photography, creating collections based on accurate locations is an obvious choice, and in this case I am using a numbered structure to keep the collections in an accurate sequential order. Some of these collections will be refined further as I edit, and this flexibility is part of the beauty of using Lightroom to manage large collections of images.

My first pass through any batch, big or small, is simply to identify viable content and ‘flag’ it. This allows me to filter out the frames that are problematic and to quickly focus my editing attention on the frames that have the greatest potential. I have also flagged some frames that are merely for reference purposes – photos of signs, for example – as I will use those details to build accurate keywords and descriptions, and want those relevant frames to ‘float’ up through the editing process alongside the flagged images.

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Of 2347 total images captured in Italy, I have 1440 flagged. Around 50 of these are reference frames only. Another 100-150 are near-frames, which will require some editing and comparison before I can choose the best from those sequences. Another 50-100 images will be for personal use, shots of family mostly, and will not be included in the final edited batch uploaded to my website. So I am looking at a final edited total of roughly 1100 images, likely closer to 750, as I am constantly paring down my selections during the edit process, so that only the strongest images survive.

Now that these simple first few steps are complete, the work I have ahead of me doesn’t look quite so monumental. I can see that for some of the locations, the edits will be short and sweet, while others will require more time, and I can at-a-glance choose batches of photos for editing based on what kind of time I may have to spend in the digital darkroom on a particular day.

There are many tools and configurations offered by Lightroom and similar programs, to ease the process of organizing large batches of photos, and my workflow continues to evolve with experience. I have worked within the massive archives of other photographers, and managed digital assets in various commercial environments; I am always fascinated by the challenge of finding the organizational structure that best suits the ways in which different minds prefer to work. The biggest lesson over the years has been to pay attention to how my editing and end-use-requirements have changed, and to identify strategic ways of organizing my files, so that my workflow becomes entirely intuitive. What works for me may not work for others, but any approach to refining one’s own digital asset management can benefit from insight into how someone else has solved similar problems.

Now the real fun begins…

Perchance to Dream | San Francisco, California

Most of the photographs I collect when visiting Fort Point, San Francisco are of the architecture and magical spaces between shadow and light created by the repeating motifs and angles of the Fort itself. Climbing the steep stairs to the top of the structure, one is rewarded with a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and this day was no exception.

I have seen this place at various times of day, in different seasons, all types of weather, and part of the what keeps bringing me back with my camera is the potential for dramatically framed, constantly shifting scenes. On this particular July afternoon, the fog had settled heavily along the water, and as I admired the form of the bridge vanishing into the mist, a pair of figures paused in just the right spot to unexpectedly add balance to the frame.

Bridge and fog, Fort Point, San Francisco

As I had been at that moment experimenting with the panoramic capabilities of my phone, I quickly captured this photo with the camera in hand, rather than risk losing the moment while switching to my DSLR. I did managed to grab a couple similar frames with the big camera afterward, but for me this image stands alone.

Minutes later, the couple had moved on, and the fog began to lift, giving way to a glorious sunny day and a large pod of humpback whales feeding beneath the bridge – those particular photos will get their own post – proving that one never knows just how fleeting a moment will be or what will come next!

Small prints of this photo are available in my Open Edition Black & White Prints – or discover more of this unique location in my Fort Point, San Francisco gallery.

Agave at Sunset | California Desert Detail

Luminous blue-green leaves, and geometric, textural details in the soft glow of a desert sunset; this agave plant was an irresistible subject during an evening hike in a high mountain valley between the the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains of southern California.

Agave detail, square
Blue and green silvery agave leaves in desert sunset light, California

This print has been added to my growing collection of square prints, and looks stunning printed on Lustre or Metallic paper. Find print prices and options here, and more botanical prints here.