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.
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.
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…in the meantime, check out some of my other winter photography posts!
For more wintery details and scenes, visit my winter photo gallery in the archives, and find winter photography prints in my shop.
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” – James Baldwin
Fair warning, this is not a happy post, and beyond a shared mood, the text has very little to do with the image.
It has become increasingly difficult to focus on what is right in front of me. There is a deepening, bitter edge to each day, and I know the root of it is a pain which is being experienced at personal and collective levels everywhere. So many aspects of the social contract have been broken, or worse, are proving to have never existed at all.
The events of January 6th were unsurprising but still a shock; after an hour or so of live coverage, I felt my mind retreat, curled into the fetal position where I sat, and fell asleep. I take pride in not looking away from even the most jarring images, but I’d hit my limit. On so many levels, it was a day of terrifying white nationalism and grotesque systemic racism on full display. And we can expect more of the same because the hatred espoused by racists is rooted in fear and pain, which they will continue to avoid addressing.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself marveling at layer upon layer of heartbreak and frustration. Are we still in the midst of a pandemic, bracing for the consequences of holiday gatherings and travel? Did my neighbours have yet another string of visitors every day this week, despite lockdown rules? Have members of my local government been taking tropical vacations while telling the rest of us to stay home, in the midst of a particularly dreary Canadian winter? Has the weather been unusually warm and dry, both here in Manitoba and back in California, indicating yet another record year as climate change grinds away like a foregone conclusion?
I look for the good news. The unassuming heroes and helpers, the small signs of progress. I know that there are reasons for cautious optimism, and I am doing my best to cling to hope instead of hate. Part of that process is to occasionally let the weight of everything fall out of focus and acknowledge the pain. We’re allowed to feel hurt and angry right now, so as to better regroup, refocus and move forward, because we have a long, long way to go.
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 photography 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 old and new buildings. 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. Abstract 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 moving 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 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 subtlety, 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 photography 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!
It was a long, bitterly cold winter here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the instinct to hibernate meant I spent my digital darkroom hours organizing and cleaning-up catalogs and archives of photos. There has been a day or two of steady gentle rain, and while the air is still crisp (and dropping below freezing at night) there is finally a softening of the landscape as green grass and evergreens emerge from the dull brown and grey of the past six months.
My thoughts have turned to the garden – I am working with a new yard, new climate – and I am looking forward to the warm, humid summer months, however brief, because they will bring a depth of colour and light that is special to that time of year. New plants will mean a return to my personal work to abstract florals and surreal botanical images, which have long been favourite subjects.
This image was actually captured with my phone a few years ago, back when I had a less-seasonal garden in Monterey, California. I have recently rediscovered this photograph and love the way the lush green leaves pressing against the steamy foreground window also blend into the shadowy branches beyond. The focus falls narrowly while repeating shapes echo throughout, and splashes of colour from green to yellow to a spectrum of blue invite the eye to wander around the frame. All of this behind the striking textural details of of water drops on the glass.
Every now and then I am able to capture with my phone a lovely little snapshot like this, and while it is true that the best camera is the one you have with you, these files are only suitable for small prints. Luckily, smaller prints are also an affordable, versatile interior decor option for photo art, and I have put together a collection of Small Prints images suitable for printing up to 8×12, available as giclée canvas wrap prints, mounted on modern bamboo, or as archival fine art prints ready for framing. Sometimes small images like this one can make a big impact, and these momentary intersections of light, colour and texture are beautiful to behold.
As a favourite slice of coastal Californian wilderness, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve has captured my photographic eye on many occasions. Every season brings new colours and light to the landscape and seemingly endless sea, but every now and then, I like to investigate a familiar place with shades of black and white in mind.
These two images were both created on the same day; bright sunlight at water’s edge with the sparkling Pacific ocean waves along the rocky coast fading into the distance, and dappled soft forest light falling over the repeating natural pattern and texture of whale bones.
I love discovering how the larger features and themes of a place are so often echoed in the details, and it can be particularly satisfying to use black and white photography to explore and emphasize these similarities and contrasts. The bones and smooth shoreline rocks catch the sunlight in similar ways, highlighting their beautiful natural textures.
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.
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.
Pink sunset light mixes with dusky blue sky, reflected by softly rippling water where False Creek meets English Bay on a calm, quiet summer evening in Vancouver.
I captured plenty of general postcard-sunset-scenes, with mountains in the distance or a silhouetted tree to compliment the colours, but I have been particularly pleased with these abstracted photos of the beautiful light skipping across small glassy waves.
This series of blue, pink, and coral sunset water scenes has been added to my ‘Liquid Light’ collection, which highlights photos in which I’ve explored the movement, texture, and abstracted forms of light mixing with water in interesting ways.
Often these dappled, fluid scenes remind me of impressionist paintings, and thanks to a particularly vivid sunset on an evening walk at the aptly named Sunset Beach Park, very little editing was necessary to highlight the contrasting and complimentary colours.
As the light faded from the sky, the colours on the water slipped toward more muted, pastel shades. The form of the waves and sense of movement became more apparent as shadows deepened, and in editing I found that a wider, panoramic choice of cropping brought forward the subtle pattern and abstracted texture of the water’s surface.
Aerial photographs of the earth abstracted below reveal the indelible passage of time. Some textures and formations have taken millennia to emerge through forces of nature, and some have been more recently caused by human activity; all speak to a landscape that does not soon forget its experiences. I have begun to gather these visual studies of time into a series titled “Time Will Tell“.
I have always been fascinated by the stories told by hills, valleys and mountains when viewed from above, and I have been fortunate to be raised in the world of general aviation; small planes, piloted by my father provided many low-altitude opportunities to see both the larger landscape and the finer details, and on commercial flights I always choose a window seat.
Aerial photography is particularly challenging, and I strive to convey a balanced sense of both distance and intimacy through the careful composition of each scene. Working around dirty window glass, atmospheric haze, and the constantly changing perspective force me to make quick photographic choices, and I find that my digital darkroom techniques are made more creative as I explore the mood, tonality and texture of each individual landscape. Throughout my archives I have more aerial landscape photos waiting to be edited, and I will continue adding to the “Time Will Tell” gallery and series for years to come as I gather more views from above; the wonderfully free, awestruck feeling of visually exploring vast, varied spaces from an aerial perspective is an experience that I will never tire of trying to capture.
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.
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.
While on a walk through the coastal forest of Mendocino County in California, I came upon a quietly running clear stream. Sunlight filtered through the trees above, illuminating the rippling water as it passed over smooth, multicoloured stones, creating ribbons of light across the shadowy stream-bed. I only shot two frames of this spot, close and abstracted in black and white to emphasize the tone and texture of the contrasting liquid and hard rocky surfaces. A fluid moment in time brought to life by the shimmering motion of light through water.
At Kennedy Space Center, I entered the building housing the remarkable Saturn V exhibit, and looking up, this is the first thing I saw; intricate, astounding engineering on an enormous scale. I love this image, because I can remember that moment of awe, and every time I look at it I notice some new arrangement of shapes and mechanics, textures and tones.
Even more incredible, this is Stage 1 of a rocket that took mankind to the moon, and it is entirely built by hand. I admire such workmanship, and understand that it took many talented minds and hands to assemble such a feat of engineering.
My digital black and white images are all tuned “by hand” as well – I do not use plugins or presets, and instead rely on my own sense of tonality, contrast and composition to bring a certain mood and focus to each photo. It is a labor of love, and as a result this image has proven to be quite striking as a large print.
“This is the solstice, the still point,
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath…”
– Margaret Atwood, Eating Fire: Selected Poetry 1965-1995