Holding Space, Looking for Light

“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.

Sunset sky and shadows through an old glass window, Monterey, 2017⁠


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.

Winter Light Photography | Personal Work & Studies

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!

Snapshots and Small Prints

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.

Humidity creates condensation on a window, against which the green leaves of a tree are pressed and backlit

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.

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?

Winter Solstice

WM_winter_solstice-4214
Abstract reflection of lantern light against bare tree branches on a winter evening

“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

 

A Very Patient Dog | Visual Stories


You know that moment, caught out of the corner of your eye, that seems to perfectly sum up a story or feeling, and then as quickly as it appeared, it vanishes into thin air?

A patient dog waits in the snow outside a cafe - learn more about the story behind this image on the blog: https://goo.gl/ymvVZa
A patient dog waits in the snow outside a cafe in a California ski town


This is one of those moments, and perfectly illustrates why, at all times I feel compelled to have a camera with me. This was actually photographed with a tough little 5MP point-and-shoot camera, the only digital option I had at the time, which I’d stuffed into the pocket of my winter coat while up in the mountains for some winter recreation. Stopping by the lodge cafe for lunch, I noticed a very focused and forlorn dog hanging around the back door, and as I sat down to my meal, he stopped his pacing and sat down too, intently watching the warm scene of people and food inside. I was able to catch this snapshot in a break between passing customers, and a moment later, the dog had been reunited with his owner and was gone.