Flower

Lavender and Barn Door

Lavender and Barn Door

Lavender in bloom contrasts beautifully with an old barn door in a Sonoma Valley vineyard

On the last few days of our trip to California we stayed in Napa and visited both the Napa and Sonoma valleys. I quickly became educated as to which is which and the virtues that each have to offer. Let’s just say that each is beautiful and each has its own unique qualities. No matter which one is your favorite, neither is a bad place to hang your hat at the end of the day.

Even though we had just met them, we were treated like royalty by our new friends, Andy and Kelli VomSteeg. They toured the area with us and gave us insights that we would never had gotten if we had stayed near our hotel room. In fact, this picture is an illustration of that. On our way from a private winery tour to a dinner party I somehow mentioned that I’d love to photograph a lavender field in bloom. Of course, the only lavender field I recalled seeing was in France. But, they quickly pointed out that there was a beautiful winery nearby that had a lavender field in it. So, I quickly went from wanting to photograph a lavender field to actually standing in one and taking shots. Incredible.

The lavender was planted in long rows that were really beautiful to capture. So, once I had taken my fill, we headed to the car to leave. Literally on the way out I spotted this old shed or barn at the edge of the field. It caught my eye because of the cool farm implements hanging on the door and the way the colorful lavender contrasted against the rustic texture of the doors. Hopefully it’s beautiful to you as well. Enjoy.

Summer on the Big Sur Coast

Summer on the Big Sur Coast

Wildflowers at your feet, seagulls overhead, fog clinging to the coastal range, and surf crashing below make the Big Sur coast a national treasure

The drive from San Simeon to Carmel should take two hours or so. In fact it’s an all day affair because you find yourself yanking your car into every overlook to drink in yet another incredible view. Just when you think it can’t become any more beautiful, it does – and often exponentially so. It’s just incredible how the combination of the coastal mountains, fog clinging to the coast, sunlight dancing in and out, wildflowers blooming, dramatic cliffs, and often the road itself can make a million different images, all unique and equally beautiful.

Such is the Big Sur coast. There are other beautiful drives in the world and I’ve been able to experience many of them. This may not be the most beautiful stretch of road in the world, but I’d say it’s in anyone’s top ten. It’s that dramatic and beautiful.

We were nearing Carmel Highlands where we would be spending the next couple of days when I noticed wildflowers filling the fields between the Pacific Coast Highway and the Pacific Ocean. I just couldn’t resist seeing what the actual coast would look like the few hundred yards away. So, my long-suffering wife patiently picked up her book and encouraged me to take a while to go scout and shoot what I saw. Have I mentioned how patient she is with my photography addiction?

Fortunately there were some well-worn paths through the vegetation leading to different vantage points along the cliffs. Apparently, this location is a fairly popular area for hikers and people walking their dogs. It’s not hard to imagine why. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to hike while soaking in the views.

Unfortunately, I was so engrossed with getting to the vistas I expected, I totally missed the abundance of poison oak that was embedded in the vegetation – and I was wearing shorts. I wouldn’t find out for a couple of days, but this would turn out to be a big problem. I’m allergic to poison oak and ivy and I acquired the worst case I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t mean a few spots that turned into a rash. I mean my calves and lower thighs were covered in a rash that ultimately scabbed over and itched like nothing I’ve ever felt. I went through an entire bottle of poison ivy gel just trying to keep the itch under control. It took a full two months for the rash to go away entirely!

But even with the future onset of a nasty case of poison oak, the hike out through the brush was worth it. I rarely have one of these moments, but when the trail ended at the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, the scene literally took my breath away. In front of me stretched an uninterrupted view of the ocean to the horizon, blue sky, a golden beach, beautiful blue water and white foam intersecting with the coast, and a steep cliff side covered with native vegetation and flowers. It’s a scene that I can envision clearly as I write this post. It was beautiful and I took a few minutes just to soak it all in.

Then, I got to work. I moved up and down the cliff-top trail looking for a vantage point that captured as many of the elements of the scene as possible while still retaining a sense of composition that would fulfill my artistic vision. I finally found it in this spot. The view is north toward Carmel and captures all of the elements I described above. Patience added a small flock of birds lazily riding the wind down the coast and into my frame. It was a perfect moment in time for a landscape photographer – minus the nasty rash to come. But, all in all, it was worth it. Hopefully, this image and my words bring you a bit closer to that beautiful place in the world that is the Big Sur coast. Enjoy.

Lone Tulip at Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Lone Tulip at Atlanta Botanical Gardens

A solitary tulip in a planter complements the background vegetation beautifully

The natural rhythm of my camera usage follows the cycle of the seasons. Summer is usually a busy time to shoot with travel and warm weather encouraging outdoor activity. Fall is also busy since it is my favorite season and I love to shoot in nature as the fall color change occurs. By winter, the leaves have dropped and my photographic activity decreases significantly. I like to shoot the occasional snow blanketed landscape here in the South or indoor events like my kid’s sporting activity or concerts at North Point. Other than that, I largely put my camera away and work on processing the year’s haul of images.

By spring, I’m ready to pick up my camera and shoot. Usually my desire to shoot precedes my ability to get in front of pretty landscape scenes. The urge to shoot usually begins in mid-March. At that point, my go-to location is the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It’s a relatively unheralded location in Atlanta, but always beautiful to me. The staff there do a terrific job keeping season color in prime locations and keeping the gardens beautiful. It’s really a beautiful place in any season, but particularly so in the spring.

This shot was taken approaching the children’s garden. There are some planters for seasonal color lining a pedestrian bridge there. This shot was taken by isolating one tulip from others and using the other vegetation in the planter as a background. I love the way the two color palettes complement each other. I should have posted this earlier in the spring, but too many other images are lined up in the queue. Enjoy.