Saturday, January 6, 2018

2017 Favorites

Here is the fifth collection of my 10 favorite photos of the year.

Tufts of grass catch the last rays of the sun. You can just see fog rolling in from the Pacific in the middle of the frame.

A Long Moment
A very long exposure softened the clouds and water and mixed the colors into pastel-like shades.

Wildflowers by Moonlight
I took this after realizing I had spent the entire evening facing the wrong direction. I had tried unsuccessfully to frame the flowers against the ocean or the less-than-impressive sunset. It was only when I turned around to head home that I saw the cliffs, hills and flowers illuminated by the moon.

Morning Light, Minarets
A beautiful morning high up in the Sierras.

2017 was a very snowy year and even in July there was still water everywhere from melting snow in the mountains. I liked the subtle alignment of the curves of the creek, the cliffs on the far side and the edge of the rocky shelf at my feet.   

Passing Storm
A thunderstorm passed through the Bay Area and was headed offshore at sunset. I was struck by how the light in this scene was neatly divided into regions warm and cool colors.

Christmas Lights
Some backlighting from the sun, a wide aperture and just a touch of frost created this miniature, sparkly scene.  

This used to be where San Gregorio creek emptied into the ocean, but in the last few years a wide lagoon has formed here instead. A high vantage point on the cliffs allowed me to capture the reflection of the sunset in the still waters of the lagoon.

I took this on my first and (so far) only visit to the this spot. I was amazed by how well the structure of the clouds matched the layers of rock in the foreground.

Above and Below
On the last day of the year a very low tide occurred at sunset at my favorite beach. I was happy to find an anemone in a shallow tide pool that I could fit in the frame along with the towering rocks.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Favorites

In keeping with tradition, here are my ten favorite photos from 2016. (Click for a larger view.)

There's a reason I always carry a telephoto lens with me. Sometimes you need a long lens to get the good stuff to fill the frame.

The giant sea stack provided an obvious focal point, but with the light fading I was running around looking for a complimentary foreground element. Then a big wave came hissing through the seaweed-covered rocks and I knew the composition I wanted. Luckily the ocean provided another big wave before the color drained from the sky.

Summer in the Bay Area means fog. On this day I went up into the hills looking a vantage point that would frame the motion of fog as it blew in from the coast.

I almost didn't take this one. I have a similar shot from a few years ago (see my 2013 list), and it felt redundant to take another telephoto shot of a single gnarled cypress. But this one was even more gnarled and cypress-y so I gave in to temptation.

I didn't get the explosive colors I was hoping for out of this sunset, so I was packing up and heading back to my car when I took one last look back through the viewfinder. With the help of the forced perspective of a wide angle lens, I was struck by the convergence of the clouds, reflections and water in this scene. This image spent several months serving as the wallpaper on my phone.

Calera Creek
This dramatic sunset made headlines in the Bay Area.

Made It
I knew as I was running up the hill that I would only have a minute or two to get a good shot before the sun disappeared. And this scene presented a bit of compositional challenge. There were leading lines in the sky, but also leading lines in the surf that lead... somewhere else. And the dramatic clouds were resisting all of my attempts to frame them against anything in the foreground. So I just went with what was in front of me, and for reasons I can't quite explain this picture has been growing on me ever since.

Roadside Attraction
I was hoping to find morning sunbeams in Big Basin after some recent rain. I was not disappointed.

Tunnel View in Yosemite after an overnight snowfall. It doesn't get better than this.

Another shot from the same day as the previous photo. There was a lot of mist swirling around all of the big landmarks in the valley on this day. I stood in this spot for a long, long time waiting for El Capitan to finally reveal itself.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 Favorites

Here are my 10 favorite photos of 2015. (Click for a larger view.)

Mussels Missing the Sunset
At low tide the rock formations at this beach in Davenport, California offers some great foreground options.

I like photographing big, dramatic vistas and spend a lot of energy chasing them. But it's also very satisfying when I feel like I have successfully captured a more intimate scene -- like this minimalist shot of a sparkly, dewy field of grass.

Over the Pass
Speaking of dramatic vistas, it is hard to beat the scale of this view from the Wind River Range in Wyoming. This is a single shot taken with a wide angle lens, but I also created a six shot panorama that helps convey what it is like to stand in this incredible place. Note that the picture below was taken at the edge of the lake on the lower right the following morning, and the one after that was taken in the cirque in the upper left later that afternoon.

Morning Light at Lonesome Lake
As the sun rose behind me, the light crept down the face of Pingora Peak until it hit these trees along the shore of Lonesome Lake.

Cirque Lake
This gem of a lake sits at about 11,000' in the evocatively-named Cirque of the Towers.

Sunset colors explode across the sky over my favorite beach near Half Moon Bay, California. I used a longish exposure to try to make the streaks in the receding surf echo the feathery clouds.

Sand Painting II
The outgoing tide left these surprisingly regular patterns in the sand at Pescadero State Beach.

Merced Microcosm
This is the first of three shots that made my list of 10 favorites from an outstandingly fruitful (and thoroughly enjoyable) day in Yosemite. This is a closeup of the bank of the Merced river after a fresh snowfall and a cold night.

This is another view from essentially the same location as the photo above. I thought the snow-covered blades of grass in the foreground provided a nice contrast to all of the big geometry in the background.

I loved the way these backlit snowy trees caught the light. If you look closely you can see a couple of trails of sparkles from where the breeze knocked some of the snow off the branches.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Favorites

My favorite photos of the year in chronological order. (Click for a larger view.)

Tahoe Magic
Perfect conditions on the east shore of Lake Tahoe. 

The Language of Sand
Another one from Lake Tahoe. There is a shallow sandy beach here, and the gentle action of the waves often creates intricate patterns around the submerged rocks.

I thought the fog and the suggestion of a tunnel formed by the trees gave this scene a vaguely dream-like quality.

A Moment of Clarity
I have been to this spot in Pescadero many times hoping for an interesting sky to compliment the natural leading lines of the rocks. A clearing spring storm provided just what I had been waiting for.

Spring Morning, Windy Hill
The light from the rising sun managed to sneak in just under the fog, lending some extra drama to this spring scene.

A beautiful sunset as seen from the hills of the San Francisco peninsula. I thought the cattail-like grass in the foreground looked a bit like spectators enjoying the show.

I took this on a four day trip into the Sierra Nevada backcountry. It's a rare and exhilarating thrill when me, my camera gear and good light all manage to converge on these hard-to-reach locations at the same time.

Brewing Storm
I have mixed feelings about this one. It was taken just as I was driving down from the trailhead of the backpacking trip I mentioned above. I was sore, tired, dirty and covered in mosquito bites. But -- with somewhat faulty reasoning -- I thought that my efforts had been rewarded with good pictures. So it was somewhat disconcerting when I took what was arguably the best picture of the week by the side of the road 10 feet from the comfort of my car.

Mono Sunset
This was taken the same day as the previous picture. I had originally intended to go south from Bishop to the Alabama Hills. But the skies in that direction were clear, while to the north there were storm clouds building. I decided to go north towards Mono Lake in the hopes that the storm would clear at sunset. It's nice when things work out as planned.

Ursa Major
This shot made me very happy -- mostly because it represented a second chance I wasn't sure I was going to get. I had taken another Milky Way picture near here (Thousand Island Lake) a couple of years ago. But that was my first attempt at night photography, and I had not yet learned how to compose a scene when I could barely see anything. The results were OK but I thought I could do better. So I was glad to find myself at this location again on another clear, moonless summer night for another try.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Favorites

My favorite photos of the year in chronological order. (Click for a larger view.)

Sutro Sunset
This is from my only visit to Sutro Baths in San Francisco. I loved the scenery, but it was a bit too crowded for my tastes.

When Boulders Dream
This was taken under conditions that were less than ideal: gray skies, choppy water. I used a very long exposure to eliminate the distracting elements but leave the boulders and their charming snowy hats.

Gathering Clouds, Russian Ridge
Every now and then the clouds do exactly what you want. 

Rainbow Falls at Dusk
One way to avoid harsh shadows in canyons is to wait for the sun to go down. Of course then you have different problems... this was at the very limits of the dynamic range of my camera and it took some work in post to bring the sky back from oblivion.

Minaret Lake Sunrise
Morning light on the dramatic peaks above Minaret Lake – this is just an incredible place for photography. I think I could spend a lifetime there and never run out of things to shoot.

Styx for Sticks
I liked how this fallen tree seemed to be transitioning from this world to the next.

A rare thunderstorm passed through the Bay Area and I was fortunate to find a great vantage point to capture the clouds and lightning.

The Cove
I found this beautiful little cove along the coast near Pescadero and spent a long time trying to get the water, clouds and reflected light to all align nicely.

One White Tree
For all of its beauty, I have found Point Lobos hard to photograph. There is so much to see that I have to constantly remind myself to keep my compositions simple. For this visit I rented a 600mm lens to shoot wildlife but also found that it helped me to see landscapes in a different way.

Taken on the same day as the previous photo, this was the most jaw-dropping sunset I have ever seen.