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2016 year in review

Monday, December 26th, 2016

As I write this, Christmas is only a couple of days away, rain is falling outside, and I’m putting together my favorite photos of the year feeling a bit of disbelief that another trip around the sun has already passed. In many ways, the past twelve months have represented contrast, a dichotomy. The world lost several great and inspiring artists this year, but I feel lucky to have discovered new artists who are a source of inspiration. Another contrast is the current state of division that the United States is ending the year in, but personally I feel more complete–less divided–that I’ve felt in quite some time.

Photographically, 2016 was one of contrasts as well. My travels between the desert and the coast really underscored this; two dramatically different landscapes, have–in their own way–become home to me. I finally put together a small (but growing) portfolio of ocean images this year, and of course expanded my portfolios of the deserts and mountains. Of course, in addition to new friends, I was able to enjoy these places with old friends. My girlfriend and I enjoyed several camping trips along the California coast, and I got to introduce her to some of my favorite desert landscapes. A couple of great backcountry trips with Jackson Frishman helped to strengthen my affinity for Great Basin landscapes.

To that end, contrast has certainly been a theme this year as I chose my favorite images for this annual year-end retrospective. I also have been thinking a lot about the role of landscape photography as art.  In 2016, it became more apparent to me the threats that face public lands (see my blog posts here and here), and producing art that changes the way people see the world seems more important now than ever. My friend Mark Hespenheide’s artist statement continues to resonate with me in this regard:

“Mediocre landscape photography can only reinforce the ideas about nature that we already hold. Good landscape photography can introduce us to new ways of seeing the world. Truly great landscape photography can change the way we perceive our place in the world and the way we interact with the world.”

May we all produce a truly great body of work in 2017.

bosque del apache snow geese fly in

Snow geese at dawn, Bosque del Apache NWR, January

 

montaña de oro beach

Montaña de Oro, California, June

 

Sunset in western Nevada

Sunset in western Nevada, January

 

navajo national monument sunrise

Sunrise in northern Arizona, August

 

Wildflowers in Death Valley, January

 

jalama beach sunset

Pacific Ocean sunset, June

 

Escalante River Sunset

Sunset over southern Utah, March

 

Clouds and fog in the San Gabriel Mountains at sunset

San Gabriel Mountains, November

 

winter storm and dark clouds over the salt playa in columbus valley nevada

Winter storm in western Nevada, January

 

white pine mountains sunset

Sunset in eastern Nevada’s White Pine Mountains, August

 

black and white image of the funeral mountains in death valley national park

Storm in Death Valley, January

Past images of the year:

2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

2015 year in review

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

It’s that time of year again when you start to see ‘best of’ lists popping up all over the internet.  I can’t lie–I enjoy them just as much as the next person.  It’s always fun to look back on the year, to think about where you’ve been, where you’re going, and to think about what lies ahead in the coming year.  In choosing my most memorable images of the year, it became all about reflection.

Photographically, the most notable thing about 2015 was travel to new and exciting places.  Iceland, Canada, and Basin & Range country in Nevada were some of the new places I got to see in 2015, and I also “rediscovered” some of the mountain ranges here in southern California, seeing them with new eyes.  Solo exploration allowed time for quiet contemplation, and of course the best adventures often are shared with people close to you–these are the ones I’ll never forget.  In the span of week in August, I was in central Nevada soaking in hot springs and watching wild horses at 11,000′, then hiking through the pouring rain in Alberta.  It was a very special year indeed.

Below are some of my favorite and most memorable images from this past year.  As always, I want to thank Jim Goldstein for putting together a very comprehensive index of best-of lists from photographers around the world.  Make sure to check it out on his blog; the list should be available in early 2016.

You can also see some of my favorite images from years past as well: 20142013 | 2012 | 2011

Stormy mountain scene near Vik

Icelandic mountain scene – January

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland – January

joshua-tree-pinto-basin-sunset1

Pinto Basin, Joshua Tree National Park, California – February

san juan river from goosenecks state park, utah

San Juan River, Utah – July

south twin river toiyabe mountains

Toiyabe Mountains, Nevada – August

playa in monitor valley nevada

Edge of the Playa, Nevada – August

avalanche creek, glacier national park

Glacier National Park, Montana – August

Saskatchewan River Banff National Park

Banff National Park, Canada – August

stormy sunset inyo mountains california

Inyo Mountains, California – November

san gabriel mountains moonset near wrightwood

San Gabriel Mountains, California – November

desert view sunrise, grand canyon national park

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona – December

lipan point sunrise, grand canyon national park, arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona – December

2014 year in review

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

“Walking takes longer… than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed.” — Edward Abbey


In several ways, 2014 was a journey for me, and I am grateful much of it was taken on foot.  With a couple of exceptions, my favorite images this year were made on hiking or backpacking trips.  In June, Jackson Frishman and I had a great trip through the Ansel Adams wilderness and another friend and I spent a wonderful week in August in the John Muir wilderness.  Both trips were highlights of my year, not just for the photography and scenery but also for the company.

Now that 2015 is upon us, the journey continues.  I’m looking forward to seeing where life takes me this year, and I hope you find yourself on happy trails in your own travels.

See some of my other favorite images from years past: 2011 | 2012 | 2013

Fog races over a hilltop at dawn

Foggy Giant Forest

Sunset in the Golden Trout Wilderness

Bentonite Hill Layers, northern New Mexico

Sunset over Minaret Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness California

Iceberg Lake, John Muir Wilderness

Granite Park sunset, Sierra Nevada, California

Pacific Ocean sunrise

Mojave Desert storm light

2013 Year in Review

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

“Of all the things I wondered about on this land, I wondered the hardest about the seduction of certain geographies that feel like home — not by story or blood but merely by their forms and colors. How our perceptions are our only internal map of the world, how there are places that claim you and places that warn you away. How you can fall in love with the light.”  — Ellen Meloy

“I wonder if ever again Americans can have that experience of returning to a home place so intimately known, profoundly felt, deeply loved, and absolutely submitted to? It is not quite true that you can’t go home again. I have done it, coming back here. But it gets less likely…we have lived too shallowly in too many places.” — Wallace Stegner


Another year has passed and I am re-reading my blog posts and journals from 2013, as well as reviewing my images, retracing my year.  Last year was one in which I grew tremendously in my photographic vision and voice.  This year, I hoped to build on that growth.

Looking at numbers of images produced, 2013 was relatively light for me.  Some of this was intentional: I spent significant time in the mountains over the summer and fall, but often left my camera at home, focusing on introspection and reflection.  I used to carry my camera everywhere with me, but have learned to let that go somewhat–sometimes being in the moment is more valuable than trying to capture every moment with a camera.  Details and intimacy with the moment get lost that way, as counterintuitive as it may seem.

Despite the few images I made this year, it was productive in other ways.  I was able to redesign my website and restructure my image portfolios.  I had several fantastic backpacking trips and was reminded how good getting off the grid for a few days can feel.  I was fortunate to enjoy two of those backpacking trips with Jackson Frishman, who I have known for several years through our blogs; I really enjoyed getting to know him in person this year.  I also was able to further develop some thoughts on the West, and on sense of place, which is an ongoing subject of interest for me:

Potsherds

In Defense of the West

Preserving Wildness

Personally, it was a year of deep introspection, revelation, and unexpected hope for me; 2014 should be an interesting year photographically as well as personally.   One thing I did confront within myself was the fact that my parents are aging and won’t live forever–this has been a theme since January and in some ways continues to be so.

My biggest recurring theme this year was the concept of ‘home’ and how we fit into the landscape.  I’m not talking about home in the sense of having a street address and a house, but rather the feeling you get when you arrive in a certain location.  Why are we drawn to certain landscapes more than others–why do we feel “at home” in certain landscapes, but not in others?  I feel like this is should be a central tenet of landscape photography: conveying a sense of place, a sense of belonging, to the landscape.

As humans, we are at an interesting crossroads: we can use the landscape to drive our development, we can simply be inhabitants of the landscape, or we can become part of the landscape, existing as part of its rhythm.   Only the latter option is a completely synchronous way of living–the former two are somewhat asynchronous.  The bottom line is that we must strive to create a life that’s in balance with our own needs, but also with the land.

I found balance this year by visiting familiar locations, revisiting places I haven’t been in years, and discovering new landscapes I haven’t visited before.  As I was reviewing my portfolios and images from the year, it struck me that many of my favorites from this year were in monochrome.  Why?  I guess I just saw the world that way in 2013.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the images, and that 2013 was good to you.  I hope you a fantastic 2014 as well!

Markagunt Plateau Aspens

Aspen grove, Utah. September

Aspens and granite boulders

Aspens & lichen-covered granite, California, August

Blooming Mojave Yucca

Mojave Yucca, California, April

Intimate mountain landscape

Tree & Rocks, California, May

Canyon Abstract 2

Canyon Walls, Utah, June

Carrizo Plain National Monument

Shadows and Hillside, California, March

Death Valley Sunrise

Stormy Desert Sunrise, California, January

The Little Colorado River

Little Colorado River Canyon, Arizona, February

Wildflowers, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Mountain Wildflowers, Wyoming, July

My 2012 favorite images

Friday, December 28th, 2012

The first Christmas after I began taking photographs, my wife got me a copy of Ansel Adams’ Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs as a gift.  At the time, I was a guy with a camera, and while the photos in the book were pretty, I’ll admit that the text didn’t mean much.  While not quite so flippant, my reaction was something like, “Why is so much text going into describing a photo?  You just take the picture!”  I didn’t understand the difference between taking a picture and making an image.

Eight years have passed, and I think I finally understand.  The last two years have been instrumental to that understanding, and if I had to sum up my photographic experiences in 2012 using one word, it would be growth.

In selecting my favorite images of the year, I had two passages from Adams’ book in mind.  The first one is about visualization.


Over the years I became increasingly aware of the importance of visualization.  The ability to anticipate–to see in the mind’s eye, so to speak–the final print while viewing the subject makes it possible to apply the numerous controls of the craft in precise ways that contribute to achieving the desired result.


Indeed.  The first several years of my photographic career revolved around learning the camera, learning about the digital darkroom, and learning about light.  Always learning.  However, the last two years–and in 2012 especially– I have been working towards the creation of the final product.  What do I want to convey in the final image?  I spent a lot of time asking myself that question this year.  The second passage is about the art of seeing.


The longer I worked…the more convinced I became that the inclusive landscapes–striking as many undoubtedly are–may not interpret the direct excitement and beauty of the…world as incisively as sections, fragments, and close details, which are available in infinite number if the photographer will carefully observe.


This passage speaks to a personal style; again, I think this is something I was not able to identify with early on.  Adams goes on in that same passage to talk about the ability to see form and shape.  The art of seeing is something that goes beyond an understanding of photography fundamentals.

So, here’s to a fantastic year of personal growth.  I hope 2013 brings great light, and more growth, perhaps even in unexpected ways.

Colorful Sandstone at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Sandstone Kaleidoscope, January 2012

Unique abstract patterns in sandstoneConvergence, June 2012

Manzanita, genus Arctostaphylos

Manzanita Abstract, June 2012

Detail of a bristlecone pine trunk

In the Details, July 2012

Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) and storm clouds, California

The Sentinel, July 2012

Vertical pan blur of aspen trees (Populus tremuloides)

Aspen Grove I, September 2012

Fog and trees, Valles Caldera National Preserve

White Horses, September 2012

Sunset on a small pond at the Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico

New Mexico sunset, September 2012

Foliage in Calf Creek

Autumn in the Desert, November 2012

A small yucca grows out of sandstone

Finding purchase, November 2012

Winter in the San Jacinto Mountains

Winter comes to southern California, December 2012

Tsé Bitʼaʼí (Shiprock)

Tsé Bitʼaʼí, December 2012

 

2011 Favorite Images

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

This time of year always seems to dredge up a lot of nostalgia in me, mostly from the disbelief that the year can’t possibly be over.  It also seems to be the time of year when photographers reflect on their art and the direction its taken over the last twelve months.  For me, its been a very instructive and inspirational year, and I’ve made several images I quite like.

Ansel Adams said, “Twelve significant images in any one year is a good crop.”  I used to think this was ridiculous, but the more I photograph and refine my own style, the more I believe this to be true.  With Adams’ thoughts in mind, I chose what I believe to be my twelve most significant images of the year.  I hope you enjoy them!

Star trails over a hoodoo at the White Pocket

Star trails in northern Arizona, August

 

Dawn at Bisti Badlands, New Mexico

Dawn, northern New Mexico, July

 

Joshua Tree National Park Scene

Late-day light, Mojave Desert, California, May

 

Vishnu Temple, Grand Canyon National Park

Greeting the sun, Grand Canyon National Park, May

 

Waterholes Slot Canyon, Navajo Nation Arizona

Sandstone Seduction, northern Arizona, January

 

An intimate scene in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Intimate scene, Utah, July

 

Saguaro Skeleton, near Phoenix Arizona

Saguaro skeleton and moon, Arizona, January

 

Narrows of the Paria River, in southern Utah

Into the canyon, Utah, April

 

Factory Butte near Hanksville Utah

Dawn in the desert, Utah, August

 

Dried mud in the Paria River, Utah

Dried mud, Utah, April

 

Ibex Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California

Windstorm, California, December

 

Eureka Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California

Sensuous curves, California, December