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2017 year in review

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

After 15 years of living in southern California, 2017 was one of the most dynamic in terms of weather that I can remember. January rolled in with one storm after another, dropping rain and snow on an almost continuous basis (the Sierra Nevada saw record-breaking snow depths). As I write this, we’re anxiously awaiting our first rain of the season. Our infamous Santa Ana winds have been blowing hard on a regular basis helping to fan the flames of the largest wild land fires in state history. What a difference a year can make!

To some extent, my favorite images of 2017 mirror the dynamic weather of this past year. I was able to revisit some favorite locations in new weather and discover new ones. Some highlights of the year included a phenomenal January day in Joshua Tree National Park (easily one of my most enjoyable of the entire year), a backpacking trip to the Sierra Nevada with Jackson Frishman and our sons, and discovering the Utah’s Tushar Mountains with Heather. In addition, I made some new friends which is always welcome! Those are just a few of the many great things that happened in 2017; there weren’t many lowlights.

As a photographer, I spent a lot of time this year asking myself what I want the world to hire me to do. If you’ve followed my blog this year, I’ve been a clear spokesman for public land, and as we move in to 2018, expect more advocacy for our special wild places. I try my hardest to not jam political views down my viewers’ throats; my goal is simply to share what is out there, because we can’t cherish what we don’t know exists.

To that end, I launched The Wilderness Project this fall. The goal is to showcase the federally-designated wilderness areas in Riverside County, California–my home. There are nineteen total, so this project will be ongoing, but I hope you’ll follow me on my journey by subscribing to email updates at the above link. I’ve already discovered some wonderful things about this county that I didn’t know existed before. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

I hope you enjoy these ten images! I feel that they represent the year well. I’ve also included a couple of ‘honorable mentions’ or bonus images at the end. Be sure to see my past images of the year at the end of the post.

photo of rocks and bushes as the sun sets in joshua tree national park

Winter sunset in the desert


photo of large monzogranite boulders in the Jumbo Rocks section of Joshua Tree National Park at sunset. The sky is a dark blue, with hints of a winter storm, and the boulders are glowing with a golden-orange color.

Stormy sunset in Joshua Tree


photo of native american rock art in southern nevada

Desert sentinels


photograph of sunset after a rain storm in gold butte national monument

Thankful for rain


photo of dogwood blossoms in Yosemite Valley California



black and white photo of Ship Mountain in Mojave Trails National Monument at sunset

115°F at sunset


detail of a high altitude hillside in the tushar mountains of southern utah

Autumn in the high country


photo of a small waterfall and colorful aspen trees in front of two mountains peaks in utah's tushar mountains

The beginning of fall color


Photo of a lone tree on the prairie at sunset near Hawk Springs Wyoming

Lone tree in the prairie


photo of 'teddy bear' cholla cacti backlit by the morning sun, giving them translucent halos.

Ending the year back in the desert

Honorable mentions:

photo of the white mountains in California at sunset, with a cloud in the sky and the mountains pink from the setting sun.

In January, Heather and I got away for a weekend to enjoy snow and hot springs (more of the latter than the former). We were able to sit in a hot spring and enjoy this awesome sunset over the White Mountains.


Photo of an air tanker flying by a large plume of smoke from the Canyon Fire in Orange County California, September 2017

Sign of the times: an air tanker flies by a large plume of smoke after dropping its load of fire retardant. Orange County, California, September


Past images of the year:

2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016

Upcoming Presentation in the Coachella Valley

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Next Tuesday, April 25, I’ll be the guest speaker at the Coachella Valley Desert Camera Club’s (CVDCC) monthly meeting. The topic of my talk will be two-fold; I’ll be talking about a sense of place in landscape photography, and the importance of connection to place now, perhaps more than ever. I’ll also talk about the impacts that we have as landscape photographers, and leave an open-ended question regarding what we can do to reduce our collective footprints.

It should be a fun night; I’ll be showing several new images as well as a few old favorites. I also look forward to a lively discussion of these topics. If you’re in the area (or if you already plan on attending the meeting) I’ll look forward to seeing you there!

When: April 25, 2017, 6pm

Where: Portola Community Center, 45480 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260

whimsical sandstone formations of little finland in gold butte national monument

The Golden Hour Reimbursement Act of 2014

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle hailed President Obama on Tuesday as he signed into law the Golden Hour Reimbursement Act (GHRA) of 2014.  The bill, introduced by senator Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, will offer government reimbursement to U.S. citizens who–according to the bill–” experience a crummy sunrise or sunset, whether at home or while traveling abroad.”

“If you can’t ride off into the sunset in California, where can you?” asked Senator Feinstein as she addresses the Senate subcommittee on iconic landscapes in early March, “What kind of message are we sending to our citizens, our artists, our dreamers, our children, if they can’t be inspired by an amazing and dramatic sky at least twice a day?”  The bill passed through the Senate and House of Representatives with few problems.

According to the GHRA, U.S. citizens who experience a lackluster sunrise or sunset will be eligible for reimbursement in the form of another chance to see a more beautiful sky at a later date.  This could come in the form of an additional paid vacation day from work (participation by employers at this point is voluntary), or a complimentary one-night hotel stay in order to extend a vacation (all major hotel chains will be required to offer this as a subsidized option by 2017).  Critics call the application process for reimbursement lengthy.  “One night in Texas is all anyone needs to satisfy their lifelong desire for beautiful sunsets–they’ll never need to wait weeks for another pretentious Californian sunset again.  This can only further contribute to the end of the free market economy,” huffed senator Ted Cruz (R) of Texas from the senate floor on Tuesday.

“While we simply can’t guarantee scenic beauty to our country’s visitors, I am proud to extend this opportunity to our citizens, knowing they’ll be inspired for a lifetime, not having to get up early, only to be left saying, ‘meh’ in response to another lackluster sunrise,” said President Obama in a brief statement outside the Oval Office.   He went on to say that his administration has learned a valuable lesson from the healthcare.gov “debacle” and that the website to submit applications under GHRA–sunset.gov–will be up and running without bugs by early September.

Despite criticism, the bill has largely been welcomed with open arms.  Landscape photographers in particular are celebrating this as a victory for the industry.   In the wake of GHRA’s announcement on Tuesday, we interviewed several well-known landscape photographers to ask a simple question:

What do you think about GHRA?

“For years I have had to endure burdensome expenses, like severe lack of sleep, boring photographs, and excessive frustration, due to mediocre or poor sunrises.  When I signed up to be a photographer I was under the impression the light would show would go off every morning!  Alas, not in my country.  Finally we have an administration that is willing to do the right thing: help hard working but dawn-disadvantaged photographers like me compete with photographers in sunrise-subsidized countries like France, Spain and Japan.  It’s about time.  Now I know when I wake up at 4am and leave my warm bed, if I don’t get the shot at least I’ll get a check from Uncle Sam.  Damn right.”  — Phillip Colla, www.oceanlight.com

“It’s a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough. Clearly having just one sunrise and one sunset in a 24-hour period is a policy that benefits the privileged 1% (of photographers whose creative wealth allows them to still make images outside the golden hours). The government should step in and speed up the Earth’s rotation so that sunrises and sunsets are more frequent.” — Guy Tal, www.guytal.com

“All those hours learning how to fake dramatic skies in Photoshop were all for naught! Where was this law five years ago?” — Ron Coscorrosa, www.coscorrosa.com

“Thank you to the do-nothing Congress for finally doing something worthwhile!  I just wish that lawmakers would make this policy retroactive, as 2013 was a rough year for my photography because I encountered an almost endless string of the conditions this bill seeks to address.  Still, something is better than nothing and I will certainly have some claims ready to file for 2014 once the system is up and running later this year.”  — Sarah Marino, www.sarahmarinophoto.com

“This is a great start, and certainly long overdue, but the new law is essentially toothless without also having the park service place camera icon signs in the right areas.  Because honestly, what good is an impressive sunset, if one doesn’t know where to stand to shoot it?” — Robin Black, www.robinblackphotography.com

Disclaimer: Alpenglow Images Photography makes no claims as to the accuracy, reliability, or even the reality of this news story.  

20% off prints & other holiday savings

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

The holidays are once again upon us, and I am offering savings on prints and other products.


I am happy to offer all sizes of prints at 20% off through December 25.  Each signed print is made on archival luster paper and is guaranteed to arrive by December 25 if you order by December 10.  In addition to the 20% savings, I still am donating 25% of the sales from my ‘Wind’ portfolio to the Wilderness Society.  Please visit my purchasing page to learn more about ordering prints.


Our eBook, “An Honest Silence: A Celebration of Wilderness” is also 20% off through December 25.  You can purchase it right now, and save 20% instantly by entering the code, “holiday” at checkout.  Many thanks to all of you who have already purchased a copy,  and especially to my friend Jackson Frishman for writing a very nice review of our book here (there is also an excellent Edward Abbey video in the same post).   You can purchase the eBook by clicking on this link.

Greeting cards

This year, I am offering greeting cards, which I have never done before.  The 5″ × 7″ cards are printed on heavy card stock and are blank on the inside leaving space for your personal note.  Envelopes are included.  I currently have two designs available, but if you have something special in mind, I’m happy to work with you.  The cards are 10 for $20 (+ $5 shipping) or 25 for $44 (+ $5 shipping).  I am very excited about the quality of these cards; contact me to order!

Alpenglow Images greeting cards

Utah Mud and New Mexico sunset

Thanksgiving is coming up and the rest of the holiday season will be over before we know it!  I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Revisiting the White Mountains

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Just a few posts ago, I mentioned how I spent several summers working in the White Mountains of eastern California when I was in graduate school.  The Whites are an interesting mountain range.  Comprising the eastern border of the Owens Valley, they are certainly imposing, with California’s 3rd highest peak (White Mountain Peak, 14,252′) as well the highest point in Nevada (Boundary Peak, 13,147′), but despite their prominence, the Whites are visited far less than the nearby Sierra Nevada.

The Sierra is a relatively wet mountain range, receiving anywhere from 20-80 inches of precipitation a year (for the arid west, that’s wet).  The Whites, in the rain shadow of the Sierra, stand in stark contrast, fully embodying the characteristics of the Basin and Range province, to which they are included–dry, windy, desolate, and strikingly beautiful.

Detail of a bristlecone pine trunk

In the Details, July 2012

I have always loved the Whites, primarily because the lower elevations remind me of my home in northwestern New Mexico: piñon-juniper scrubland and sagebrush dominate the landscape, giving way to primarily lower-growing sage above about 8,000 feet.  Deer, coyotes, wild horses, pika, and marmots are common here.  However, the real draw–accounting for the bulk of visitation–is the presence of the Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva).  With the exception of organisms that self-replicate (clones), bristlecones are the longest-living organisms on earth.  One tree in the Whites, Methuselah, is estimated to be 4,500 years old.   If the Whites have a persona of incredibly difficult growing conditions, then the bristlecones fit that quite well.  Their gnarled trunks and otherworldly shapes are a favorite of photographers.

Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) and summer storm clouds

Weathering the Storm, July 2012

After nearly seven years away, I recently returned to the White Mountains.  Walking around in the ancient bristlecone pine forest is an act of humility.  Before leaving on my recent trip, a friend and I had a conversation about life and the value of living in the moment.  This conversation was heavy on my mind as summer storm clouds moved through the Whites at sunset, giving these grand trees an equally grand backdrop.

Of all things on earth, these trees have given their best shot at living forever, and even they can’t quite do it.  Once they die, the dry air preserves them leaving funky skeletons on several hillsides.  What advice would they give, after 4,500 years, to someone just starting out?  Would it be to live in the moment, to not let the little things get you down, and to hold close the things in life that make you deeply happy?

I’m anthropormorphizing a little bit more here than my contract allows, so I’ll stop.  Suffice it to say, I think that’s pretty good advice.

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

The Sentinel, July 2012

We spent one night at 11,000′ in the bristlecones, and I was reminded of a few things that have kept the White Mountains on my mind all these years:

  1. Yes, it can snow in July in California.  Even if only for a few minutes.
  2. The White Mountains are the only place I’ve ever experienced altitude sickness (manifested by trouble sleeping).  I attribute it to the dry air.
  3. The warm-toned trunks of the bristlecones contrast very nicely with stormy skies.
  4. Everyone should experience quiet like the Whites afford once in their lifetime.
  5. Everyone should experience a night sky like the Whites afford once in their lifetime.

From a photographic point of view, I find it amazing that several images can come out of one place in a short amount of time.  This is probably due to luck, inspiration, and visualization, but I have been updating my portfolios with new images and have added several from the White Mountains.  Please visit my Mountains and Intimate Perspectives portfolios to see these and other new images.

It’s funny how some places can be a huge part of our lives, exit for several years, and then re-enter.  I guess they never really leave us.

Sunset in the Patriarch Grove of Bristlecone Pines

Pastel sunset, July 2012

New Portfolio Images

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Things have been a little quiet here on the blog this year.  I guess, perhaps, I’ve been suffering from a bit of writer’s block, but I have been enjoying sharing a daily image on Facebook.  I’ll be writing more here on the blog soon.

At the end of 2011, I spent a couple of really enjoyable days at sand dunes in Death Valley National Park, including the Eureka Dunes.  So far this year, I’ve spent a couple of days in southern Nevada at Valley of Fire State Park, as well as the surrounding Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and have been on a few rainy-day hikes at one of my favorite places in southern California.

I’ve uploaded new portfolio images to several of my galleries here on the site; all of these images have resonated with me, for various reasons, and I hope you check them out!  A few (that haven’t already been featured here on the blog) are below.

I hope your 2012 is off to a great start!

Gnarled oaks at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve

A Foggy Day, January 2012


Sunrise at Elephant Rock, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

The Elephant & The Moon, January 2012


Late Afternoon in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Persistence, November 2011