This is a blog that I do every year, but I have a love/hate relationship with it. I mean, it is neat to sift thru my ‘old’ shots and relive the experiences, places and events of the past year, but man, it isn’t easy to cull down twenty thousand photos to just a dozen (Actually, I was going to do a top ten list, but just couldn’t cut out two more!)
Well, enough whining. Here we go. I’ve gotten input from my wife, my friends, my kids and my readers, so here in no particular order is the best I could do in 2013:
This is one of those shots that I haven’t previously posted…and it is, without a doubt, my favorite photograph of 2013. It captures my son Ryan below Havasu Falls. His spontaneous pose eloquently expresses the incredible emotional impact evoked by this magical setting.
#2) “From the Depths”
Hawaii is a photographer’s heaven. Unique, Exotic, Intoxicating. Those three words are fully expressed in this shot of a huge Manta Ray swooping up from the blackness of the ocean’s floor inches from my mask (it actually brushed against my camera as it swept past)! One of the most intense and exciting experiences of my life. If you ever get a chance to swim with the Mantas, check out these tips to make the most of your trip!
#3) “End of Days”
If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I’d swear that this photo has been photo-shopped to death. But sometimes nature can pull out all the stops and create a panorama so intense that even photoshop can’t match it…no matter how far you move the saturation slider to the right!
As I drove up the mountain road toward Newfound Pass in the Smokies last fall, I glanced back over my shoulder into the pre-dawn darkness hoping for a decent sunrise. As the sky lightened and I began to comprehend the magnitude of the impending daybreak, I started driving faster and faster, ticked-off at myself for not getting out of bed 20 minutes earlier. But my minivan nailed the curves like a Ferrari that morning and delivered me to the Oconoluftee Valley Overlook before the color peaked. I spent twenty minutes photographing this apocalyptic scene in silence. One of those sights I will take to the grave.
#4) “Harriet’s Breakfast”
I had a blast last summer learning how to photograph these amazing little critters (see my full how-to blog post). “Harriet” was a female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird who ‘adopted’ my feeder… I really wanted to get some shots of the prettier males but Harriet did an admirable job scaring away every other hummer that got within ten feet of my camera set-up. Just the same, she provided me with some wonderful shots…and this one with an ant that she pulled out of my feeder was among the best of the bunch.
#5) “In the Beginning…”
If you are a landscape photographer, then you have already seen images of Delicate Arch…probably hundreds of them. After all, this incredibly graceful 65 foot tall sculpture of entrada sandstone is a photographic icon. Majestic, colossal, dramatic, colorful…I mean, what more could any photographer ask for? My son and I braved a July monsoon that sent most of the tourists scrambling back to their buses (some of them actually started sprinting after a couple thunderbursts). I’m glad we stuck it out because this photo was the payoff….possibly a once in a lifetime shot for me. It was one of those sunsets that you rarely see anywhere… and to experience it the night I hiked to Delicate Arch was like winning the Powerball (but Powerball would have been a real close second!)
#6) “Paradise Found “
This is another shot that I’m posting for the first time. Being the frugal man that I am, it was truly painful to fork over the big bucks and charter a chopper for a private photo flight over the rugged Nā Pali coast on Kauai…but, you know, I’ve never regretted it for a moment.
Just take a couple moments and take in the vista. It is truly magical. Exotic. Remote. Lush.
Wow…I gotta go back!
#7) “The Light at the end of the Tunnel…”
Images like this one are why I am drawn back to Antelope Canyon again and again. Now, I ‘m not one of those ‘New Age’ folks that talk about their ‘auras’ and ‘vortex energy’ but I’ll admit that there is something surreal that settles in your psyche when you move within these sandstone walls. This image is a 5 frame HDR from Lower Antelope Canyon, which is less popular (and less crowded) than the Upper Canyon. Although the Upper Canyon is more dramatic and has the famous sunbeams, I prefer the Lower Canyon since you can wonder around without a group if you buy the photographer’s pass (worth every penny!)
#8) “East of Moab”
Moab, Yosemite,…Lake Jesup?!
Okay, okay…most folks don’t think of central Florida as a prime landscape photography location…and usually they would be correct. But once a year millions of sunflowers bloom on the flats bordering Lake Jesup and for a couple weeks, Florida joins those illustrious locations as a top-tier shutterbug site.
I knew the sunflowers would be in bloom when I hiked out to the flats last fall, but this incredible sunrise was a total surprise. It was one of those dawns that folks were talking about around the water cooler the rest of the day. I was darned lucky to be there!
#9) “Spinning off into Infinity”
Here’s is a shot that I visualized a couple years ago but it took me a dozen attempts or more to pull it off.
This past autumn, I timed a 4 day trip to the Smokies to coincide with the new moon in the hope of capturing the Milky Way. But every night, Clingman’s was socked in by clouds.
On my last evening, the weather finally broke and after sunset, I hiked to the summit and waited an hour or so for the sky to darken.
As often as I try to pre-visualize and plan shots, they rarely meet my expections. This shot however, was an exception.
See my how-to blog for hints on how you can take shots of the Milky Way. It’s fun, it’s easy and you have got to give it a try!
#10) “Sonoran Sunrise”
I was hiking in the Sonoran desert when I (figuratively) stumbled upon this Saguaro cactus as it performed sunrise sentinel duty. I know that those of you from the southwest might consider this shot a bit trite, but as a Floridian, I had never even seen a Saguaro before (except in old ‘Roadrunner’ cartoons!)
#11) “Little Surprises”
The islands of Hawaii are blessed with an array of spectacular, towering, tropical waterfalls. Oddly enough, this little cascade, shadowed by a huge and famous waterfall and hidden under an ugly concrete bridge was my favorite waterfall photo from a recent trip to Maui.
#12) “Big Gulp”
Mesa Arch is a location that should be on every photographer’s ‘bucket list.’ I shot this with a 15mm Fisheye and I thought the raw shot (not corrected for the lens/perspective distortion) emphasized the gaping opening beneath the arch and provided a fresh look for this iconic location…certainly a bit different from the “traditional” shot.
There you have it…a full year condensed down to 12 images. I really can’t begin to calculate how many hundreds of hours I spent or how many thousands of miles I traveled in hiking boots, airplanes and vans to capture these shots…but looking at them now, it was a small price to pay.
Our little blue and green planet is an incredible gem…filled with the most incredible beauty. Get out there and enjoy it!
January 24, 2014