Welcome to this collection of some of my favorite photographs from 2014. I’ll get to the photos in a moment — yes, on this page! — but first a few stories, a shout out or two to fellow photographers and friends, and more…
This year I photographed a wide range of subjects from musicians to street photography to minimalist images to landscapes. It is always a challenge to select a few images from this variety of work, and invariably some photographs I love had to be left out. The group of photographs shown here was chosen because I like them, because they have been popular with others, and because they represent the diversity this year’s work. This year I think I can truthfully say that they range from the sublime to the ridiculous. (See if you can find the ridiculous one!)
Many wonderful places, subjects, and (especially) people were part of this year’s photography. Here is a partial accounting: The year began with photography of perhaps my favorite winter subject, the migratory birds and the often foggy landscape of California’s Central Valley — as always with friends David Hoffman, Charlotte Hoffman, Michael Frye, Claudia Welsh, and, of course, my wife Patricia Emerson Mitchell. Early in the year we traveled to Yosemite for a few days of shooting in conjunction with the opening of the annual Yosemite Renaissance exhibit, which again included some of my work — and in addition to the photography, it was great to see so many photographer/artist friends in the Valley. In the very early spring we had a good visit to Death Valley, one of my favorite and most frequent subjects — where we encountered snow and, for the first time in my life, I photographed wildflowers in a snowstorm! Among the summer highlights was a train trip across the US to spend a week photographing (and eating and much more) in New York City. Near the end of the summer I joined a group of good friends (Charlie Cramer, Keith Walklet, Mike Osborne, Scot Miller, Annette Bottaro-Walklet, Karl Kroeber and a supporting cast of mules and wranglers) for an extended back-country shoot in Yosemite. Fall took me back to the Sierra for nearly a week of aspen color chasing, and then I made my way back to Utah for fall color and visits to some beautiful out of the way places and ultimately to meet up with family. (Thanks to fellow photographers on that trip: David Hoffman, Guy Tal, Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, Michael Gordon, Charlie Cramer, Bruce Hucko — and to my cousin Barbara and her husband Russ and a few in-laws I met up with near the end of the trip in Zion.) My biggest photographic focus during the fall was the completion of my three-year project to photograph professional classical musicians — and I’m very grateful to the musicians, conductors, management, and staff of the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Silicon Valley for their incredible cooperation.
A big “thank you!” to all of you who have followed my photographs here and on social media during the past year, and especially to fellow photographers (a few of whom appear in one of the photos!) that I’ve been fortunate to work with and count as friends. I’m grateful for your support! If this is your first visit to my site, consider bookmarking it, using the sidebar form to subscribe by email and/or…
“With all art expression, when something is seen, it is a vivid experience, sudden, compelling, and inevitable.” – Ansel Adams
I have compiled annual “favorites” collections for almost ten years. Each year I think this will just be an exercise in selecting photographs, and each year I rediscover that it is more than that – an opportunity to reflect on growth and new ways of looking at the world, a chance to think forward about what is yet to come, a time to recall a year of places and experiences and friendships.
It is a hard to distill a year’s work down to a few photographs, and I’m afraid that I can’t reduce the number to the extent that some can. This year I have – painfully! – gotten it down to 18 images, which is perhaps still too many. But it is 25% fewer than the 24 I shared last year! (Adams also said, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” So feel free to regard up to a half dozen of these as being insignificant! ;-)
Many things affected my final selection. High on the list is how others – including many of you – responded to my photographs. I often say that the photographer is the person least able to objectively view and understand his/her own work, and I value the feedback and response that you share with me. On the other hand, I like to include some photographs that get less attention because I believe in them. I also include examples from my diverse range of subjects – people, wildlife, landscape, cityscape and street, night photography.
Speaking of a range of subjects, this was a year of interesting and diverse photographic adventures. Some were familiar – visits to Death Valley, the nearby Pacific Coast, the streets of San Francisco, familiar Sierra locations, and more. Others reflect more recent interests, such the migratory birds of California’s Great Central Valley. I spent more than a week camped in a remote Sierra Nevada location with photographer friends, becoming deeply familiar with the details of that particular landscape. I traveled to urban destinations: New York City, London, Germany, Austria. I continued work on my long-term project to photograph classical musicians.
But, enough introduction. In no particular order, though grouped according to subject, here are some of my favorite photographs of 2013. For those who want to know more, I have included links to the original posts of the images, where you may read more background – click the images themselves or the “original post” links.
I am very fortunate to live relatively close to a huge range of photographic subjects. One of the closest and most impressive is the Pacific Ocean coastline of California, and it is near enough that I can head over there for a morning or an evening when the conditions seem promising.
Beach and Bluffs, Evening. Pacific Coast, California. August 2, 2013. Evening light and fog along the Pacific coast north of Santa Cruz, California.
Living less than an hour from the Pacific coastline south of San Francisco, I have the good fortune of being able to shoot there often, and I have come to know some sections of this coastline very well. On this summer evening I was cruising up the coast looking for subjects when I passed this familiar location, one that I had passed many times without stopping due to the scarcity of places to pull over on this narrow highway. The hazy fog, the warm evening light, and the curving surf line got my attention and this time I stopped, put a long lens on the camera, and made this exposure while standing far too close to the passing traffic. Continue reading 2013 Favorite Photographs→
This was a great year for me as a photographer. I photographed subjects that have long been favorites, including the California coast, the Sierra Nevada, and some urban subjects. This was also the year that I discovered (believe it or not, for the first time) the American Southwest, where I spent a total of about a month photographing Utah. I also continued and extended my newfound interest in photographing migratory birds and the landscape of California’s Central Valley.
In what has now become a firmly entrenched annual tradition, here is my set of “2012 Favorites.” This set and my criteria for assembling it require some explanation! I call them “favorites” rather than “best” since it is darn near impossible to make any sort of objective selection of best work – but I can be somewhat definitive about favorites… at least as of today. Selecting favorites from among my photographs is a very difficult task for me, especially when it comes down to selecting the final set. A part of me thinks that additional editing could be done, but another part of me says, “Enough is enough!”
This set includes 24 photographs that I made during this past year. There are varied reasons for their inclusion, and for the exclusion of some other photographs that I and some of you like a great deal. I have included some based on what others tell me they like, so there are a few that have provoked a strong response from viewers, sometimes a bit to my surprise! I have also tried to cover a somewhat diverse range of photographs – some wildlife, a couple of shots of the urban world, some black and white work, some realistic and some relatively abstract images, some complex images and some very simple ones. In a few cases I have included photographs that are favorites of mine that do not seem to (yet?) evoke a strong response from viewers – since I believe in the photographs.
I have added a bit of brief commentary to each photograph, and you may click their titles to see the original posts on the blog, where I usually share additional information and background.
Since I’ve already over-thought this more than enough, on to the photographs! Thanks for looking, and I hope you enjoy them!
I made this photograph at a California Central Valley wildlife refuge, at the end of an evening of photographing Ross’s geese and sandhill cranes with some good friends, as the last light began to fade from the sky above the Coast Range.
I made this photograph in the same circumstances as the previous one, though a bit earlier in the evening as the sun was dropping to the horizon and glowing brilliant red in the Central Valley winter haze. Almost all of the Ross’s geese that had earlier filled this pond had now left, save for a few stragglers who stuck around a bit longer and struck photogenic poses for me before leaving.
I made this photograph in the Skagit Valley in the state of Washington, where I spent a day photographing birds, mostly snow geese and trumpeter swans. At one point I had pulled over to investigate a field that seemed like a good place to find geese, but had only found a few there. But very shortly I began to notice uncountable numbers of them filling the sky to the west and before long the largest group that I had ever seen had descended on the field. For this photograph I used a very long focal length but intentionally chose a shutter speed slow enough to allow motion blur when the flock suddenly lifted into the air en masse, as I knew they eventually would.
While on a spring visit to Zion Canyon we walked up toward the Weeping Rock area, where I had hoped to photograph spring wildflowers – but we were there too early in the season. On the way back down the trail I spotted this beautifully lit branch on what I think was a maple tree and photographed the new leaves against a blurred background of cliffs and other vegetation.
Since I spent a total of perhaps a month photographing in Utah this year, there are going to be a few Utah photographs here! (If anything, narrowing the Utah shots down to a small group was the most difficult task in assembling the Favorites post.) On our spring trip we made it to Arches National Park for the first time, which gave me an opportunity to experience something that I rarely get to experience in California, having shot there so long, namely the astonishment of seeing a completely new and unexpected landscape. Having intentionally avoided any research on this park, I was completely amazed by the formations when we made our first foray during the golden hours on the day we arrived, and I came back to this spot several times to photograph it in morning light.
Our first visit to Canyonlands National Park was at least as uninformed as the earlier Arches National Park visit. (At one point I drove past a turn-off to the iconic Mesa Arch and said, “Oh, that is where all those photographs come from!” No, I did not go there.) We spent most of the day driving around and scoping out potential locations for an evening shoot, and since I had never been there before we settled on the also-iconic Green River Overlook. While I have some photographs of that more familiar scene, including some I like a great deal, I decided to instead include one from that location that is not the usual iconic shot. This includes a bit of the vertical upper cliff face and the strongly back-lit canyon of the Green River beyond, with a couple of buttes and their shadows faintly visible in the haze.
There is quite a lot that I could write about this simple-looking photograph, but I’ll keep it short. I was actually wandering along the San Francisco waterfront very early one morning doing what I think of as a combination of street and “urban landscape” photography, equipped with my usual camera and a couple of prime lenses. If I recall correctly, I had been photographing a steel bridge – a distinctly urban subject – when I noticed this sailboat approaching a section of open water from the right. I was already aware of the beautiful luminous quality of the light over the San Francisco Bay that morning, and I immediately got the idea of trying to frame the boat as it passed across this small clear area of water. I quickly swapped lenses and had just time to make a couple of quick handheld exposures before the boat continued to the left and out of sight. (It turns out, though I did not realize it at the time, that this boat is part of the upcoming America’s Cup competition.)
This photograph is firmly part of my “urban landscape” work, in which I try to photograph the urban environment in ways that are not so different from how I might photograph the natural landscape. On the other hand, I often shoot this stuff handheld – as I did here – and using a prime or two, more or less is street photography style.
I have included this photograph because it is a personal favorite. I can’t tell you how many times I have driven over Tioga Pass and down/up this canyon, often looking into the canyon and out to the landscape to the east and thinking about how I might photograph it but never quite seeing the photograph I was looking for. On this morning I was heading up the canyon toward the pass when I happened to glance to my left and see a photograph. I quickly turned around and went back to the turn-out where I had first seen it and made a photograph of the dark canyon with Mono Craters and further mountains and clouds beyond. The black and white rendition is partly because, well, I liked it and partly an homage to the old-school monochrome work of the past that influences all of us who photograph in these mountains.
This photograph is another personal favorite. I had driven up into the Marin Headlands with no particular goal in mind earlier in the evening. Encountering very thick fog near sunset and not finding a way to photograph in it, I continued on and eventually headed down toward Rodeo Beach, stopping from time to time to listen to the quiet, broken only by the mournful sound of fog horns. By the time I got down into the valley that leads to the beach the light was fading very quickly. As I crossed a bridge across the slough I saw this group of birds in the water near the shoreline and had an idea for a photograph that included them in the foreground, a bit of nearby shoreline at the edge of the frame, and the fog-obscured far bank across the water. Working quickly and with the lens that was already on the camera, as the light was going very quickly, I made a small number of very long exposures.
While visiting Mendocino, along the northern coast of California, we were wandering around town. As we walked up to one small shop I happened to look down and see these beautifully colorful leaves in a small planter box near the door, and I made a handheld photograph of them.
On a very late-summer morning – in mid-September and after Labor Day – when the meadows were turning golden brown and the typical late-season haze was present, I stopped and made this photograph near the west end of Tuolumne Meadows, shooting past a grove of large trees, across the dry grasses of the meadow, and towards the haze-obscured forested mountains beyond.
This is a non-iconic photograph made in a very iconic location! Those who photograph the autumn aspens in the eastern Sierra Nevada know this location well and would likely recognize any of two or three very common scenes from this location. I’ve been going there for enough years now that while I enjoy seeing those views quite a bit, I rarely photograph them unless something really unusual or extraordinary is happening. This photograph is looking more or less 180 degrees away from those famous views and, to be honest, back toward the gravel road that passes by the lake. But on this morning the beautifully hazy atmosphere was filled with light from the sun as it cleared the high ridge beyond and I decided to photograph this small ridge, bit of water, and slanting light across the shoreline trees.
I have long been a big fan of the autumn aspen color in the eastern Sierra Nevada. But this year I managed to shoot autumn color in Utah, and I think I know have a rather different idea of what aspen color can be! When we arrived in Utah, the color was already a bit past its prime at the highest elevations, but that meant that it was just peaking in some of the lower areas. I ended up with a bunch of Utah fall color photographs, and with difficulty I have narrowed them down to the two that I have included in this set. We encountered this wild display of color – and, no, not all from aspens – by more or less randomly running across a side road and saying, “Hey, let’s see what is up there,” and then driving until we found this fall color display that we almost could not believe.
The inclusion of this photograph is an acknowledgement of the many people who keep telling me how much they like it! I’m not absolutely certain what it is about this photograph that resonates with so many people, but I think there is something evocative about the small road winding off into the trees towards who-knows-where and then disappearing. This photograph was made not far from the previous one near where we finally turned around on our “random ride” up this wonderful side road.
Believe it or not, this was my first visit to Arizona’s Monument Valley. (How it is that I managed to not visit and photograph such a place is a long story that I won’t share right here.) And it happened almost on a whim. We were in Moab and wanted to head over toward Zion National Park. Having done the beautiful drive along Route 12 more than once and having gone via highway 70 once, we were thinking of some variations on this drive. We also saw a weather report calling for some rough weather, including a possibility of snow, along the more northerly routes, so we decided to head south and through Monument Valley. No sooner than we started our drive did the rain begin, and it was raining as we arrived in the Monument Valley area. The famous, iconic buttes and mesas were sometimes invisible and other times partially obscured by the falling rain, and I managed to make this photograph through a rain squall before quickly retreating back to the car.
I have long been intrigued by mist and clouds swirling around pinnacles, cliffs and aretes, and this has been a frequent subject of my photographs in other places such as Yosemite Valley. This photograph comes from Zion Canyon in Zion National Park. We had arrived in the park the previous day during the tail end of a rain storm. On the following morning we headed up into the canyon and saw that the remaining clouds that were settled in along the upper canyon walls were beginning to thin a bit as the early morning sun arrived. This photograph includes a small section of the cliff along the west side of the valley, where the sun was beginning to break through the clouds and strike the rock face.
This photograph is also from Zion, and the subject is a bit of cracked and stratified sedimentary rock of the type that is so common here. The rock, with its lightning bolt shaped crack, is along the bottom of a creek bed in a canyon in the high country of the park.
I have had a “thing” about bighorn sheep since a chance encounter high in the mountains many years ago on my first solo backpack trip, a two-week trip that took me though some high and lonely Sierra Nevada terrain. On that trip I had wandered up a ridge one morning when I was startled by the nearby sound of clattering rocks. I looked up to see a very close group of bighorns. But the time I dropped my pack and raised my camera to make a photograph they were so far down the ridge that it wasn’t worth it. The group in this photograph presented no such challenges! They were very close to the road, and by moving slowly and quietly and keeping a respectful distance from them, I was able to wait until this group of three worked its way down the layered sandstone slope.
In late October I spent some time photographing in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. On more than one occasion we hiked into this canyon to photograph fall color and the beautiful sandstone canyon walls. Near the entrance to the main canyon I encountered this huge old cotton wood tree, that had split into two main trunks, each of which was big enough to seem like a separate and very large tree. There is also a color version of this photograph, formatted a bit differently, but I have chosen to include the monochrome version in this set. (Note: The link to the original posting of this photograph may not be active yet.)
This immense and beautiful arch was near the end of a lengthy hike down a canyon in the Utah back-country. It was perhaps the original goal of our hike, though the rest of the canyon was so interesting that i had almost forgotten about the arch when I caught my first view of it above and ahead of me. After passing through a sort of “Half Subway” along the creek below the arch, I ascended a steep slope behind it to get to a spot where I could shoot down towards it and both eliminate sky from the photograph and align the opening in the arch with some of the sandstone formations across the canyon.
This photograph is another personal favorite of mine. Like so many of my photographs, it comes with a story. I had gone to a California Central Valley wildlife refuge for the first time this season, hoping to find and photograph migratory birds. As I dropped into the valley, I saw ahead the typical winter tule fog and as I continued to drive I was soon in the thick of it. By the time I arrived at the refuge the fog was so thick that bird photography was almost not possible. I spent a little time trying, but then decided that it might be more interesting to photograph the fog itself. I went back to where I had started and repeated my loop around the refuge, stopping here were small vegetation-covered islands faded into the distance in the fog.
The great blue herons, which tend to be solitary birds, do not like to be approached. Most often, in my experience, they fly away if you get close to them at all. This specimen was a bit more obliging. It was standing in a Central Valley field on a foggy morning, initially posing quietly against the backdrop of luminous fog. I slowly drove up nearby and used my car as a blind from which to photograph. After making a number of photographs of the bird standing quietly, it suddenly spread its wings, lifted off, and flew away into the fog.
After a morning of thick Central Valley fog, the murk gradually began to lift and eventually light shone through, though the fog never fully dissipated. Rather than becoming truly clear, what happened instead was that the fog thinned to the point that the atmosphere began to glow softly. I was there to photograph birds, but as I came around a bend in the road and saw this soft light on the autumn trees I turned my long lens in that direction and made this handheld landscape photograph.
These are my current forty (!) final candidates for my “2012 Favorite Photographs” post that I hope to share later this week. This is still way too many, and my target is to try to get the number down to about half of this. I’m happy to hear your feedback in whatever form works best for you: identifying one or a few favorites, suggesting your “top X number” of them from within the group, your favorites of each of the various types, or even suggestions of photographs of mine that are not included in this list.
If you didn’t already know, this is a tough job!
Some of my criteria for the final selection include:
representing a range of genres – landscape (both large and small), night photography, wildlife, urban landscape, nature, and so forth.
incorporating both color and monochrome work.
balancing representational work with photographs that are a bit more conceptual, atmospheric, and so forth.
recognizing work that others tell me they like.
sharing photographs that are personal favorite of mine.
The gallery thumbnails show below are small and may omit portions of images, so click on an image to see a larger version. Once you click on that first image you can use the right/left arrows to navigate through the larger versions of the photographs throughout the entire gallery.
Thanks for looking and for whatever feedback you are willing to share. (Leaving a comment below is a great way to do this.)
It is always very difficult to select a set of my annual “favorite” photographs. I inevitably find that I have left out photographs that others like a great deal, and I know that I include some that Ilike but which may not appeal as much to others. And I always want to include more! :-)
With that in mind, here is a group of slightly more than twenty favorite photographs that I made in 2011. Criteria for inclusion, loosely and subjectively applied, included: a desire to include a wide range of my work, what others told me they liked, photographs that have positive personal associations for me, and element of randomness.
There is a story behind every photograph that I make. (As anyone who has talked to me about one of my photographs probably knows – I can go on… and on… and on… about any of them!) If you want to know more about any of the photographs, you can click on them to go to the original posts here at the blog. And I’d love to hear your reactions to the set, along with any questions you have – there is a place for comments at the bottom of the page.