Wow is this post late, hey at least it’s still Q1. As usual, I had some trouble coming up with what I felt are the best photos I took last year. Strangely it was because a lot of it was pretty darn good if I do say so myself. So that meant I had to really examine each one and separate myself from the emotion of taking it or experiencing that particular time and place. Focusing on the final image as well as cutting down on the number of similar images also helped. Fall is fabulous, but including more than a couple shots just made the collection seem stagnant.
Let’s get to it, shall we? These are in chronological order, btw.
1. It’s hard to take a bad picture in Big Sur. This one made the cut because it’s got terrific color, tones and atmosphere. The touch of fog made the foreground more interesting than it would be without it and the striations in the sky make up for the lack of clouds (at least a little). It’s not stunningly original work, but so what?
2. I’m not a wildlife photographer so the annual elephant seal invasion at Big Sur was a challenge for me to shoot in a couple of ways. Mostly because even though it doesn’t look like it, the darn things move. Lol. I had to change up my focus style and be patient for little scenes to come about, like these two males having a practice fight. The light isn’t the best, but I love the fact that no other seals are concerned and there’s just the one looking at the camera as if to say, can you believe these guys? Also love the sprays of sand frozen in the air. Just another day at the beach.
3. I try to get to The Garden in the Woods every spring for the profusion of wildflowers on display. Especially since many are rare and I’ve never seen them in the wild. These bluebells for example. I absolutely love the arrangement, the light and the bokeh in this shot. It was pure serendipity that I happily took advantage of. There was a slight breeze and the light changed second to second so I had to work fast. Not to mention the hordes of kids going by with their teachers. If I hadn’t known what I wanted and how to get it quickly, I wouldn’t have gotten it.
4. Sometimes one of your best shots happens while you’re waiting for another. This is Indian Cucumber which I’d shot once before, but this image stands out for me because I was able to get down well below the plant which gave me quite a bit of distance between the camera and the flower. It’s that distance that renders the background so smooth and uniform. The smooth uniformity creates negative space, something I don’t use as often as I probably should. It’s dramatic and focuses your attention more than a busy picture. When I shot it I thought I’d leave it in color since it is quite vivid, but when I started to process it, the graceful shape and wide color tones was a natural for monochrome.
5. This image has been in my head for a while and it was the shot I was waiting for when I took the one just above. When I headed out I thought the cloud cover would persist. It didn’t. I took a few test shots from different vantage points, just to get an idea of the best compositions. Then I decided to find other things of interest, no need to abandon the location just yet. I did not wander far. While photographing the flower above I noticed a couple of raindrops on my screen and pretty much ran back to the waterfall to set up for this shot. The light lasted about 8 minutes. One. Tiny. Cloud. I set up, shot and got what I wanted in that short period of time. I love the balance in this image and the greenery. It seems to glow with life and vitality. Persistence, patience and experience made the most of a sliver of good luck. Thank you tiny cloud.
6. Another shot that took quick thinking and a bit of luck. I scared this little garter snake off the path and there it froze in the undergrowth. I watched it for a bit, thinking it would slither off. When it didn’t, I decided to try to get a shot of it standing up as tall as it could. That meant changing lenses and a few settings on the camera. Amazing that it stood there while I did that and let me get one shot. One. Like the cloud. I got the focus, the DOF and the exposure in one go. Then it was off, dissolving into invisibility.
7. Autumn is a no-brainer for photography, but I love this shot because I took it from my kayak. It was a perfect day and I’d had a couple seasons’ worth of practice for this kind of landscape work. Anchoring to compose is a bit tough when there’s enough current in the water so aligning this image took a bit of work, but I got it. I really like the balance and the colors are so vivid. It’s so inviting. And clouds! Bonus!
8. Not many of my macro photos are this visually striking so even though it’s a common ladybug (with lunch victim) I think it stands out. The focus is darn good and that bokeh (thanks to the Olympus 90mm legacy macro) is just dreamy. I only noticed the little guy sheltering under a leaf after I’d been shooting something else, but when I did I knew I had to give it a go. It’s the singularity of the line that draws the eye, then recognition of the subject, which is cute so appealing. The negative space provided by the smooth background makes that work and the raindrops are a final touch that adds a sense intimacy and a bit of sympathy. The little hunter is just trying to get out of the rain and have a nice meal. Not many of my images are as emotional as this one and so I think it stands out.
9. This one is in here for a couple of reasons, first because I’ve been searching for this flower for YEARS and second because I think the photo works on multiple levels. Artistically and stylistically it works well; the colors are complimentary and the angle of view unusual. The focus is encompassing enough, but the bokeh helps the texture stand out even more. From a purely documentary approach I think it showcases the flower specimen quite well. I could see this in a guide book. Plus check out that little guy upside down in the center blossom. Don’t know what it is, but it wasn’t shy. Ah pinesap, how you made my day!
10. Recently there’s been a stir in some photography circles about over-photographing certain places (like Delicate Arch or Half Dome). To some extent I agree and sometimes I wonder if the world needs another shot of something done hundreds of times. There aren’t many places in New Hampshire that qualify, but Beard Brook in Hillsborough is one. It has a beautiful stone arch bridge that is lovely, but very popular with photographers. I went there anyway and took this image downstream from the bridge. I kept one eye on the light and the other on my footing and pretty much raced to get set up on a huge boulder. Managing the polarizer to minimize glare off the leaves, but maximize reflection in the water took a bit of finagling, but I got it. The sun lights the trees from top to bottom, but stays out of the water. I hadn’t planned to get this shot, but when presented with the perfect set up, I took it.
11. This was an “OMG honey, pull over!” shot. We were heading back to the hotel from the Bridger-Teton National Forest when I noticed the light. Specifically I noticed the aspens against the dark backdrop of the hill. Grand Teton was just a bonus. As the light was changing fast, I shot out of the car window, handheld. A minute later, the trees were in shadow. A little cropping and monochrome treatment in post and I think it’s a dramatic image that isn’t like every other shot of Grand Teton.
12. Ok, Grand Teton is irresistible. We didn’t have too many days of sun during our November trip and on our last day we decided to check out the Snake River using the only access we had since the main park road was closed. Who knew it would be a perfect day for reflections of those great peaks and that blue sky? I love this image for its balance and symmetry. Also for the semi-hidden grasses that are only partially lit by the low-angled sun. You can see a few ducks in there, too, if you look closely. We spent a few hours chasing them up river.
I hope you liked revisiting the highlights of my year. I’ve got a trip to Belgium later on, so maybe there will be some 2015 winners from across the pond!
Landscape photography is something you fall into if you’re a nature photographer, and I’m no exception. Huge vistas and eye-popping panoramas are very easy to get caught up in. But when I’ve got my eyes screwed in right and start to really see, lots of other things pop out at me. Microscapes, macros and small scenes can be just as fascinating and often give a fresh, intimate view of nature’s beauty. Winter makes me put in more of an effort, but it’s part of what I really love about this season’s photographic possibilities. It challenges me to do more than just observe. It’s easy to be enchanted by spring or autumn, but winter is perceived as more stark and less bountiful. Working those eye-candy summertime images is terrific fun, but so is finding winter’s bounty.
When I shot this first image there was so much snow on the ground that walking the trail put me anywhere from one to two feet above the normal grade. That got my line of sight into a different place. I KNOW I’ve passed this tree before, but then my eyes were on the brook that cascades to the left here, not up the ledge and certainly not on this tree with the lovely tinder fungus growing on it. This time, elevated by the snow pack, I noticed it. And luckily for me, the light in the trees made it even more beautiful and otherworldly. Like low-level clouds.
Then there’s ice – something only in winter’s provision. Oh how I love icy brooks. For all of these shots I was up to my knees in snow (nope still no snowshoes, doh!). Both are on Tucker Brook in Milford, one of my favorite places to go with a camera and a tripod. Working these images is both physically tricky sometimes and it’s sometimes harder to get what you want because you can’t get the camera where you want it. The whole falling through the ice thing just isn’t something I’m into. This little section of stream had a great leading line in the water though and so I maneuvered as best I could to line it up. A little processing magic brought its more sinister quality to the fore.
As water levels change, ice takes on even more intricate patterns like this next one. The motion, light and reflections in the water below made me think of some of the fantastic images the Hubble Telescope brings to us from deep space.
This last one, when I got it into Lightroom, made me think of some landscape out of Jules Verne’s nightmares. Isn’t it cool? I would have liked to get closer and lower down for this one, but it wasn’t in the cards. Too much snow and the stream is fairly wide here. Luckily a longer lens helped.
It’s not a fern, which I’m so partial to, but that green just pops doesn’t it? Tucker Brook preserve is also loaded to the gills with mountain laurel. Even in winter it is evergreen and I had to wade through the drifts to get to this gorgeous spray of leaves. By this time of the year, my eyes are thirsty for color and this quenches it. The red just pops out at you, doesn’t it? Funny how I never much noticed that in summer when there is so much competition for my eye’s attention.
Sometimes it’s texture that grabs my attention. Winter and its long shadows are great for this kind of seeing. Long stripped of its bark, this log caught my eye the second time I walked by it (the light changed I think and that’s why I noticed it on the walk back). The ice and the shadows are so varied and interesting and so I turned my lens to it. I just love the random nature of the debris.
Winter is still hanging on here in the North East. Get out there and enjoy what is found only now, when it’s cold. Some say winter is the meanest of seasons, but I disagree. It’s a time for rest and rejuvenation and there is beauty to be found, high and low.
February, being cold, blizzardy, snowy and miserable I didn’t get out much. March is different. I’ve been out a couple of times and look what I saw –
Sunlight in the snowy forest can take on so many aspects. Shadows on smooth snow is one of the best though. This one is from the Pulpit Rock conservation area in Bedford. It’s an easy place to fall in love with and I go there several times a year. This time I noticed a new trail that I’ll have to explore come spring.
The brook at Pulpit Rock was mostly covered in snow and ice. You’d never know there are a few nice waterfalls along its course so muffled was the water channel. At Tucker Brook nature preserve in Milford, there was a bit of open water now and again. Few and far between though.
This scene is just downstream from some mill ruins I’ve never seen before. They’re far above the famous falls, but I’ve hiked up there and don’t remember seeing them. Knowing my near obsession with colonial hydro-mills, I know I’d have shot them if I’d seen them. Oh come on spring!
Another reason to long for spring. Well, summer really is the mountain laurel. The Tucker Brook preserve is jam packed with them and I think I’ll try to get to them while they’re flowering. They’re such a New England staple. Here they are sleeping the winter away. I’m really trying to capture sunlight in snowy forests and I think I’m making progress. I love this look up the slope with the shadows and snakey shapes of the laurel trunks.
I did more than shoot landscapes, but I’ll save those for another post. There’s lots of detail out there in the woods if you just look for it.