In keeping with the tradition begun by Jim Goldstein, who is kind enough to aggregate these lists on his excellent blog, I’ve tried to narrow down what I think are my ten best shots of 2010. I wrongly assumed this would be easy, but found it difficult to pare the list down below 16 or so. But, after brutal self-editing, I have my list. The one thing that jumps out at me about almost every image I’ve included is that the prevailing element from shot to shot is the light–light that I mostly planned to be in place for to capture, but occasionally light that surprised me, sometimes with beautiful results.
The first two shots, A Dream of Aspens and Precipice and Fog, are the two images of mine that have been chosen for inclusion in the upcoming Yosemite Renaissance exhibition–something I’m honored and excited about.
Perhaps the most difficult thing of all was not allowing my list to be dominated by fall color images. Fall is my favorite time of year, I have a near-obsession with aspen trees, and the color this year in the eastern Sierras was unprecedented in its intensity. I was fortunate to come back with several images I really loved from those few weeks, but I’ll limit myself to one from the eastern Sierras, taken near Surveyor’s Meadow in Bishop Canyon, which embodies everything I love about the place–the soaring granite cliffs, rivers of aspens groves, and crystal clear Bishop Creek.
Although I spend a great deal of time in and around the Sierras, I did manage to get in a longer trip to the desert southwest in Arizona and Utah this spring. One of my favorite images from that trip is this detail from Upper Antelope Canyon, a stunning and otherworldly slot canyon near Page, Arizona.
On a couple of occasions this year, I was surprised with perfect blue hour conditions after waiting around for colorful sunsets that never quite materialized. My favorite is this shot of the rock arch at Natural Bridges State Beach near Santa Cruz, where I also captured the rising full moon above the arch.
I’ve tried to capture more minimalist images this past year, because I find them personally interesting. My favorite of these is this almost abstract shot of grass reflected in a vernal pond near Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. I was shooting very early in the morning, and the complete absence of any breeze made the mirror-like reflection possible.
One of my outings where sunset did materialize with some nice clouds and color was at Malibu Beach, near the municipal pier. The light lasted a generously long time, which gave me the opportunity to play with different exposure times and shapes of the receding waves, and I’m especially pleased with this shot–it captured the light but lovely clouds decorating the sky, the beautiful pink color (made possible by the sun reflecting off a large bank of clouds just onshore), and the fanned-out remnants of a receding wave.
Perhaps the single most productive photo trip I made this year came late in November on a trip to Yosemite. I’ve long wanted to photograph the valley right after a snowstorm, and finally had my chance when a major winter storm was forecast with snow levels low enough to include the valley (and not just the high country). I threw the snow chains in the trunk and headed for the park, arriving a few hours before the snowstorm began in earnest. I woke–much to my immense delight–to well over a foot of snow in the valley, with snow still coming down heavily. The entire valley was blanketed in pure white, and all the trees appeared sugar-frosted. I came away with many images I really love, but for this list I’ll include a shot of El Capitan taken from Cathedral Beach, where I was fortunate to catch a very fleeting bit of sunlight as it moved across the face of El Cap.
Filed under “light that took me completely by surprise” is this image of the San Emigdio mountains, which just happen to be the hills on the north side of the Tejon Pass (also known to locals as the “grapevine”), on the west side of Interstate 5. I travel this road many times a year, whether on trips to Yosemite, trips to visit family, or trips to other points north of Los Angeles. I’ve often thought about stopping to photograph these hills, but either didn’t have time, or the light wasn’t right. On a return trip from Yosemite, I drove right into some of the most breathtaking light conditions I’ve seen, so I pulled off the last exit before the ascent to the pass, got out of the car and started shooting. There was a light dusting of snow at the top of the hills, and light rays were breaking through fast-moving storm clouds. The hills had greened up nicely thanks to steady fall rainstorms, and I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful subject.
My final picture in my 10 best is a shout-out to my home city of Los Angeles. Much maligned, and not always considered the most photogenic city, I find it a place filled with hidden gems (and do my best to explore those photographically when I can find time). I took this image, cropped for a panoramic effect, after a weekend of steady rain and winds, which cleared the sky of fog, clouds and–yes, since this is LA–smog. I had a perfectly clear sky when I captured the skyline from high up at Griffith Observatory, and it’s become one of my personal favorites, even though it’s not my typical natural landscape.
That wraps up the list–thanks for reading!