Overall, 2014 was an odd year for me, marked by (the bad:) multiple bouts of the flu from hell, suicidal computer hardware, and (the very good:) my first fully solo exhibit of my Owens Lake Project at the world’s most awesome photography gallery, the G2 Gallery here in Venice, California.
The sum of the good and the bad meant that I did far less landscape shooting than in past years, as what limited shooting time I did have was mostly devoted to finishing work on this first phase of the lake project. As a result, my “best of” list this year is populated by multiple shots from those outings.
In no particular order, my best (favorite) shots from 2014 (click on each image to see a larger version):
Sandstone and Fall Foliage, Zion National Park
I try each year to spend at least a few days in the great southwest landscapes of Utah and Arizona–this year, I was able to travel there in time for a little fall color in Zion valley, which was great fun. The color range there verges on full technicolor, and I loved finding places where I could capture the color and soft texture of leaves against red rock. This image from the eastern side of Zion is one of my favorite shots I’ve ever captured in the park. The red foliage both complimented the color of the sandstone and offered a soft contrast against the sandstone’s rough texture (and the little bit of light touching the edges of the foliage didn’t hurt, either).
While I saw plenty of fall color in the valley and the eastern side of the park, the lesser-visited Kolob Terrace on the western edge of the park was well past its fall color display when I was there. It was my first time exploring this part of the park, and I was instantly smitten. It’s radically different from what most people think of when they think of Zion, and I look forward to returning next fall (hopefully during fall color).
In addition to spending time in Zion, I was able to make a return trip to lower Antelope slot canyon just outside of Page, Arizona. Any photographer with the slightest interest in abstracts will love this place. I was in the canyon during the very late afternoon this time–well past time for the sought-after light shafts as the sun passes overhead, but the late day light this time made for beautiful muted colors that really emphasized the textures in the canyon walls.
Concentrating so much on my lake project meant I spent more time in my beloved Eastern Sierra Nevada this year, which is always a good thing. Owens Lake’s “twin,” Mono Lake to the north, is one of my favorite (and most surreal) spots on the east side. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve photographed Mono Lake, which is beautiful under any conditions, but this most recent visit was the first time I’ve been fortunate to catch a colorful sunset there.
The more time I spend shooting in the sierra, the more I find myself gravitating away from the obvious grand vistas and colorful sunsets or sunrises, and looking for intimate scenes that capture the essence of that place. This scene caught my eye immediately, with the soft, feathery ferns contrasting perfectly with the hard granite wall against which they grew. It’s simultaneously hard and soft, colorful and monochrome.
Probably my favorite photography subject of all are the scenes found while exploring the canyons of the Eastern Sierra, especially in fall when the aspens turn yellow (and sometimes red). It’s an almost meditative experience, and if one has a taste for intimate landscapes (as I do), I’m not sure there’s a better place on earth to be. I spent more time this year exploring the middle fork of Bishop Creek than I previously had, and came away with this image.
While I may not shoot as many grand landscapes these days, I’m still a sucker for a pretty sunrise or sunset. The Sabrina Basin in Bishop Canyon is one of my favorite locations for such shots–I’ve been fortunate to catch some gorgeous sunsets here in past years, and this time around it was a sunrise. There’d been a dusting of snow overnight, and the end of the passing storm that morning made for soft and softly colored light over one of my favorite “skylines” in the sierra–the Evolution Range that rises dramatically behind the basin.
As I’ve worked on my Owens Lake Project over the last four-plus years, I’ve come to truly love the often unexpected beauty of the place. While it’s mostly thought of as a broken, messy wasteland, the lake can in fact be an incredibly beautiful place. As I finished a day of shooting on and around the lake, I captured this serene vista from near the center of the lake, among the flooded grids, on a windless evening. It was just me and countless scores of birds who call the lake home for part or all of the year, and a moment I will never forget.
This is perhaps the most strongly narrative photo I’ve taken in all of my years shooting the lake. This small dunefield, largely unknown (at least among photographers), is currently the biggest source of blowing dust and sand on the lake, and such an unexpected thing to find at the foot of the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada. Being able to capture both the dunes and the sierra crest as a spring storm moved over the valley is what makes this one of my favorite (and best) photos of the year.
Captured the same day as the image above, this image shows the drama of a storm over the lake as it raises immense clouds of dust. That storm began to rage just after sunrise, and continued into the evening, making for a long day of dramatic and beautiful weather. I especially like the almost minimalist feel of this scene, with the dark clouds, rising dust and silhouette of the Inyo Mountains in the distance.
I’m excitedly looking forward to 2015, as I move on to the next phase of my lake project, a second showing of 2014’s OLP exhibit “at home” in the Owens Valley (at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center), and I hope to get a lot more time shooting the beautiful wild places in California, the great Southwest and wherever else I can find to explore.
I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year!