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Top 12 Images of 2013

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Yeah, it’s the end of 2013, who knew it would roll around so quickly?!  This year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect.  Luckily, Rachel and I created this box we call the Box of Awesome, which contains all of the highlights for the year.  On January 1st, we will open the box and look back on all that we did and experienced.  I’m so excited for that!

So, for this blog, I’m really focusing on highlights from a photography standpoint.  I’m excited by all the trips we took this year, but one in particular stands out above all the rest.  And that one was the John Muir Trail.  I carried about eight pounds of camera gear on that trek and I’m fairly happy with the results.  We published a book on Blurb and I have several items donning images from that trip for sale both at Zazzle and FineArtAmerica.

However, what I’ve done for this blog post is select my favorite image from each month of the year.  There is one exception, in that in October, I didn’t take any photographs at all, so I’ve filled that slot with an image from the trail that we finished in September.  Everything else was taken in the month mentioned.

January

Rincon Beach, Carpinteria

This was taken about a mile from our house at Rincon Beach on a beautiful winter day in January.

February

Carpinteria State Beach

This was actually my best selling print of 2013!

March

Alabama Hills Star Trails

A brisk evening of fun capturing these star trails in the Alabama Hills.

April

Ojai Raptor Center

My first ever trip to this amazing place – the Ojai Raptor Center.

May

 

While the experience of going into Oneonta Gorge was my favorite, this image from Punchbowl Falls on the Eagle Creek Trail topped the list for May.

While the experience of going into Oneonta Gorge was my favorite, this image from Punchbowl Falls on the Eagle Creek Trail topped the list for May.

June

 

A highlight from the year was watching these little guys battle it out on the milkweed in June.

A highlight from the year was watching these little guys battle it out on the milkweed in June.

July

 

Our first gear-test hike (and last) before our epic journey on the John Muir Trail.

Our first gear-test hike (and last) before our epic journey on the John Muir Trail.

August

 

By far, my favorite image of the journey on the JMT.  So much is represented here with the stormy skies, moon-like landscape, mountains, and aloneness in nature.

By far, my favorite image of the journey on the JMT. So much is represented here with the stormy skies, moon-like landscape, mountains, and aloneness in nature.

September

 

Again from the JMT, Sept 11, 2013 held the best looking skies for the entire month.  Awestruck around every corner of the trail.

Again from the JMT, Sept 11, 2013 held the best looking skies for the entire month. Awestruck around every corner of the trail.

October

 

While not actually shot in October, this is one final shot from the JMT.  A favorite of the Milky Way.

While not actually shot in October, this is one final shot from the JMT. A favorite of the Milky Way.

November

So many images from this November trip could have made the favorite list - what a hard decision.

So many images from this November trip could have made the favorite list – what a hard decision.

December

 

My first ever, planned, moon shot.  I love how it came out.

My first ever, planned, moon shot. I love how it came out.

 

Hopefully, you enjoyed these images as much as I enjoyed taking them.  I realize 2013 isn’t quite over, so if I happen to shoot something in December that I like better than the full moon rising, I’ll be sure to update this post.

   

Double Arch Star Trails

Double Arch Star Trails

On April 9th, we drove up to the Alabama Hills, which is just up the street from Lone Pine, CA.  We arrived and decided to play around on some of the rock formations, but boy were we in for a bit of a surprise.  The weather channel called for a warm day and a very light breeze.  But just opening the car door just about took it off!  I figured it would stop eventually, so we played around a bit, then headed into Lone Pine to our favorite (and only in Lone Pine)  Mexican restaurant and had dinner before driving to Double Arch and setting up camp.  The winds seemed to be getting stronger, but we stuck to the plan… for some unknown reason.

When we arrived at Double Arch, the winds were really whipping and let me just say that setting up a tent in those conditions is no fun.  But, we managed to get it done and then I lost Rachel.  She hopped in the tent, never to come out again – well at least until the next morning.  The winds were incredible all night long.  However, I was there for a reason and that reason was to take a picture that included star trails.

I probably couldn’t have picked a worse night, well, I could have and I’m sure I will do that in the future, but it was time to get to it.  I set up my camera on my tripod, tried to focus (which was a huge problem for me last time) and just tinkered around until I had all my settings the way I thought I’d want them.  I started capturing the images around 8:30pm and then climbed into the tent and set the alarm for 11:30pm so I could gather my camera – assuming it was still there through all the wind.

At about 8:36pm, I realized that during my test shots and while I was trying to focus, I had my ISO set at 1600 and I had set my camera mode to manual.  Doh!  Out of the tent I scrambled and re-set it all up.  I configured the intervalometer to take 46 4min exposures at f3.5 and ISO 125 – this time on the bulb setting.  I popped back into the tent, frozen solid, I might add, and waited until 11:30ish when my alarm went off.  I jumped out, took a few 29ish second shots to show the night sky with stars crisply present.  To do that, I reset the ISO to 1600, all other settings remained the same.  In the image below, I processed it as a black and white image in Nik Software.

At that point, I was so cold, I really couldn’t stand it any longer, so I put away all the gear and headed to the tent and into my sleeping bag.  When we got up the next morning, the wind was still incredibly strong, so we packed it all up and took off.  Again, packing a tent in the wind IS NO FUN!  Before doing this and while I was still snug in my sleeping bag, I lay there imagining the possibility of just grabbing the tent and running through the desert to the car with it slapping around behind me and likely strangling my poor dog that was dangling from my arm on his leash.  None of the mental images I conjured up looked promising, so we did, in fact, fold it and get it back into the bag before throwing it in the car.

Just another fun adventure and I can’t wait to get back!

   

Startrails Attempt in Alabama Hills

We recently visited Alabama Hills, which is just up Whitney Portal Road from Lone Pine, CA.  I’ve been playing with Startrails off and on (mostly off) for a little while now.  I think I’ve attempted them at this point all of 6 times.  Anyway, we had two nights in the hills and for the first night, I had selected a site that is just beyond Mobias Arch and had a nice foreground of massive boulders.

We arrived around 7pmish, just in time to get to our location in the fading light, which allowed me to get set up and ready to shoot when the stars came out to play.  Around 8pm, I started my 3 hour process of image capture and the temperatures were dropping – as expected this time of year.  Just about 9pm, there was some light that flashed on my foreground.  No big deal, I lit it up a bit anyway on the first exposure so having a little light an hour in, wasn’t so bad.

Then about 9:20 or so, this light that was on the foreground was flashing and it was really intense.  I got up and walked around trying to figure out where it was coming from and this other photographer that was photographing Mobias Arch had this really, really intensely bright spot light that he just didn’t turn off for about 40 minutes.  It was way too much light so at just after 10pm, I packed it in.  The 3 hours or so that we spent in the cold were for nothing.  The image didn’t come out, there was just too much ambient light.

So the next night I was determined to find a place where there would be no such distraction and light.  During the day, we played around on the rocks and decided that double arch was so far out of the way that no-one would show up.  Again, we arrived just after sunset and got to shooting just about 8pm.  This time, the night went so much more smoothly.  There were no other people around and all was great.  We even laid down on our towel, under the blanket and tried to get a little sleep while the camera was busy capturing the stars.

At just about 11pm, we wrapped it up and started heading towards the car.  Well, that’s what we thought, at least.  We had walked the path a couple of times during the day to make sure we could do it in the dark, but it looks very different in the dark.  I thought I walked the straight path to the car, but when we got up on the rise, the car was no-where to be found.  Luckily, I had a small flashlight that is high in lumens, so I flashed it to the right and left and saw a reflection off in the distance.  Ahhhh, it was our car.  So, we started trudging over and hopped in and got back to the hotel.

The next morning, I looked at the pictures and found that my foreground was not in focus.  While I am not happy about that, I am glad that my process wasn’t a failed attempt because of someone else.  I am happy to fail on my own and learn from it and that’s just what I’m doing.  So, while this image is far from perfect, I am thrilled with what I learned and the experience I had in the Alabama Hills trying to get it.

I can’t wait to get back there and next time, I am camping at my selected site so I can just crawl up in my tent while things are going and then just break it down and go to sleep.

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