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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.

   

One Simple Photography Tip

“Learning to use the crop tool in Photoshop as a tool to improve your composition will change your life.”  A very engaging and smart photographer once told me this and while I believed him, it was a couple of months later before I made the time to sit down and really understand what he was saying.  Tonight, I had to write him a thank you note for that piece of advice.

See, I can find something wrong with every image I’ve ever taken.  A friend asked me to show her my 10 favorite images recently.  I figured at the time, that that would be no problem because I have literally thousands of photos to choose from.  I sat down and truth be told, I didn’t find one.

I thought to myself… “Self, why are you unable to find even one picture you like?”  The reason is simple.  Every time I take pictures, I do so a little bit differently than the time before.  It makes sense because it takes every single day and every single event in my life to make me who I am today.  EVERY SINGLE ONE.  This means, I don’t go out to take a picture as the same person, EVER!  I am constantly changing into the person and photographer that I am today.

While I sit here and look at my images, I am with my present self, who, by the way, would have done something entirely different if out in the field taking that same image today.  I digress.  Why is this important and how does it relate to the crop tool?

Tonight, I sat with some photos that I shot last month.  Of course, they were all terrible in my opinion.  I should have been slightly to the left, or down lower, or up higher, or zoomed in or out or out earlier or later in the day.  Anything, but how I took that shot at that moment.  BUT, then I suddenly remembered what my friendly photographer friend, Gary, said to me once.  And that was to use the crop tool to find other compositions.  Just use it as an educational tool and next time you’re in the field, you will likely take more shots using what you’ve learned in Photoshop.  It makes sense.  What I found with many of my shots was that I really wanted a closer image with less distractions and more attention to simplicity.  Many of my photos were just too busy for my taste.

I was able to take all these horrible photographs and crop them and create some really nice scenes.  From one shot, I found 5 crops that I really liked.  Well, okay, maybe I didn’t really, really like all 5 shots equally, but I did like all of them better than the one I took out in the field.  If I sat there in front of that image any longer, I probably could have doubled that number.  But, I was so excited to try this technique on more shots, I had to move on.

So, if there is one thing that I could pass on to a beginner like myself, it would be to study any images you don’t like.  There was something present that caught your eye when you saw the scene.  It’s probably in there somewhere.  You just have to find it.  Use the crop tool to find unique and compelling compositions you like and next time you’re in the field, try to use that information to create the crops in camera.  It’ll take time and patience, but now that the light bulb has been lit, I can’t wait to get up tomorrow to try again.

The only issue is that now I’m going to have to re-visit all of my favorite destinations.  I suppose that’s not such a bad problem to have.

   

A Dream Come True

I’ve waited probably more than a year for this day to come.  Wait, let me back up just a minute.  A bit over a year ago, I saw these amazing photos of a place so green, so lush, so absolutely amazing looking, I just wanted to see it for myself.  Heck, this place was in my own backyard… almost.  I emailed a friend in Washington to see if he knew where it was and he went out looking for it, but didn’t find it on the first try.

After a bit more research, I found the name of the gorge was Oneonta.  Aha!  With a name, I knew I could find it.  So, on our roadtrip this year, which took us to Yosemite, Idaho and finally Oregon, I got to see for myself, the Oneonta Gorge.

Ok, it’s not quite that easy.  First off, it rained off and on all day (which will be important to remember later in this story).  When we got to the entrance of the gorge, which is situated in the Columbia River Gorge, we hopped down to the trail and started heading up.  I had read that I’d have to go about knee deep in water to get there and get myself over a log jam, which I was prepared to do.

I jumped into the first water to make my way across to the log jam and man was it slippery – remember, I mentioned it was raining off and on all day!  Ugh, so I carefully navigated my way to the top of the log jam… crawling on my hands and knees at times, just so I wouldn’t fall into the icy water and get stuck in these freezing pools of water below with no way apparent way out.

It was all a bit un-nerving, but I did manage to get across the jam and start making my way up the gorge, walking through the river.  I could no longer feel my feet, and as I continued I could see that I would be wading far deeper than my knees.  The water was nearly up to my waist and it was becoming very difficult to take pictures because my feet hurt soooooo bad.

I managed to get a couple of pictures, but then paused for a moment on a log and just tried to get my feet out of the water for a few minutes to see if I could get the feeling back.  I’m not sure if you know how hard it is to be walking through a river, on mossy, slippery rocks without anything to hold onto using feet that you can’t really feel.  Trust me, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty.  But, no-one was around (because what other fool would do this in May?) and I had the gorge to myself.  After a very little while, I started heading back because I figured I had been out there long enough and Rachel and Romero would start to worry about me if I didn’t return soon.

On the way out, I once again had to cross this one huge log that ran the width of the gorge.  On the way in, I managed to pull myself up on it because the ground was a little higher on that other side, but on the way out, I really, really struggled to pull myself up on this slippery, slimy log.  I didn’t realized what I was doing to my legs during this struggle until I started climbing the log jam a bit further out.

I looked down at my red legs and saw this bubblegum sized purple bruise thing protruding from my ankle area.  I couldn’t feel anything so I immediately assumed it was some sort of blood clot.  I worked my out and once I was back in the car and warming up, I began to feel all the bumps and bruises quite clearly.  I must have really knocked my leg on the logs because that lump really began to hurt as I warmed up.  No blood clot, just a good knock to the leg.  Well, I had quite a few, but all that was worth it to get inside this gorge.

I can’t wait to go back, perhaps with some waders or in warmer weather.    It was a year in the making and I loved every minute of it.

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