I started putting together an annual favorites post in 2009, and I ended up skipping it for the first time in 2013. I had very few chances to get out with my camera last year, other than a fantastic trip to Hawaii. As the calendar rolled through the first few months of 2014, I really felt like something was missing from my life and I made a concerted effort to find time to get out and connect with nature through my photography. While my overall number of trips was still relatively small this year, many of the trips I did have were exciting and productive. Some highlights, in addition to working with shorebirds on the local Massachusetts beaches, were spending five fantastic days back in Point Reyes National Seashore and visiting Acadia National Park for the first time (a location that seems destined to become an annual trip for me). Anyway, without further ado and in no particular order, here are my ten personal favorites from 2014.
Curious quail in focus, Point Reyes National Seashore
It was great to return to my favorite park again after almost two years. While June isn't necessarily my preferred season for wildlife there, the quails were out in abundance. This curious male was bouncing between the bushes near the Abbott's Lagoon parking lot.
Sanderling in the shallows at dusk, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
One of my favorite shorebird encounters of the year came in late October on a trip to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The sun was dropping low in the sky and I thought I was heading home empty-handed, but a last minute choice to walk the path to Beach #6 yielded a very friendly flock of sanderlings in the evening light.
Mount Cadillac Sunrise, Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park has been on our to-do list since moving to the Northeast, and we made our first trip there in August. The summit of Mount Cadillac holds some real magic, especially at sunrise.
Sanderlings in a sand storm, Plymouth Beach
It was incredibly windy on my first trip to Plymouth Beach, with really strong gusts whipping up the sand. This is perhaps the most unique shooting conditions I had this year -- and an interesting chance to document the daily challenges of being a shorebird.
California quail calling out, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
For a long time my photographic wishlist has included photographing a male California quail in song. I love to hear their calls, and they toss their heads back with such gusto. It was awesome to have the chance to spend time watching this quail singing from a photogenic perch along the hillside in Tennessee Valley.
Sanderling searching for prey at sunset, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
I only made it out twice this fall for the shorebird migration, but I was fortunate to have great encounters on both occasions. My best opportunities were primarily with sanderlings, and this bird's transitional plumage stood out nicely in the late golden light.
Common tern at Sandy Point State Reservation
I was a little too early for migrating shorebirds on this summer trip to the North Shore, but a flock of common terns was a delightful consolation prize.
Dunlin feeding in front of the waves, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
I started experimenting with an even lower ground-level style this year, providing an effectively shallower depth of field for creamy foregrounds and backgrounds.
California quail atop the brush, Point Reyes National Seashore
I'm not one to pass up the chance for a quail portrait, and this handsome male was particularly photogenic in this coastal scrub setting in Point Reyes.
Sanderling splash, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
It was a very special experience to be laying so close to this sanderling as it washed its feathers and splashed around in the shallows of an ebbing tide.
As a bonus, here is my favorite image that my wife took of me in action this year -- photographing the sunrise in Acadia National Park with my four-legged assistant. One of the best parts of going to Acadia is that it's a super dog-friendly area, so my pup was able to enjoy the entire experience with us.
If you're interested in seeing more of my work, here are my Favorite Photographs of 2012, Favorite Photographs of 2011, Favorite Photographs of 2010, and Favorite Photographs of 2009.