Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 Favorite Photographs

It's been about a year since I last posted on my blog, and I never intended to let it go that long. Jim Goldstein's Annual Blog Project is a great inspiration to get back on into the swing of it, and an opportunity to review my photography from 2016. This last revolution around the sun was a busy one for me, and it included just a few opportunities for photography. Thankfully, a move out of the city center has helped to keep me feeling connected with nature, with my morning dog walk taking place along wetland trails. The main chances to exercise my photographic creativity came during a week-long trip back out to California with a few days reserved for photography in Point Reyes National Seashore, as well as our annual weekend in Acadia National Park. This certainly wasn't a banner year for my photography in terms of volume, but I returned from these trips with a handful of interesting images to share. In no particular order, here are six of my favorites from 2016.

First light over the fog from Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
The fog was pretty regular throughout our August trip to Maine, but we still decided to attempt to catch one sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain. I'm amazed each year at how many other tourists are up early filling up the parking lot as well!
First light over fog on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

Tule elk cruising through the fog, Point Reyes National Seashore
Spending a few days back in Point Reyes with nothing to do other than focus on hiking and photography was food for my soul. Even though I was there in mid-July, the tule elk rut appeared to already be starting in the Drake's Beach herd.
Tule elk in the fog at Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail on a branch at sunrise, Point Reyes National Seashore
California quail are always a favorite subject of mine, and I caught this handsome male watching over his covey along the trail to Abbott's Lagoon. It was a surprisingly clear morning in the park, offering some delightful pastel colors instead of the more traditional overcast gray of the fog.
California quail on a branch at sunrise in Point Reyes National Seashore

Curious American avocet, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge
The chance to see these stunning shorebirds is definitely something I miss on the east coast, so I spent a morning at Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge on San Francisco Bay. I took way more images than I've had time to look through of avocets elegantly moving through the salt ponds, but these old pillars added some additional interest in the morning light.
Curious American avocet at sunrise in Don Edwards NWR

Last light and "alpenglow" in Point Reyes National Seashore
I've written many times about how I fell in love with Point Reyes while living in California, and I made an effort on this trip to try to step back and study the landscape in addition to just the wildlife. The hills, valleys, and pastures along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard have always caught my eye, but I never really found a perspective that captured some of that magic. This is perhaps as close as I can come, with the hint of "alpenglow" on the crest of the hills just as the sun was dropping below the horizon.
Last light across the valleys of Point Reyes National Seashore

Fog rolling over the hillsides, Mount Tamalpais State Park
I scheduled one sunset of my summer trip to be on the western slopes of Mount Tamalpais to watch the fog roll in. I got there in the late afternoon while the fog was still offshore. I enjoyed some relaxing meditation until the fog crept over Stinson Beach and began its evening march up the hillside. It was a wonderful experience that would leave me completely shrouded in windy gray for my descent to the car, but offered some delightful abstractions along the way.
Fog rolling over the hillsides of Mt Tam at sunset

If you're interested, here are my favorite photographs from 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Thanks for reading -- and all the best for a happy and healthy 2017! Cheers!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Little blue staredown, Bunche Beach Preserve

A straight-on photograph of a little blue heron at Bunche Beach Preserve

Little blue herons have such a great "personality" and this one put on a show for me last spring at Bunche Beach Preserve. I saw it catch a surprising number of fish in this small tidal pool, all the while casting a series of expressive poses. Though, I can't quite decide if this straight-on looks is more comical or stoic.

View more photographs of herons and egrets

Sunday, January 10, 2016

In the shadow of my hat, Plover chick at Parker River NWR

Photograph of a plover chick stepping into the shadow of my hat

When I was putting together my Favorite Photographs of 2015 post, I had a hard time winnowing down the number of piping plover chicks to include. In the end, I still selected plovers for 3 of the 9 photos, which felt a bit heavy-handed, but it was so special to share space with these curious young birds multiple times throughout the summer. This photo helps to illustrate just how inquisitive they were. There I was, lying in the sand photographing the chicks as they scurried around the beach, and this one took a real interest in trying to figure out what I was. It came close enough to step into the shadow that was cast by the low hanging sunrise and the hat I was wearing. From my experience visiting the beach a few times over the summer, the chicks were very curious about the photographers in the sand -- often coming well within the minimum focusing distance of my lens.

View more photographs of piping plovers

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sanderling and reflection, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Photograph of a sanderling walking with its reflection in Massachusetts

This trip to Parker River NWR in October 2014 was one of the most productive sandpiper encounters I've ever had. I came across a very friendly flock of sanderlings a little before sunset, and I stayed with them until it was too dark to shoot anymore. As they went through their evening rituals of feeding, preening, and bathing, the sun went from subtle warmth behind high clouds, to brilliantly golden as it slipped to the top of the dunes, to deep pastels as day faded into night. It was one of those encounters that left me feeling so connected to nature, one that in the moment you hope can last forever, but ultimately I had to force myself to slowly back away and head to the car as darkness spread over the beach.

View more photographs of sanderlings

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Elephant seal for the new year, Año Nuevo State Reserve

Photograph of a bull elephant seal under an overcast sunset at Año Nuevo State Reserve

For my first post of the new year, I thought I'd dig into the archives to celebrate one of my favorite January traditions while living in California -- the northern elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve. There's nothing quite like seeing these beasts hauled out on the beach, and I definitely miss being an easy car ride away from the spectacle. These two frames are of the beachmaster of loser's beach in January 2011. After successfully charging a rival seal back into the water he reared back and roared before settling back into the sand.

Photograph of an elephant seal resting on the beach at Año Nuevo State Reserve

View more photographs of elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve