Thursday, December 22, 2011

Favorite Photographs of 2011

Inspired by Jim Goldstein's Annual Blog Project, here are my favorite photos from 2011. They may not be the most technically correct images I made this year, and they aren't necessarily the most popular images that I posted, but these are the ten that mean the most to me.

2011 was a productive year for me photographically. In addition to posting over 150 entries on this blog, I participated in my first art show, made my first print sales, had my images appear in a variety of conservation publications (including a cover for Naturalia AC's magazine), and had one of my images selected as Highly Honored in the 2011 Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards competition. Additionally, I completed my Ph.D. at UC Berkeley and relocated to the Boston area this fall. My wife and I had an awesome road trip across the country during our move, and we spent 10 days in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks -- a childhood dream come true for me!

Without further ado, here are my favorite photographs of 2011, in no particular order, with a link to the original blog post of each.

A sanderling for Laura
This first image on my list is the one that is most meaningful for me, since I dedicated this sanderling and its reflection to my sister-in-law, Laura, after she was taken from us by a random act of violence in November. While Laura’s time with us was far too short, she lived an amazingly full life and impacted an incredible number of people. Her zest for life and fierce love of family, friends, and science will be forever reflected in those of us who knew her – and we will each be a better person for carrying her spirit with us as we move forward.
A sanderling with its reflection dedicated to Laura

Bull moose at sunrise
Finding moose to photograph was a high priority during our trip to Grand Teton National Park, and we were fortunate to find some each morning. I was amazed to see how large these animals really are, and it was a great pleasure to watch this bull and his female companion browse in the sagebrush in the early morning light.
Bull moose in the sage brush at sunrise in Grand Teton National Park

Quail on gnarled branches
I had great luck with quail this year in Point Reyes National Seashore, and it would be easy to make a post of my favorite 10 quail images from 2011. While I had a hard time deciding which image I wanted to include in this list, I went with this handsome male perched on an old coyote bush because of the interesting shape and texture of its perch.
Quail on gnarled branches of coyote brush in Point Reyes National Seashore

Pronghorn in the grass
Heading into our visit to Yellowstone National Park the chance to photograph pronghorn was high on my wish list. Much to my surprise and delight, there was a group of about 8 individuals that were hanging out by the Gardiner entrance almost every day we were there.
Pronghorn in the grass in Yellowstone National Park

Young bull tule elk
This was my favorite shot of my last trip to Point Reyes National Seashore before moving to the East Coast. Point Reyes is where I fostered my passion for photography, and it will always have a very special place in my heart. The pose of this young elk set against that foggy background perfectly captured the emotion of that final trip.
Young bull tule elk standing in tall grass on a foggy day in Point Reyes National Seashore

Burrowing owl at the Berkeley Marina
Every year a small group of burrowing owls take up a winter residence at Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina. I took a number of weekend trips to watch these lovely (and surprisingly small) owls, and this was my favorite shot of the grumpy looking one that made its home on the rocks.
Photographic portrait of a Western Burrowing Owl

Song sparrow singing
As I was photographing wildflowers on an overcast June day in Point Reyes National Seashore, a loud song from this tiny bird caught my attention. I looked up from my viewfinder and discovered that it had perched quite close to me. I watched it sing a few more stanzas before it flew away.
Song sparrow singing from a perch in Point Reyes National Seashore

Quiet glance
On this February trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, I was able to sit in my car along the road as a large herd of tule elk surrounded me. It was such a pleasure to be in the middle of their daily activities, and I just love the quiet look that this beautiful female gave me.
Portrait of a female tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore

Got him! A plover catches a worm
I took a few spring trips to Pillar Point Harbor with the hope of photographing some black-bellied plovers in their dramatic summer plumage before they migrated north. It was a delight to watch these beautiful birds hunt for worms right in front of my lens, and I loved how much tension you could see on the worm in this shot just before it pops out of its burrow.
Black-bellied plover pulling a worm from the sediments

Elephant seal at sunset
One of the things I will miss most about no longer living in California is my annual trip to Año Nuevo State Reserve to see the northern elephant seals. They are incredible animals to behold, and were absolutely one of my favorite subjects to photograph.
Northern elephant seal bellowing in front of sandstone cliffs

I hope you enjoyed my favorites from this year! If you're interested, please check out my 2010 Favorites and 2009 Favorites, or browse my portfolios and full body of work at


  1. all of these shots (and pretty much every post you do) are spectacular, but the quail continues to be my favorite.

    you've had quite the year to celebrate, pat. hoping 2012 will bring more good things to you!

  2. This must have been very difficult for you to choose ten out of all the great images you take. Of these ten I choose the plover and the worm. I am looking forward to another year's worth of your work as I learn a little bit from each. Have a nice Christmas Pat.

  3. Magnificent photographs ... each and every one of them! I'm partial to the young elk, quail and owl but they really all are outstanding. Your talent abounds! Thanks for sharing such beauty throughout the year.

  4. These are all spectacular! I especially like the Quail photo. I'm getting ready to do my 2011 recap post also. Seems like just last week I did the recap of 2010! Where does the time go?!?!

  5. Wonderful post, Pat. Love all your photos. You sure did have a great year and I congratulate you on those accomplishments. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and blessed New Year.

  6. capture such beautiful details. It was wonderful to watch you in action while camping with you guys in CA! Can't wait to see your pics in 2012. :)

  7. Really awesome. It's amazing the kind of things you capture that I just take for granted. I see quail, and think they are cute, but I've never noticed until your picture their beautiful foliage on their belly. Really nice pics.

  8. Hi friends,

    This is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! Keep up the good work. Thanks for sharing it........

  9. You never disappoint with your photos and this selection doesn't either. Congrats on the Honorable Mention as well! I have my copy and they did a great job of printing.

    Congrats on the PhD as well. I'll be curious to see where your photography will evolve now that you're on the east coast. Seems like you knew Point Reyes like the back of your hand!

    All the best in 2012

  10. What an awseome selection! The Quail image is my favorites...but they all nice :) I wish you a happy 2012 ;)

  11. Great "Best 10" Pat. I look forward to learning about the best places to photograph wildlife in Massachusetts.

  12. @TexWisGirl: Thanks very much! And I agree with you about the quail, I really could have made a top-10 list of just that species!

    @Sinbad and I: Thanks very much, John! It's always a bit of a challenge to filter through all of the images I've taken in a year, but it is a fun and rewarding project to make the selections in the end. Glad you enjoyed the plover -- that was one of my favorites to take too!

    @Julie: Thanks for your kind words!

    @MistyDawn: Thanks! I hear you about the time flying -- this year went by so fast!

    @Carol: Thanks very much! I hope that you had a great holiday as well!

    @April: Thanks! I do miss our camping trips, and hope we'll be able to get one scheduled on the East Coast sometime this year!

    @J: Thanks!

    @Scott: Thanks, Scott! I do try to make the common animals just as interesting as the more rare ones that I photograph. I hope that you and your family had a really nice hoilday!

    @Wildlife Photography: Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by -- I hope you'll subscribe to the RSS feed!

    @Steve: Thanks for your compliments and congrats! I definitely miss Point Reyes already, but it's fun to explore new places here in MA. I'm curious too to see where this year takes me photographically, since I'll have to adapt to my new environment.

    @Dominic: Thanks, Dominic -- I hope you've had a great start to your new year!

    @Jim: Thanks, Jim! I look forward to learning what those places are and sharing what I find here!

  13. Your photos bring tears to my eyes, they are so wonderful!

  14. Wonderful photos, Pat! And your post helped motivate me to do my own list. I think the pronghorn is my favorite. Hope you enjoy your Mass. explorations.

  15. What a great collection of images. I love the quail - that's a bird we don't have here, and I love the looks of them!

  16. Great series Pat. The plover with the worm photo is really amazing!

  17. Beautiful and inspiring collection Pat.

  18. Sounds and looks like you had a very good year. Congrats on your accomplishments. All of these images are so good it is hard to choose a favorite, though I too agree with you about the first one of the Sanderling. I've always admired nature/wildlife photographers. I’m the son of pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, a student and teaching associate of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. Dad also admired wildlife photographers. He always said he wasn't very good at capturing animals and birds on film, though he did do so quite successfully a few isolated times. He made a photo of a fox in Alaska one time that was very good and widely published. I’ve been around photography all my life and dabbled in it myself starting at age 10. I didn't consistently work to develop it until 2009 when I bought a Nikon D90. I have made a few attempts at wildlife, but have not developed my ability to be quiet or carry long enough lenses yet. It's an inspiration to see what you're doing. Maybe you've been asked this before, are you related at all to Larry and Donna Ulrich? I don't know them that well myself, but they were friends with my mom and dad. Hope you have a great 2012...

  19. Pat,

    Thanks for your work. It is so refreshing to see someone who knows what they are doing with a camera.

  20. Your work is awe inspiring Pat!

  21. Your pictures are gorgeous. What a lovely set of images. WOW!