Showing posts with label favorite photographs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label favorite photographs. Show all posts

Monday, December 23, 2019

Favorite Photos from 2019

My photographic productivity this year was constrained to the summer and early fall. While the number of trips was limited the quality was great, and I had a lot of luck finding shorebirds during the summer breeding season and fall migration through Massachusetts. My encounters with the piping plover chicks made it a fun challenge to parse down my list of 2019 favorites, and I tried not to let them dominate my selections. My ten favorites from the year are below, in no particular order.

Thanks as always to Jim Goldstein for his inspiration each year to compile my list of favorites for his annual blog project.

Piping plover chick ready to brood, Sandy Point State Reservation
The moments of interaction between a parent and its young is such a special thing to witness. Here, a young plover chick is approaching its mother to warm up under her feathers.
Piping plover chick approaching its parent to brood

Sanderling at the edge of the flock, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
When photographing shorebirds, I generally find myself trying to isolate an individual bird away from the clutter of the flock. It's a fun challenge to incorporate other birds in the background, and nice when it adds to the composition.
Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Sanderlings &emdash; Sanderlings feeding in Parker River NWR

Consolation prize, Sunrise sliding down Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park
I had forgotten how crazy the summit of Cadillac Mountain can be for a summer sunrise, and arrived too late to get a spot in the lot on this August morning. I drove to the overflow lot down the road, and instead of joining the huge crowd looking east, I stayed on the western slope and had this view over Eagle Lake to myself.
Sunrise on the peak of Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park

Least tern chick at sunrise, Sandy Point State Reservation
A tender moment between parent and chick as they waited for the other parent to return with a fish.
Least tern chick snuggled with parent in Massachusetts

Piping plover chick, Sandy Point State Reservation
Pulling off a portrait of a tiny piping plover chick would be a real challenge if they weren't so delightfully curious. I'm always amazed at how close they'll come if you're lying still in the sand.
Piping plover chick standing tall in morning light on Plum Island, Massachusetts

Brooding piping plovers, Sandy Point State Reservation
There's something special about seeing a parent caring for its chicks, and I love to photograph piping plovers brooding their little ones.
Piping plover brooding its chicks on the beach in Massachusetts

Semipalmated sandpiper, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
I'm a sucker for head-on shots of shorebirds, and nailing the focus on the eyes of a moving target creates a fun (or frustrating?) challenge.
Head-on view of semipalmated sandpiper in Massachusetts

Room for one more? Piping plovers at Sandy Point
This photo is one frame from my favorite series from the summer, where four large chicks attempt to brood under their father at the same time.
Piping plover chick joins two siblings under the parents wing

Dramatic sunrise light, Sanderling at Parker River NWR
The high tides on this particular morning offered a non-traditional lighting for my style of shorebird photography. As this sanderling came very close to my position, I attempted to maximize the warm tones of this dramatic sidelight.
Sanderling with dramatic side-lighting at sunrise

Piping plover chick at sunrise, Sandy Point State Reservation
It's easy to forget about the 3:30am wakeup call when you find yourself taking portraits of an adorable chick blanketed in the warm golden tones of a mid-summer sunrise!
Piping plover chick at sunrise on Plum Island, Massachusetts

Thanks for viewing my favorites photographs from 2019! If you've enjoyed them, feel free to check out my previous favorites from 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. All the best to you and yours in 2020!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Favorite Photographs of 2017

2017 was an exciting year for me, though not as much for photography. We welcomed our first child to the family, and it has been so much fun being a new father. This, of course, has left my free time pretty limited -- though I did make a few pre-baby trips to Plum Island to look for piping plovers, and I had a chance to spend time with a small flock of sandpipers on our first trip with the baby to Southern Maine.

I enjoy reflecting on the images I've taken each year, and even with only a handful of photographic opportunities this year, I was still able to come home with a few noteworthy photos. I'm far too late to submit to Jim Goldstein's Annual Blog Project -- but it remains an inspiration for this yearly endeavor. Here are my five favorite photographs from 2017.

Plover parent and chick, Sandy Point State Reservation
This is perhaps my favorite of the year based on the context of my own 2017. While waiting for the arrival of my son this summer, I was able to get away for a short outing to look for baby piping plovers at Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island. Two years ago, I had a handful of very productive trips there and there seemed to be plover chicks all over the beach with some parents watching over as many as four at a time. Unfortunately, this was one of only three chicks I saw on the beach this year, and it was the single chick in the clutch for this parent. While it was disappointing to see so few nesting plovers, it was special to observe this parent watching over it's chick -- especially when I knew that my own son would be arriving soon. While humans have our own set of challenges as new parents, at least our babies aren't born mobile and running around on the beach evading predators from day one!
Photo of piping plover parent and chick in Massachusetts

Running piping plover, Sandy Point State Reservation
On a spring trip to catch the sunset on Plum Island, there was a dearth of sandpipers around, but I did have a nice encounter with a handful of piping plovers cruising the tidal flats. It's always special to be able to observe a threatened species, and this particular adult gave me a lot of nice looks as it probed the sand looking for a late meal. They have such an interesting rhythm as they run in short bursts of speed before stopping on a dime, then running again. Here, this friendly plover was sprinting straight toward my lens (eventually getting within my minimum focusing distance before scurrying off in a different direction.)
Photo of a running piping plover on the beach in Massachusetts

Snowy egret in a salt marsh, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
On my drive out of the refuge as the last of the sun's rays were slipping past the horizon, I saw this lone egret working the salt pannes of the Great Marsh. Wetlands are by far my favorite ecosystem, and yet I've struggled to create many meaningful images of them. This one came together nicely for me -- with the low golden light, a beautiful white bird causing waves of ripples, and the lush greens of springtime salt grass. Taking in a scene like this with a deep cleansing breath is food for my soul.
Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Herons & Egrets &emdash; Snowy egret in salt marsh at sunset

Harsh realities of being small, Sandy Point State Reservation
The wind was really whipping on this trip. My face was scoured by sand while walking along the beach, but when going down to ground-level, I could get an even stronger feel for how tough it must be to live in this harsh coastal environment. I was able to create a series of interesting images with the sand blurring out the scene, and the plovers finding any small shelter they could on the beach. But in this one, the steadfast strength of the small bird pushing forward into the driving sand speaks to me.
Photo of a piping plover walking through blowing sand in Massachusetts

Backlit sanderlings, Ogunquit Beach, Maine
We took a weekend trip to Southern Maine in the fall to introduce my son to the coast. He had a blast on our afternoon visit to the beach, and I sincerely hope we're able to pass to him our love of the coastal environment. The next day, my wife graciously made me get up before the sunrise to seek out some shorebirds. I took a long walk along Ogunquit Beach with the rising sun and found none. Then, as seems to happen far too often, as I was nearly back to my car the birds were hanging out in sight of the parking lot! The contours of the beach and rising tide limited my ability to get a good position with the sun over my shoulder without getting soaked. But the birds were extremely friendly, so I tried to make the most of the situation. I attempted some more stark backlit silhouettes with reflections in the wet sand, but this composition worked best in a fleeting moment when a cloud passed over the sun.
Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Sanderlings &emdash; Backlit sanderlings in Maine

Thanks for taking a look through my favorites from the past year, and all the best to you for 2018!

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!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 Favorites

Inspired by Jim Goldstein's annual blog project, here are my personal favorites from 2010. I had a very productive year, with almost 150 blog posts and images appearing in a few conservation publications. Additionally, I was honored to take second place in the Wildlands category of the 2010 Defender's of Wildlife contest. I also just launched my new portfolio website -- -- so please stop by and take a look around.

In no particular order, here's my favorite fifteen of 2010, with a link to the original blog post of each.

Evenly Matched
Our August hike to see the tule elk rut was awesome, capped off by having a front row seat while these two males fought. This image quickly became one of my most viewed on Flickr, and was selected as a weekly pick in the 2010 National Geographic contest.
Photograph of two fighting tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore

Sleeping Sandpipers
I had a fantastic encounter with a very large flock of peeps along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes in November. I spent a fair amount of time crawling around in the sand with the birds and took a lot of images, but this frame jumped out to me right away as I was going through the shots.
Photograph of sleeping sandpipers in Point Reyes National Seashore

From that same November trip, this was just a small portion of the entire flock of shorebirds. I had a handful of opportunities to photograph the flocks moving up and down the beach, and this was my favorite of the bunch. The light, birds, waves, and bluffs all came together at the right moment.
Photograph of a flock of shorebirds landing on the beach in Point Reyes National Seashore

Calling Plover
This was the first good opportunity I've ever had to get close to a black-bellied plover, and I was happy to come away with a frame of it calling.
Photograph of a plover calling out on the tidal flats in California

Stalking Salmon
One of my favorite trips of the year was an October drive up to Lake Tahoe to see the Kokannee salmon run, and especially the local black bears that feast on it. We were fortunate enough to get to see this cub and its mother catch many salmon in the creek.
Photograph of a black bear cub stalking salmon near Lake Tahoe

Salmon & Bears
This is the mother bear with a fresh caught salmon from the creek. Until about a week before I took this trip, I had no idea that you could see a scene like this in California! Once I found out about it, it was too incredible of an opportunity to miss, and we were there the next weekend.
Photograph of a black bear with a Kokanee salmon in its jaws

A lone western sandpiper separated from a large flock of sanderlings. It can be challenging to compose a striking image from a large flock of birds, but it gets much easier when one bird is separated from the group.
Photograph of one sandpiper isolated from the flock in Point Reyes National Seashore

Too Much Fun
One of my favorite wildlife encounters of the year was getting to spend some time watching this long-tailed weasel play in a cattle grate. It was full of energy, and was very curious about me (and my car) as it bounded in and out of the grate, and snuck closer to me to get a better look.
Photograph of a long-tailed weasel having fun in a cattle grate

Prim & Proper
I had a handful of great quail encounters this spring, and this is one of my favorite shots from them. The creamy backdrop is a hillside across the valley.
Photograph of a prim and proper California quail in Marin County

Another frame from our August hike out Tomales Point to see the tule elk. While seeing a few fights between bulls was the highlight, we spent most of the time watching them feed.
Photograph of a tule elk browsing in Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail in a Sea of Gold
This quail picked a great perch in front of a sea of yellow wildflowers, and was kind enough to hang out on it until I got close enough and at the right position to take this shot.
Photograph of a California quail set against a backdrop of golden wildflowers

Whenever I view this image, I can still feel the stillness and quiet solitude of that morning. I've taken many trips to Limantour Beach under the early morning fog, and this shot really captured the essence the experience.
Photograph of a foggy morning in the estuary at Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail on a Post
I had a good year photographing California quail in 2010, and this image was on my first really nice opportunity. I like how this light and the pose help to highlight the beautiful patterns of the feathers on its neck.
Photograph of a male California quail on a fencepost in Point Reyes

Douglas Iris
I'm not particularly drawn to photographing flowers, but irises have a special place in my heart. I love to find these early spring wildflowers covering the coastal hillsides of Point Reyes National Seashore.
Photograph of a wild Douglas iris in Point Reyes National Seashore

Relaxing on Loser's Beach
My favorite annual event along the coast is the winter arrival of the northern elephant seals. These animals are incredible, and walking among then at Año Nuevo State Reserve really makes you feel like you're in a nature documentary. I can't wait to take my annual pilgrimage there in early January!
Photograph of a northern elephant seal relaxing on the beach

And finally, as a bonus, here is one of my favorite shots that my beautiful wife took of me behind the lens this year. This is from our trip up to Tahoe:
Photograph of Pat Ulrich photographing Lake Tahoe

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year & Favorites of 2009

I'm back in Northern California after our very busy but great holiday travels, and I wanted to wish you all a (belated) Happy New Year! I still have a handful of images from late 2009 that I haven't had the chance to post yet (including probably two more sets from the San Diego Zoo), but I thought I would start off a new year with a recap of my favorite photos that I took in 2009 (as inspired by Jim Goldstein's annual Blog Project). Last year was a really fun year for me photographically, as I had some of the best wildlife encounters I've ever experienced, as well as upgrades to both a longer lens and a new camera.

In no particular order, here's my Fine Fifteen from 2009.

Without a doubt this was one of my favorite shots from last year -- it even appeared as an editor's choice in the Autumn Issue of The Nature Conservancy's magazine.
Photograph of light streaming through a foggy forest in Tomales Bay State Park

When I went to Ano Nuevo State Reserve in January, we opted for a late day tour, since we had done an early one the previous year. It turned out that we were always facing into the sun when viewing the elephant seals, which made for poor photo conditions. However, we luckily decided to walk one of the other beaches in the park for the sunset, and were treated to great light on three spectacular giants.
Photograph of a northern elephant seal posturing at Ano Nuevo State Reserve

As I wrote about when I posted this one, I am still searching for my 'perfect' shot of the bridge in the fog, but this one did turn out nicely.
Photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge draped in fog at sunrise

My Halloween outing to Point Reyes was one of my favorite wildlife experiences I've ever had (posted as a four part series, see part one here). I had never before spent time with a wild coyote up close, and the deer gave some great poses too. This was one of those times that the experience makes the images better in my mind than they may actually be, and I had to limit myself to picking just two.
Photograph of a mule deer doe on the alert

Spending this much time with a coyote is something I won't soon forget.
Photograph of a coyote on a foggy morning in Point Reyes National Seashore

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to get a nice series of this willet in the overcast early morning light.
Photograph of a friendly willet in Point Reyes National Seashore

This shot was an attempt on my part to make the conscious effort to get out of my comfort zone and take images that were not wildlife based. There was something attractive to me about this tumbleweed shape in the sands of Point Reyes.
Photograph of beach tumbleweed in Point Reyes

A classic pose of a dowitcher preening from the ponds at Radio Road.
Photograph of a dowitcher standing tall while preening

This was the closest I've ever been able to get to oystercatchers, as a trio of them were quite relaxed along the rocks at Point Lobos State Reserve. The overcast skies made for some dreary scenery, but also for a great exposure of their black plumage against the sandstone.
Photographic portrait of a black oystercatcher at Point Lobos State Reserve

Taking a friendly charge from this guy was quite a thrill, and he gave me this awesome pose as my prize for not ducking under the bench I was sitting on.
Mule deer buck in Point Reyes National Seashore

I'm a sucker for both preening birds and Northern Shovelers -- so put them together, and this had to be one of my favorites.
Photograph of a northern shoveler drake preening

This great blue heron was kind enough to allow me to work my way in quite close for some full-frame portraits.
Photographic portrait of a great blue heron

After finding very few birds along the beach at Limantour Spit, this sparrow was waiting for me in the parking lot when I returned to the car.
White-crowned sparrow in Point Reyes National Seashore

It was a pleasure to watch a small group of godwits feeding in the surf at Drake's Beach in Point Reyes.
Photograph of three marbled godwits in Point Reyes

A small waterfall on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands, WA.
Photograph of a waterfall along Cascade Creek

Here's to hoping that 2010 gives all of us even more memories, and some stunning photos too.