2020 Ten Favorites

I never get around to sharing my top ten favorite photos for the year. This time I got on it early. I don’t think anybody is going to look back on 2020 fondly but pandemic, disasters, and conspiracy theory whackadoodles aside, this may have been one of my most creative years. Here are my favorite photographs of the year in somewhat chronological order.

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum Sunset – Landscape

The sun sets framing the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

This photograph of the sun setting behind the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is a favorite for a couple of reasons. I love the iconic Big Sun Setting Behind Something look because it reminds me of Endless Summer. The other reason is that I shot this a couple weeks before COVID-19 showed up in California. This was my last COVID-free image of the year.

Isabella’s Graduation – Portrait

Graduation

I was hired for a special portrait session for Isabella, a recent college graduate. It was early August and the pandemic meant that our shoot was going to be at her parents’ home rather than at Syracuse, New York. I did a considerable amount of planning to create a special session just for her. To capture the height of the trees I lay down on the ground and used a wide angle lens. I had been working with some new radio triggers that allowed me to adjust my strobes from remote so we could keep a safe distance.

Amber – Portrait

Amber

Funny thing, this year most of my favorite photographs are portraits. Amber is an entrepreneur, dating coach, portrait and event photographer from New York. She had recently moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains and we got to be friends.

Wildfire – Landscape / Photojournalism

Burned Tree – CZU Lightning Complex Fire

Things got bad in the middle of August. A dry lightning storm rolled through the Santa Cruz Mountains and ignited a series of fires in Bonny Doon. Those fires merged into a monster. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands of us had to evacuate for weeks. I photographed the area around Big Basin Redwoods State Park with a guide and a local reporter shortly after the evacuation orders were lifted.

Air Attack – Photojournalism

A CalFire helicopter drops water on a spot fire.

Fires were still popping up for weeks after the main fires of the CZU Lightning Complex wildfires were under control. Just before evacuation orders were lifted I captured a series of CalFire helicopters dropping water on a spot fire across the valley. I wrote about the fire experience on PhotoFocus.

Alexis – Portrait

My favorite portrait of Alexis in 2020

Life settled down a little and things were almost routine again by October. Alexis and I coordinated a fun shoot at a spot I had been scouting much earlier. I used a combination of ambient light and strobes to get this portrait how I had in mind.

Capitola By The Sea – Landscape

Capitola Village and Soquel Creek Long Exposure

I’ve photographed this scene before. This time I had some new ideas for composing and processing the image. I saw this set of clouds rolling in and knew what I wanted to capture and how to do it.

Rohanna – Portrait

Rohanna in Red

Rohanna is a dear friend and a favorite local model. This area was untouched by the wildfires so I scouted for portrait settings. Rohanna brought this stunning outfit and some of my earlier ideas sprung to life.

Davenport – Landscape

Davenport Beach Long Exposure

The sun had set to my right, the tide was rising, and a mist was forming. I waited for the waves to rush up against me for this image. Yeah, I wrecked a perfectly good pair of shoes for this but I’m delighted with the results.

Danielle – Portrait

Danielle and Fall Colors Bokeh

I can’t pass up an opportunity to photograph Danielle Crook. Actor, musician, singer and glorious personality.

2018 ten Favorite Photographs

It’s been a custom of most photographers that I know and follow to collect their favorite photographs from the past year. This is the first time I’ve gathered my favorites and let me tell you, narrowing it down to ten was difficult. Whittling it down to the top 30 is pretty easy. The top 20 a little harder. Those last twelve though… ouch. Excluding two favorites was hard because I had to really think about why they were included in the list.

Here we go in no particular order for 2018.

Not surprisingly a lot of photographs are from Yosemite and the surrounding areas. Debbie and I visited our favorite spots and explored some scenes that were new to us.

wild flowers, Hites Cove, Yosemite, spring, 2018
Wild Flowers at Hites Cove. I’ve always loved the look of backlit wild flowers.

I added some new gear this year: A Canon 5d Mk III and a Canon 17-40 f/4 L-Series lens. I don’t want to say that it made me a better photographer, but it did add some new tools and new choices. The 5d Mk III also added couple of new limitations too. I spent the past few years using a Canon 7d, a 7d Mk II, and my trusty Rebel XT, all crop frame cameras. Each one is the right tool for a specific job. Each one will also be the wrong tool in some situations. I found that the experience with the crop frame cameras gave me a solid foundation to put that 5d to good use.

Debbie and I made a trip to Bodega Bay and decided on a stop at Bodega Head. An incredible sunset waited for us along with backlit ice plant and wild flowers.

Sunset at Bodega Head

2018 was largely about seeking new angles and trying new ideas. Of course many of those ideas were explored in Yosemite. Below is a favorite walk to Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite Falls, Wide And High

More Yosemite adventures intentionally included areas that I haven’t explored much. Debbie and I went for a long day hike to Chilnualna Falls on the south side of the park. We could have gone lighter and in retrospect I really didn’t need the 70-200 f/2.8 when the 70-200 f/4 would have done just as well and weighed less than half of that beast. Still, this was as much about a physical challenge as it was about making art. I think I saw 20 people all day. I’d see that in the first 2 minutes in the valley.

Chilnualna Falls, April, 2018. I’ll be honest, I had a heck of a time pronouncing “Chilnualna Falls” so you will probably hear me refer to it as “Chalupa Falls” .

One idea I really wanted to explore was long exposures and more different angles. My daughter and I went for a stroll in downtown Santa Cruz on a rainy day. We stopped in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz where I was excited by the reflections, patterns, and lines. I decided to blend exposures of various lengths, the longest was about 240 seconds.

Rainy Pacific Avenue Long Exposure

More black and white and more very long exposures what a big theme for me in 2018. Most of my recent black and white photographs were inspired by Nathan Wirth, Clyde Butcher, and AJ Alfano.

Pigeon Point Black And White Long Exposure

I spent a little more time at Shark Fin cove than I usually do. Again, exploring more long exposures, black and white, and post processing techniques.

Sixty Seconds at Shark Fin Cove

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has been a source of much inspiration over the past several years. This year I was very choosey and very happy with the choices. The patterns of the redwood burl have always excited me and I explored them as black and white.

Redwood Grove, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

One photo was very personal. I rarely post pictures of myself and even fewer of immediate family. My daughter and I made a run for Taft Point for what I expected to be the last day that Glacier Point Road would be open. This photograph is a favorite for many reasons, almost all of them because of the strong emotional attachment. The sky was especially red because of the Camp Fire still raging.

Me and my daughter at Taft Point

By now you probably think that I spent most of my time at Shark Fin Cove and Yosemite. I suppose you wouldn’t be far from the truth. I met with a couple of friends where we explored the typical angles. I wanted something different so I got down very low to capture the details, lines, textures, and reflections. I waited for the sun to catch on a low layer of clouds miles away to create a fun lens flare.

Shark Fin Cove Sunset

Thanks again for visiting and for reading! What are some photos that you are especially happy with from 2018? What are your creative goals for 2019? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.