photos photography year in photos hawaii california big basin redwoods state park pinnacles national park autumn colors pigeon point light station autumn eastern sierra

When the year’s days shorten and their number dwindles, I have liked to sometimes take the initiative to sort through all the photos I’ve taken (with my “big” camera). The eventual goal: to put together a sampling of the photos that stand out, sometimes for technical reasons, and sometimes for other reasons.

This year I sadly didn’t get out with the camera as much as I have in previous years, which made this post much easier (no excuses this year!). Less photos to sort through! And much easier to pick out a small representative sampling.

You can see my previous “year in photos” reviews here: 2016, 2014

Room with a view

Room with a view (
Room with a view ("place of refuge", Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park) (January 2018)

This was taken during the first government shutdown (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_government_shutdowns_of_2018) of 2018. National parks such as this one were left open but unstaffed and with the visitor center closed off.

Coast redwoods

Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) in Big Basin Redwoods State Park (March 2018)
Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) in Big Basin Redwoods State Park (March 2018)

This has always been my favorite escape. When I lived right inside Silicon Valley, it took quite a while to drive here. But since I have been living in Santa Cruz, it now takes just over a half an hour to drive to the other side, the coastal trailhead. The trail is called “Skyline to the Sea” for a good reason!

California condor

California condor (tag #6, purple6) flying overhead in Pinnacles National Park (April 2018)
California condor (tag #6, purple6) flying overhead in Pinnacles National Park (April 2018)

As hikers struggle up the trails in Pinnacles National Park, California condors and other vultures fly close overhead, so near that you can hear the wind rushing switfly through their feathers.

The behind-the-scenes for this photo is a little funny and embarassing. I shot this handheld with a 400mm lens, which is quite large. A foreign couple (I think German?) were nearby watching me point this massive camera up at times straight overhead, clicking away like some freak nature paparazzi. They giggled every time I pressed the shutter button. Click-click-click-click-click teehee-teehee-teehee-teehee.

Random factoid: when I first moved into the area, Pinnacles didn’t yet have a national park designation. President Theodore Roosevelt designated it a national monument in 1908. It became a national park in 2013, when President Barack Obama signed the new designation into law.

Distant landscape

Distant rocks at Pinnacles National Park (April 2018)
Distant rocks at Pinnacles National Park (April 2018)

A bit blurry, so not the best photo technically, but for some reason this composition stood out to me. Taken handheld with my 400mm lens. I love the freedom this lens has given me to zoom in an isolate subjects and compositions that are often just at the limits of my own eyes. But with that freedom comes the tradeoff of weight and conspiciousness. “Mr. Paraparazzi and the National Parks”

The Thinker

The Thinker by Rodin at Stanford University (April 2018)
The Thinker by Rodin at Stanford University (April 2018)

My good friend Mark drove up from LA for the weekend. We took a tour around the area, which included a walk around Stanford University’s campus. The modern art museum left me really confused, so it was nice to follow it up with a visit to the Rodin sculpture garden.

The is the large version of the famous Thinker statue (the smaller version sits on top of Rodin’s Gates of Hell). There are castings of this all over the world, and in a way it connects the dots of some of my travels. There’s another casting that I’ve photographed at the Kyoto National Museum in Japan.

Auric aspens

Auric aspens (September 2018)
Auric aspens (September 2018)

Traveled out to a location with my friend Kevin. I want to keep the location semi-secret because it was quite a surprise to find fall colors here at the end of a moderate hike. I really like this area - not too remote yet not too many people.

This is an example of not the greatest photo, but one I wanted to include anyway for the good memory. Hard to capture this memory.

Lundy canyon road

Lundy canyon road (October 2018)
Lundy canyon road (October 2018)

I have been dreaming of a shot like this for a while, except I was expecting to take it from a different location.

For a few years I have been waiting for the aspens around June Lake Loop (Yost Creek trail) to turn, but I am not sure they would ever look as good as this road. This location was found accidentally - after hiking back from the waterfall view, the trail dissipated and blended into the rocky landscape. I got lost, and meandered my way back. I was half convinced I was going to slip down the mountain and meet my end… but instead I found this fantastic vantage point with the shot I had always wanted. Then returning to the trail, I was half convinced these might be the last photos I took before I slipped off the mountain and shuffle off this mortal coil.

Look closely in the shadows and you can see fellow photographers setup below, also trying to capture the moment.

Lundy canyon waterfall

Lundy canyon waterfall (October 2018)
Lundy canyon waterfall (October 2018)

Aforementioned waterfall view. Way more spectacular in person. It was quite hard to capture the spirit of this one, especially with no tripod. I’ll know to pack to a lightweight tripod next time!

McGee Creek rockface

McGee Creek rockface (October 2018)
McGee Creek rockface (October 2018)

I found myself staring at some of these rockfaces more than the actual fall colors in this area. Kind of hard to capture the scale of this, but at the very least you can get a sense of the wonderful patterns that drew my eye upwards.

Duck on Parker Lake

Duck on Parker Lake (October 2018)
Duck on Parker Lake (October 2018)

The trailhead parking here was completely full on the previous day, which was a Sunday. I took Monday of and took advantage of it by returning to a nearly deserted parking, and a pretty quiet and easy walk to this great lake, with great majestic glaciered mountains as their backdrop. Very hard to capture the feeling of size here.

Random autumn leaf

Random autumn leaf (November 2018)
Random autumn leaf (November 2018)

I picked up this leaf in the parking lot at the Gilroy Barnes and Noble’s (I had to take a trip to take advantage of the Criterion 50% off sale). Nice selection of a bunch of colors. And after all these weeks is still looks mostly like this, which is strange…

Pigeon Point Light Station

Pigeon Point Light Station (Lighthouse) (December 2018)
Pigeon Point Light Station (Lighthouse) (December 2018)

The fence kind of messes with the mood of this one - I sure wish they would fix it up and remove the fence! But in any case, I knew the changing weather made for interesting clouds, so I was well-rewarded with some interesting skies. There were a bunch of photographers planted beside each other in a small area to the left of the lighthouse - I tend to avoid those gatherings and push myself to find other perspectives. In this case I think my lack of extroversion paid off!

Pigeon Point Light Station #2

Pigeon Point Light Station (Lighthouse) (December 2018)
Pigeon Point Light Station (Lighthouse) (December 2018)

Finally some experimenting with longer exposure photography! This was fun - the sea foam turned almost into a mist winding through mountains, like in some ancient Chinese painting. The downside: the longer exposure revealed a ton of dead pixels on my camera sensor.

There’s an alternate method to this which involves stacking multiple photos and averaging them out in post-production. But there is certainly a nice charm to trying to capture as much as possible to minimize the time required sitting in front of a computer screen, fixing the photo afterwards.

Allen’s Hummindbird

Allen's Hummindbird in Southern California (December 2018)
Allen's Hummindbird in Southern California (December 2018)

Time to spend Christmas down in Southern California with the family. There is a reliable little hummingbird protecting its area and its feeder. Finally had the right equipment and the patience to capture a decent snapshot of him!

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