Despite the continuing COVID-19 pandemic this year, I am grateful I was able to travel a bit. Two separate flights to California and a few road trips. While trying to keep as safe as possible, and being lucky so far not to have symptoms of COVID over this two year period (at the moment anyway…).

One of my favorite hiking spots this year was the Williamson Preserve, which is a long path of hiking and biking trails that was recently converted from farmland. In the summertime the crews there planted a ton of flowers which attracted so many large butterflies. On one of my hikes this area was swarming with Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, along with a lot of bees. Pollinators' paradise!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (dark form) at Williamson Preserve, North Carolina

Here’s a short clip of them in action, along with a bonus dragonfly at the end:

In July I flew out to Los Angeles for a wedding, where I snuck in some extra time with a friend and a visit to the Getty Villa. I grew up in LA and knew I wanted to make the trip a mix of old and new - of nostalgia mixed with new things. The Getty Villa is a place I’d always heard about and wanted to see. It was somewhat amusing that the place had turned into such an “influencer hotspot”, but I suppose with my own camera I’m not too much different, so I shouldn’t have been too judgmental!

Between two worlds at the Getty Villa

Later in the summer I decided to take a road trip to Washington, DC, where I hadn’t been since I was a kid. It turned out to be about only four hours away, so I definitely plan to revisit! I did get burned out on museums way sooner than I anticipated, but I really enjoyed my time there wandering around.

Lincoln Memorial at night

The irony wasn’t lost on me when seeing stormy weather over the Capitol Building. Just seven months before, a group of domestic terrorists stormed into the building, beckoned on by our then-president.

Stormy weather at dusk at the US Capitol Building and the Washington Memorial
Sunlight filtering through the autumn trees (木漏れ日)
Fall colors at a local lake in Cary, North Carolina
Manzanar road pointing to Mount Williamson the Eastern Sierra mountains

When I lived in California I really enjoyed road trips out to see the Eastern Sierra. One time I woke up very early to see the fantastic pink skies at sunrise at Manzanar, but I was never very satisfied with the quality of the photos I attempted to take. On this trip I corrected that, and I finally got some shots I thought ended up decent!

Sunrise in the Eastern Sierra

Light changes so fast at the time of day. Looking out in the distance I spotted these great clouds over the mountains.

Sunrise in the Eastern Sierra

And in a dramatic display of how fast the light changes, here’s the same landscape just five minutes later! The morning sun was just starting to warm the tips of the mountains.

Sunrise in the Eastern Sierra
Sunrise in the Eastern Sierra
Moonrise over Trona Pinnacles
Sunrise at the soul-consoling tower in Manzanar (慰靈塔)

Manzanar is kind of a special place with an eerie feeling. It’s the site of a Japanese internment camp setup during WWII. Thousands of Japanese lived here, and up until recently there was very little trace. Over the years of visiting I’ve seen this expand into a really educational experience, with a great free museum and reconstructed barracks. When my family first visited many years ago there was just the closed main hall (where the museum now is) along with this tower and cemetary.

Now there are even little benches setup in what used to be gardens, and even some cherry trees planted around.

Check out some more of my shots from the area from my 2014 Year in Photos!