The results are in and you have selected your favorite photographs of 2012. Before presenting the results let me just say how much I appreciate the input from everyone that participated. This has been an exciting experience for me and I hope you had fun.
So, on to the results. There were eight photographs in the final runoff. They were the top two of their categories – California Deserts, Big Sur, Eastern Sierra and Zion National Park. So each one is a winner in it’s own right.
Let’s start with number 8 – Sunrise, North Lake.
North Lake is in the Eastern Sierra just outside the town of Bishop,, California. It is one of three lakes that are up Bishop Creek. North Lake sets itself apart from the other two (Sebrina and South Lakes) in that it is naturel. Besides being the smallest there is no dam to back up water and generate electricity. The only development is a pack station at its head. And there’s a rustic campsite upstream a little ways. I always return to this same location because of the boulders in the foreground, the soft grasses and the snag in the middle ground. The colors at sunrise are magnificent with the cool blues and greens that are still in the shade and the bright warm morning light on the peak in the back. I get a strong feeling that all is well with the world when I’m there.
In seventh place is the other Eastern Sierra photograph – Twin Lakes.
This is one of the beautiful lakes that gives the community of Mammoth Lakes its name. This image is perfect harmony for me. Everything is in balance and I feel drawn into the scene. I realized that the lake bottom could be an important element of the composition so I used a polarizer filter reduce the reflection on the water and let the rocks and gravel come through. I think it worked very well.
For sixth place you selected Zion Starry Night.
This is a tree in Zion National Park, Utah that I’ve photographed may times in morning light. It is a stunted Jeffery pine that grows out of the top of a hoodoo. I thought it would be fun to photograph it at night with the stars in the heavens swirling overhead. And it was. It’s a magical experience to pick your way through the dark to where you want to set up. The technique I use is to take many 30 second exposures and stack them all together to create the star trails. It’s pretty crazy to try to get a composition and lock in the focus when you can’t see what you’re doing. But once you have everything ready to go you turn out all the lights, turn on your camera and then lay down on the living rock, gaze up at the sky and watch the stars slowly turn overhead. I think that’s the best part.
In fifth place is Pinto Basin Dawn from Joshua Tree National Park here in Southern California.
This is an amazing place to catch the splendor of a desert sunrise. This location is just off the side of the road – not by a turnout. I happened to see it as I was driving by, hit the brakes, slammed the car into reverse and backed up to the place where everything fell into place. The golden light of dawn filled the basin bordered in the distance by the ever-fascinating Cockscomb Mountains. The foreground was still in shade. I could get lost in this photograph.
For fourth place we return to Zion National Park for Clearing Storm, West Temple.
I had driven out from Southern California the night before chasing the lightning in the storms that were scudding across the desert. When I arrived at my favorite West Temple location the following morning, the canyon was still heavy with storm clouds. But as the sun came up they began to clear. It’s not often that these moments occur and it’s humbling to be given the opportunity to capture it. What a thrill it was.
Now to third place. We need to return to California, this time to the Big Sur coast and legendary Pfeiffer Beach. When I saw these golden rays I was transported back to Cologne, Germany and the incomparable Gothic cathedral there. Wonderful light streams through the stained glass windows. And here in California I experienced the same thing. Presenting Pfeiffer Beach God Rays.
This was one of those times that I really connected with the scene and stove to capture exactly what I was feeling and this is it.
There’s just two to go. In second place we return to the desert, this time Death Valley National Park. The photograph is a wonderful sunrise that seems to say all there is to say about this incredible place – Sunrise, Death Valley.
I saw this location as I drove in the previous afternoon and was inspired to return for sunrise the following morning. There are many things I love about it that tell the Death Valley story. The morning clouds, a rare treat in the desert, perfectly mirrored the patterned salt below. The distant mountains that barely rise above the horizon speak of the immense vastness of this valley that is more than 100 miles long. There are a lot of things that need to come together for a great photograph and this is without a doubt my best Death Valley effort.
The first and second place photographs seesawed back and forth in the early voting. But in the end this Big Sur photograph came out on top. We return again to Pfeiffer Beach for this sunset image.
We were busy photographing the tunnel where the God Rays photograph was taken as this glorious sunset was developing. When we finally looked up I knew the streaks of color that stretched across the sky needed a complementary foreground so I literally sprinted up the beach with my 40 pounds of camera gear on my back to get this rock outcrop into just the right position. As it turned out the colors lingered for quite some time but I was happy to be in position. The waves washed in and the ever-changing surf spread across the sand. One beautiful moment was followed by another. I took a lot of shots that evening but this was my favorite. And it was yours too.
Well, that wraps it up for 2012. This was an exciting experience from me and for that I thank you. Now I’m eager to find out what you think of my 2013 photographs. That will get started soon.
These photographs were all taken during workshops and it would be an honor if you would join me on one and give me the opportunity to share these beautiful locations with you. Join me on an upcoming workshop. Click here for more details.