Before we get started I wanted to say, “thank you” to everyone who has helped support me over the last year. From purchasing prints, licensing images and taking workshops 2019 was a fantastic year with so many memories. When I asked on my FB page if people wanted to see 12 of my favorite images of the year or my favorites from each month, the answer was clear, you wanted to see my faves from each month. I love that you want to see this because it helps keep me shooting all year long when in reality, I could easily take some time off in Jan and Feb when the weather isn’t favorable for photography where I live.
It’s super hard to pick 1 image from each month because some months include several shooting locations. So this year I have sat down and picked out 27 images to share with you. I picked these 27 out of the 754 master files I created this year. I love photography, I love being out shooting images and sharing the beauty of what I see with you. From the West Coast all the way to the Caribbean, abandoned nights to beautiful sunrise and sunsets, I’ll be talking about each of these images in detail so you know the story behind them. In this set of images there are no blends or composites. All are real images as seen through the camera as they were when I shot them. I hope you enjoy!
After hosting a workshop along the central Oregon Coast, I took some time for some personal shooting along the southern Oregon Coast. There are many places where you can get right out to the waters edge with breathtaking views. This is a short 10 min hike down to an overlook (flat spot on a rock) that offers views that span 270 degrees wide. When I started this shot the sunlight wasn’t showing but during the super long exposure the sun started to light up the horizon. The smooth water is created by using a very long exposure.
2019 will always be known as the year Jupiter was riding around the Dark Horse Nebula. Right above the cross on the old abandoned church you will see a bright spot, That’s Jupiter, and it stayed there for the entire summer. It moved around a little bit but not much. I am honestly happy to say that as much fun as it was to watch the various positions of Jupiter in the DHN, I am glad it wont be there in 2020. It will be under the Milky Way aligned with Mars, Saturn and Pluto (the 9th planet). Venus is the bright planet you see in this image in the lower left. Shot in Eastern Colorado on a moonless night.
“Afternoon at the Dunes”
Great Sand Dunes National Park offers stunning views, there is no doubt about that. My intentions were to hike out onto the dunes and create some images with beautiful sand patterns in the foreground. Upon my arrival I realized I had picked the windiest day of the year to attempt this. Making the most of it, I did walk out onto the dunes only to find that it was impossible to shoot while being sandblasted. I don’t mind shooting in a little rain or wind but when there is blowing sand involved I am a little more careful with my gear… 1 or 2 grains of sand can run a lens. I saw the clouds rolling in and decided to cut my losses and come back another time in hopes of calmer weather. As I was driving out of the park I noticed some deer along the side of the road. I stopped to take their picture and then looked back and saw this scene. What caught my eye was the angle of light and various textures in each of the 4 layers of the image from foreground to sky. The baby blue sky was nice but I felt the image was stronger in back and white and that was my thought when I was actually shooting the image.
In March I had a unique opportunity to visit Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico with a friend who was able to get us permission to stay up there for a night and shoot. We had planned for 2 nights in case of weather and we lucked out and had great skies on the first night. The second night a storm rolled in and it was totally cloudy. While we were there we had the freedom to pretty much shoot anywhere we wanted as long as we were not in the way of the researchers. The astronomers who were working there were super nice and willing to talk to us about what they were doing. Most were college students working on various levels research for papers. We got to see how the Sloan 2.5 meter telescope worked and how they are using fiber optics in metal plates to map the sky. That was really cool. Looking south in this image you see Orion as it’s rising up over the housing for the SDSS (Sloan Telescope) on the far left and the ARCSAT 0.5m telescope just to the right of it. Higher up in the atmosphere were some winds which caused the clouds to streak during the exposure. The lights in the background are from El Paso, TX and Juarez Mexico.
“Through the Looking Glass”
In and around the Moab area there are many hidden treasures if you are willing to go looking for them. Because I knew we had a BLM permit to teach in other places besides Arches and Canyonlands I started doing a little research for other places to take our group during our workshops. As coincidental as it may be, while looking on Google Maps I was also scrolling through facebook and noticed an image of this arch. I asked my friend if he would give up the location and he soon responded with enough info for me to find it. I had some time to kill so I went and scouted it out. When I got close enough to park I was looking at it thinking, nah, this wont work but then when I got out and started walking around I soon realized that this was an amazing place to shoot the night sky with a group. What I also noticed was how the midday sun was creating some amazing shadows that were just deep enough to give this image so much depth and texture. I shot low and wide to capture the beauty of this place in it’s sunlit glory.
“Riding Through the Heavens”
Here we are with the group of amazing workshop students who were willing to trust our knowledge and planning. We arrived just as the Milky Way was rising up over the arch. We took our time and got everyone set up in a spot they felt comfortable. After everyone was set up and shooting, I dropped back to set my camera up and capture a timelapse while I worked with the group. During one of my test shots to dial in the settings this meteor when streaking through the sky.
An old abandoned stagecoach sits under Polaris as the Earth spins at roughly 1000 mph. The goal of this location was to shoot the Milky Way as a pano arching over the old building. We were able to do that successfully and then we decided to try other things. The sky was super clear and that means it’s a great time to do some star trails. There are some reports that this place is haunted. Legend has it that the lady ghost is waiting for her fiance to arrive on his horse. He was killed in a hold up on his way to join her on their wedding night in May of 1878. I was hoping to see her but she never appeared. Maybe next time I’ll ride a horse to the old stagecoach.
This is the Lasal Viewpoint in Arches National Park. It’s a place I visit often, generally at night, but rarely shoot during the day. I find the scene rather challenging most of the time. On this particular morning I could see the clouds building as it was getting light and thought this may be a good time to take out my camera and find a nice composition. Often times the clouds are never where we want them. Just as the sun was getting ready to come over the horizon this really nice pastel light appeared and created the soft tones you see here. I gave the image some breathing room by standing back just a little bit from the edge so that the viewer would have a sense of place as if they were standing there too.
I spend roughly 35-50 days a year in Arches National Park. Scouting locations and teaching workshops gives me a good sense of the area. This is a location I had been to many times before but had never went the extra 100 feet past the arch to see what was on the other side. Directly behind me is the arch. The sun was setting and we were waiting patently for the sky to get dark so we could shoot the Milky Way when I noticed this unique rock that looked to be balancing on one side. I had nice clouds with good light but I couldn’t figure out the composition…It needed balance and I was very limited where I could stand to shoot. I felt the rocks on the right and left balanced out the image nicely with the sprawling clouds in the sky.
“Sugar Beach Piton’s View”
With a small family of just 3 people it may seem easy to agree on a vacation destination yet we all have different likes and wants when it comes to where we want to visit. We sat down and did some looking and found a place that fit all our needs and wants. We ended up in St. Lucia. This worked out well for all of us and I was even able to do a little work while I was there. From our resort we had amazing views looking south between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean but the real adventure started when we took a catamaran out into the Caribbean to see the island from the water. The views were idyllic. The lush green trees of the hillsides towering up into the sapphire blue sky with homes nestled along the shores and boats in the water. It was just too perfect not to capture with my camera. We visited 2 locations to do some snorkeling and I opted out of the second one so that I could spend some time capturing this beautiful island.
After a couple years scouting and planning (and waiting for permits and lodging) we were finally able to make our 1st Yellowstone National Park Night Photography Workshop a reality. It sold out extremely fast and we were super excited to be able to bring people into such a popular place and have them leave with such unique photos. After the sun goes down the crowds just vanish and we basically had the entire park to ourselves. This is one of the locations we had scouted out to share with our workshop students. In this area there are 3 thermal pools which all offer great views of the Milky Way. The trick here was to get the image while the steam was being blowing in the other direction so that it wasn’t blocking the view of the Milky Way. You can see Andromeda just to the right of the steam above the hill in the back. The workshop was a huge success and we look forward to doing it again this year!
We finished our Yellowstone workshop on July 7th about 2am in the morning and I knew I was headed to Montana. I had seen pictures of this old church and it top on my list of places to visit and photograph. I packed up all my stuff and left Yellowstone about 2:30am and made the 600 mile drive up to Dooley, Montana. I stopped along the way and shot other things, took a nap and just made sure I was up there before sunset. I had plenty of time and made it with time to spare. I took my time getting familiar with the area as a massive storm rolled in. About 9pm on July 7th, thunder and lightning started and it lasted a good 5-6 hours. The sky started clearing just before sunrise. I grabbed my camera and did a walk around of the building to find a good vantage point to shoot from. After shooting for 30 min the sun came up and headed out to my next locations. When I got home a few days later I found out that the church had collapsed just hours after this shot was taken. There was another photographer who was doing some scouting just after I had left and when he arrived the church had already collapsed. The Rocky Valley Lutheran Church was built in 1915 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Collapsed July 8th, 2019. I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to be the last person to photograph it during it’s final sunrise. The scary thing is, as I was walking around the church I stopped on the right side, looked in the window and snapped some pictures of the sunrise through the windows on the left side. I am very lucky it didn’t fall on me.
Each summer after our first set of workshops is over, we take a break for about 30 days to allow us time with our families and friends. During that time I always make my way back to the Oregon Coast. I always enjoy being on the beaches when the tides are super low. This allows me to access places that you usually can’t get to during a normal tide. This morning was one of those days. I had just finished shooting sunrise and continued my walk along the beach to see what I could find. I went through an arch and up over some rocks and ended up here on this wide open expansive beach. I had been here before several times when I lived on the coast. There were no other people here when I got here but as soon as I was done photographing this lone crab a few other people showed up. The crab was alive and well, just hanging out watching the waves roll up on the beach. He had the whole beach to himself and the sun was on his back!
I wont lie, I first saw an image of this location on Instagram. Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention but there was something about the image that really caught my eye. I kept looking and looking and trying to figure out how the photographer lit the trees on the other side of the water so perfectly. I didn’t see any lights in their image and after finding the place on Google Maps and seeing how it was positioned even made me more curious. I contacted a friend and asked if he wanted to join me to see what this place was really about and he willingly said sure! We arrived before sunrise to have a good look at the place in the daylight and neither of us could figure it out. We were completely confused on how they had lit the far side of the water up so nicely. We were in awe of how still the water was and how we could see the reflection perfectly. It wasn’t until after it got dark that we solved the mystery of the unlikely light source. If you look on the far left side of the image you will see a yellow light, that light is from a pole that is in a rest area and that is the light is is positioned so perfectly that it lights up the side of the lake. Not too bright and not too dim…just far enough away to work perfectly. I made sure to set up my camera with the light just outside the frame yet still show a little of where the light was coming from. We shot here for a couple hours and then the wind picked up, killed the reflection so we called it a night.
“Sunflowers at Sunset”
There are a few areas in Colorado that are known for their massive fields of Sunflowers. Farmers rotate the crops each year so the first people who go looking never know where they are going to find them. Of course once they are found and put on the internet the whole world knows. That’s ok, they’re just sunflowers and they are still on someones property which we need to be respectful about. Knowing I did not want to go into the fields, I walked around trying to find a grouping that looked nice that I could shoot from outside on the edge. These 2 looked so happy to see me and I knew the sun was going to be going down fast. I did my best to compose the image with balance and depth making sure not too many of the sunflowers were being blocked by other sunflowers. Easier said than done. Making sure to get close enough so that my horizon wasn’t dead center and that the 2 flowers were helping fill the frame was my goal. I set my tripod up, got the camera positioned correctly and began shooting as the sun went down. I could see in the camera the way the petals were backlit by the sun and I knew that was going to help make a strong image.
Summer wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Kansas. Just my opinion. It’s funny how things come full circle in life and it may take years and years and years before we realize it. All my Mom’s side of the family is from Kansas. When I was in 2nd grade (1982) I visited Kansas for the first time for a family reunion. When I was 18 (1993) I took my Grandma back to the family reunion with me. This was only my 2nd time in Kansas. My mom and grandma were both big on keeping up on family trees and our ancestors. Fast forward to Summer of 2016. I’ve now been living in Colorado for 3 years and decide it’s time to start exploring other states. Kansas was right next door. The Kansas border is 3 hours from my house. By this time my love for old abandoned buildings was rising at an alarming rate. Kansas was the perfect neighbor. Ever since then I have been spending about 2-3 weeks a year in Kansas, exploring the backroads. I have spent time in the towns where my relatives were from, learned some of the history and really just had a chance to explore and find things I never knew existed. This old square home being one of them. I was on my way to Zurich, KS (pop 99, less now) to see the place where some of my family was from when I looked up on a hillside and saw what looked to be an old home. I turned around, drove up the gravel road and found this beauty. I was in awe. It was amazing, I had not seen any other pictures of it and it was in the perfect location for night photography. I went to Zurich, looked around but didn’t find much, pondered my family’s existence there and wondered how they lived or ended up not living then took the long quiet drive back to my hotel, grabbed some dinner and made my way back here in time to capture the Milky Way right over the house. I saw 3 cars in the 4 hours I was there. None of them wanted anything to do with me (normally people stop and grill you with questions). This was a special night for me that I will remember for a very long time.
Our workshops are made up of a diverse student base. Students come from all over the globe with different skill levels and ideas of what they want to capture. This is where having 2 instructors comes in really handy. On this evening we arrived at our location and a large portion of the group wanted to shoot the Milky Way while 1 of the students wanted to learn how to do star trails. I knew where this tree was that would work perfect as a foreground subject under the swirling stars. We split from the group. Mike and his group went to shoot the Milky Way while Jim and myself walked over to this tree. Working together, side by side with Jim, I was able to help him capture the star trails like he had always wanted to do. The light you see on the horizon is Moab, Utah and the light in the foreground is from a LED panel on the lowest setting, facing straight down at the ground so that only the residual light is hitting the rocks and tree.
“Moonlight and Milky Way”
There is no doubt that for most people who attend our workshops in Moab that Delicate Arch is the most prized location. Yes, it’s iconic, yes, it’s crowded at sunset, these are statements I wont deny. I’ve seen as many as 300 people or more up there for sunset at times. Our group hangs back and enjoys the views as the sun dips below the horizon. Almost like clockwork, the moment the sun is below the horizon people start leaving. My guess is because they don’t want to hike back down in the dark. We stay patient for a little while longer and then when most of the people have left or are headed out, we make our way over to the arch and claim our small piece of real estate for the night. This image is a late season image meaning it was shot towards the end of Milky Way season when the Milky Way is more vertical in the sky. We timed it with a setting moon that would light up the arch for the first half of the night. When the moon goes down the skies get super dark and the Milky Way just pops out at you once your eyes adjust to the dark. In this image I wanted to convey all the elements to the viewer so I left the students in the shot, the Moon as it was very low on the horizon and the Milky Way in perfect position over the arch.
Located in SE Colorado in the middle of nowhere sits this old radio telescope. When you’re parked on the dirt road looking at this, it’s pretty big. As it gets darker and darker and the Milky Way appears, the telescope gets smaller and smaller. This is an image that really puts things into perspective for me. The Radio Telescope is maybe 100ft tall, top to bottom. Jupiter, the bright dot to the upper left of the telescope is 450 million miles away and is big enough to fit 1300 earths inside. The lagoon nebula, the purple dot inside the milky way just to the left of Jupiter and up a hair is 4077 light years away from Earth. Each light year is 93,000,000 miles. That dot, the lagoon nebula, is 600 trillion miles across. Let that sink in for a while… We, not just humans, but Earth in general, are dwarfed by the size of our universe. I found this location to be a fantastic spot to sit quietly and just ponder.
Oct 13th, Nebraska, Hunter’s Moonrise. Photographers can be over thinkers and planners. We have so many tools at our disposal now that we can sit in our house and plan a shot without ever actually seeing a location. After finding this church on Google Maps, that’s what I did. I figured out what events were coming up, what days I had free (the family was on another trip with their family) and decided to make the most of it. I knew the full moon would set behind this little old church. I knew what day it would happen and I knew the exact time based on info I gained from PhotoPills (everyone should have this app). I allowed myself 4 days. The church sits atop a small hill in the middle of nowhere Nebraska. I made the trip with a short detour through Kansas (to scout other places). I was so focused on capturing the moon setting behind the church that I never even thought to think about shooting it as it was rising. I literally stayed at this church for 3 solid days waiting for the perfect moment. I drove the backroads in the area looking for other little gems, shot the stars at night under the moonlight and then on the last night, right after I shot this image, the clouds rolled in. It had been crystal clear for 4 days with not a hint of clouds… I was ok with that because I knew it would make for a better sunrise with the setting moon and it did. The sky turned an amazing shade of pink just before the moon went down. I got the exact shot I was after and all my planning paid off. But this, this was the unexpected surprise of the trip. I had totally forgot about the full rising Hunter Moon. I was coming back to the church after shooting another abandoned place and I saw the way the sunlight was hitting the headstones of the graveyard. I then started to see the glow on the horizon and realized it was the moon rising. I quickly (1 min or less) figured out where I needed to be to get the moon perfectly in front of the church. I was able to take about 3 test shots before the moon was in place, I shot a couple with it perfectly centered while the light was still hitting the headstones and then it was out of place and too high.
“Joe and Kelly”
With my Oregon Coast workshop coming up I had been watching the weather very closely. I always arrive a few days early to scout areas (tides cause big changes in beaches) and get settled in. From my room at the Overleaf Lodge and Spa in Yachats I could see this massive shelf cloud forming but it was so far out that the rain was not affecting us on the shore. I walked out of my room and saw this couple sitting on the bench watching the storm and grabbed their picture. They later got up and as they were walking back to their room I stopped them to show them the image and ask if they wanted a copy. They were more than pleased to have one. As luck would have it the dates I picked for the workshop were right between 2 major storm systems. It’s not often you see clouds like this on the Oregon Coast so I was happy to have the chance to photograph the storm watchers!
Living next to a state park has it’s perks. It gives me a “go to” place to photograph when I time is short or the weather changes in a very short amount of time. It was really cold and had snowed all night. I got up, looked at the weather app and saw clearing just after sunrise. In Colorado the snow rarely sticks around on the trees. It’s either super dry snow and evaporates or the temps rise really quickly and the snow falls off and melts. Getting over to the park in a timely manner was crucial. They have re-done many parts of the park which allow new vantage points. I found this area with extremely calm water to shoot the reflections of these freshly coated trees. Getting super low allowed me to capture the full reflection of the tall trees.
At the end of October I took a trip to the east coast to photograph some fall colors with a friend. I knew we would be a bit late but due to other commitments I had to plan the trip when time allowed. We visited several state parks and other photogenic areas while I was there. Even made a trip up to New York which was beautiful. This image was shot in Pennsylvania in the bottom of a canyon where to water systems meet. This was half way through our 10hr hike in Ricketts Glenn State park. The day was perfect for shooting waterfalls. We had overcast skies and smooth even light the whole day. I actually like the sparsely colored scene as it allows your eye to appreciate the colors but also focus on the waterfall. This was an amazing place that I hope to return to someday. This hike isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s steep going down and steep going back up. There is no easy way to hike the entire loop.
“Glade Creek Grist Mill”
On my last morning of my trip back east we visited this iconic location. I had seen a million images of it and sure enough it was just as nice in person. There is always a special feeling I get being in a spot I have seen so many pictures of. Looking for some slightly different comps (are there any) I decided to get low by the water and shoot looking up towards the mill. We had some nice clouds and some nice light as the sun was just making it’s way over the horizon. While we were there, only one other person showed up. It was nice to be there past the peak season so we didn’t have to fight the crowds. It’s a working mill that is only 44 years old. I am sure most people think it’s much older. The basic structure comes from Stoney Creek Grist Mill which was located in Pocahontas County and dates back to the 1890’s. The giant wheel, which is pushed around by Glade Creek, and in-turn powers the giant grindstone, is from the Spring Run Grist Mill in Grant County.
Another opportunity to photograph something that I may never get to shoot again in my life? Yes, I’ll jump at the chance. At the end of November The “Big Boy” locomotive was making it’s way across America and it just happened to be coming through Kansas. Like I need another reason to visit Kansas! I started looking at Google Maps trying to find a place away from the crowds where I could photograph it with the big plume of steam as it crossed a trestle. I did my research, found a great spot, contacted my friend in Kansas and he was able to figure out the land owner and tenant. We got permission to access the land and shoot the train. It was a huge success. Everything worked out as we planned. I ended up following the train to Sharon Springs, Kansas. My plan was to shoot it at sunset and then again at sunrise. After the train had parked for the day and I arrived, I found hundreds of people gathered around. It was very cold out so I decided to find a hotel room and grab a shower and a nap. I looked to find out when the moon was going to come up and realized it would be coming up at 3am. I left the hotel at 1am went down to the train station and I was the only one there other than the police officer who was on duty. I talked to him and told him I was going to photograph the moon coming up over the train and he said that wouldn’t be an issue since it was parked. He told I could go anywhere I needed. It was still freezing cold out so I would take some shots, go sit in my car and warm up and then repeat until the moon had come up far enough where I could shoot it over the train. While I was there there were 2 other people who showed up to photograph it as well. Both nice people who I ended up talking to for a while. One of them is the gentleman you see in this image. The other guy had left and it was just he and I shooting the train, as he walked off and set up his own shot, I stayed in my spot and kept shooting. He couldn’t have positioned himself any better.
“Pull Me In”
I ended the year with a 2 week trip to the Oregon Coast. A week of shooting for myself and a week to visit my Dad. It was amazing. For the most part of the trip I didn’t have epic skies for sunrises and sunsets (only 2 days of the whole trip) but I did have storms, big waves and dark, dramatic clouds. For an Oregon boy, that was perfect. I had just as much fun hiking along the coast in the rain as I would have taking pictures. In between storm systems I did pull out my camera to capture the drama as it unfolded before me. This is an image that was shot well before sunrise when the clouds were super dark. It allowed me to use a long exposure and capture the water rushing around the rocks in the foreground. I have not seen many pictures, if any, of this rock which is surprising because it’s very easy to access.
To some of you this may look familiar. It’s a scene I shot last year too but when I did, I cut the tops of the trees off. I am not sure what I was thinking. I wanted to go back and re-shoot it and make sure not to cut the tops of the trees off. Just like before, I had nice dark, stormy skies to work with. The light was moody but even which allowed for easy exposures. For those of you who don’t know where this location is, it’s near Brookings, Oregon and down a hillside to where you come out and are standing on top of an arch. You can feel the waves hit the rock you’re standing on and the rush you get is amazing. For me, personally, it was the perfect way to end the year. During the first part of my trip I had a friend with me and being able to show him these places was a blast.
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Last but not least. I have the Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art Lens for Nikon for sale. It’s in near mint condition, cleaned and boxed up ready for a new owner. I am only asking $650 for it and will ship for free to anywhere in the USA. Contact me directly if you’re interested. The reason for selling is that I have another lens that covers the 20mm and I simply don’t need it anymore.