Sometimes it seems that I plan and go out shooting time and time again only to return home empty. So it can be a bit renewing to go through my year worth of published images to choose my handful of favorites. And this year is turning out to be the hardest I’ve yet had. I’ve included my top 16, and a brief story behind the image, and the runner ups.
First THE RUNNER-UPS.
My year end summary, like so many best of lists, starts out with a pretty large heard that then gets culled hard. Really hard. My year 2016 consisted of approximately 325 shoots and capturing over 50,000 images. Of these images maybe 200 or so were published to my website, blog or social media. From that list I’m trying to get down to 16. And let’s just say I failed.
The gallery below represents the 31 images above and beyond the 16 that I just couldn’t bring myself to cull.
NUMBER 16 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
As a Washington State photographer my lack of exposure to the stunning Palouse region of eastern Washington borders on negligence. I rectified that severe oversight with a scouting trip during the winter of 2015 and 4 days of shooting during June of this year. Such a short trip was just barely enough to wet my appetite and I’m already planning for a return in 2017. But even that short amount of time resulted in a few year end runner-ups, and this shot that comes in at No. 16.
Image No. 16 – Sunset Over the Palouse ( Steptoe Butte State Park , WA) Sony A7Rii + Metabones IV + Canon TS-E 90mm (1/125s @ f/8 iso 100)
NUMBER 15 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
We live so close, but so far away from the glorious Daffodil and Tulip farms of Skagit Valley. But if we keep an eye out, there are beautiful stands of daffodils to be found on our little island. This wild bunch is along the road by the Otis Perkins Spit that connect the Fisherman Bay peninsula to the rest of Lopez Island. Combined with a sweet starburst sunset over San Juan island this became No. 15 on my top 16 images of 2016.
Image No. 15 – Daffidals at Otis Perkins Day Park (Lopez Island, WA) Sony A7Rii + Adapted Lens (1/80s iso 100)
NUMBER 14 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
If landscape photography happens between the extremes of happy accidents and meticulous planning, number 14 on this year’s list is closer to the latter than the former. I’d had an idea for this shot rolling around in my head for a couple of years and started scooping it out in earnest early this spring near the start of the milky way “season”. The conditions came together on a cool early summer morning in May and I ended up capturing this shot around 3am.
I had been slowly adding off camera lighting to my nighttime & milky way shots, but for this capture I brought along my entire real estate lighting kit and ended up using three additional flashes to complement the existing ambient from a nearby street light. I’m sure I looked quite crazy setting up and popping off flashes in the middle of the night to catch this shot and I probably am a touch off. But that’s landscape photography for ya.
Image No. 14 – Milkyway Rising over the Old Center Church (Lopez Island, WA) Sony A7Rii + Adapted Lens (20s iso 6400)
NUMBER 13 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
I think part of what has made the year’s selection so difficult is that many of the images on this list became some of my all time favorites. So it’s been hard moving them down the list. Such is the case of this shot from Davis Bay. This was my very first visit to this sweet little bay thanks to a generous invite from one of my Facebook friends. The winter golden hour light can be hit or miss, usually a miss, but this day in January was a home run.
And here’s a post with some before and after pics to show that this scene really was this amazing. 🙂
Image No. 13 – Sunset over Davis Bay (Lopez Island, WA) Sony A7Rii + Adapted Lens (30s iso 6400)
NUMBER 12 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
Number 12 on this year’s list is a personal favorite, okay I guess they all are LOL. But for some reason I really enjoy looking at this image. It’s a local shot for me since I live pretty close to Odlin County Park and I like to visit and shoot this location often. Something about a dock, a bay and a sunset. I chose a pretty long exposure to focus on just the basics of this beautiful scene and the warm sunlight of an early spring day made for some perfect light.
Image No. 12 – Dock of the Bay, Odlin County Park (Lopez Island, WA) Sony A7Rii + Metabones IV + Canon TS-E 90mm (334s @ f/8 iso 100)
NUMBER 11 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
Ah, favorite number of 11 on this year’s top 16 list was years in the making. Inspired by the stunning imagery of Tim Durkan and his full moon captures over the Seattle Space Needle, I set out to capture my own full moon vision emulating some of his techniques. And I quickly discovered that his work is even more brilliant and difficult that I had imagined. Hence the reason for the years in the making. 🙂
The planning on these full moon shots is tricky, especially if you are working to capture the image totally in-camera. A little too much daylight and the moon is washed out. A late setting moon makes for great silhouettes, but creates challenges if you want any detail in your foreground. I think Tim has a pretty big advantage since Seattle has a “bit” more ambient light then we do on the islands. But after dozens of tries and seriously upping my planning & shooting skills I snagged one that I quite like.
Image No. 11 – August Moon Setting, Iceberg Point (Lopez Island, WA) Sony A7Rii + Metabones IV + Sigma 150-600mm (1/320s @ f/9 iso 1250)
NUMBER 10 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
There’s really no getting around the fact that number 10 on my list was a happy accident. With a chance of clear skies, I thought I would try for an early season, March, milky way shot. We live in the woods on Lopez Island so I never know the conditions till I get on the road. And it quickly became apparent that the weather had other plans for me. But once you’re up and out at 4am you might as well just keep on going and start thinking about plan “B”. And plan “B” did not disappoint with a stunning moon setting into the clouds at the old Richardson Fuel Dock. Nothing ever wrong with getting a bit of luck.
Image No. 10 – Moonset over the Old Richardson Fuel Dock (Lopez Island, WA) Sony A7Rii + Adapted Lens (185s iso 400)
NUMBER 9 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
This year’s number 9 was a delightful surprise. It was a case of being in the wrong place at the right time or so it seemed at the time. A friend and I decided to take advantage of an unusually clear November day to head south and hike out to Iceberg Point. As we were looking south for possible compositions of the Olympics we happened to look back over our shoulders to the north and witnessed a stunning Mt Baker scene. In all my many trips to Iceberg Point I had never seen Mt Baker this clear and beautiful. As the evening wore on we were less and less disappointed that we didn’t head north for the more traditional views of Mt Baker as this has become one my favorite Mt Baker images to date.
Image No. 9 – Mt Baker from Iceberg Pt (Lopez Island, WA) Sony A7Rii + Sony FE 70-300mm (1/80s @ f/8 iso 640)
NUMBER 8 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
There’s no denying that living on an island can, at times, be challenging. And I guess there are a couple of ways to handle it. One could complain or one could find opportunities. Such was the case for number 8 on this year’s list. Since there wasn’t a good early spring ferry option to allow me to shoot sunrises and sunsets on San Juan Island I decide to take a late boat over and shoot all night from sunset to sunrise. This crazy idea rewarded me with two images in my top 10 and some extras in the near misses.
This shot from Grandmas Cove in American Camp kicked off the evening with a stunning view of a glorious sunset.
Image No. 8 – Sunset from Grandmas Cove (San Juan Island, WA) Sony A7Rii + Sony 500mm Reflex (1/8000s @ f/8 iso 100)
NUMBER 7 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
Looking back at my favorites for the year it becomes pretty obvious that this was my year of photographing the night sky. Number 7 on my list is the moon setting over Iceberg Point from Agate beach. Normally us landscape photogs search out dramatic clouds to grab the spectacular colors of the rising and setting sun. But this moonset / sunrise was all about the blue. Blue skies and blue water. And I’m amazed by the quality of light that the moon cast on the landscape.
Image No. 7 – Agate Beach Moonset (Lopez Island, WA) Sony A7Rii + Adapted Lens (125s + iso 64)
NUMBER 6 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
Another moonlight shot and one of my favorite places, the old Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island. This was another capture during the photo all-nighter I spent in March. As I mentioned previously this was one of my most successful photo excursions of the year, but this was the shot I had been planning and was my inspiration for the trip. There is something special about this old lighthouse that brings me back again and again.
Image No. 6 – Moonlit Lime Kiln Lighthouse (San Juan Island, WA) Sony A7Rii + Adapted Lens (244s + iso 1250)
NUMBER 5 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
Getting close to 20 years ago now, I started a love affair with our Washington State Ferries that hasn’t faded even a little. So it likely no surprise that I’ve taken 1000s of images of these iconic ships. But in this particular case, my composition was the sunrise coming up over Mt Baker. The ferry felt obliged to photobomb my scene so I called an audible and thanked my lucky stars.
Image No. 5 – Daily Commute (Lopez Island, WA) Sony A7Rii + Adapted Lens (1/100s + iso 640)
NUMBER 4 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
Number 4 on my list of favorites for this year is an iconic “tourist” image of the Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai. This is a rare type of shot for me since I usually avoid being elbow to elbow in popular tourist spots. But my love of lighthouses won over and the intermittent rain dampened the enthusiasm of some lessening the congestion. So my wife and I spent an hour or so watching the rain chase the light across the horizon. And all the while I was documenting the changing scene with one after another long exposure image. Each one remarkably different than the next. Finally the rain won out as the light faded but not before I managed one of my favorites for the year.
Image No. 4 – Kilauea Lighthouse (Kauai, Hawaii) Sony A7Rii + Sony FE 55mm Reflex (132s @ f/11 iso 100)
NUMBER 3 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
I hardly know what to say about number 3 on this year’s FAVs list. I should probably start off by thanking Matt Brown, and amazing photographer in Anacortes, who did everything but tell me where to stand and what camera settings to use. 🙂 He’s dialed into when the sun is going to perfectly set under the Deception Pass bridge and he keeps everyone posted. So I got the noticed, hopped on the ferry, chatted with some great photogs, snapped a few dozen pics and caught the ferry home with one of my most popular images to date. Trust me when I say it’s usually isn’t that simple. 🙂
Image No. 3 – Sunset Under the Deception Pass Bridge (Whidbey Island, Washington) Sony A7Rii + Adapted Lens (1/640s iso 100)
NUMBER 2 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
My number 2 on last year’s list of FAVs was a glorious morning full moonset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island. I spent a fair bit of time chasing the full moon this year and this was by far my favorite capture. Snagging a compelling full moon image in a single shot, ie no Photoshop, is wrought with challenges. The key is to have the brightness of the moon about the same as the ambient twilight. That and have it happen when and where you would like with perfec
Image No. 2 – Full Moon Setting over Fisherman Bay (Lopez Island, Washington) Sony A7Rii + Sigma 150-600mm (1/200s @ f/8 iso 800)
NUMBER 1 OF MY 16 FAVS OF 2016
My personal favorite image of 2016 was also one of the first I took last year: a long exposure shot of the Cattle Point Lighthouse on San Juan Island. This image represents the style of photography that I am most drawn to. A minimalistic, painterly vision of the world created using neutral density filters to smooth the water, blend the clouds and, in some case, enhance the saturation of the colors. I experience these images to be a 1 in a 1000, or even 10,000, event. Not only I’m I look for the great light, but also the interaction between the moving clouds and the subtle patterns in the water. This was my best effort for the year and my personal favorite.
Image No. 1 – Cattle Point Light (San Juan Island, Washington) Sony A7Rii + Adapted Lens (30s @ f/8 iso 100)
And there you have it, my 2016 photography year wrap up. And thanks again to everyone who has followed along and supported my photography. Wishing all of you a great new year filled with happiness and adventure.