As the end of the year quickly approaches, it's time to take a look back and choose my 10 favorite photos of 2015. I traveled to many scenic locations this year, including national parks in Canada, New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona, Montana and Colorado. The experiences I had were uplifting and fulfilling, leading me to recognize that supporting our wilderness parks is not only vital for habitat protection, but essential for our own well being. I hope these photographs inspire you to make your own wilderness memories.
Canyon Patterns, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Photographing the Grand Canyon is a challenging assignment; it's just so big! Instead of trying to fit everything into one giant panorama, I was able to isolate a section of the canyon where light and shadow created a striking pattern of geometric shapes. I like the clean, bold lines of this image and the way the similarly colored rock formations have a unified and timeless feeling. This view of the canyon reminds me of some of the work by the artist Maynard Dixon.
Nikon D600, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, ISO 100, f/22, 1/10
Whirlpool River, Jasper National Park, Canada
Jasper National Park is not in the wilderness. It is the wilderness. Its isolated location, glacier-fed rivers and impossibly rugged mountains make it clear that this is Nature at her most powerful. Not that long ago, trappers and mountain men used the Whirlpool River to help travel deep into the Canadian Rockies. My experience was admittedly tamer than that, but it was still a long drive on a twisty dirt road and a tricky descent scrambling down to the river's edge. I set my tripod low in the water, hunkered down on the rocks and watched late afternoon turn to twilight. The low vantage point, the moon in the darkening sky, and the silhouetted trees high on the river banks give this photo an untamed quality.
Nikon D800, Nikon 24-85mmf/3.5, ISO 50, f/22, 1 second
Two Jack Lake at Dawn
The story behind the name of the lake involves a poker game, two men named Jack and the first superintendent of Banff's National Park. The Jacks won, apparently. I like the composition of this image. The clouds create a diagonal sweep from the top left corner to Mt. Rundle.The rocks in the foreground lead the viewer's eye into the picture. The reflection of the clouds creates another leading line up to the mountain, while the ripples on the lake enhance the glassy quality of the water by adding texture. Aside from its compositional strengths, when I gaze at this photograph, it makes me feel peaceful.
Nikon D800, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5, ISO 320, f/16, 1/6
Jayce Old Coyote, Plains Indian Powwow, Cody, Wyoming
Every June, the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming sponsors the Plains Indian Powwow. It features the best Native American and First Nations dancers and drum groups in a two day event. This photo was taken of Jayce Old Coyote, a member of the Crow, Arapaho and Jemez Pueblo, while he was waiting for winners to be announced after he performed the Prairie Chicken Dance. I like his hopeful expression and hint of a smile as he listens for his name. I processed the photograph in a way that highlights the vivid colors of his regalia. Both Jayce and the beaded Indian Chief medallion he's wearing on his chest are shown in profile, giving a pleasing repetition within the image, and a contemporary nod to the past.
Nikon D600, Tamron 150-600mm f/6.3, ISO 640, f/6.3, 1/1250
Yellowstone Bison, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Walking through a dense, freezing fog in Yellowstone National Park, I saw a cluster of boulders in the meadow ahead of me. As I got closer, I realized it was a herd of bison, conserving their energy in the subzero cold by resting in the snow. Knowing how dangerous they can be, I stood a safe distance away, using my longest lens to capture this photo. In spite of that, my subject kept his eyes locked on me as I took pictures. I like the way he gazes directly at the camera (gulp!) and how condensation from his breath has frozen the fur on his massive head. Clean and straightforward, this is a portrait of an American West icon.
Nikon D600, Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6, ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/100
Ripples, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Going to White Sands is like visiting another planet, especially once you're out of sight of where you parked the car. The large sand dunes quickly disorient the best pathfinders, making going with a group a sensible decision. There was a full moon during the week I was there, adding to the allure of this location. The dunes have a variety of textures and patterns formed by the wind. Their graceful lines make White Sands a photographer's paradise. The deeply rippled texture of this dune caught my eye as I passed nearby. I like the position of the moon above the gentle curve of the dune and the tiny animal tracks that lead the viewer's eye into the picture.
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/16, 1/60
Morning Glory, Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado
Winter's silvery beauty is on display in this photograph of the Rocky Mountain Foothills. The lifting clouds from the departing snowstorm bring depth and movement to the image. The sun hits the rock slabs in the background, while trees in the foreground remain in shade, giving a sense of the morning's cold temperatures. I like the subtle range of white and gray tones in the image, the patches of blue sky and the graceful lines of the trees leading up to the rocks.
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/4.4, ISO100, f/16, 1/60
From my first glimpse of the Sawbuck Prescribed Burn area in Banff National Park, Canada, I was eager to start photographing the fireweed that was blooming amid the charred timbers of the burn. The tones of the pink flowers, green foliage and blackened wood were very pleasing to the eye. The patterns created by the horizontal and vertical lines of the tree trunks made this area an interesting place to photograph. As I looked for my composition, it felt as though I was trying to solve a puzzle. When I found this particular spot, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. The theme of this image is renewal and regeneration.
Nikon D800, Nikon 16-35mm f/4, ISO 400, f/11, 1/10
Maroon Creek at Dawn
This photograph was a lesson in finding the location that works with what you've got. In this case, a brisk wind was rippling the surface of Maroon Lake, the site of the classic reflection shot of the Maroon Bells, wiping out the hopes of dozens of photographers lining the lake shore. Instead of standing there waiting for the wind to die down, hiking further down the trail solved the problem. Shooting the Bells from Maroon Creek features a closer view of the aspens, a reflection of the alpenglow color from the peaks and a fresh take on an otherwise well-worn location.
Nikon D800, Nikon 16-35mm f/4, ISO 100, f/16, 6 seconds
Carol Melting Tallow
Carol Melting Tallow, a member of the First Nations Blood Tribe, is a very talented performer of the Fancy Shawl Dance at the Plains Indian Powwow in Cody, Wyoming. The Fancy Shawl Dancers mimic the movements of a butterfly in flight by turning, dipping and swirling their shawls around them as they dance intricate steps. I wanted to bring a modern look to this portrait, processing the photograph to highlight Ms. Melting Tallow's striking beauty through the use of vibrant color contrast.
Nikon D600, Tamron 150-600mm f/6.3, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/320