I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be teaching at the first ever Night Photo Summit next month!
The folks who created the National Parks at Night workshop series just announced this new online photo conference, focused exclusively on night photography. I’ll be joining 27 other distinguished instructors, including Lance Keimig, Tim Cooper, Adam Woodworth, Jess Santos, Chris Nicholson, Rachel Jones Ross, Troy Paiva, and many more.
Misty ridges, Sierra Nevada foothills, California. 400mm, 1/200 sec. at f/11, ISO 100.
A few days ago I checked to see if fog might be pushing up into the Sierra foothills again. It’s often hard to get a good picture of what’s happening with the weather in the predawn darkness, but things looked promising enough to make me grab my gear and drive out to one of the local viewpoints.
When I arrived it was light enough to see that there wasn’t a distinct band of fog below. Instead, I found diffused layers of mist. That wasn’t what I was looking for, so for a second I considered turning around and heading home. But I was already up, and out, and then I spotted Venus and the crescent moon poking through some clouds, so I decided to photograph that. And then… I might as well hang around for sunrise.
Cascading fog, Sierra Nevada foothills, California. 111mm, 15 seconds at f/11, ISO 200, 4-stop ND filter.
We’re in the midst of another dry spell here. After some modest rain in December and early January, the storm track has shifted north, with no precipitation in sight for at least the next two weeks.
But we got enough rain to add some moisture to the ground and the lower atmosphere, which triggered the typical winter fog pattern in California’s Central Valley. Fog down there has been a daily occurrence, and that pattern is expected to continue for awhile.
The votes are all in and counted, and here are my top photographs of 2020!
We had a great response this year: 597 people looked through my initial selection of 45 images and voted for their favorites. That’s the second-highest turnout we’ve ever had. A big thank you to everyone who took the time to look through these photographs and voice your opinions! I also really appreciate the kind words so many people posted in the comments or sent by email. I wish I could respond to everyone, but please know that I’ve read them all and am very grateful for all your support.
Oak and grasslands at sunset, Sierra Nevada foothills, California. 31mm, five frames blended with Lightroom’s HDR Merge, each frame at f/11, ISO 100.
While looking through my photographs from last year, I realized there were many images that I hadn’t had a chance to post before.
One of those was this photograph of a lone oak at sunset in the Sierra foothills. I made this on April 6th, during the first lockdown. Yosemite was closed, and we couldn’t travel outside our county, but Claudia and I felt lucky to live in the Sierra foothills, where we could easily drive to some beautiful spots without encountering any other people. We explored and photographed places we hadn’t been to before, and it was fun discovering these new locations in our backyard.
Happy New Year!
It’s become a New Year’s tradition on this blog to pick my best images from the past year, and once again I’m inviting you to help me make these difficult choices. I’ve posted 45 of my best photographs from 2020 below, in chronological order. After you look through these, please use the form at the bottom of this post to list your ten favorites.
That right – we’re doing things differently this year. Please don’t post your votes in the comments, or send them by email, because they won’t be counted! Use the form at the bottom of this post instead.
Sandhill crane takeoff, San Joaquin Valley, California. 327mm, 1/500 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 2000.
Every year Claudia and I photograph migratory birds wintering in California’s Central Valley. It’s a world of constant motion, with groups of birds taking off, landing, moving from fields to ponds (and back), skimming over marshes, or probing the water for food.
It’s that motion that we find so captivating, and it’s that motion that’s so challenging to photograph. It takes lots of practice to learn how to follow birds in flight, keep them in focus, adjust exposures on the fly, zoom in and out as needed, and make instant decisions about composition.
Among the aspens in Colorado
While it’s been a difficult year for all of us, Claudia and I have found many silver linings, and a lot to be thankful for. We wish you health, happiness, and peace during this holiday season – and hope you’ve also found some silver linings.
— Claudia and Michael
El Capitan and the Merced River at sunset, Yosemite. One of my last photos of the day, as the sun broke through clouds and lit El Capitan. 26mm, three bracketed exposures blended with Lightroom’s HDR Merge, each at f/11, ISO 100.
It’s been a strange year, to say the least. Yesterday, Claudia and I went up to Yosemite Valley, and we had to think about the last time we’d been there. It was probably in early June, just after the park reopened. Over the rest of the summer we went to Glacier Point a few times, and up to the Yosemite high country on several occasions to photograph thunderstorms and Comet NEOWISE, but not to Yosemite Valley. In September and early October we traveled to Utah and Colorado. We spent most of November in Oregon and Washington. In between we stayed home while I finished launching my new Lightroom course.
During the spring the whole state was in lockdown, and the park was closed. And even in January and February there wasn’t a lot of weather, and therefore not much enticement to drive up to the valley to photograph a clearing storm. So I had hardly photographed Yosemite Valley the entire year.
Crashing wave, Oregon Coast. To get a sense of scale, click on the image to view it larger and see if you can spot the person in the frame. He’s just to the left of the wave between some trees. It looks like the wave would have soaked this photographer, but it probably didn’t; the wave is actually between that person and the camera, and the spot he was standing on usually stays dry. This wasn’t the tallest splash we saw that day, but the light at that moment, along with the shape of the wave, made this image the clear winner in my mind. 50mm, 1/500th of a second at f/11, ISO 160.
After spending some time along the Oregon Coast, Claudia and I headed up to Bellingham, Washington, to visit family.
But I kept my eye on the weather forecasts for Oregon. One day stood out in particular, when waves were predicted to reach heights of 20 feet or more. We planned to work our way back to Oregon in time to see those waves.