Favorite Photos from 2010

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Jim Goldstein has been running an annual Your Best Photos blog project for several years now, which I hadn’t participated in since I’m usually wary of coming across as self-congratulatory but I figured I’ll give the project a try this year for creative exercise. It was a very memorable year with trips to Yellowstone, San Francisco, Alaska, Monterey and some Southern California photography so here is one last blog post for 2010 despite what I said two weeks ago. 🙂

I picked these ten photos because they all meant something to me at the time I made them, not necessarily because they were my “best” (whatever that means), so they are presented here roughly in chronological order from the day I took them.

LA Skyline Twilight on Mount Baldy

LA Skyline Twilight on Mount Baldy

I first realized that the downtown Los Angeles skyline could be lined up with the San Gabriel Mountains based on a large photo mural I had seen in an office at the Los Angeles Times when I was working there several years ago. It took me over a year to figure out where to go and even then, Mount Baldy doesn’t have this amount of snow some years so I had to wait until the perfect set of winter storms. Could it be this winter, could it be a five year wait? You just never know when it comes to Southern California and precipitation. Even after the storms hit last winter, it required several photo shoots until the air quality was good enough to get a clear photo.

Cross on Cahuenga and Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood Hills, California

Cross on Cahuenga and Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood Hills, California

I had just bought Patty Griffin’s latest cd, Downtown Church, and was listening to it in my car when I saw potential for this scene way off in the distance so I immediately pulled over into the ditch and used up the last few remaining images on my memory card. It was an interesting juxtaposition and coincidence that I’m sure to always remember this night.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

My cousin, Herbert, went out pre-sunrise in freezing weather on an early September morning in 2001 to shoot Old Faithful as I slept in the car trying to stay warm. Once I dedicated myself to photography months later, I promised myself that the next time I returned to Old Faithful that I’d man up and do what he did no matter how cold it was. It turned out to be even colder this time which made this all the more gratifying. My only regret was that Herbert passed away before I could invite him to go back to Yellowstone with me.

Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata) Flying With Mouthful of Fish, Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Near Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata) Flying With Mouthful of Fish, Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Near Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

Alaska was an experience that I will never forget. From a technical standpoint, this horned puffin photo was probably the most challenging photo of the year for me to acquire. After seeing the puffin flying around non-stop with fish in their mouth, I wasn’t going to leave this island without getting an image that captured this experience. I went all-in and spent most of my time trying to capturing flight images. (Nearly risked going home empty-handed in other words.) I didn’t get a lot of keepers but the ones I did were truly memorable which should be the goal when we go out shooting photos. “Aim big or go home.”

Grizzly Bear Cub Covering Face with Paw, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

Grizzly Bear Cub Covering Face with Paw, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

I think any event that elicits a collective yelp of excitement from all photographers present should warrant a spot in any top ten list. Photographing grizzly bears in Alaska was the best photography experience I’ve ever had. There is no second best.

Seward Boat Harbor, Alaska

Seward Boat Harbor, Alaska

For two weeks after I came back home, I was hypnotized thinking of all the different ways I could make a life for myself in Alaska. Experiencing Alaska for the first time felt like a divine intervention of sorts. I’ve been searching for the perfect small coastal town all my life and Seward comes as close as any I’ve been to. The weather is rough to say the least but for those who can handle it, it’s paradise.

Water Reflection Abstracts from Aialik Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Water Reflection Abstracts from Aialik Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Having explored water abstracts for several years now, this Aialik Glacier reflection is my current favorite. Right after I made this image, I imagined this as a large canvas print adorning the wall of my first home. I will be placing the order with my print lab shortly.

Monterey Cypress Tree Trunk at Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Monterey Cypress Tree Trunk at Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Monterey Bay has long been a favorite destination of nature photographers and has a long tradition of famed black and white prints so when this opportunity presented itself, I had to make my own black and white landscape photo.

Pair of Sleeping Elephant Seals, Point Piedras Blancas near San Simeon, California

Pair of Sleeping Elephant Seals, Point Piedras Blancas near San Simeon, California

Photographing elephant seals is always fun and for the first time, I actually came away with some photos that I’m happy with. The seals weren’t there when I was growing up so it’s really cool to see them there now.

Peace, Love, Dope!

Peace, Love, Dope!

My friend was writing an article on interior decorating and needed some images of his house so I went there recently then found some interesting items there to arrange into this photo. Since I’ll have a new house for the new year, this is a direction that I’ll likely be pursuing more of in 2011.


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39 thoughts

  1. I love that L.A. Skyline, Mt. Baldy photograph. You captured an “icon” that is hardly done because of the difficulty of making it this good. Also, how could I not like the “shy” Grizzly cub or the pair of elephant seals?

  2. A fine set Richard. I had no doubt some Alaska shots would make it in here. I agree with David, the LA/mountains shot is special. I don’t see anything self congratulatory about this exercise. It can actually be quite introspective and therapeutic.

  3. Thanks guys. Yeah I have seen a few L.A. skyline shots from probably the same area but none of them look like mine.

    Ron – such a random coincidence! I wonder if the bear just poses for everyone all the time?!? 🙂

  4. Great collection Richard! The puffin and the bear cub are two well timed images. Your LA skyline shot is great timing as well, lots of snow with clear sky’s and great light (my outing to that spot wasn’t so fortunate).

    BTW: I don’t see anything self-congratulatory about your post and glad you participated this year. The reason for your concern is why I title mine “favorite photos” and not “best photos”; best is a individualistic quality while favorite is self pronounced and indicates sharing. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks Greg. I was wondering if you would get light since it looked to be clouded in at sunset from where I was.

    Yeah that is also why I decided to title it “favorite photos” rather than best photos.

  6. Thanks Gary. I have a postcard / direct mail client that would be suitable so I’ll be sure to suggest that to her.

    Believe it or not, my friend goes to flea markets every weekend looking for random stuff to decorate his house.

  7. Thanks Derrick. I’d say that I had this exact image in mind for several years before I was able to find the right place and conditions to do it. Once I found the place, I just kept repeating the composition over several photo shoots until it all came together.

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  11. Great collection of shots, Richard! I love the pose of that bear cub, and your first shot is just amazing. Such beautiful colors and its awesome to see the mountain behind the city like that!

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  16. Thanks Chris. That would be a great trip. I saw a lot of puffin in Alaska but getting close enough to photograph them is the hard part and they are really fast.

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