Favorite Photos From 2013

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This is my 4th year of participating in Jim Goldstein’s Annual “Your Best Photos Blog Project” highlighting my favorite photos of the year. You can see my selections from 2012, 2011 and 2010. 2013 for me was the most exciting but also one of toughest years of my life.

2013 started off with me having just gotten engaged prior to New Years in San Francisco. Then in the spring time I decided to sell my house in Pasadena and move back to Northern California. That was a bit of a bummer because I loved my house and had lots of memories there but I had this never ending desire to live in Bay Area again so I had to do it. Once Samantha finished school a few weeks later she moved up north with me.

Not long after we moved in together, my grandma got real sick so it was tough to be away while not knowing what would happen. Thankfully she is doing better now. But I ended up losing my dad three months ago as my grandma was recovering. My dad had been battling Parkinson’s Disease for nearly 20 years. I was in a daze for a few weeks after.

As I look back at 2013 however it ended up being a very productive year. Most of it in the past seven months. I spent a lot of time revisiting places I had photographed ten years ago when I last lived in the Bay Area and exploring new places like Mendocino and Lake Tahoe. It’s crazy to think after doing this for more than a decade that I could fall in love with photography again but I have. For this blog post, I picked ten pictures that resonate with me emotionally. I don’t think it is possible for me to objectively pick my “best” photos so I didn’t try. I haven’t had time to review my photo shoots in-depth since the summer so I’ve selectively cherry-picked images to process and share in chronological order. This will also be my final blog post for a while since I need to catch up on other projects and plan for my wedding. Happy Holidays!

Fog Rising Up Slopes of Bolinas Ridge at Sunset, Mount Tamalpais State Park, California

Fog Rising Up Slopes of Bolinas Ridge at Sunset, Mount Tamalpais State Park, California

Mount Tamalpais is one of my favorite places on the planet. I basically moved up here so I could visit more often. I made my first visit in 2003 and it left a lasting impression on me. It took me ten years to make the photo that I’ve always imagined in my mind.

Tidal Sand Ripples on South Shore Beach, Alameda, California

Tidal Sand Ripples on South Shore Beach, Alameda, California

I have always been a proponent of shooting locally no matter where I’ve lived. You get to know a place intimately this way and develop your vision in greater depth. I can’t think of more difficult places to photograph landscapes and nature than the places I lived in the L.A. area but I embraced that as a creative challenge. I had to up my game.

In this instance, I made this image within a five minute walk from my front door. No. I didn’t always live at the beach but this is something I want to take full of advantage of while I’m here. Carpe diem.

Milky Way, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, California

Milky Way, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, California

This Calaveras Big Trees Milky Way photo was something that totally caught me off-guard. It was the camping trip from hell up until this point when I decided to photograph the night sky to blow off some steam. I could not see the Milky Way with my naked eye and yet it showed up on my LCD so I kept photographing it for about an hour in wet, freezing temperatures. I didn’t know it was there prior to making the photo. I don’t use stargazing apps to pre-plan photo shoots in great detail. Photography to me is like jazz improv. Wing it. Roll with the punches.

Backroads Bike Riders at Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California

Backroads Bike Riders at Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California

 

The Backroads Singles-Solos Wine Country to San Francisco Bike Trip was a definite highlight for me this year. I was pushed to my limits biking 150+ miles in a week and while running around trying to make photos for their catalog. In the process, Wine Country spoke to me in a way that it had not previously. This trip also confirmed to me that Northern California is my favorite place in the world.

Two Kids Playing in Water at Robert Crown Memorial State Beach, Alameda, California

Two Kids Playing in Water at Robert Crown Memorial State Beach, Alameda, California

I actually find more inspiration in looking at street photography by the likes of William Albert Allard, David Alan Harvey and Sam Abell more than I do from looking at landscape photography so most of the time when I walk the beach across the street from my apartment I bring my Fuji XE-1 along sans tripod and keep my eyes open for any spontaneous moments of life unfolding before my eyes. Things don’t come together too often but it’s deeply satisfying to me when they do.

Robert Crown Memorial State Beach Sunset Alpenglow at Low Tide, Alameda, California

Robert Crown Memorial State Beach Sunset Alpenglow at Low Tide, Alameda, California

Of all the photography I did this year all over California, it is surprising to me how many of my favorite photos came within a few minute walk of my front door. There is something to be said for putting in a lot of time somewhere and being able to photograph a location at special moments. This sunset seemed to last a long time and there was color in every direction in the sky. Sunset also coincided with the low tide so the San Francisco Bay revealed itself with wonderful patterns and water reflections. The fact that I was in bed sick all day prior to sunset makes this all the more rewarding.

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) Tree Trunks at Sunrise, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, California

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) Tree Trunks at Sunrise, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, California

Giant Sequoia trees are the largest trees in the world when measuring sheer volume of wood. It can be a real challenge to bring the immensity of these trees into a two-dimensional medium like photography. What I decided to do here was not show any sky or surrounding forest which de-emphasize the immensity so I instead compressed the scene by zooming into the giant trunks with my lens merely hinting at a much larger tree than what is shown. Letting the viewer fill in the blanks with their imagination can be more powerful than literal interpretations of a subject. That is an artistic aspect of photography that I would like to improve in.

Thousands of Shorebirds Flying at Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary, Alameda, California

Thousands of Shorebirds Flying at Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary, Alameda, California

This is another photo from my “backyard”. Landscape photography is often static but when you add in tons of birds it’s almost a magic formula for something cool to happen. These shorebirds flew in multiple flocks creating a dizzying array of patterns when my eyes could keep up with them. Oh, and I happened to shoot this one handheld. My tripod was at home. Being untethered from the tripod brings a sort of freedom to my photography that I like to feel.

Spectrum of Fall Colors in Vineyard at Dry Creek Valley, Geyserville, California

Spectrum of Fall Colors in Vineyard at Dry Creek Valley, Geyserville, California

I had a hard time deciding between several Wine Country photos to share but ultimately decided upon this one for the vibrant fall color. This vineyard was bar-none the most colorful thing I saw all year. The side-lighting really helped to bring the color contrast out.

Merced National Wildlife Refuge Winter Sunset, California

San Joaquin Valley Winter Sunset, California

Winter bird migrations was another subject that I was looking forward to photographing after moving back up north. I spent several days over two trips before I finally got an image I was happy with. This one came during the “freeze warning” in California this winter. It 38 degrees out when I made this photo…

Special Mentions:

Samantha's Graduation

Samantha’s Graduation

Dr. Samantha. I’m proud of you babe!

Richard and Samantha's Engagement Photos by Jennifer Jasso

Richard and Samantha’s Engagement Photos by Jennifer Jasso

My favorite engagement photo by Jennifer Jasso.


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36 thoughts

  1. An amazing collection, Richard! All are fantastic, but I particularly enjoy Fog Rising, Tidal Sand Dunes, and Two Kids Playing in Water. Visually striking with good stories. Congrats to you for such a successful year in photography, to Samantha on her graduation, and to you and Samantha on your upcoming wedding! Whew, what a year, but may 2014 be your best year yet! Happy holidays! Colleen

  2. Wow, a rough year indeed! So sorry man. Still, a very nice set for 2013 Richard. Hope 2014 brings you a successful wedding and transition to stability as a married couple, but I am sure you wish your dad could have been there.

  3. My condolences again, Richard, on your losses. When I read your post, I was thinking about you having all of the highest stressors in life, all in one year. It’s great that you went for it, grabbed life by the huevos and followed your passion. Probably one of the best ways to deal with the stress. As long as everything is changing and coming unglued already, why not just make the big change, move to the Bay Area and get engaged? What the heck. Congratulations on your engagement. Moving in together is exciting, but challenging too. Way to go, brother. I love your photos from this year, especially rendered in giant size like this. My favorites are San Joaquin Sunset, Two Kids Playing and Tidal Sand Ripples. Have enjoyed getting to know you better this year too, Richard. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  4. Thanks David. I probably did add a few gray hairs this year with all the stress but things are good. Happy holidays and wishing you a great 2014.

  5. Great set of images (as always), Richard! That foggy Mt. Tam shot is a stunner–easy to see why it’s a favorite. I also really like the fall color vineyard shot–beautiful comp with the lines and that autumnal rainbow of color. I hope 2014 is a great year for you (and Dr. Samantha!).

  6. Richard: What an awesome collection. Love seeing your personal vision come through so strongly on all of these. The detail of the trees is probably my personal favorite, but I just love that beautiful moment you caught with the kids playing in the water. An excellent year, and you’re making Alameda look better than I’ve ever seen anyone else make it look. Cheers & A wonderful 2014 to you and Samantha! I know it will be a very special year for sure!

  7. Thank you Richard for adding a bit more inspiration for me to re-visit California. It is a challenge to do so because I am 3,000 miles away on the opposite coast of the US. I love the use of color in your photography.
    Like you I am returning to my love of the natural world after a 30 year career in portrait photography. Have re-visited Acadia National Park in Maine which was number one on my places to re-visit from my childhood and California has moved up on the list.

    Thanks for sharing your photographic talents!

  8. Thanks Bruce. I feel the same way about the New England states. It would be great to visit there more and see the scenery, maritime scenes, etc… At least we have something to look forward to. 🙂

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  10. Wonderful highlights from the year Richard. Sorry to hear about the bad life changes but congrats again on the good ones! Set the bar reasonably for yourself photographically in the new year…weddings can be all consuming. 😉

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