Top 10 of 2015: 10
As 2015 winds down, many photographers are posting their “best of” or “Top 10” images of the year and I’ve also done so in the past. I was about to do the same this year but I think I’ll change it up a little and share my favorite moments behind the lens instead. 2015 was an incredible year of photography for me and I feel blessed to have traveled to some amazing places. In addition to this, I’ve learned so much about photography and feel that every day has taught me something new. I began this blog long ago as a way to record my life in photos but it has gradually evolved into a blog of my photography and thoughts. Throughout this transition, much has changed but one thing remains the same: my desire to share the experience. So, continuing along and ever learning, I’ll share my favorite experiences and accompanying images from this year of change in no particular order. Except for number one…
Uinta Mountains, Utah
West Fork Black’s Fork River
The Uinta Mountains of Utah are an interesting mountain range in that they are one of only two mountain ranges in North America that run East-West, with the Brooks Range in Alaska being the other. This orientation acts as a wall to the flow of moisture from the south in the summer and it rains almost daily. I’ve been to the Uintas dozens of times and each visit offers a new experience. My visit in August was no exception. There are miles and miles of wilderness trails, beautiful valleys with flowing rivers and expansive alpine ridges leading to 13,000 foot peaks. There are also plenty of mosquitoes but every once in a while you can get lucky and not get eaten alive. I spent my first evening camped near the end of a forest service road a short distance from the river. The view upstream is impressive here with distant peaks filling the horizon. The one other thing that the Uinta Mountains have is amazing light, something I’ve experienced on many occasions. After an early dinner, I headed down to the river to photograph sunset in the open valley.
The sky was partly cloudy and a potentially good sunset was shaping up. I wandered along the banks of the river as I searched for compositions before the colors turned and luckily didn’t have to go far. The light began to peek through the clouds but the sky was still mostly grey. Then BAM. The sky erupted in colors of orange, red and yellow in all directions. The entire landscape glowed under the reflected light of the clouds and it was almost silly how intense the colors were. Only 11 minutes passed between my first photo of the sunset colors until my final sunset shot and the colors shifted from intense warm tones to vivid cooler tones of blue and purple. I was literally dumbfounded by the display of color and light and at one point, I just had to take a minute to stop and look.
I’ve been trying to not photograph sunsets as much but this one was an exception and taught me something valuable. From this point on, I no longer used graduated neutral density filters (for the non-photographers, this is a filter placed in front of the lens that darkens the sky but not the ground). This was strictly a personal decision and a way to force myself to photograph in better light where additional balancing of tones isn’t needed. By seeking scenes that didn’t require a filter to bring light into the proper range for exposures, I began seeing the landscape in a new way. I slowly moved away from photographing sunsets/sunrises and focused more on scenes above and below the horizon. I’ll elaborate more on this thought in a future post where I discuss what landscape photography means to me. Ultimately, this decision also led me to consider how I create images and the tools I use, AKA film.
After sunset, I returned to camp and woke to a mostly clear and frosty morning. I grabbed by coffee and camera and walked back towards the river. I photographed a few more scenes before returning to camp to pack up for the day’s hike. A short distance away was a trail I had never been on, that led to potentially great views. I packed up and was soon at the trailhead with my daypack on. Up we go! The trail immediately crosses a river on a narrow log and then climbs 2000 ft to where the trees end. An open ridge gradually ascends and the views become better and better as you climb. Near 11,000 feet, the view across a lake opens up and reveals a unique view of Utah’s highest point, King’s Peak. It’s not easily recognizable from this angle but is impressive nonetheless. A bit further and the tip of Red Castle becomes visible beyond endless rolling alpine ridges. I reached a good spot to sit and soak up the view, while wondering what the view was like further along the ridge. It was late afternoon so I didn’t have time to find out on this trip, but I returned later in the summer to find out.
Overall, this trip was the tipping point for a new way to view landscape photography and provided a great reference for a future adventure to this area. This easily stands out as one of the better moments of the year for me and several images were made on this trip that I enjoy to this day. I’ll be writing more as I count down my favorite moments of the year so stay tuned!
Thanks for reading,