For each of the past few years, I have compiled a small gallery of my favorite images from the year. It was something I did when I first started out in photography; Jim Goldstein, whose blog collects the best-of collections from more than a hundred other photographers, inspired me to restart the tradition.
I think the exercise of reviewing and editing your work is quite helpful in refining your art and identifying opportunities for improvement. For me, one of the things that was immediately evident in past years was that I often relied on travel to exotic locations to fuel my creativity. In 2011, I worked hard to bring the level of excitement and passion that I feel in a new place back to the familiar scenery at home.
I think it worked. One of my favorite images was taken within walking distance of my house. Four more were taken within 30 miles. One of the images that nearly made this list was taken right outside my office window. It feels great to again be doing my best and most creative work in the area that gave me my start.
In no particular order, here are my favorite images from 2011:
I've been photographing bald eagles for nearly as long as I have been a photographer. I photographed nesting eagles before, but this year I discovered a nest just a few freeway exits from my house. The close proximity allowed me to visit several times a week from the time the eggs hatched until the two young eagles flew away for good. I really got to know the birds and their habits and routines, and it paid off with some of my best eagle images ever. This image is of one of the two young fledglings. You can check out the rest of the series here.
I drove past this field many times over the years. It's a buffer area behind a strip mall not far from my house. It's incredibly beautiful for a couple of weeks when the buttercup is in bloom. Each year, I would say someday I'll stop and take a picture. This year, I finally did.
Thor's Well is the remnant of an old blowhole on the Oregon coast at Cape Perpetua. The hole is too wide for the water to blow out with much force, but when the tide is high and the conditions are just right, you can capture a nice 360-degree waterfall as the water races back in. It took several attempts over the past couple years to get this image.
This image is also from Cape Perpetua, Oregon. I had a few hours to wait for the sun to set, so I hiked along the coast, found this patch of sea palms and worked to create an image that showed them in the context of their tough environment.
My photography career began in the Seattle Arboretum. I photographed the wildlife in the wetlands from an inflatable kayak. I got my "big break" when a publisher discovered my work and created a book using many of my images. I returned to the wetlands and made many new images. My favorite is of this familiar bluet damselfly waiting on a water lily for his mate.
Yosemite National Park is incredible in winter. Even during a storm, the Tunnel View pullout was packed with photographers. Most were waiting for the weather to clear, but I found it much more interesting to photograph ravens flying around in the heavy snow.
Here's another image of Yosemite in winter. I took a short hike along the Merced River and had this view all to myself.
And here's another raven image. Actually, these two are crows. It's an example of how sometimes "bad" technique can result in exceptional images. Look closely at the birds. See how their eyes are glowing? That happens when you use a projected flash too close to the camera. The glowing eyes are the animal equivalent of red eye pictures of people. In this case, though, I think it helps make the image more moody.
The wide panoramas of the Painted Hills in John Day, Oregon are stunning, but the deep shadows, strong lines, and vibrant colors made this image my favorite.
Skagit Valley is known best for the huge flocks of snow geese that winter there. These are starlings. A long exposure, combined with parts of the flock flying in different directions made this one of my favorite images of the year.
Mount Shuksan in Washington's North Cascades is one of the most photographed mountains in the world. But the unusual weather in the Northwest this year allowed me to photograph fall and winter at the same time.
There are only a few days each year where you can capture the full moon with Mount Si reflecting in this lake near Snoqualmie, Washington. This has been on my calendar for a few years. For once, the weather worked out.