This past year saw a distinct reduction in my pursuit of photography, and while that may seem like a disappointment, I have no reason to complain. Less photography only means more time for the other critical, and often more valuable, components of my life. I loved being able to spend an abundance of time with my darling daughter, Della, and being a more effective teacher, and maintaining my commitments to service in my local church. It was a year full of blessings…and by some people’s standards, I still spent plenty of time outside with my camera. Certainly there were some incredible moments behind the lens!
After several years, the death of one cave, and the discovery of another; I finally got another chance to photograph this intricate ice phenomenon. When conditions are just right (first you need a subglacial cave) the most fascinating patterns form on ice deep under the glacier. It looks almost as if the ice were covered in very pronounced thumb-prints. Then, from another angle, it has the look of some kind of electronic circuitry. Successfully composing near-macro photographs in the dark can pose a considerable challenge though, and I have not always overcome those challenges in the few opportunities I’ve had. This past January I made two or three photographs of these ice patterns that I’m pleased with, but I’m also praying that some future day will provide me the opportunity to make something even better.
For spring break, Breea, Della, and I enjoyed a “warming trip” to the California high desert and Phoenix to visit family. This photo shows off a glorious sunrise on a morning that I skipped the long car ride to explore areas around the old farm that used to produce alfalfa for my great grandparents. Besides a few photos and a fun drive to the Kelso Dunes with my mom, it was awesome to have five generations together in one place again; Granny turned 97 just a month before our visit.
I’m not much of a wildlife photographer. I think I lack a level of patience, and I haven’t invested in the necessary equipment, but this year my friend, Corey, and I made the third of what has become an annual trip to visit the Benjamin Island sea lion haul out. It’s a pretty smelly sight, and yes, you read that right. A sea lion roar sounds an awful lot like a belch and it smells significantly worse. My wildlife photography skills require animals to be predictable and slow moving, and those two things are abundant at this location.
Using lens shifts to record this mesmerizing scene in great detail was a special experience in an of itself, some of the best hours of photography I’ve experienced in my life. That was just the beginning of the fun with this image though. I had never experienced the level of internet “fame” that was mine on the day that I posted this image to G+, and to be fair, I will probably never experience it again. I told friends that I new I had hit the “big time” when there were even comments degrading me for taking the photo and other G+ users for providing positive feedback.
Remember when I said that we warmed up down south over spring break? Well it was a good thing because Juneau set records for coldest average monthly temperatures in both May and June. It’s a tiny aspect of the above image, but you can probably just barely make out the results of those temperatures on the distant Chilkat Range. After a winter of record snowfall in the mountains, it still looked like early April at elevation when I made this photo on the summer solstice. I don’t feel like this image is my most artistic effort, but it records a defining moment of peak color on one of my favorite days of the year. Several hours earlier I was having success photographing a different location, and by the end, it was one of those days that can make an entire summer of wet, cold Juneau feel well worth it.
Mixed in with the recurring trips to my favorite Juneau locations was this day of awesome adventure. It wasn’t the length of trip (under 12 hours) or remoteness of the location (right next to a glacier tour helicopter landing site) that made the time special. It was the grand an unimaginable beauty that we were alone in for a couple hours. The fact that there were a few hundred people, over the course of the day, milling around 100 yards away with no knowledge of what we were doing or seeing only added to my enjoyment. With Corey and another friend, the kayak back across the Mendenhall Lake under the stars (near 11 o’clock) was priceless!
I spent enough wonderful evenings at the end of the Herbert River Trail that I would be remiss not to include at least one photo in this year-end collection. On this occasion (as with most) I was looking for the greater view of fall color, Herbert River being one of very few places in Juneau where fall color means much of anything, but there were only scattered details to be found. I had the good fortune of adding two new lenses to my collection in the past year, and macro lens was one of them. While an image like this one would have been difficult or impossible without it, I haven’t used the macro lens as much as I would have hoped. That is something to add to my list of goals for next year.
Toward the end of the year was when things really slowed down, and I actually went over two months without taking a “nature photograph” for the first time in many years. Taking this time to look back, I’m surprised and very pleased by how many of photos I made over the course of the past twelve months still feel very valuable to me. Beyond photographs, witnessing another year in the life of my daughter and watching her grow in appreciation for God’s creation has been a consistent blessing. Spending time outside in simple pursuits with my wife and other fantastic friends is a true reason for gratitude. And if I want to take more photographs next year, I can always start by not leaving memory cards or batteries at home when I go on awesome hikes with sweet light! May God richly bless you in the new year!