Best of 2015

Another year gone by and time for the obligatory “Top Ten” post. Since 2015 was the first full year I spent on the road, it’s a pretty amazing variety. From Arizona to Washington and many places in between. It was tougher to narrow it down to ten this year, probably because of all the wonderful memories associated with each photo. But I’ve attempted to be as objective as possible, judging the final product more than the process, although the two are inexplicably connected from my perspective. So, without further ado, I give you my top ten photographs of 2015.

10.) Angelic

angelic; great egret; ardea alba; breeding plumage; clear blue sky; angel; heaven; wading bird; wild; wildlife; nature; natural; soaring; wings; wingspan; feathers; Gray Lodge Wildlife Area; butte county ca; california; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson

Great egret (Ardea alba) in breeding plumage in flight against a clear blue sky.

This image was photographed at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in central California. I was ever so fortunate to find a rookery where great egrets, great blue herons, and double-crested cormorants were preparing their nests in the midst of breeding season. This photo made the list on account of its unique perspective of one of my favorite birds, as well as the beautiful green lore and elegant tail feathers known as aigrettes, which are characteristic of breeding plumage.

9.) Peeking Peak

Peeking Peak; Grand Teton national park; mountains; autumn; storm; snow; high elevation; close up; rugged; jagged; weather; clouds; teton county wy; wyoming; jackson hole; majestic; monochrome; black and white; cold; winter; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson

In the midst of an autumn storm, the peaks of the Grand Tetons make brief appearances for only moments before disappearing again into the clouds. This is one of those moments.

I chose this image for its otherworldly quality and the juxtaposition of the jagged peak against the softness of the clouds. Since I had only three days in Grand Teton National Park, and I arrived in the midst of a storm with heavy clouds blanketing the rugged peaks, I was fortunate enough to be in a position to capture this image when an opening in the clouds appeared for just a few brief minutes.

8.) Mount Garfield

mount garfiled; mt. garfield; colorado; grand junction co; palisade co; mesa county co; mesa; geology; peak; interesting; western slope; interstate 70; blue sky; clouds; morning; light; elevation; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson

Mt. Garfield is a 6765 ft. (2062 m) peak in the Little Book Cliff mountains just to the north of interstate 70 between Grand Junction and Palisade, Colorado. This mountain is more like a mesa and is very geologically interesting. 

I can’t tell you how many times over the last year I’ve been driving my motor home, with car in tow, and seen something I wanted to photograph. This inevitably happens on a narrow road, with no shoulder and no place to pull over my awkwardly large rig. On the day I was leaving the western slope of Colorado to travel north into Wyoming, I saw Mount Garfield bathed in the beautiful morning light with wispy clouds hovering above. Once again, I longed for a place to stop and get out with my camera when all of a sudden, a large pullout appeared. This image was chosen for its serendipity and in honor of all those other missed shots where personal safety took precedence over photography.

7.) Pheasant in Flight

pheasant in flight; ring-necked pheasant; Phasianus colchicus; male; in flight; fly; flying; bird; wild; wildlife; upland game bird; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson

Male Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) in flight.

This image made the list as the realization of a long-standing goal. For years I have been fascinated with the ring-necked pheasants and have attempted many hundreds of times to get a photograph of one in flight, but they were just too quick. Then one morning, while driving around lost on an abandoned road in the McNary National Wildlife Refuge of eastern Washington, I surprised a group of these birds roosting in a tree. I also surprised myself with the composure and reflexes to finally capture an image of one of these elusive birds on the wing. And a beautifully colored male, too.

6.) Magical Sedona

Magical Sedona; Cathedral Rock Double Rainbow; sedona az; arizona; sedona; red rock country; desert southwest; mystical; magical; spiritual; heavenly; beauty; nature; natural; sublime; clouds; weather; rain; foreground; reflection; water; pool; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson

Double rainbow over Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona. Recent rains have left pools of water, creating an opportunity to capture a reflection of the famous, mystical rock in the foreground. 

Sedona was an unexpected destination in my travels this year as I had originally planned to go to Bryce Canyon in May after spending time at Zion National Park. The weather turned unexpectedly cold and snowy in southern Utah and I changed plans to go farther south. My first evening in Sedona was spent at Red Rock Crossing, which is purportedly the most photographed spot in Arizona. I was thrilled to find a puddle that was big enough to capture a reflection of the famed Cathedral Rock, but when a double rainbow appeared, I was utterly astonished.

5.) Dawn at Tipsoo Lake

Dawn at Tipsoo Lake; First Light on Mount Rainier; Mt. Rainier; Lake Tipsoo; sunrise; dawn; reflection; water; Mount Rainier National Park; Washington; Pierce County wa; scene; scenic; travel; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson

Tipsoo Lake reflects Mount Rainier at Dawn. Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington.

Sunrise is possibly my favorite time of day to capture landscape photographs and this image is one of my favorite dawns. Mount Rainier is one of the most beautiful peaks in the Cascade Range and the perfectly still water gave my eyes and camera double the pleasure of it in the morning’s first light. I also captured a horizontal version of this scene, but I chose the vertical because it incorporates a closer view of the mountain in all its glacial glory.

4.) Sedona Moon

Sedona Moon; sedona az; arizona; red rock country; cathedral rock; full moon; sunset; evening; light; spires; pillars; desert southwest; unforgettable; vortex; spiritual; nature; natural; orange; red; sky; formation; rocks; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson

Watching the full moon rise between the spires of Sedona, Arizona’s Cathedral Rock is a truly unforgettable experience.

It’s ironic that two of my top ten photos this year are from Sedona since it wasn’t one of my favorite places. Cathedral Rock is, however, a truly beautiful and majestic sight, and more than worthy of two top-ten spots. The orientation of the rocks are such that when you are facing the them, the sun sets behind you. There are just a few moments each afternoon when the light of the setting sun reflects and causes the red rocks to “glow.” This image is the result of quite a bit of meticulous planning and a little bit of luck. Mapping out and finding a place where the full moon would rise over the rock at sunset was the planned part. The moon rising just between the spire and the monolith was the luck part.

3.) Bald Eagle Swoosh

Bald eagle swoosh; Haliaeetus leucocephalus; american; perch; taking flight; atop; tree; sacramento NWR; national wildlife refuge; california; glenn county ca; blue sky; wings; wingspan; bird of prey; raptor; wild; wildlife; in flight; flying; majestic; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson

American bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) taking flight from its perch atop the tree.

I’ve already blogged about this image in my “Stories Behind the Images” series, but it made the top ten because it is probably the sharpest, clearest eagle in flight photo I’ve ever captured. And because they are just awesome birds.

2. Storm View

Storm View; cedaredge overlook; colorado; grand mesa; mesa county co; delta valley; thunderstorms; storm; stormy; clouds; weather; rain; vast; vista; showers; dramatic; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson

Dramatic view from the Cedaredge Overlook on Colorado’s Grand Mesa on a stormy summer afternoon.

Another of my favorite things to photograph is dramatic weather. While scouting out places to photograph fireworks on 4th of July, five thousand feet above the valley floor on Colorado’s Grand Mesa, this thunderstorm developed. The fireworks shots were a bust, but the location scouting and dramatic weather gave me one of my best images of the year, which even made World View on The Weather Underground.

1.) Eagle Mesa Storm Clouds

Eagle Mesa Storm Clouds; glowing; monument valley; arizona; utah; desert southwest; red rock country; navajo nation; az weather; ut weather; rock formations; sagebrush; sand; light; sunset; dusk; evening; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson

Storm clouds glowing just before sunset behind Eagle Mesa in Monument Valley.

I have to admit that coming up with the top ten this year was much more difficult than last year. Even more difficult was deciding which image would be number one. After much deliberation, I choose this view of Eagle Mesa in Monument Valley. It gets the top spot because of the glow and shape of the clouds, and also because it is a view of Monument Valley that is less common and less photographed than the traditional “mittens.”

This year has been a wonder of experiences and places for me. I’ve learned a lot about photography, RV’ing, and life. Opening my eyes and heart to the wonders of the world has truly made me feel young again. I look forward to 2016 and another year of discovery, growth, and education. Happiest of New Years to all of you!


Posted under: art, best of, blog, deserts, gratitude, lakes, mountains, national parks, photography, The vagabond lifestyle, wildlife

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  • Anonymous on December 26, 2015 at 1:59 pm said:

    Amazing work, Loree. Each image is a masterpiece! What a fantastic year you have had, living the dream I look forward to seeing what you experience in 2016. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  • Brian White on December 27, 2015 at 1:57 am said:

    Wonderful photos! I love birds so I especially like the beautiful bird photos on the list. Number 10,the Great Egret is a fantastic capture! I always enjoy seeing your photos on Facebook. I wish you a picturesque 2016, with many more great captures and discoveries.

  • Anonymous on January 1, 2016 at 5:11 pm said:

    Your images are gorgeous, Loree! I love following your travels and seeing your wonderful work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.