Best of 2017

Hard to believe another year has already gone by. Time for my annual “best of” choices. 2017 was an interesting year, full of new places and new adventures. For the first time since I became a full-time vagabond, I had the urge to be a “snowbird” and head to the desert for winter. I visited some places I hadn’t seen since childhood, and some places I had never seen. I saw wildlife that was unfamiliar to me and added many new birds to my life list. This was also the year I discovered the joys of being a Wildlife Refuge Volunteer. I spent time at Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge and Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I hope to do more of this in the future as it is both gratifying and fun.

Each year I pick the top ten images of the year. These are not necessarily the best sellers of the year, or even the most popular, but the ten images I’m most proud of, for whatever reason. This year I’m including the equipment and settings for those who are interested in such things.

#10 – Scrub Jay on a Joshua Tree

Scrub Jay on a Joshua Tree (Nikon D800E, Tamron 150-600mm, 1/3200 sec., f7.1, ISO 800)

This image made the list because of the bird’s unusual perch. The spines of the Joshua tree are an interesting place for a bird to land and this one didn’t stick around very long. The circular group of spines and the long, slender body of the bird made for a composition I’m fond of.

#9 – Wizard’s Hat Sunset

Wizard's Hat Sunset(Nikon D800E, Nikkor 70-200mm, 0.8 sec., f18, ISO 100)

I have many images of Bandon Beach in Oregon, including some with the Wizard’s Hat. On this evening, I made the decision to shoot with my 70-200mm lens (a short telephoto) rather than a wide angle lens. I’m pleased with the way it isolated the rock as the focal point of the image.

#8 – Bald Eagle Dive

Bald Eagle Dive(Nikon D800E, Tamron 150-600mm, 1/2500 sec., f8, ISO 1000)

This one is on the list because of the serendipity. I was actually watching and shooting a juvenile bald eagle when this adult came swooping in to chase it off. With only a split second to react, I managed to refocus and capture the dive. It all happened so fast, I couldn’t believe the shot turned out.

#7 – Joshua Tree Full Moon

Joshua Tree Full Moon(Nikon D800E, Nikkor 70-200mm, 1/4 sec., f18, ISO 400)

If you’ve been following my photography for any amount of time, then you know I love to shoot the moon. So, of course, there had to be at least one image of her in the top ten. I’ve been photographing the moon for as long as I’ve been photographing, yet I’m still discovering new ways to showcase her. This is my favorite full moon of the year.

#6 – Skeptical Merlin

Skeptical Merlin(Nikon D800E, Tamron 150-600mm, 1/1250 sec., f8, ISO 400)

Spending the winter in the desert last year brought new opportunities for wildlife sightings, but merlins are an exciting find for me anywhere. This one was just outside Needles, California in one of our lesser known wildlife refuges, Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.

#5 – Reflection of Flight

Reflection of Flight (Nikon D800E, Tamron 150-600mm, 1/1250 sec., f7.1, ISO 2000)

Reflections are a favorite of mine and a bird in flight reflected is a big score. Even better when it’s a beautiful great egret. This one was flying over the Smith River Estuary at low tide.

#4 – Defensive Maneuver

Defensive Maneuver

Whenever there are hummingbirds around, I want to photograph them. They are so tiny and fast, they really keep my reflexes in shape. This little rufous female was defending her lilac bush against all competition. I just love the serious look in her eye and those threatening little feet.

#3 – Sunset Flight

Sunset Flight

(Nikon D800E, Tamron 150-600mm, 1/4000 sec., f7.1, ISO 1250)

Shortly after arriving at Tulelake NWR for my volunteer month, I heard the calls of sandhill cranes. Knowing that there are nesting pairs at the refuge, I set out to see if I could spot them. As I drove down one of the farm roads within the refuge, I saw a pair of cranes close to the road. I stopped the car, turned off the engine and waited to see if I could get a shot. Much to my surprise, they came toward my car, honking and squawking, and proceeded to circle around me, act as if they were wounded, and generally put on a show a photographer could only hope for. It became obvious that there was a nest somewhere nearby and I had gotten too close for their liking. After shooting for a few minutes, I started my car and slowly drove away. That was the closest I have ever been to wild sandhill cranes and I didn’t even get out of the car. It was a thrill I won’t forget.

#2 – Smith River Sunset

Smith River Sunset

(Nikon D800E, Nikkor 24-70mm, 1/10 sec., f14, ISO 100)

As I said above, reflections are a favorite subject of mine and the Smith River Estuary is the best of two worlds. One the one hand, you have the legendary sunsets of the pacific coast, and on the other the smooth, calm water of the mouth of the Smith River. When both elements come together, it’s a heavenly combination.

#1 – Eastern Sierra Reflections

Eastern Sierra Reflections

(Nikon D800E, Nikkor 24-70mm, 1/10 sec., f14, ISO 200)

This is my number one favorite image this year for several reasons. Did I mention I like reflections? This year, Bishop, California was on my list of destinations for the main reason that I wanted to visit the Mountain Light Gallery. Galen Rowell was my inspiration to become a photographer. I wanted to see his images on display in person, and I was not disappointed. Sadly, I saw recently that the gallery has closed its doors. I’m grateful I could visit while it was still open.

While I was in Bishop, I hoped to capture the Sierra Nevada Range at sunrise. I had discovered this pond on information from a birder I met, and thought it would make a great sunrise location. On the morning this image was captured, I almost didn’t go. As first light started to illuminate the sky, about a half hour before sunrise, there appeared to be no clouds at all. I figured since I was already awake, I might as well go shoot. Imagine my surprise when the tops of the mountains turned a deep reddish orange, even without the benefit of clouds on the eastern horizon. I had heard tell of the amazing light in the Eastern Sierra, but had no idea how amazing it really is.

I hope you enjoyed my little retrospective of the year through photos. It’s always difficult to narrow it down to just ten, so let me know if I’ve missed any of your favorites. As always, thanks for stopping by.





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