Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 Year in Review

Milky Way over Big Bend
A review of my year in photography for 2015.  A few years ago I noticed a lot of other photographers were doing year in review type posts and I joined in.  See them here, 2013 and 2014 Year in Review.

This has been an amazing year for me in photography with some great trips, fantastic sunsets, and clear dark nights.  

2015 started with me being in the field awaiting sunrise on New Years Day.  We had cold rain breaking a streak of some ten years of cloudless sky.  That rain turned out to be a forecast of the year to come as rain was the key word here in Texas.  A normal year sees us get about 30" of rain and we have gone several years with drought and getting about 20" of rain.  This year we have had 59" and the year is not over yet!  It has been the wettest year on record.  
Nolan River Flood

I saw a few flooding events and the high water levels impacted several planned locations for the year.

Brazos River 
The short winter we have in Texas was mostly mild and then in the last week of February we had ice.  I photographed locally on a regular basis doing more and more night work.  It was sometimes difficult as the weather did not always cooperate but it did pay off when it all did work.  February say me try a couple of times for night images.  I went to the Nolan River with the idea of a shot I had and knew would work in February.  It was partly cloudy when I left Cowtown but socked in by the time I got to the river.  I decided to try again in March and got there in heavy rain and just stood there in the dark hoping for a break, but no dice.  

I went to the Brazos river another morning even though the moon was up just to get out and see a few stars and actually got a few nice images of an old bridge.

Guadalupes at Night
March also saw me return to west Texas for a week.  I started on the Lost Mesa for a night, then the Guadalupes for a couple of nights and then on to Big Bend.  I had several things I wanted to photograph, many of them night images.  I had rented a Canon 6D as it is a significantly better camera than my Canon 5D2 for nights.  After the trip I got to looking at all the great night images I was getting and splurged on a Sony A7S, which is the best night camera there is.  It has made a huge difference for me this year and on a couple of trips was the only camera I took.

The Lost Mesa turned out to be just a weak sunset, but I caught a great sunset on the dunes at Guadalupe Mountains.  I am always struck by the absolute silence here.  It is stone quiet standing out here all alone.  Watching the sunset the only sound is the click of the camera.

Texas hoodoos at night
I tried to catch a sunrise but after just a few images of stars the sky completely clouded up and it began to rain.  It rained all day.  At 6pm I was driving in the rain and stopped by the salt flats in gray light, rain, and the mountains in the clouds.  Then, as it is often here, the front edge passed, the light turned golden and the mountains popped out.  With water on the flats from a day of rain, it turned into another epic sunset from this location.

Guadalupe Mountains
After a few hours of sleep I went back out for the Milky Way and found fog in the salt basin and made foggy Milky Way images.

It was then off to Big Bend for several days in the desert with some great wildflowers, a few good sunsets, and some good night images.  I have found several locations I like and have learned the best season for each for night images.  Now, now matter what time of year, I have some spots that will work.

After a week of little sleep, I needed a vacation to rest up from my vacation.

Our bluebonnet season was bad this year, that late ice storm really put the damper on flowers.  I had a quick trip to Salt Lake City and got in a sunset at the Great Salt Lake in the middle of the gnat season.  I think they are worse than cold or snow!  :-)

Spring Wildflowers in Big Bend
Great Salt Lake
April and May brought big rains to Texas.  I was out one morning after a full night of rain and say a 25' flood roar down the Nolan River.  It was quite a sight looking at that much water as the river was out of its banks and really moving.

The Snowy Range
That high water then filled up Lake Whitney and backed it up into the Nolan River and I was unable to get to the bluff until October.  So the night images I wanted in July and August did not happen.  I did get to photograph another section of the river and used it as a good stand in on some hot summer nights for photographing the Milky Way.

In July I also had to goto Colorado and took an opportunity to get there a day early and go spend the night in the Snowy Range of Wyoming.  This was one of those trips I only took the Sony A7S and standing high in the mountains, I got some great night images with amazing green air glow.

For just having 24 hours up there I got in a lot of good photography and got several images for the portfolio.  Planning pays off.  As does having a place few other people go to.  One of the many reasons Wyoming is one of my favorite states!

Snowy Range at night
I always view the Labor Day weekend as the start of camping and photography season.  After the hot Texas summer, I know I can head to the desert and find cool temps.  Labor Day took me to the Lost Mesa and Guadalupe Mountains where I got in some great landscapes and nightscapes.  I had hoped to backpack to Guadalupe Peak but with a forecast of thunderstorms, I rerouted, stayed safe and got amazing images.  Had I backpacked I would have spent the night in a severe thunderstorm, so it was a good call.

Halealaka at Night
Things began to get very busy for me and I was out of town every other week between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

In the late summer I also had some of my Collections featured on Google+ which was a huge honor.  You can see them here:  Google+

I had to go to Maui in late September.  I know horrible....... I flew in a few days early, took my tent and camped on Halealaka and then along the coast at Hana.  I got to see a side of Hawaii few see these days.  The seascapes were good with some rainy sunrises along the coast and it was a cold night on the volcano at 10,000'.  I took a down jacket with me to Hawaii.  Let that sink in......

The night sky was great in the middle of the Pacific although the Milky Way was already too far west to photograph over the crater. 

Nolan River Nightscape
This was another trip I only took the Sony A7S.  I was really liking the small size of the Sony cameras especially with a few small prime lenses (in my case 30 year old Nikon lenses).  One type of camera I did not have but wish I did was an underwater camera.  I went snorkeling one morning and say 12 turtles!  It was a fantastic experience and one I wish I had a camera on.

In October I did a quick 5 day trip to Big Bend.  It was a solo trip and I went specifically for some fall night photography.  It was my first trip to Big Bend with the Sony A7S and I put it to good use getting some amazing views of the night sky there in the park.

Zion Narrows
I am already planning on a spring return and visiting my spring locations with the Sony camera.

The end of October saw me with a week in Zion.  Well it was supposed to be a week where I went to Bryce and Zion but some unexpected things happened and it turned into a week of camping in Zion.  This is another trip I have yet to cover on the blog as I run behind by at least a few months.

I waded the Narrows again this year.  For the first time I rented the dry pants and shoes.  Wow what a difference!  In the past I just wore shorts and Keen sandals.  That works in September, but not around Halloween.  I spent most of the day in the Narrows and got of of the best images I have ever made there.

I got to see fall color around the area and despite the fact it was a full moon week, got in a few nights of dark sky before moonrise.  The night images were everything I was hoping I could get.

Zion Canyon at night
October also saw me finally get to see the bluff on the Nolan River and we took in a sunset and stayed for the Milky Way after dark.  It took several months from the big rains for the lake levels to go down to get here.  I am glad we went when we did as 10" of rain over Thanksgiving filled them right back up!

November brought fall color to north Texas and I spent every free day visiting local parks and and making drives looking for fall color.

After a rather hectic fall it was nice to just be around the home area and take in the local experience.  I caught some great fall color and then the above mentioned rain at Thanksgiving made another chance for some flood photos.

I also did something a little different for me, bought a SJ400 action camera and started doing some videos out in the field and even put together a YouTube channel.  You can check it out here: My You Tube Channel
Fall color and flood on the West Fork

In December I kept photographing fall color, high water and even got in a night at an old church that is a favorite location.  I had envisioned a shot with the Milky Way and after September visit figured December would be perfect, we made some special arrangements and on a fantastic mild Texas December night got some great images.

I also had a couple of images published this month.  Both from Big Bend.  One in Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine and one in Wild West magazine.  Check them out in you local bookstore.

Big Falls on the West Fork
Now it is Christmas week, we just lost the last of our fall colors.  It is still in the 60's here but we are entering our short winter.  I am watching the weather to see what might develop over the next few days that might make a photo opportunity.  I am planning on getting out as much as I can and for sure will be out on New Years for my annual sunrise tradition.

2016 is starting to plan up for me too with a spring trip to Big Bend in the works and who knows what else.

Thanks 2015 for a great year and I look forward to what 2016 brings.


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