Favorite Photographs

Standard

I like taking photographs.

I have recently been reading some blog posts by photographers about the task of paring down all of the images you might have taken in the past year, and presenting your favorites for others to see. These photographers are very active shooters, who have enough images to actually make this a more worthwhile activity. I haven’t really been shooting all that much in 2009, so rather than limiting myself to just the past 12 months, I decided to take on the challenge of creating a collection of favorites from all of my images.

New to the blog are several pages that can be accessed from the menu above under the heading “Gallery” –  from there you can access several categories that I thought best suited the path that my photography has taken.

These are my favorites… not just based on how the final image is presented, but also because of the story behind how each of them was obtained, and the places and experiences I have been able to enjoy along the way. Many of these images were created either early in the morning or later in the day, usually outside of the general population’s tolerance for hanging around. Quite often I am alone in very pretty and peaceful settings when these images were made, and that often means more to me than the making of the actual photographs – though it is nice to empty the memory card and see what I was able to capture.

Here’s one of my all-time favorites to get things started:

Green River2

Big Sur weather

Standard

beach1When we arrived in Big Sur to weather with temperatures in the low 80’s and lots of sunshine, the locals assured us that this was not the norm. Apparently this area is more used to fog and cooler temperatures, and when the law of averages kicked in a day or so later, we actually weren’t that disappointed when it became cool, wet and windy.

We had been very lucky with the weather throughout our trip to that point, seeing high 80’s in Yosemite, low 70’s in San Francisco… and throughout it had been sunny and bright from the moment we arrived until we left.

After spending a wonderful day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we did the 17-Mile Drive around Pebble Beach, and then we headed back down the coast toward Big Sur. On the way, we saw what looked like a pretty spectacular beach down below us and within a few minutes we had pulled off the road, parked the car, and located a path down to the ocean.

There were only a couple of people walking the beach when we first arrived, though they were soon gone leaving us with a most impressive scene all to ourselves. Some pretty big waves were crashing and the sky looked ominous, but we must have spent more than an hour here as Jack went into full beach-play mode taking advantage of the surf that chased him up and down the beach.

The cooler temperatures and damp weather were a welcome respite from the fairly continuous sunshine we had been experiencing to this point. The deserted beach, the un-summer weather, and the stark beauty all again reminded me of home in Ireland. I stood on this lonely rock as the waves rolled in and around it, and despite the weather I was determined to make a photograph that reminded me of the time spent there… here it is.

McWay Falls

Standard

bs_mcway2

There are many scenic areas that have a “must-see” and “must-photograph” landscape. Iconic landscapes are photographed often for a reason… they are usually beautiful and remarkable scenes. Otter Cliffs in Acadia NP, Delicate Arch in Arches NP, Zabriskie Point in Death Valley NP to name a few… all are special places, and all are quite understandably photographed by millions of visitors each year. McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer SP is another such icon.

Doing the touristy thing, we stopped at this little state park on our way along US Route 1 on the first evening we spent in Big Sur. When we arrived on this scene, it wasn’t quite time for the sun to set yet, but there was some warm light reaching into the cove where the waterfall is located – technically McWay Falls is actually a “tidefall” – since it empties directly into the Pacific Ocean. This picture postcard scene of the 80 ft McWay Falls is an easy hike along a well-trodden, flat path, and although it may have been photographed and witnessed by many, it was our first time seeing it in all it’s glory.

Pfeiffer Beach

Standard

bs5

On our first afternoon in Big Sur we grabbed some sandwiches from a local deli and immediately asked for advice on how to get to a nice beach. Up the road a couple of miles and down a winding lane and we were at the parking lot for Pfeiffer Beach.

We really didn’t know what to expect as we started to walk the short distance through a wooded area toward the beach, but we could hear the ocean and we could smell the ocean, so we hurriedly made our way along the path eager to reach our destination.

When we first caught a glimpse of Pfeiffer Beach we were not disappointed… it was late afternoon, and the sun was already pretty low in the sky. We could see all along the beach where there was pristine golden sand, giant silhouetted rock stacks, and powerful crashing waves. We all agreed that we had struck gold.

As the sun went down we spent the next hour or so playing on the beach, in and out of the surf, and lazing back enjoying our picnic. I recognized certain scenes from this beach from other photographers’ work, especially one striking rock formation that had evolved into an arched window through which huge waves were crashing. At certain times of the year, the low angled light from the setting sun lights up this arch with a surreal orange glow, and on very rare occurrences this is combined with the moon rising in a location that can be captured looking through the arch. No such luck for us at this time of year, but it was still a lot of fun to be there to enjoy the scene for ourselves.

Little did we know that the would be one of the last times we would be seeing the sun for any length of time… for the rest of the trip Big Sur lived up to it’s reputation with dense fog rolling in and out along the shore.

Big Sur

Standard

Many years ago I had composed a list of things I wanted to do in my lifetime, and one of those things was to walk in the Pacific Ocean. Sounds simple I know, but for someone growing up in Ireland and now living in Maine it was never quite within reach. The final part of our summer vacation brought us south of San Francisco on the famed US 1, and I was finally able to experience the mighty Pacific in Big Sur.

We stayed three nights in the Big Sur campground, a mix of tented sites, RV sites, and homey little cabins tucked away in the woods alongside the Big Sur River. Our cabin was really neat, with a bathroom, shower, and two spacious sleeping spaces with a modern, yet woodsy decor. The people running the campground were very hospitable and welcoming, always bright and cheery, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.

My first impression of Big Sur was that it reminded me somewhat of the north coast of Ireland. There are many similarities with the impressive rocky headlands, the secluded and unspoiled beaches tucked away in coves, and the remoteness of much of the scenery. Big Sur is of course “bigger” in many ways with the vistas, the waves, the cliffs and the beaches all grander in scale than in Ireland… but the connection for me was very real.

The two images in this post were created back-to-back from the same viewpoint… one almost monochromatic as I looked toward the sun, and the other with the warm evening light bathing the coastline in color.

bs4

bs2

The Streets of San Francisco

Standard

We were sad to leave Yosemite, but we were also quite excited about the next part of our vacation… San Francisco.

We weren’t sure if we might get another chance to see the Golden Gate bridge, so instead of driving straight to our hotel, we looped up north around the city so that we could see and drive across the bridge. We have been very lucky on this trip in that we have seen things with our own eyes that many people never get to see in person. The Golden Gate bridge linking the Marin Headlands with San Francisco is one such magnificent sight.

sf_gg1

Our hotel – the Hilton in the Financial District – has served us well. It is clean, modern, and located right on the edge of both Chinatown and the North Beach little Italy neighborhood. Our central location has helped us easily explore the city on foot… we have walked up and down hills these past two days like you would not believe! San Francisco is a very interesting city… it is bustling like most major cities, but in many ways it still has a small-town feel to it. Very much a residential city, we have enjoyed wandering through eclectic neighborhoods like Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Marina, Pacific Heights, Haight Ashbury, the Mission, Telegraph Hill, Chinatown and North Beach… note how many neighborhoods have the name “hill” in them? We all agreed that San Francisco is definitely already one of our favorite cities.

sf_painted_ladies

Only having three nights in the city we wanted to pack as much sightseeing as possible into our time here. In addition to our urban hill-hiking, we hit some of the more touristy hotspots like Fisherman’s Wharf where we had lunch and saw the sunbathing sea-lions, The Exploratorium filled with hands-on Jack-friendly science activities, the very crooked Lombard Street, and of course we just had to ride the cable car… an awesome experience! We grabbed prime seats up front, and watch as Jack and Sam play “Punchbuggy” (Mini Coopers count too!) as they ride down the hill toward Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz off in the distant bay.

After drinking tea and eating crackers in the Japanese Tea Garden, we had the most amazing burritos for lunch at El Balazo on Haight Street. Needing to walk lunch off, we wandered over to see the “Painted Ladies” – a row of brightly colored Victorian houses on the edge of Alamo Square. We also visited the oldest building in the city; the Mission Delores which was founded in 1776, and also happens to be the oldest intact Mission in California. Food as always was high on the list of priorities. During our stay in the city, we had pizza at both Tommaso’s and North Beach Pizza… both highly-rated and excellent, but San Francisco pizza isn’t quite the same as New York pizza 🙂

Sunday morning will see us leaving the city and heading south toward Monterey and Big Sur. Everyone is excited about this latest part of the trip, especially Jack who can’t wait to see the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He is hoping to see some Great White sharks! We have been very fortunate throughout this trip as we have had the opportunity to see the rural California central valley, the magnificent mountains and vistas of Yosemite, the city sights and sounds of San Francisco… and now we get to experience the Pacific Ocean and Big Sur… can’t wait!

Heading West!

Standard

We are very excited about our upcoming family vacation to California during the first two weeks in August. We have been planning it for what seems like a long time, but all of a sudden it is right around the corner and we are suddenly feeling far from prepared!

We have plans to fly from New York to the West coast where we will spend 5 nights in Yosemite, 3 nights in San Francisco, and 3 nights in Big Sur. We are especially excited to see the renowned splendor of Yosemite National Park, and with the city and the California coast to explore we will certainly have some variety in the scenery on our trip.

Needless to say there will be many photographic opportunities to be had, and just like I did on my last trip out west to Death Valley, I plan on updating the blog as often as having an Internet connection will allow. Stay tuned…