Monthly Archives

December 2008

Best Photos of 2008

Best Photographs of the Year

Best Photos of 2008

In 2008, my photographic pursuits took me (and often, Tracy and the girls as well) all over San Diego, the central coast and deserts of California, Canada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, up in a plane and south of the border. Here are the photos from 2008 that I consider my favorites, mostly for sentimental reasons but also because I think they are good images.

The Wave, an area of fantastic eroded sandstone featuring beautiful swirls, wild colors, countless striations, and bizarre shapes set amidst the dramatic surrounding North Coyote Buttes of Arizona and Utah.  The sandstone formations of the North Coyote Buttes, including the Wave, date from the Jurassic period. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Wave is located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness and is accessible on foot by permit only

The Wave, an area of fantastic eroded sandstone featuring beautiful swirls, wild colors, countless striations, and bizarre shapes set amidst the dramatic surrounding North Coyote Buttes of Arizona and Utah. The sandstone formations of the North Coyote Buttes, including the Wave, date from the Jurassic period. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Wave is located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness and is accessible on foot by permit only.
Image ID: 20607
Location: North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

Blue whale. The sleek hydrodynamic shape of the enormous blue whale allows it to swim swiftly through the ocean, at times over one hundred miles in a single day, Balaenoptera musculus, La Jolla, California

Blue whale. The sleek hydrodynamic shape of the enormous blue whale allows it to swim swiftly through the ocean, at times over one hundred miles in a single day.
Image ID: 21250
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican head throw.  During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican head throw. During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch.
Image ID: 20257
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Middle Coronado Island, viewed from the south, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

Middle Coronado Island, viewed from the south.
Image ID: 21322
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

A great white shark swims underwater through the ocean at Guadalupe Island, Carcharodon carcharias, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

A great white shark swims underwater through the ocean at Guadalupe Island.
Image ID: 21346
Species: Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park, Yucca brevifolia

Sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park.
Image ID: 22100
Species: Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Male elephant seals (bulls) rear up on their foreflippers and fight in the surf for access for mating females that are in estrous.  Such fighting among elephant seals can take place on the beach or in the water.  They bite and tear at each other on the neck and shoulders, drawing blood and creating scars on the tough hides, Mirounga angustirostris, Piedras Blancas, San Simeon, California

Male elephant seals (bulls) rear up on their foreflippers and fight in the surf for access for mating females that are in estrous. Such fighting among elephant seals can take place on the beach or in the water. They bite and tear at each other on the neck and shoulders, drawing blood and creating scars on the tough hides.
Image ID: 20369
Species: Elephant seal, Mirounga angustirostris
Location: Piedras Blancas, San Simeon, California, USA

Sea otters mating.  The male holds the female's head or nose with his jaws during copulation. Visible scars are often present on females from this behavior.  Sea otters have a polygynous mating system. Many males actively defend territories and will mate with females that inhabit their territory or seek out females in estrus if no territory is established. Males and females typically bond for the duration of estrus, or about 3 days, Enhydra lutris, Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Moss Landing, California

Sea otters mating. The male holds the female’s head or nose with his jaws during copulation. Visible scars are often present on females from this behavior. Sea otters have a polygynous mating system. Many males actively defend territories and will mate with females that inhabit their territory or seek out females in estrus if no territory is established. Males and females typically bond for the duration of estrus, or about 3 days.
Image ID: 21606
Species: Sea otter, Enhydra lutris
Location: Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Moss Landing, California, USA

Coyote, pausing to look for prey as it passes through Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Canis latrans, Socorro, New Mexico

Coyote, pausing to look for prey as it passes through Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
Image ID: 21803
Species: Coyote, Canis latrans
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Sunset at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, with sandhill cranes silhouetted in reflection in the calm pond.  Spectacular sunsets at Bosque del Apache, rich in reds, oranges, yellows and purples, make for striking reflections of the thousands of cranes and geese found in the refuge each winter, Grus canadensis, Socorro, New Mexico

Sunset at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, with sandhill cranes silhouetted in reflection in the calm pond. Spectacular sunsets at Bosque del Apache, rich in reds, oranges, yellows and purples, make for striking reflections of the thousands of cranes and geese found in the refuge each winter.
Image ID: 21804
Species: Sandhill crane, Grus canadensis
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

California poppy plants viewed from the perspective of a bug walking below the bright orange blooms, Eschscholzia californica, Eschscholtzia californica, Del Dios, San Diego

California poppy plants viewed from the perspective of a bug walking below the bright orange blooms.
Image ID: 20539
Species: California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, Eschscholtzia californica
Location: Del Dios, San Diego, California, USA

Dune primrose (white) and sand verbena (purple) bloom in spring in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, mixing in a rich display of desert color.  Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Oenothera deltoides, Abronia villosa, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Dune primrose (white) and sand verbena (purple) bloom in spring in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, mixing in a rich display of desert color. Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
Image ID: 20464
Species: Dune Evening Primrose, Sand Verbena, Oenothera deltoides, Abronia villosa
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Anza Borrego, California, USA

UCSD Library glows with light in this night time exposure (Geisel Library, UCSD Central Library), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla

UCSD Library glows with light in this night time exposure (Geisel Library, UCSD Central Library).
Image ID: 20142
Location: University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, USA

The Bellagio Hotel fountains light up the reflection pool as the half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas rises above them, at night

The Bellagio Hotel fountains light up the reflection pool as the half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas rises above them, at night.
Image ID: 20559
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

A bubble ring. A young girl watches as a bubble ring ascends through the water toward her

A bubble ring. A young girl watches as a bubble ring ascends through the water toward her.
Image ID: 20776

Mariner Mountain, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, part of Strathcona Provincial Park, located 36 km (22 mi) north of Tofino.  It is 1,771 m (5,810 ft) high, snow covered year-round and home to several glaciers

Mariner Mountain, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, part of Strathcona Provincial Park, located 36 km (22 mi) north of Tofino. It is 1,771 m (5,810 ft) high, snow covered year-round and home to several glaciers.
Image ID: 21107
Location: Mariner Mountain, Strathcona Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

See also: Best Photos of 2007

I Love L.A.

California

After the warmth of the desert (grandparents #1 and #2, aunts and uncles #1-4, cousins #1-3), the snow-covered trees and mountains (grandparents #3 and #4), and the spectacular views and empty roads of the central coast (grandparent #5), our whirlwind holiday roadtrip to all our relatives took us to … Los Angeles (grandparents #6 and #7, aunts/uncles #1-2 again, cousin #1 again!). Hello Laurel Canyon! What a brutal reality check. Seen below is our view of the scenic 101 (southbound) as we roll toward Hollywood. I dread dealing with LA, sad and forsaken cesspool of traffic and smog and USC that it is. Its only redeeming quality is, of course, the Lakers.

Star Field and Joshua Trees

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Joshua Tree, National Parks

I got a new camera that is rumored to have very good low light performance. So I took it out last night to test it on the Milky Way Galaxy. While the skies were not as clear as I would have liked, I did get a sense for how it will work for night photos. It should be pretty good on evenings with clear skies and good seeing.

The Milky Way Galaxy shines in the night sky with a Joshua Tree silhouetted in the foreground.  The lights of Palm Springs glow on the horizon, Yucca brevifolia, Joshua Tree National Park, California

The Milky Way Galaxy shines in the night sky with a Joshua Tree silhouetted in the foreground. The lights of Palm Springs glow on the horizon.
Image ID: 22202
Species: Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Snow Geese Blasting Off at Sunrise, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Another early morning blast off of thousands of snow geese (Chen caerulescens), viewed from near the flight deck alongside the main impoundment at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Snow geese at dawn.  Snow geese often "blast off" just before or after dawn, leaving the ponds where they rest for the night to forage elsewhere during the day, Chen caerulescens, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow geese at dawn. Snow geese often “blast off” just before or after dawn, leaving the ponds where they rest for the night to forage elsewhere during the day.
Image ID: 21806
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

See more photos of snow geese in flight and photos of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

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Sandhill Crane in Flight, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

I had hoped to get a few good photos of a single sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) in flight during our visit to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Sandhill cranes are relatively large birds, meaning they are relatively easy to find in the viewfinder and they fly relatively slowly, helpful characteristics for a struggling bird photographer. The best ones I shot were taken on the final morning of our trip. This one was nearly at eye level, having just taken off from one of the crane pools shortly after sunrise.

Sandhill crane spreads its broad wings as it takes flight in early morning light.  This crane is one of over 5000 present in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, stopping here during its winter migration, Grus canadensis, Socorro, New Mexico

Sandhill crane spreads its broad wings as it takes flight in early morning light. This crane is one of over 5000 present in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, stopping here during its winter migration.
Image ID: 21797
Species: Sandhill crane, Grus canadensis
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

See more photos of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and photos of Sand Hillcranes.

Golden Crane, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Here is another sandhill crane (Grus canadensis), backlit by a reflected gold sunset, wading through one of the crane pools at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

A sandhill crane, standing in still waters with rich gold sunset light reflected around it, Grus canadensis, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico

A sandhill crane, standing in still waters with rich gold sunset light reflected around it.
Image ID: 21805
Species: Sandhill crane, Grus canadensis
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

See more photos of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and photos of Sand Hillcranes.

La Jolla Pelicans

California, Pelicans

I went down to La Jolla last week to check out the brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus). There is a fence blocking access to the cliffs now, which is unfortunate and a real shame. When I was going to UCSD (many years ago) we would leap into the ocean from these same cliffs. Alas, no longer, thanks to politicians and/or lawyers who have decided they know what is best for us and the birds. Anyway, the pelicans are starting to change into their winter breeding colors. I saw quite a few sporting a red gular throat pouch, a good sign, but I did not see many with well-developed chestnut neck color yet. Probably in January.

See our Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

Portrait of California brown pelican, with the characteristic winter mating plumage shown: red throat, yellow head and dark brown hindneck, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Portrait of California brown pelican, with the characteristic winter mating plumage shown: red throat, yellow head and dark brown hindneck.
Image ID: 23647
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 20028
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 22142
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

A brown pelican preening, reaching with its beak to the uropygial gland (preen gland) near the base of its tail.  Preen oil from the uropygial gland is spread by the pelican's beak and back of its head to all other feathers on the pelican, helping to keep them water resistant and dry, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

A brown pelican preening, reaching with its beak to the uropygial gland (preen gland) near the base of its tail. Preen oil from the uropygial gland is spread by the pelican’s beak and back of its head to all other feathers on the pelican, helping to keep them water resistant and dry.
Image ID: 22144
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican.  This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 22145
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See more brown pelican photos.

Snow Geese on Pond, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Each morning I would watch the predawn blast off of snow geese from Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge‘s main impoundment. Each time was impressive. Afterward, I would move to the crane pools, hoping to watch the cranes take off as the sun reached them and warmed them up. One morning at one of the crane pools a large “fly in” of geese took place just as the sun was cresting the mountains in the distance. These were the same geese that had lifted off from the main impoundment pool, only to settle down again by the thousands in a new pool, backlit by a golden sunrise.

Snow geese resting, on a still pond in early morning light, in groups of several thousands, Chen caerulescens, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow geese resting, on a still pond in early morning light, in groups of several thousands.
Image ID: 21808
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

See more photos of snow geese and photos of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Blastoff, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is famous for its early morning “blast off”, a stunning event in which thousands of snow geese (Chen caerulescens) take to the skies. It does not happen every morning, nor does it happen at the same time on those mornings on which it takes place. Sometimes it occurs in near dark, while other times it happens after the sun has arisen. The snow geese will rest on still ponds overnight. As dawn approaches and light grows in the east, the geese will increase their calls. It sounds like a gigantic buzzing, passing through the flock, rising and then quieting only to rise again minutes later. Eventually, one goose is startled into flight, perhaps by an approaching coyote or hawk, in such a way that all its neighbors join it, and the blast off begins. Like a wave, many thousands of geese will rise, with a chaotic sounds some have likened to a passing train. Passing overhead, the geese make their way afield in search of foraging opportunities or simply to settle down again at another pond.

Snow geese at dawn.  Snow geese often "blast off" just before or after dawn, leaving the ponds where they rest for the night to forage elsewhere during the day, Chen caerulescens, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow geese at dawn. Snow geese often “blast off” just before or after dawn, leaving the ponds where they rest for the night to forage elsewhere during the day.
Image ID: 21800
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

See more photos of snow geese in flight and photos of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.