Monthly Archives

December 2013

Natural History Photography – Best Images of 2013

Best Photographs of the Year

My Best Natural History Photos of 2013

Once again the end of the year is upon us and I look back at my photographic works of the preceding 12 months. I did not produce as many new images as in years past but I did manage to create some notable ones that hopefully communicate why I love to spend time outdoors. If the theme of this year’s selection is not obvious, allow me to point out that this is the first annual retrospective of mine that includes just one photograph made during daylight hours (and a couple at the edge of the day). Note: if you like these feel free to check out previous years’ favorites as well: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007. Also, be sure to check out Jim Goldstein’s blog, where he collects the “best of the year” collections of many talented photographers, you are sure to find enough eye candy to keep your pupils entertained for all of 2014. Cheers, thanks for looking, and best wishes for 2014!

The Wave at Night, under a clear night sky full of stars.  Photographer is illuminating the striated rocks with a small handheld light. 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 at Night, under a clear night sky full of stars. Photographer is illuminating the striated rocks with a small handheld light. 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: 28620
Location: North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

Owachomo Bridge and Milky Way.  Owachomo Bridge, a natural stone bridge standing 106' high and spanning 130' wide,stretches across a canyon with the Milky Way crossing the night sky, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Owachomo Bridge and Milky Way. Owachomo Bridge, a natural stone bridge standing 106′ high and spanning 130′ wide,stretches across a canyon with the Milky Way crossing the night sky.
Image ID: 28541
Location: Owachomo Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, USA

Approaching sunrise and star trails over the San Diego Downtown City Skyline.  In this 60 minute exposure, stars create trails through the night sky over downtown San Diego

Approaching sunrise and star trails over the San Diego Downtown City Skyline. In this 60 minute exposure, stars create trails through the night sky over downtown San Diego.
Image ID: 28386
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Ancient bristlecone pine trees at night, under a clear night sky full of stars, lit by a full moon, near Patriarch Grove, Pinus longaeva, White Mountains, Inyo National Forest

Ancient bristlecone pine trees at night, under a clear night sky full of stars, lit by a full moon, near Patriarch Grove.
Image ID: 28533
Species: Ancient Bristlecone Pine, Pinus longaeva
Location: White Mountains, Inyo National Forest, California, USA

Mount Rainier sunset, viewed from Ricksecker Point, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier sunset, viewed from Ricksecker Point.
Image ID: 28722
Location: Ricksecker Point, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA

Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleides Cluster, over Half Dome and Yosemite National Park, Glacier Point

Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleides Cluster, over Half Dome and Yosemite National Park
Image ID: 28746
Location: Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Milky Way over the Watchman, Zion National Park.  The Milky Way galaxy rises in the night sky above the the Watchman

Milky Way over the Watchman, Zion National Park. The Milky Way galaxy rises in the night sky above the the Watchman.
Image ID: 28587
Location: Zion National Park, Utah, USA

The OVRO 40 meter Telescope, part of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory located near Big Pine, California, USA. The telescope is used to conduct interferometric observations along with the other telescopes in the observatory, as a Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) station and as a single dish instrument. Its main focus today is on the monitoring of blazars

The OVRO 40 meter Telescope, part of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory located near Big Pine, California, USA. The telescope is used to conduct interferometric observations along with the other telescopes in the observatory, as a Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) station and as a single dish instrument. Its main focus today is on the monitoring of blazars.
Image ID: 28796
Location: Big Pine, California, USA

Milky Way over Tioga Lake, Yosemite National Park

Milky Way over Tioga Lake, Yosemite National Park
Image ID: 28521
Location: Tioga Lake, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Blue Moon, Full Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline, approaching jet with headlights appearing in front of the moon

Blue Moon, Full Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline, approaching jet with headlights appearing in front of the moon
Image ID: 28753
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Cormorants and sea lions on Seal Rock, at night, waves lit by full moon, Laguna Beach, California

Cormorants and sea lions on Seal Rock, at night, waves lit by full moon.
Image ID: 28864
Location: Laguna Beach, California, USA

Live Oak and Milky Way, rocks and stars, Joshua Tree National Park at night

Live Oak and Milky Way, rocks and stars, Joshua Tree National Park at night
Image ID: 28417
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Milky Way and stars at night above Mount Rainier, Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Milky Way and stars at night above Mount Rainier.
Image ID: 28728
Location: Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA

Sunrise Clouds and Surf, Hospital Point, La Jolla

Sunrise Clouds and Surf, Hospital Point, La Jolla
Image ID: 28834
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Scripps Pier solstice, sunset aligned perfectly with the pier, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

Scripps Pier solstice, sunset aligned perfectly with the pier.
Image ID: 28474
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

Aerial Photos of Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico

Mexico, Sea of Cortez

We celebrated the Christmas holiday in Cabo San Lucas. I had hoped to perhaps make a few good images of pristine, lonely, white-sand beaches, the ones I recall from my last visit to Cabo San Lucas in 1985. Alas, resort development has taken over the coastline. So I hired an ultralight and made some aerial photos of the existing resort development and new resort construction, from the scenic El Arco (the arch) at Land’s End, over the harbor and then along the coast from Cabo San Lucas harbor east and north to Chileno Bay, including long Medano Beach and quaint Bahia Santa Maria. Perhaps these images will be picked up for editorial use. Below are a few of my favorites; if you like these, you can see more aerial photos of Cabo San Lucas on my website. The flight was sure fun! Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial photograph of Land's End and the Arch, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Aerial photograph of Land’s End and the Arch, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Image ID: 28890
Location: Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico

Aerial photograph of Land's End and the Arch, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Aerial photograph of Land’s End and the Arch, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Image ID: 28893
Location: Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico

Punta Ballena, Faro Cabesa Ballena (foreground), Medano Beach and Land's End (distance). Residential and resort development along the coast near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Punta Ballena, Faro Cabesa Ballena (foreground), Medano Beach and Land’s End (distance). Residential and resort development along the coast near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Image ID: 28930
Location: Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico

Cabo San Lucas, marina and downtown, showing extensive development and many resorts and sport fishing boats

Cabo San Lucas, marina and downtown, showing extensive development and many resorts and sport fishing boats
Image ID: 28884
Location: Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico

Hacienda del Mar and Vista Azul resorts. Residential and resort development along the coast near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Hacienda del Mar and Vista Azul resorts. Residential and resort development along the coast near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Image ID: 28928
Location: Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico

Spectacular Sunrise in La Jolla

La Jolla, Seascapes

We’ve had some great sunrises and sunsets lately, thanks to weather patterns in Southern California that provide high clouds and open horizons to let the light reach the undersides of the clouds just at the edge of each day. A few days ago I was photographing the full moon over waves in one of the more picturesque areas of coastal La Jolla. As dawn approached, the high thin clouds caught hold of the sun and the sky exploded with warm colors. The light changed rapidly; the two photos I kept were taken only 5 minutes apart but show very different color bias, with deeper reds and some purple as the sun first appeared followed shortly by more oranges and yellows as the rays of the sun passed through different parts of the atmosphere on their crash course into the clouds. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

A fiery sunrise explodes over the La Jolla coastline

A fiery sunrise explodes over the La Jolla coastline.
Image ID: 28871
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

A fiery sunrise explodes over the La Jolla coastline

A fiery sunrise explodes over the La Jolla coastline.
Image ID: 28872
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Prints of these images are available here and here, or you can take a look at a much larger selection of La Jolla photos.

Moonlight Waves

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Seascapes

I once shot photographs of waves by the light of phytoplankton during a major red tide event. That worked out pretty well, although it was pushing the cameras to the limits of what they could record. However, this time I’m not sure what I was thinking: I got up at o-dark-thirty to photograph waves by moonlight. The exposures were so long that just about every wave becomes smeared across the image in a blur of whitewash. I managed to make a couple images I am happy with, and I learned a lot about how to do it better next time. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Breaking waves crash upon a rocky reef under the light of a full moon, La Jolla, California

Breaking waves crash upon a rocky reef under the light of a full moon.
Image ID: 28870
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Breaking waves crash upon a rocky reef under the light of a full moon, La Jolla, California

Breaking waves crash upon a rocky reef under the light of a full moon.
Image ID: 28869
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Starlight and Moonlight on Little Corona, Newport Beach

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Seascapes

When I was a kid growing up in Newport Beach, we would often visit Little Corona beach and see tons of black abalone. They would be clinging to the rocks, and empty ab shells would be hidden in the all the tidepools and pockets of water. The abalone are long gone (as is my youth!), but some of the nostalgia remains. I spent a few hours shooting Little Corona under a full moon and came away with one image with which I am happy. Little Corona is a fine spot, relatively secluded, quieter and much less crowded than Big Corona Beach. In this photograph, ankle-slapper waves are blurred during a long exposure made by the light of the moon. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Little Corona Beach, at night under a full moon, waves lit by moonlight, Newport Beach, California

Little Corona Beach, at night under a full moon, waves lit by moonlight
Image ID: 28866
Location: Newport Beach, California, USA

Prints of this image are available here, or you can check out more Wave Photographs.

Moonlight on Seal Rock, Laguna Beach, California

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Seascapes

Seal Rock, a short distance offshore of Crescent Bay in Laguna Beach, is typically covered with many cormorants and at least a few California sea lions. I’ve made a number of dives at Seal Rock but had never made any effort to photograph it topside. Garry McCarthy and I did some full-moon photography in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach recently, and I was able to make this image of Seal Rock, cormorants and sea lions, under a full moon. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Cormorants and sea lions on Seal Rock, at night, waves lit by full moon, Laguna Beach, California

Cormorants and sea lions on Seal Rock, at night, waves lit by full moon.
Image ID: 28864
Location: Laguna Beach, California, USA

Prints of this image are available here. If you like this, check out more Night and Time Exposure Photographs.

Big Corona Beach at Night, Corona Del Mar State Beach, Newport Beach

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Seascapes

When I grew up in Newport Beach, I spent a lot of time at “Big Corona”, aka, Corona Del Mar State Beach. Because this is a great place to take the kids, bodyboard and kick back in the sun, this beach gets crowded. Yachts sail by in and out of the channel all day, and when a swell arrives there can be a good break along the jetty. This is a view of Big Corona at night, viewed from just around the corner from Little Corona.

Big Corona Beach, aka Corona del Mar State Beach, at night lit by full moon, Newport Beach

Big Corona Beach, aka Corona del Mar State Beach, at night lit by full moon, Newport Beach
Image ID: 28865
Location: Newport Beach, California, USA

San Diego Awakens, Sunrise over the San Diego City Skyline

Panoramas, San Diego

This was the scene that greeted my camera on a recently cold winter morning, as dawn crept in from the east and the nighttime lights of downtown San Diego gave way to morning. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Sunrise over the San Diego City Skyline

Sunrise over the San Diego City Skyline
Image ID: 28858
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Prints of this image are available here. If you like this, please check our more photographs of the San Diego City Skyline, including many at dawn and dusk.

Scuba Diver (Korea) Pictorial

Uncategorized

Scuba Diver Korea is one beautiful diving magazine! The print quality is excellent and each thick issue is as heavy as a brick. I was recently introduced to Scuba Diver Korea by Kevin Lee. Kevin, a top marine photographer who has photographed underwater on all seven continents, kindly introduced me to the publishers of Scuba Diver Korea. I was hesitant at first to submit my work since I have not had an underwater pictorial published in some years, and cannot shake the feeling that my older film work does not hold up well next to the modern sharp digital imagery. Well, Scuba Diver elected to run a selection of images, and the result is a very nice pictorial in the latest issue. The copies arrived and they look great. This is really a high quality magazine, of the sort we do not see too often anymore in the print industry. (If you are curious, here is a link to the online version of the pictorial). I no longer have a list of the countries in which I have been published but I am virtually certain it did not include Korea before today!. A hearty “Thank you” to Scuba Diver Korea and Kevin Lee. Cheers and thanks for looking!

A Look Back at the Natural History Photography Blog

General

1000 blog posts and 9 blog years and 17 website years later…

I am a natural history photographer with a bias towards the ocean and marine-related subjects. I have one marketing channel: my own hand-coded, self-designed web site. In 1997 it was one of the first entirely database-driven, keyword-searchable stock photography sites on the web. I started licensing my images through my own web site in 1997 and eventually decided to start blogging in 2005. I wasn’t sure where the blogging experiment would lead but at the time it seemed like blogging might be a good way to bring attention to certain images and subjects in my stock photo library. Indeed it was: subjects about which I have blogged often become strong sellers. Today marks 1000 blog posts, and nearly 9 years, of blogging about my photography; it is a good time to look back at blog posts that track the significant themes that my photography has had over the last twenty years. Cheers and thank you very much for looking!

ANNUAL “BEST OF” COLLECTIONS

Since 2007, I have published an annual look back at my favorite images of the year. There are some good photos in this collection, and together these images give a sense of what I find exciting and what motivates me to shoot photographs. Click the photo of “Morning Barrel off Moonlight Beach” below to see more…

Breaking wave, Moonllght Beach, Encinitas, morning, barrel shaped surf, California
WILDLIFE

Over 200 blog posts have involved wildlife, some terrestrial, some avian and some underwater. I love photographing all wildlife, but life is short so when there is a choice I try to focus on certain animal subjects that: 1) breath air but live underwater, 2) can kill me, or 3) live in a place so harsh in which I would not survive for long. I’ve had many great days photographing wildlife, but perhaps the one that takes the cake was the day we managed to shoot underwater photos of three of the great whales species in a single day — I probably won’t experience that ever again! Click on the humorless brown bear to see more, but be warned that pages and pages of wildlife blog posts will follow…

Full grown, mature male coastal brown bear boar (grizzly bear) in sedge grass meadows, Ursus arctos, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska
AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Someday I will be a pilot and have the ability to shoot aerials on my own schedule. Until then, I am fortunate to get up in the air once in a while with a friend or by chartering an aircraft and shoot photographs from a bird’s eye view. There is nothing so exciting as seeing the world from above. Click on the aerial photo of San Diego Bay to see aerial photography blog posts.

San Diego Coronado Bridge, known locally as the Coronado Bridge, links San Diego with Coronado, California.  The bridge was completed in 1969 and was a toll bridge until 2002.  It is 2.1 miles long and reaches a height of 200 feet above San Diego Bay.  Coronado Island is to the left, and downtown San Diego is to the right in this view looking north
SAN DIEGO

I grew up in Newport Beach but, since 1982, I’ve made the San Diego area my home. Tracy and I are lucky to work, play and raise our family in such a beautiful place, one where many would be content to visit occasionally for vacation. It really is America’s finest city. I have tried to tap the wealth of San Diego’s photographic beauty, and have managed to license a steady stream of images of San Diego over the years. Click the photo to see San Diego blog posts.

San Diego city skyline, dusk, clearing storm clouds
BLUE WHALES

Blue whales are the most incredible creatures ever to inhabit Earth. I have seen many, well over a hundred underwater I think, over the 20 years I have been watching them, but have only come away with a handful of top images. A blue whale is incredibly difficult to photograph; its size makes it almost impossible to see in its entirety in the limited visibility the ocean affords. Twenty years of roaming far offshore have provided many frustrating days of fruitless or weak photography, lots of near misses, and a couple days of mind blowing encounters. It has been the costliest and yet most rewarding photographic pursuit of my life. Click the mug shot to see more blue whale blog posts.

Blue whale underwater closeup photo.  This picture of a blue whale, the largest animal ever to inhabit earth, shows it swimming through the open ocean, a rare underwater view.  Since the whale was approximately 80-90' long and just a few feet from the camera, an extremely wide lens was used to photograph the entire enormous whale, Balaenoptera musculus
NATIONAL PARKS OF THE AMERICAN WEST

National Parks are indeed “America’s Greatest Idea”. I photograph the icons as much as anyone and probably more than most, for good reason and unapologetically. Many of my national park posts of the last few years include night photography since I have combined the two pursuits for a while. Yosemite has a special places among national parks for us: my in-laws have a home just outside the south entrance to the park so we spend a lot of time there, and I have been hiking the high country around Yosemite since I was a kid and hope to continue until the day I cannot hike any more. Click the image of Unicorn Peak to see over 150 National Park blog posts.

Unicorn Peak at sunset, seen from Tuolumne Meadows.  Cockscomb Peak rises in the distance, Yosemite National Park, California
WAVES AND SURF

I am not a board surfer. The closest I will ever get is shooting these images. I love that brief moment when I am engulfed, the sun winks out and all I know is the hollow roaring sound of a big barrel closing around me.

Breaking wave, Ponto, South Carlsbad
UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

I started as an “underwater photographer”. It was the first type of photography I pursued in earnest. It is so core to my photography that I don’t even have an underwater photography blog category — I guess I should start one or re-categorize some of my posts as “underwater photography”. I am just a photographer who happens to shoot some of my images under water. Having slacked off for about 10 years now, I will probably strap on a tank and resume serious diving and underwater photography efforts once both of my kids are grown and gone in five years or so.

Hawaiian spinner dolphin, resting herd swimming along reef, Stenella longirostris, Lanai
LANDSCAPE ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY

Shooting wide landscape photos at night — landscape astrophotography — is a lot of fun, and something I have pursued with increasing interest for the past ten years. Advances in cameras and optics, along with the fact that digital photography is now nearly idiot-proof, have made shooting fine images at night possible for everyone. I shoot a lot of variations of a given night scene, trying different things, and hope later that one will work when I review them on the computer screen (a strategy also known as “even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut”). The solitude and peacefulness of shooting at night is unmatched and much easier to attain than during the day, particularly at popular places. But with the number of tour groups now focusing on night photography, particularly in national parks, it may be necessary to range further afield in the coming years to recapture that feeling of solitude and distance that originally drew me to the pursuit.

Milky Way and Shooting Star over Delicate Arch, as stars cover the night sky, Arches National Park, Utah