Monthly Archives

December 2014

Natural History Photography – Best Photos of 2014

Best Photographs of the Year

My Best Natural History Photographs of 2014

This is the eighth year in a row I have done an annual retrospective. 2014 held less “serious” photography for me than any of the previous 20 years. Life gets in the way, and running a photography business is 60% administrative, 25% photographic and 15% chaotic. Nevertheless I still consider myself to be a fortunate photographer and would not trade places with anyone else (OK, perhaps Neil Armstrong in 1969). My creative goal for any one year is, as it always has been, to shoot 3-4 world-class images and 10-15 portfolio-quality images. Thanks to some special opportunities I was able to experience this year — including two stabs at aerial photography, one great outing to Utah, and a dream safari in Kenya — I was able to bring home some satisfying images. Here they are! Note: if you like these feel free to check out previous years’ favorites as well: 2013, 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. Thanks for looking, and best wishes for 2015!

Light Painting and the Milky Way and Stars over Delicate Arch, at night, Arches National Park, Utah

Light Painting and the Milky Way and Stars over Delicate Arch, at night, Arches National Park, Utah
Image ID: 29288
Location: Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah, USA

Full Moon rising over San Diego City Skyline, viewed from Harbor Island

Full Moon rising over San Diego City Skyline, viewed from Harbor Island
Image ID: 29121
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence over Arch Rock, planet Mars above the moon, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence over Arch Rock, planet Mars above the moon, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.
Image ID: 29201

Clearing storm clouds over Broken Hill, overlooking La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean, Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California

Clearing storm clouds over Broken Hill, overlooking La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean, Torrey Pines State Reserve
Image ID: 29416
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

Lunar Eclipse Sequence Over Broken Hill, Torrey Pines State Reserve. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth's atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014, San Diego, California

Lunar Eclipse Sequence Over Broken Hill, Torrey Pines State Reserve. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014.
Image ID: 29412
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place, Eschrichtius robustus, San Clemente

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place.
Image ID: 29017
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: San Clemente, California, USA

Torrey Pines cliffs and storm clouds at sunset, Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California

Torrey Pines cliffs and storm clouds at sunset
Image ID: 29102
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

African elephant herd, Amboseli National Park, Kenya, Loxodonta africana

African elephant herd, Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Image ID: 29531
Species: African elephant, Loxodonta africana
Location: Amboseli National Park, Kenya

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy
Image ID: 29085
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Balboa Pier, sunrise, Newport Beach, California

Balboa Pier, sunrise
Image ID: 29138
Location: Balboa Pier, Newport Beach, California, USA

San Clemente Island Pyramid Head, the distinctive pyramid shaped southern end of the island

San Clemente Island Pyramid Head, the distinctive pyramid shaped southern end of the island
Image ID: 29358
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Lionness and two week old cub, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Panthera leo

Lionness and two week old cub, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Image ID: 29793
Species: African Lion, Panthera leo
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Lion female, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Panthera leo

Lion female, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Image ID: 29917
Species: African Lion, Panthera leo
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Milky Way at Night over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park

Milky Way at Night over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 29196
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Scripps Pier and moving water, pre-dawn light, La Jolla

Scripps Pier and moving water, pre-dawn light, La Jolla
Image ID: 28984
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Leopard, Olare Orok Conservancy, Kenya, Panthera pardus

Leopard, Olare Orok Conservancy, Kenya
Image ID: 30081
Species: Leopard, Panthera pardus
Location: Olare Orok Conservancy, Kenya

Stars over Corona Arch at Night, Moab, Utah

Stars over Corona Arch at Night, Moab, Utah
Image ID: 29242
Location: Corona Arch, Moab, Utah, USA

Palomar Observatory at Night under the Milky Way, Panoramic photograph, Palomar Mountain, California

Palomar Observatory at Night under the Milky Way, Panoramic photograph
Image ID: 29342
Location: Palomar Observatory, Palomar Mountain, California, USA

Mixed Herd of Wildebeest and Zebra, aerial photo, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Equus quagga

Mixed Herd of Wildebeest and Zebra, aerial photo, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Image ID: 29824
Species: Zebra, Equus quagga
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

California Brown Pelicans, La Jolla, December 2014

Pelicans

A PDF guide to photographing these pelicans: Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla. If you like these photos, you can also see lots more blog posts from past sessions photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla. Or, I’ve got a gallery of some keepers on my website, but most of the good ones from the last couple years I have not even gotten around to captioning and putting the web yet: California Brown Pelican photo gallery.

Thoughts on the Canon 200-400 lens: It’s a little early in December to photograph the pelicans but what the heck. I was able to check the skies at 5am, see that they were clear to the east, and run down to the cliffs to practice my skills with a new lens (see below). Since it is early December I was alone each morning this week; there are none of the crowds or workshops that are often here from Christmas through February. A storm is on the way in from Hawaii, driving a big swell ahead of it that kept the lower rocks wet today, pushing all the birds up to the top area. My guess is that plumage will peak in the first week or two of February, it is still quite early now and only a small fraction of the adults have what I would consider full mating plumage (chestnut brown hindneck, yellow head, deep red and olive throat, etc). The last couple years I have only photographed these birds a few times, having my best luck with a 300mm lens on full frame body. I am now using a Canon 200-400 lens, something I got for safari in Kenya, and now that I have tried it on these birds I can say: it’s the ticket. It is almost as if the Canon 200-400 was invented just for this one location — it’s perfect. Since it is hand-holdable you can dispense with the restrictions and cumbersomeness of a tripod if you wish. All of the following — including the top panorama above which is a stitch of about 20 images, the bottom pano is an iPhone shot — were shot with the Canon 200-400, most handheld, and only a few using the built-in 1.4x teleconverter (which makes the lens a 560mm f/5.6 lens). Note: this lens is sharper and has greater contrast than Nikon’s 200-400; I have owned both and can say this from experience. Both are great but the Canon is the one to get if you can afford it. I select lenses and then get cameras for them (not vica-versa) and this is one lens for which it is worth owning at least one Canon body. I have a 5DIII as dedicated life-support for this one lens. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30169
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight, over the ocean, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican in flight, over the ocean.
Image ID: 30172
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30168
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight, over the ocean, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican in flight, over the ocean.
Image ID: 30171
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy.
Image ID: 30176
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Cormorants in flight, wings blurred by time exposure, Phalacrocorax auritus, La Jolla, California

Cormorants in flight, wings blurred by time exposure
Image ID: 30163
Species: Double-crested cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight, over the ocean, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican in flight, over the ocean.
Image ID: 30165
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

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

Portrait of California brown pelican, with the characteristic winter mating plumage shown: red throat, yellow head.
Image ID: 30167
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight, over the ocean, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican in flight, over the ocean.
Image ID: 30170
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight, over the ocean, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican in flight, over the ocean.
Image ID: 30164
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy.
Image ID: 30174
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Sea cliffs and sea caves at sea level, made of sandstone and eroded by waves and tides, La Jolla, California

Sea cliffs and sea caves at sea level, made of sandstone and eroded by waves and tides
Image ID: 30166
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Sea cliffs and sea caves at sea level, made of sandstone and eroded by waves and tides, La Jolla, California

Sea cliffs and sea caves at sea level, made of sandstone and eroded by waves and tides
Image ID: 30173
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Cormorant in flight, wings blurred by time exposure, Phalacrocorax auritus, La Jolla, California

Cormorant in flight, wings blurred by time exposure
Image ID: 30219
Species: Double-crested cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA