Friday, 16 December 2011

My Top 5 Photos of 2011

It was so much easier picking my single favourite from this year, adding only 4 more is no easy feat, but here goes...

Magic Pixie Dust

The obvious starter for me is my fav shot of the year, taken back in the middle of a cold and snowy Bavarian winter (January to be precise).  I was working in a little city called Landshut which is around an hour North East of Munich, and had already exhausted all the local photo opportunities the previous couple of weekends and decided to venture a little further afield.

The Saturday I hit Konigsee and Hintersee which lie right in the very South East corner of Germany where it meets up with Austria (the area is known as Bereschtesgaden), and the on the Sunday it was a trip to the fairytale-esque Neuschwanstein Castle a couple of hours drive away.  I'm a stickler for taking the small "landstrasse" roads when travelling through rural parts of Germany as you find some amazing gems hidden away that the main roads and autobahns whizz you right past, and that particular day was a special one...minus 15c or so, ice particles flying through the air, burning your face as they hit you, but well worth it when standing with this awesome little church sitting out in the middle of snow covered fields and the North face of the alps in the background.

Return of The Magic Pixie Dust (Fullsize Version)

The Emergence

Fast forward to June, and I found myself back out in Oregon with work for what was initially a couple of weeks (and ended up turning into 6 months).  The first couple of weekends I assumed were going to be my only chance to visit some of the places I loved from last years trip as well as a handfull of places that I somehow missed out when scouring maps, photo sites, tourist guides and every other conceivable option.

Nestled in the gloomy pages of a local website I found 2 photographs which the tog had shot almost 20 years ago on film and had scanned in to show on his extremely dated website, the description simply read "John Day".  With no sign of life in the pic I hoped that an internet search would come up with some usable info, and sure enough I discovered "The Painted Hills", which lie deep in the heart of Oregon, hidden away from the eyes of many locals never mind tourists.

The next weekend I was off early doors and after a four and a half hour drive I arrived at the Painted Hills section of the John Day park.  Don't get me wrong, the hills themselves are amazing, every single pic you take with changing light from the sun shows different colours emerging, a truly awesome spectacle...BUT...a short driver further into the hilly landscape let me feast my eyes on the "Painted Cove", a huge mound of vibrant, red clay which has emerged from it's desertlike surroundings due to national erosion over thousands of years (much like their hilly brothers next door).  What made this shot even more special was the awesome cloud formation above, which added to "The Emergence" name I gave the shot.

The Emergence

Desert Sunset

After scoring the shot of the Painted Cove earlier in the day I was sure that it was going to be the shot of the day for me, but Oregon had other plans in store for me that didn't come to light (literally) until the sun began to head for the horizon.

The day was a paricularly clear one as we drove through the "high desert" area, with the clouds beginning to light up with colour, and by clear I mean that from the high vantage point we could clearly make out Mount Hood to the North West, Mount Jefferson almost due West and the Three Sisters to the South West - all huge mountains in the Cascade Range, and more importantly several hundred miles apart which shows how good the visibility was.

Oregon's High Desert is a fickle place, nothing really there at all except for a few farms dotted about, and small roads which wind their way around the hummocks that seem to appear out of nowhere, so finding the right vantage point in time to stop, set up the gear and capture the sunrise was critical.

For around 50 minutes I stood perched on top of a recent rockfall capturing the sunset unfold.  Thankfully the coyotes that I could hear from almost every direction elected to stay at their respective patches and watch the sunset too (Mrs Baz did a runner for the car when they all started howling in sync).

Desert Sunset - 17

Hint Of Light

A month later July was nearing an end and I was still working out in Oregon and getting used to the fact that I would spend the next few months out there too, so I decided to revisit one of my favourite places anywhere on the planet, Crater Lake.

Crater Lake is an amazing spectacle during daylight hours, but having done that twice already it was time to up the ante somewhat.  A full day there, yup, that sounded about right...

For many the shots they remember of Crater Lake are those with a dusting of snow on the rim of the crater, the vivid blue pigments in the water reflecting the suns rays...but for me it's this shot, by a mile and then some.

Standing over 8000ft, on a supervolcano, at the very edge of 6 mile wide caldera with not a single other person around, with the stars glittering away above and absolute silence, and by absolute I mean I could hear my own heart beat...nothing, nada, just me and this huge volcano sitting there waiting, for the sun to rise.

Only word I keep using to describe that feeling I had is "EPIC"!

Crater Lake Trip - 2 - Hint Of Light

Glacier Point

The final shot from my personal top 5 from 2011 is also one that I had in my mind to capture this year, having first stood at the very same spot 9 years earlier, in complete amazement at what lay before me.  My 3.1Mp camera didn't do the place any justice at all, so this time round I went equipped with my 60D and various lenses, my trusty Sony R1 workhorse (for capturing the vivid colours on show), and my GoPro for some timelapse stuff.

I think by now I've written enough shmoo about the shots that have come before, so I'll let this photo do the talking for itself...

Glacier Point

In my eyes 2011 is definitely the year that I finally managed to hone my landscape photography skills, which is a large departure from the 10 years of shooting every weekend for various car mags that I did previously.

Here's hoping 2012 will produce some new gems...

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