It is that time of year when I try to pick out my Favorite Photos of 2016, and this year it was hard to narrow down the list. This post reflects just a few of the many photos I took or processed in 2016, and in fact I am still processing photos from Oregon and Iceland. If you want to see more of the images from this year, look for the galleries Pacific Northwest Coast and Waterfalls and Cape Cod Autumn . The Iceland gallery will be posted soon.
For this post I am going to start with my favorite image, followed by favorites grouped by location as I chronical their story.
So this is my favorite image of the year, shot on Jokulsarlon Beach on the south coast of Iceland. These mini-glacier floating blocks leave the glacial lagoon only after they have melted to a manageable size, travel out to sea and eventually wash up on the black sand beach. In this image I captured the iceburgs with a wave just as it was breaking, and a soft sunset glow backdrop as the cloud cover started to separate at the horizon. The soft pastel colors are soothing to me while still depicting a very active, motion-packed, scene.
Late summer I visited Iceland with a few members of my camera club and tour guide Bjorn Ruriksson – what a treat to listen to descriptions of the geology by a fellow geologist, and the author of the acclaimed Iceland from Above. book. Bjorn was greeted as a celebrity at every place we stopped and introduced us to excellent Icelandic dining and Icelandic “treats” such as Shark and the special breads and garnishes at his picnic stops. The fish soup he made for us for dinner at his home was outstanding, I can still savor it in my imagination now!
Named after the geothermal nature baths in the South Highlands of Iceland, the Landmannalaugar region is renowned for its stunning beauty. A short hike from the parking lot on the Laugavegur trail (the start of a 4-day trek to Thorsmork Valley for those who dare) discloses these multicolored rhyolite mountains and expansive lava fields. This country, created entirely from volcanic activity, never ceased to amaze me. The lava flows differ by the type of lava erupted and its viscosity, steepness of the ground over which it travels, and the rate of lava production at the vent. Combined with age differences and continuous erosion, the landforms found are always so different. Four routes lead to Landmannalaugar but only one is accessible by regular car, and that road is rough (stones the size of fists are not uncommon as well as wash-board sections). Only four wheel drive vehicles are allowed, eliminating most rental vehicles.
Of all the roads we traveled, the road into Thorsmork Valley was the most rugged and required repeatedly fording gentle streams and raging rivers of glacial snow melt along the glacial outwash plain of Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajokull glaciers. This road finally explained why our vehicle had such incredibly high clearance. In places it was impossible to see the road on the other side of the Krossá River but our tour guide always found it. We reached Básar as rain arrived and fog constantly shifted, sometimes obscuring the glacier, but it provided such a wonderful mood. In this photo the watery path is the actual road into the valley and looks right at Gigjokull glacier.
I only “discovered” the potential of this photo on New Years Eve, as I continue to process images from Iceland, and decided to add it to my favorites! On my second night in Iceland a group of us walked from the hotel to the harbor in Stykkisholmur and then up to the top of Sugandisey Mountain in hopes of seeing the aurora borealis. The sky had been perfectly clear all day, but as night fell the clouds started to move in. For me, I wanted a foreground element in my photos and not just the streaks of the aurora overhead, so I struggled to focus on the small islands off the coast in the dead of darkness. This image was taken shortly after arriving on the mountain top as the clouds were moving in; images from just a few minutes later still captured the aurora, but only through breaks in the clouds. The long exposure capture enough light to make the islands seem bright, while in fact they were dark masses to my naked eye.
No visit to Iceland is complete without photographing the Icelandic horses. We found a gravel road alongside a field of horses where we could safely park off the main road, and enjoyed some time with the approximately horses in the field. This fella came right up to the fence allowing me to photograph him up close.
My first out-of-state photo excursion didn’t start until June but planning had been in progress since the fall of 2015. A friend and I flew to Portland, Oregon and spent 18 days traveling the coast road from the south coast of Oregon up to the tip of Washington State, then back down to the Columbia River Gorge before heading home. We had a few near disasters – my friend fell into the Pacific on the second day and “lost” (to salt water) a very expensive camera and her cell phone, and then about 8 days in she fell again and broke her thumb. The next day the car started making odd noises so we returned the rental to Portland and I was so impressed that Liz chose to continue on rather than head home – a real testament to her character!
This image is from Coquille Point Beach in Bandon, Oregon, our first coastal stop in our itinerary. The “blue hour”, 30-50 minutes after the sun had set, gives this image an overall blue color cast and feeling of calm. I was delighted the gull stood still long enough to get this long exposure image!
Named as “one of The World’s 100 Most Beautiful Places” in National Geographic Magazine’s June 2013 issue, a 4-night stay in this coastal village was a no-brainer. Cannon Beach is recognized by its well-known landmark, Haystack Rock. This igneous rock has an elevation of 235 feet (72 m) and is often accessible at low tide, especially in the summertime. The rock is protected as a marine sanctuary, adding photo opportunities for marine animals. In the evening family and friends build fires right on the 4-mile stretch of sandy beach. This photo of Haystack Rock was taken from the north when the setting sun cast golden tones to the clouds which reflected in the wet sand.
Further north along the coast of Oregon is the wreck of the Peter Iredale, a four-masted steel barque built in Maryport, England, about to start her journey up the Columbia River when “a heavy southeast wind blew and a strong current prevailed”. The Iredale ran aground at Clatsop Beach in 1906, hitting so hard that three of her masts snapped from the impact. Our highly anticipated visit to the wreck started with the sunset being just “ho-hum” from a photographer’s perspective, but then clouds appeared and turned to fire after the sun had set, providing a colorful backdrop. I especially love the reflections in the wet sand along the coast.
Our trip continued northward up the Washington State Coast and into the rugged Olympic National Park. One of the most noticeable changes from Oregon to Washington beaches is the amount of driftwood. The hike to Ruby Beach is through a wind-blasted maritime forest, and ends with a log-pile that must be crossed to move about the beach. These logs shift with winter storms and high tide, so what you find is always different. The sea stacks here are magnificent. This image taken at low tide as the sun is setting captures a mood of serenity, which is unlikely to be found during a storm.
Cape Cod had been on my bucket list for years so I decided to spend time this fall in Cape Cod. The weather did not cooperate, raining constantly on the drive up and a few days spent touring along the way, but I still ended up with many images I am happy with. This image in particular, of the sea wall at Paines Creek in Brewster Massachusetts with marsh grasses catching the final rays of a sunset and a beautiful cloud-filled sky is one of my top favorites for the year. It is best viewed large to sense the feeling of open expanse and freedom, and the warmth of those sunrays.
After 4 days of exploring lower Cape Cod, I headed to the northern tip of the cape and Provincetown. What a great little town! Although I exhausted myself trying to walk to the remote lighthouses in 85°F carrying my tripod, camera, and 100-400mm very heavy lens, I still spent both evenings walking to and exploring MacMillan Wharf, enjoying the fishing boats and large sail boats. This highly detailed image of a line up of fishing ships pointing into the harbor with the rosy pink and soft blues of blue hour sky had to be included in this list.
I joined my friends Beth and Lynn on a weekend trip to Lake Mattamuskeet in North Carolina in May. Known as the Inner Banks because of its location interior to Albemarle Sound that separates the more famous Outer Banks from the state, the very shallow lake has many cypress trees that make interesting subjects. But my favorite image is from the historical small town of Edenton, where the small harbor and 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse preside over the Sound. This image shot just as the sun was setting showcases a perfect line-up of three man-made features: a tall-masted sailboat, a speedboat, and the lighthouse.