Reflecting back on the year I would have to say it has been one of the best for me as far a growth as a photographer. I think I have produced some of my best work yet. I have also worked out of my comfort zone and tried some different subject matter which I have found to really like photographing. My focus this year was more local. Not just around my home town but in the Pacific Northwest. There is so much to see in this beautiful region and I realized I need to explore a little more and also strengthen my portfolios of these areas. Looking forward to 2015 I plan on concentrating more on the Pacific Northwest and on farming scenes. I have so much access to farming in my area and I really think that this is an area that isn't focused on that much from a fine art perspective. A note about the following images, they are not just about the most visually appealing photos or overall quality but they also have to do with achieving personal goals as well.
So, here are my top 5 images of 2014 in random order.
Fern FallsOne of two small but amazingly beautiful waterfalls tucked away in northern Idaho. First, the drive up the north fork of the Coeur d'Alene river is work the trip all by itself. Then after a short drive on a very rough forest road you reach a small parking lot. Only a short hike brings you to Fern falls and a little farther past, Shadow Falls. Both are located on the tributary of Yellow Dog Creek. Perfect for a short walk and maybe a picnic. Ever since I first saw pictures of this waterfalls I have been planning, dreaming of a trip to this place. Not knowing what to expect when I actually get there, I knew there would be some great potential for some quality photos. The surrounding forrest really makes this image, filtering the light even during the brightest part of the day. The biggest issue was the force of the falls created breeze that blew the some of the branches and vegetaion around. I did want to capture a little motion but I didn't want the image to have a lot of bur. Most of this work was taking several exposures in post production and hand blending them to give me the final image that I had envisoned.
The first on my list is Fern falls. Located in the Idaho Panhandle, the hardest part about getting here is the drive. There are 2 falls located on a short hike from the parking lot. The second waterfall is called shadow falls. This image stuck out as one of my top for the year because I have been wanting to go here for several years now. I have seen several images of the falls and had a composition in mind on arriving if all the elements were in place. When I got to the falls, it was more beautiful than I even imagined. The green from the moss, plants and trees really helped make the falls stand out. The old trees at the base of the falls helped with the composition and the dense forest filtered the light to give the surrounding area a nice even glow. I couldn't have asked for better conditions. The biggest challenge was the force of the falls was blowing some of the surrounding vegetation so I had to take several images to blend them together manually to keep the image a sharp as I could.
Palouse in SpringStart with a unique landcsape of rolling hills for farther than the eye can see. Next, cover those hills with various natural texture patterns and color shades. Then, add great natural light. Yes, this is a landscape photographers Heaven. The golden hour on the Palouse in Eastern Washington turns the extraordinary into an amazing beautiful scene like no other. To photographers, this is Art. But for the farmers of this rich land, it is a symbol of their hard work.
The next image that in my top 5 is one that is from Steptoe Butte looking down on the rolling hills of the Palouse. The spring is the busiest times of the year for me at my two other day jobs so I am not able to get out and photograph as much as I want. For the longest time I have wanted to capture an image of the Palouse in spring with all the green fields of the various young crops. On this day the weather was very cooperative. Not a lot of wind with some clouds in the sky to create the perfect light. As the sun set the golden light painted the fields and the shadows created a stunning contrast. While I was satisfied with finally getting a spring shot of the Palouse, I am also now driven more than ever to get many more. This is just a beautiful and unique landscape that has endless possibilities.
Path to the StormPatterns left in the field from the freshly harvested grain lead right into the ominous clouds that are telling us a storm is about to come. In the distance bracing for this storm is the small Eastern Washington town of Cheney. Surrounded by farms, ranches and wheat fields, the town is filled by trucks carring the grains of harvest.
One of the projects I have wanted to do for a while is document harvest. I finally was able to do that. A good friend, Trevor Smith is a local Farmer. He has built his business from the ground up, never handed anything and has had to work for everything that he has. This is really true of most family farms. I was privileged enough to tag along during several of his farm operations this past summer and not only captured some great images but found a new area of focus form my photography that I am going to explore more in the coming years. It was hard to just choose one harvest image. I was really excited about several that I shot, and that doesn't happen often. The reason I choose this one is I think it represents so many different elements. Not just from The Smith Family Farms but from many grain farmers in the region. This year was a bad year for wheat with many sad stories that followed low yields from harvest. This image not only shows harvested grain fields of several farmers but the ominous storm clouds in the background. Weather has so much to do with farming. Farmers can work as hard as they possible can, doing everything right, but if they don't get some help from the weather then it could be a real struggle . What I see in this image is how weather can play a huge part in what happens to the crops of dry land farms plus it is about harvest which is the culmination of all the hard work for the year. On this day it was just a cloud burst but enough to shut down harvest for the night but also a reminder of how powerful mother nature is.
Cedar Creek Grist MillLeaves are changing colors and the salmon are running upstream which means it is Autumn at the Cedar Grist Mill in Washington State. The working grist mill makes flour, corn meal and even apple cider. This Natural Historic Landmark was restored in 1980 and still run today by volunteers. The mill was originally built in 1876 and changed hands several times before falling in bad disrepair in the 1960's. Today the Cedar Grist Mill is the oldest building in Washington State that is still doing what it was designed to do.
This next image is one that I got really excited about. The Cedar Creek Grist Mill. Another place that I have been wanting to get a great image from. The difference about this place is I have been here in the past and was never able to get an image I was happy with. The last time I visited the Cedar Creek Grist mill, the light was slightly harsh, the fall color was past peak and there wasn't the small waterfall coming from the mill which I think adds a lot of interest to the image. This year the colors were so much better. When I first arrived I had the place all to myself. The light was also perfect. It was slightly overcast so there was a nice even light. I had a lot of fun with the mill and photographed it from every angle possible. What I liked about this composition was the added element in the creek. There was foam that was created by the small cascades on the creek. The exposure I took was just long enough to catch the patterns of the foam in the water giving the image a sense of motion. While there is still room for improvement, in my opinion, it will give me a good reason to return to this great place.
Silver Falls Historic DistrictNestled in the Willamette valley, Silver Falls State Park in Oregon is unique and special place. Where the South Falls Lodge and outbuildings stand today is where a once small community called Silver Falls City use to reside. Around 1883, about a dozen families called this town home for about 40 years. The Great Depression had a huge effect on Silver Falls City it soon was no more. But the Civilian Conservation Corps was brought in construct buildings, bridges trails and other infrastructure. This was the beginning of Silver Falls State Park. Today, it is one of Oregon's most visited parks with many of the structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The last image on my list might possible be my favorite of the year. There was some luck involved with this by being in the right place at the right time. This year I made my first trip, of hopefully many more, to Silver Falls State Park in Oregon. While the waterfalls are definitely the highlight of the park, there is a lot more to see. For this image I was working on trying to capture some unique shots of South Falls. I had taken many shots from all around the falls but I just wasn't feeling like I had got the shot I wanted. I figured I would walk back and try to capture some shots of the historic lodge. On my way, I was literally stopped in my tracks by the filtered light rays breaking through the trees. To enhance the scene even more a small tree with bright red leaves was highlighted. Not knowing how long this was going to last I through down my backpack and scrambled to get my gear set up and a shot composed. While the light is the star of this image there are so many other elements that make this photo so strong. The brick path with the subtle leading lines that leads into the giant trees creating a sense of mystery. The small tree with the red leaves that is highlighted to stand out from all the large trees. This is just an image I love to look at and gets more interesting each time I view it.
So, there is my list of the top images of 2014. I am sure you might have others that you might prefer and I would love to hear what they are. Art is subjective and everyone sees things just a little differently. I hope you enjoyed and please share.