Yes, it’s that time of year when everyone is posting their ‘favorites’ – or asking you to choose your favorite. But what about the stories and experiences behind some images that might be my favorites?
Is it not, after all, the images that resonate with us, that matter most? I’m always thrilled with getting positive feedback; who isn’t? But rather than ask for your favorite(s) here, I’m going to share my favorites and some little story behind them – if there is a story…
Snowgeese land in a wetland pond, central valley, California. I had gotten up for magical sunrise, but alas, it wasn’t meant to happen that morning. The place was so fogged in I couldn’t see a bird, but I could sure hear them. So I went to a spot where I knew they typically congregated, set up my camera, and waited. And waited. And finally, the fog began to shift a bit, enough to see this scene. It proves the point that it isn’t over just because what you anticipated would happen didn’t. There is often more than one right answer, if you have patience and are open to see beyond your expectation.
Desert Gold spill down volcanic slopes in Death Valley during the ‘super bloom’. OK, I have to admit I’m envious on this image. Jack Dykinga, as it turns out, was down the dirt road about 40 feet away from me, although I didn’t know it at the time. We were photographing the same thing – and he was doing a pano too, only his ended up in the Nat Geo News section online for the magazine! Had I known they were wanting pics…but no matter. It was a fantastic experience to be there and celebrate the season through photography, and there was a great deal of camaraderie and celebration amongst the thousands that turned out to see it over the 6 or 8 weeks of the bloom. Incredible, and I’m honored that I was there for a part of it.
Icy Fence and weed, Utah. At 3 AM when I couldn’t sleep anymore, I got back in the driver’s seat and headed for the Utah border. I was heading towards Hinckley, Utah, having no idea what was there, jsut passing through. Needless to say, when I spotted this cool – no pun intended – scene, I had to stop. As the field irrigation was still running, it was a matter of timing to get drops in the air, and not get wet myself. It was 28 degrees F, so things were not going to melt fast! I love this kind of stuff – it’s the “extraordinary everyday seeing” that Jed and I wrote a book about, because it’s well, so cool! One hour later, I pulled myself away to continue my road trip.
The Milky Way stretches over Skyline Arch formation in Arches National Park, Utah. I’ve been getting into night photography, along with many others, the past few years, but had never tried doing a panorama of the night sky, until this trip to Utah last April. Heck, there was enough to do just to get sharp stars and correct exposures, before getting too fancy with technique. But I did what I teach others to do – asked myself the ‘what if’ question – and went for it! First time out, it was a winner. hooray! But beyond the process of making it, the experience of being out for several hours, alone with the sagebrush and stars, alone with an owl and a distant coyote, was priceless.
Namibia. Zebras neck, a common social activity. This is a mother and her child necking, creating a lasting bond between them. My tours to Namibia with co-leader and good friend Wendy Kaveney have been incredible, both for the experience of being there and photographing, and for the chance to share in the wonder with clients on the trips. I made many pictures of wildlife, but with a plan to put my own spin on the image afterwards. This is one result. Still real, still expressing the message, the moment, but a little more creatively.
Poppy Unfurling. It continues to amaze me how often we all travel to far-flung places to photograph beauty, and it’s right at our feet so many times! I am guilty – I had gone in search of the burst of spring wildflowers all over the California foothills but it was a spotty year – with the best flowers being found alongside a recently restored highway that had seeded the roadsides with wildflowers! No matter. But when I returned home, and was walking the dog one morning, I noticed the poppies across the street from our house, in the sidewalk strip where many dogs do you-know-what. I saw this one just beginning to pop off its skin, and set up to photograph it. I made just a few images, with the slight breeze creating some issues, and when I turned to reach for something in my camera bag, the skin popped and the whole story changed! It proves two things: that you don’t have to go far to find things to photograph, and you have to seize the moment, because they all to often are fleeting!!
Sunrise over glacial tarn, Dolomite Mountains, Italy. Many pictures don’t express what it took to make them, and that’s a good thing. The result is what counts, not what life-threatening feat or effort you had to go through to make it. But I have always found it humorous that some of my most peace-inducing images were not exactly that during the making of them. In Yosemite one year, I was bitten 45 times by mosquitoes (yes I counted the bites) while photographing rushing water with reflections. And for this image above, I was standing in cold water, soaked to my waste pretty much, because earlier when I had tried to make a leap to an ‘island’, following another person who succeeded, I fell short of hitting the harder ground, and went in – but thankfully the gear survived or I wouldn’t have been able to make this picture! And it was summer, thankfully, so it just got warmer as the sun rose and I dried out quickly. 🙂
Oak trees, Yosemite National Park, California. Even though I live fairly close to Yosemite, it’s still a commitment to say “I’m going up to photograph for a few days” because I need to plan where I’ll stay, and get there before the roads are really bad, etc., and you never know what the storm will bring. But this time I got it ‘right’. As I was arriving the snow was coming down, and I loved being able to capture that but still have clarity to see the scene of the snow-covered oaks near Bridalveil Falls.. The quiet hush that snow creates on the world was wonderful. I made just a few images and then the snow fell harder, and I had to wait until morning to see what that would look like. But this one alone was worth the drive for me and it reminded me about going out ‘just to see’ because as a good friend once say -“you won’t know if you never go”!
I could recount many stories and run this blog very long, so I am closing with this wintry scene, because it’s well, Winter in many places right now, whether you have snow or not. And because the peace of this scene is what I wish for the world. No matter what is going on this coming year, we have nature to heal us, so get out there and revive your spirits and your energy with nature!
Happy New Year to you all, and I’ll see you on the road in 2017!!
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This is the blog of Brenda Tharp, professional outdoor and travel photographer. I’ll be regularly posting recent photographs, photographic techniques, photo tips, insights and my workshop and travel schedule updates. Thank you for being here, and if you wish to see more images in my archive, please use the link above.