Looking back on 2016, I have mixed emotions. Although I created some wonderful photographs during the year, it was not without pain and sorrow. Early in the year my mother had a severe, disabling stroke which ended five months later in her death. As a result, I spent almost half my year as a caregiver and focused little on my photography. Although my deep faith was the primary source which enabled me to find balance and solace, I was able to find a measure of peace through my photography. In particular, my portfolio of nature photography grew as I ventured into familiar places under fresh circumstances, carving out precious little slices of time while caring for my mother. Then, in the fall, I was able to visit some new locations as I traveled further from home and explored beyond my home state of Missouri.
In choosing my top 10 photographs, I have noticed a couple of recurring themes - waterfalls and sandstone canyons. As I reviewed my portfolio, I realized that it was more difficult than I imagined to chose my top 10 photographs for the year. At any rate, here is the selection I have chosen.
In October, I had the opportunity to visit northern Illinois. While hiking the sandstone canyons in the region I visited Matthiessen State Park. As I hiked through a canyon, small waterfalls were cascading and drowning out the sound of what was to come. When I rounded a bend, I encountered this unexpected scene. My heart began racing as I saw the potential of capturing this with my camera, the light and colors were just right!. This has become one of my favorite nature images in my portfolio.
Less than an hour and a half from my home is Rockpile Canyon, located in Pickle Springs Natural Area, a place not unfamiliar to me. I have hiked the area many times in dry weather, during various seasons, and wondered what this sandstone box canyon looked like when there had been some rain; so I decided to head out early one fall morning after a night of rainfall to see. As I entered into the canyon I could hear the sound before the waterfall came into view. It was still early morning and the light was low as I maneuvered behind the waterfall so as to include the colorful autumn foliage in the scene. The low light also enabled me to capture the bluish cast of the falls.
As anyone who knows me well is aware, Hawn State Park is one of my favorite places in Missouri. I have photographed Pickle Creek on many different occasions, but I particularly like the warm, rich tones of this photograph. This was one of the only days that the lighting and fall colors were present together this past autumn. The lighting changed frequently throughput the day and I was able to capture a series of images that vary greatly in color and tone.
Throughout the month of April I was travelling 70+ miles a day roundtrip to care for my mother. However, I was able to slip away on one particular morning to visit Missouri Botanical Garden, near my home, while the wisteria was in bloom. The weather conditions were perfect - calm winds and a bright overcast sky. Again, this was one of the few days that such conditions came together this past spring. What I had not anticipated was the numerous school classes that had decided to take a field trip to the garden on that same day. Photographing with a tripod on a wooden boardwalk with children scampering about was quite the challenge, not to mention the fact they were darting in and out of this scene.
In October I was able to visit Starved Rock State Park in northern Illinois for the first time. I had seen photographs and heard about the park but never had opportunity to hike there. When I arrived, the canyons had very little water flowing. The last night I was there, however, it rained lightly throughout the night and into the next day. That morning I decided to revisit a couple of canyons and see what had changed. The waterfall in Wildcat Canyon drops 150 feet to the floor below and there was a stream of water cascading over the ledge above. After hiking down into the canyon I set up a makeshift protective umbrella and created this image in the rain. Needless to say, I had the canyon to myself.
Also less than an hour and a half from my home is Hickory Canyons Natural Area. There are several sandstone box canyons within the boundaries of the park and I have been in them on numerous occasions when they were dry. Knowing that rainfall could create intermittent waterfalls, I waited for some heavy rains to see how they are transformed. In May, the opportunity arose, after a couple of days of rainfall in the region. I left home early in the morning and hiked down a very muddy trail, unsure of what I would encounter. Once into the canyon, I could hear this waterfall from a distance and my heart began to pound. I spent the morning in the canyons photographing, then drove home and cleaned up, and then made the 70+ mile roundtrip in the afternoon to care for my invalid mother.
At the end of October - early November, my wife and I travelled to Indiana just to get away for a few days. While staying at Turkey Run State Park, we had opportunity to hike some of the sandstone canyons there. (Notice the recurring theme?) The hemlock trees added a touch of green texture to the autumn palette in the park. In this photograph, there is a peaceful, ethereal feel to the image; that, coupled with a warm tonality, attracts me to this scene.
We had a very late autumn this year in St. Louis. I couldn't believe that I was photographing peak colors early into the forth week of November! This was a chilly and overcast day, but I slipped out to photograph the Japanese Garden at Missouri Botanical Garden. A slight breeze blurs the reflections as fall foliage surrounds the footbridge in this scene giving an overall sense of tranquility and harmony.
Another version of the lead scene for this blog, this time a vertical composition. The balance between the fallen trees, autumn foliage and waterfall captures the beauty of this canyon at Matthiessen State Park in northern Illinois.
Finally, last but not least, another scene from Hawn State Park. Here, fall foliage and subtle light bring out the best in my beloved Pickle Creek. The death of my mother this year came on the heals of the loss of my father in 2015. Hawn State Park was my father's favorite park and my parents camped and hiked here many times. It is probably the one place in Missouri that holds my deepest ties to them (besides my childhood home). And so my bittersweet year ends with a tribute to them