In what has now become a tradition, I am posting my top 10 favorite photographs of the year. My blog has been sparse this past year, but I have not been idle. For a large portion of the year I have been working with a team, photographing anonymously, on a project that is international in scope. It has been an enjoyable experience, challenging my abilities as I have been drawn out of my comfort zone, and it will continue into 2019. (Those experiences, however, may be the subject of another blog).
The year began as a very cold winter and I took advantage of it to capture ice flows in some of Missouri’s canyons. This was the subject of my January 18, 2018 blog “Hitting Missouri Trails in Frigid Weather”. During the early part of the year I made several trips into the St. Francois Mountains of the southern Missouri Ozarks. For several years I had been trying to capture the seasonal waterfalls on Black Mountain. This year I was able to get the timing right, producing the image below.
You can find more of my images in the Black Mountain gallery on this website. Yet, capturing the waterfalls on Black Mountain wasn’t the only first I experienced in 2018. Another place in the St. Francois Mountains I had been wanting to visit for some time was Mudlick Mountain. My trip proved to be a most memorable experience. After years of photographing Missouri’s streams and rivers I finally did it… I fell into one. While several miles out on a trail (in Mudlick Hollow) I slipped and fell into the stream while crossing. I soaked myself from the waste down. It wouldn’t have been that bad except that the outside temperatures were in the low 40s F and up on the ridges the wind blew strong and steady. It was a cold walk back to the trailhead but I was dressed reasonably well for it. Fortunately, the outcome was merely an uncomfortable afternoon.
One of my trips to the St. Francois Mountains took me to Marble Creek, a location I have visited in the past. Early one chilly morning, with light fog rising from the stream, I captured a series of images I particularly like. Below is one of my favorites, capturing the fog and soft subtle winter colors. You can find more of my images in the Marble Creek gallery on this website.
Spring and summer kept me busy with the aforementioned project, so it wasn’t until autumn that I was able to find the time to get out into the woods and add to my portfolio. This past fall I found myself drawn again to southern Illinois, Shawnee National Forest, in search of waterfalls and fall foliage. After some heavy rains, I made a trip to Burden Falls. The falls consist of an upper and lower section and the total height makes it the tallest falls in Illinois. Below is one section of the upper falls.
When I left for southern Illinois that morning, it was cloudy and was supposed to remain mostly cloudy throughout the day. However, when I arrived at Burden Falls the clouds had begun to clear and by the time I reached the bottom of the falls the sky was mostly clear, with light cloud cover moving across the sun. What is more, I found myself at the base of the falls looking up into the sun. It became a long waiting game, over the course of several hours, as I moved around- composing and waiting for brief clouds to create even light. Over the years I have learned how to show patience in these circumstances and relax, enjoying the beauty that surrounds me. My patience paid off with a number of beautiful images, such as the one below.
You can find more of my images in the Burden Falls gallery on this website. My trips into Shawnee National Forest this past fall led me to both new and familiar locations. Being such a long distance from home, I carefully watch weather conditions, hoping to time my visits to coincide with desirable light. Rainfall can vary from location to location and make all the difference when you are trying to capture intermittent waterfalls. However, I am always open to whatever scene and light comes my way - majestic or subtle. Sometimes the beauty of a place can be seen in more intimate settings, such as the woodland creek below.
You can find more of my images in the Shawnee National Forest gallery on this website. On one of my trips into Shawnee National Forest, along the return journey, I stopped at Ferne Clyffe State Park to visit Big Rocky Hollow. It was late in the day and I suspicioned that the waterfall probably wasn’t flowing. It is a short hike into the hollow and I considered just running back to the waterfall (without my camera) to check it out. At the trailhead, as I started to head into the hollow, I decided to take my camera bag but didn’t dress for a long stay in the cold. Once I found myself in the canyon, the sun had dipped below the canyon walls and the soft subtle colors captured my eye. I ended up photographing until the light had almost disappeared and I was too cold to stay any longer. The image below captured the soft light and colors beautifully.
Another familiar place to which I returned this fall was the Hilda J. Young Conservation Area. Young Conservation Area is part of the LaBarque Creek watershed, a biologically diverse ecosystem near the St. Louis metropolitan area. Light rain persisted off and on throughout the day, but it was not enough to deter me. The muddy trails led to some spots with beautiful autumn colors and solitude. The hike out gave me opportunity to capture the fall foliage reflecting in a pond, as seen below.
As the year began to wind down, there was yet another opportunity that came unexpectedly. Our first snowfall in St. Louis occurred while the trees still retained their fall colors. This is a rare occurrence which I was able to capture. I had only a brief window of time, at the end of the day, to get out and capture such beauty. I slipped over to the Missouri Botanical Gardens near my home. Cloud cover became thin towards late afternoon and provided a bright even light to photograph the Japanese Garden where the trees retained their autumn palette. The image below, of the snow covered drum bridge, gives a hint of the colorful trees beyond. Although some of the images here among my favorites did not garnish the most “likes” on social media this one did. It appears to create a response among viewers.
That day I was “in the zone”. As I became immersed in my photography, I failed to notice the clearing sky. Suddenly the sun struck the garden and everything changed. The sunlight was so hash, I wandered around trying to find at least some scene to keep me going. Finally, after packing up I took the long route (from where I was) along the lake before heading back to my car. As I walked along the hill overlooking the lake, I turned to see an incredibly lit patch of trees behind a majestic snow covered tree in the shadows. The late afternoon sun was striking the scene at such an angle that the brilliant colors created by the backlighting provided just what was needed to enhance the tree across the lake. The image below is the result.
All in all, it was a great year. I found great joy in volunteering my time and talents on a project that fills me with excitement. Although I devoted hundreds of hours in that work, I was still able to find a little time to nurture my own need to find peace in the beautiful creation that surrounds us. And as I did, I was able to capture that beauty and share it with you. Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think.
As of this date, I have not even added all of my images from 2018 to my website. Keep checking back as I will be adding them in the weeks ahead or follow me on social media where I post notifications of new galleries.
As for 2019, who knows what the year will bring.