Five Favorite Images from 2021

It’s been a few years since I’ve done a “best of” post for the year. In past years, I’ve typically picked an image from each month that I enjoyed the most. In recent years though, my productivity in photography has dwindled, not even affording me that kind of selection anymore. This was due to a number of factors that held me back, but I’ve made the effort to reverse this trend beginning in the fall, which is why the five favorites I chose from this past year all from within the last two months.

October 1

The sun shining through golden fall aspen trees above the Aspen Trail in the Teton Mountains. Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

This first shot was taken on an popular locals hike, the Aspen Trail, found on the west side of the Teton Mountains. I was exploring it for the first time in the fall around sunrise and captured a colorful composition of the trail with the sun peeking through the aspens. I only went one of the four miles of the trail, but it was enough to tempt me back a couple of weeks later before the color had fallen from the trees.

November 13

The northern Teton Mountains rising high above Colter Bay of Jackson Lake while the water level is unusually low. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Jackson Lake diminished to historically low levels this past autumn. Despite some precipitation falling over the weeks, it wasn’t enough to raise the levels of the lake with any significance. It was at this time I went to hike the Hermitage Point Trail at Colter Bay, having confoundingly never hiked it before. The trail takes great advantage of lakeshores, and with historically low levels, offered some unique perspectives on a popular trail. With a recent snowfall, I hiked this trail shortly after sunrise, causing the light to illuminate the Teton Mountains, but shade much of the areas around the trail. While it created a strong contrast, the reflected light in the little water there was provided a much-needed and striking pop in the foreground, roughly running parallel with the clouds above. Though I haven’t made any attempts to turn any recent images into black and white just yet, this makes for a strong candidate.

November 24

Mount Moran and Traverse Peak reflected in the calm waters of an unusually low Jackson Lake as an early winter storm clears from the Teton Mountains. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The few workshops I did guide this year were welcome breaks in the lulls of my photography productivity. On one late November morning, with Jackson Lake gradually rising but still low, the sun broke through the clouds of a clearing winter storm to light up portions of Mount Moran and Traverse Peak. With unseasonably warm temperatures still lingering in the region, Jackson Lake still hadn’t frozen over. This provided a stunning reflection with a bit of warm color dotting an otherwise cold photo.

December 24

Comet Leonard blending into a starry night sky above the Green River Overlook. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Over the Christmas break, I made a quick escape to the Moab area for a bit of hiking and photography. On my second night, camping in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, I stopped at the nearby Green River Overlook to capture the night sky above before turning in for the night. I already liked the shot thanks to a linear conjunction of Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter caught in the zodiacal light, but I didn’t even notice until I had gotten home that Comet Leonard had snuck into the lower-left corner. I missed it with my naked eye so my assumption was that I had completely missed the window to see it altogether. Merry Christmas to me!

December 27

Stormy weather moving in over the Devils Garden Trail and the Devils Garden. Arches National Park, Utah

On one of my final hikes over the break, I was heading toward Double O Arch in the Devils Garden of Arches National Park around sunrise. In nearly any other situation, I wouldn’t think twice about this particular location for a photo. Scrambling over the sandstone fins, it’s simply another vantage point beyond the junipers, not terribly different from a few yards forward or backward. However on this morning, sunrise was blocked behind clouds and good light was minimal. For a few brief seconds though, a soft, slightly diffused golden light began to break through the clouds, not only lighting up the fins below me, but also the storm clouds rolling through above. After another couple of seconds, it was gone, completely changing the scene back to its (relative) ordinariness. Compositionally, the brief burst of light completely turned the average scene into a dramatic flow from foreground to background, circling from the light on the fins from left to right, and leading up into the clouds in the top-right, the clouds themselves pointing back to the left.

From a strictly photography perspective, it was a subtle and quick moment that I was fortunate enough to witness and capture. From a personal perspective, it left me with great hope for the new year.

1 thought on “Five Favorite Images from 2021”

  1. Pingback: 2021 in Review: Sharing Top Work From My Peers | Max Waugh

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