Favorites of 2021

2021: I’m not sure what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it. As always, photography happened, though. Like last year, I mostly stuck to my home region. Summer’s record-breaking heat and seemingly endless smoke were challenging and definitely impacted some of my plans. But an unexpected opportunity to run the Middle Fork of the Salmon, a beloved river I hadn’t seen in ten years, was a most welcome surprise. I reconnected with some great old friends over the summer and made some new ones on the river. And I got to venture north and begin exploring the Idaho Panhandle and far northwest Montana, which together form a wonderful and fascinating geographic region that really needs a coherent, evocative name.

A couple notes:

  • Calendars – thank you everyone who bought one! Sales were substantial and represent significant support for my work, support that will help me pursue some goals this year. I won’t mention them again now that we’re well into ’22, but if you procrastinated or find yourself a calendar short, they’re still available. I’ll definitely be working on another for 2023.
  • Please sign up for my forthcoming email newsletter if you’re so inclined. I will certainly not be overwhelming your inbox, but I would like a more direct means to communicate with my kind followers. I have some modest ambitions and projects in mind, and I hope to be able to tell you about them reliably.
  • Also, if you haven’t taken a look at my main website in a while, please do! I substantially reorganized it this fall and it’s much better.

Without further ado, my personal favorites of the year gone by…

Deep winter, Idaho Palouse
Sunset color and winding Snake, Saqanma (i.e. Hells Canyon), Idaho
Reflected light on Snake River textures
Two trees, Hells Canyon, Idaho
Early spring, Whitman County, Washington
Dappled basin, Wallowa Mountains, Oregon
Water plants, Hurricane Creek, Wallowa Mountains, Oregon
Glassy entrance, Selway River, Idaho
Gleaming whitewater, Selway River, Idaho
Matt Ryan makes it look easy on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, Idaho
Cobble bar and bedrock ledge, Middle Fork of the Salmon, Idaho
Tukudeka (Sheepeater Shoshone) rock art, Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, Idaho
Fancy dancer, Chief Lookingglass Powwow, Kamiah, Idaho
Survived the summer: autumn mist touches unburnt forest next to wildfire perimeter, Cabinet Mountains, Idaho
Lichen-strewn autumn: I loved this unusual fall color palette in Montana’s Cabinet Mountains
Bedrock and fall: river cascades under autumn foliage, northwest Montana
Red and jade: Again, I loved this peculiar color combination of leaves and lichen in the Washington Palouse

There’s a reason I seldom post these collections until well into January: I find I often have a bit of good luck in late December, and I need some time to process the results. So it proved this year. 2021 ended much as it began, photographically anyway, in a somber but beautifully snow-covered Palouse.

Sunrise through snowclouds, Latah County, Idaho

2021 Favorites: Eli

The annual Eli collection for friends, family and fans: once again, we stayed mostly in the Inland Northwest, though glimpses of Utah and the Pacific managed to sneak in. Our backpacking tally was down quite a bit from last summer (though our three trips were all outstanding), but this year we actually saw friends and family, a pleasant development. We homeschooled, survived the heat, climbed a respectable peak in the Wallowas, spent a lot of time in water, ate a ton of wild berries, inhaled too much inescapable wildfire smoke, rafted on the Clearwater, road tripped to New Mexico for Thanksgiving. Eli took acting classes, trained a cat to walk on a leash, resumed public school, swam in several frigid Idaho Panhandle lakes. It was a good year.

World Gone to White

The land is looking very seasonal and minimalistic on the Washington-Idaho border right now. Yesterday morning did show a little light (images coming soon), but mostly it revealed glorious sweeps of white emptiness.

Any winter could be the last for this old barn.

It snowed a lot more last night since I took these pictures. How minimalistic will the world get?

Light and Water

Selway River, Idaho

Only by living away from it for so long did I learn to see it again. Now, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of gazing at light playing with running water.

Hurricane Creek, Wallowa Mountains, Oregon
Ingalls Creek, Washington Cascades
Hurricane Creek, Wallowa Mountains, Oregon

Red Palouse Autumn

The Palouse region is not generally known for fall colors, but rather for hills and wheat. But there is color to be found and it was excellent this year.

I often feel that, for all the beauty of the Palouse hills, an important piece of the region’s spirit is hidden in the wooded slopes along its unassuming waterways and little valleys. That spirit was positively glowing in October.

I photographed this same aspen last year, at a little nature preserve near my home. It had a different feel this fall, with red shrubs in the background and just a couple leaves hanging on.

This deep red foliage beside jade-green lichen is a very exotic color palette to me, and I love it.

It had been many years since I’d had a really good season of fall color photography, and I was feeling a bit dejected at not being able to take a major autumn trip this year. But the local landscape surprised me, and it seemed to go on and on. I thought it was fading once, only to have an entire other layer of leaves light up even more brilliantly than the previous round. I get the sense that this year was rather exceptional, but I won’t make the mistake again of writing off autumn opportunities right here near home. This year’s season was an unexpected gift near the end of a challenging year.

Gleams in the Gloom

A pair of fairytale-ish images to round out the spooky season: I loved the soft light, deep shadows and small hints of autumn deep under the canopy in these dense cedar woods in northwestern Montana. In the image above, the hesitant patches of light seemed to beckon away from the trail to some unknown end in the forest. Below, I felt as though I had interrupted these three trees in a whispered conversation not meant for human ears.

Goblin

Cats are essentially house goblins. Happy Halloween!

Misty Morning in Montana

Waking up and rambling around an autumn valley in far northwestern Montana after a night of rain – couldn’t ask for better!

All was gloom and wet at dawn in the valley, but with just a little elevation the world was luminous. The larches here were just starting to turn, lime green in the morning sun.

It continues to blow my mind how low-elevation everything is in the Inland Northwest. To my high-and-dry psyche, it just seems wrong somehow, especially given how boreal it all feels. This was not far from the Montana state low-point (1,820 feet, an elevation I typically think of as either harsh desert or underground). But the lowness gives the region a lot of its character, with dripping mild-winter fungus-strewn cedar woods and idyllic valley bottom meadows. Pleistocene glacial erosion also created some counterintuitive topography – this nearly flat valley divides the Cabinet Range in two and contains an imperceptible watershed divide. You’d never notice passing through, but half this valley drains south to the Clark Fork, while the other half feeds the Kootenai and takes a long detour into Canada.

The mountains up here have elevations may not seem terribly impressive by western standards, but with the valleys being so low, they certainly stand out.

I grew up in Montana, so it’s ironic that it’s now one of the western states I know the least and have barely photographed. I put a good dent in that track record this fall though, and I plan to keep working on the problem! More Montana imagery will be coming soon, and hopefully for years.

Survived the Summer

After a terrible, long summer of heat and fire, I feel like these northern Idaho larches, glowing with the benediction of autumn cool and moisture. These trees escaped the Trestle Creek Complex by a whisker, and are surely glad to be wreathed in mist rather than smoke. As am I.

2022 Calendar Available for Purchase

October past in New Mexico’s Manzano Mountains meets October present in my yard in eastern Washington.

Crest, Cliff & Canyon 2022 Scenic Calendar – 8.5×11″ or 11×14″

Now that we’re well into October, you’re no doubt thinking, “How on earth am I going to stay aware of the passage of time next year?” Friends, fans and well-wishers, I’ve got you covered! I’ve made calendars before for myself and family, but this year I’m offering them publicly. Please show a little love to an independent artist and consider putting one (or several!) of my Crest, Cliff & Canyon 2022 Scenic Calendars on your wall.

Besides going towards such worthy essentials as firewood, books and cat food for my household, proceeds from these calendars will help fund my ambition to produce more and better fine art prints at home.

My hidden theme for this calendar was Old Favorites, images from earlier in my photography that continue to please me and hold up to repeated viewing. It’s a geographically widespread collection, with New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, Oregon, Nevada and Idaho all represented. All twelve images were shot at less-known non-iconic locations – the Peloncillo and Manzano Mountains, the Frank Church and Aldo Leopold Wildernesses, the Illinois and Selway Rivers and others – you will not see these scenes on mainstream landscape calendars.

You can purchase securely here and calendars will ship directly to you. A compact 8.5×11″ version is available for $27.50 including shipping or a much more generous 11×14″ for $33.50, again with shipping included. I am very pleased with the print quality via this option and their terms are generous to me as a creator. Please do consider consider this as an easy option for getting my work on your wall or as a gift, and know that I will be very grateful for the support!