Favorites of 2012
2012 has come and gone, an interesting year for me in my photography, with some substantial frustrations and challenges, but plenty of fine moments and images as well. Considering that my first-born arrived on the scene in late 2011, I feel I managed a very respectable amount of landscape shooting last year. I did stick much closer to home, just New Mexico and Colorado, plus a flying visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. And while my family gave me plenty of opportunities for shooting, processing and sharing my images has been much harder with a baby in the house; it’s been a real challenge to find sizable blocks of time along with the relaxed mental space necessary to engage in creative work at the computer. Especially during the summer, my processing work often felt forced, and I knew that many of its results were not what they should have been, and moving to a bigger house in September left little time for hobbies. Happily, the holiday season has given me more leisure to revisit some worthy images from the past year, and the digital darkroom work has flowed more genially of late.
Other challenges last year were environmental. A bitter cold spell cancelled one trip to the desert for me, and truly appalling winds closed the door on another. Two of my most desired locations for 2012, the White Mountain Wilderness and the Gila, caught seriously on fire last spring, the latter shattering New Mexico’s record for largest wildfire in state history (itself set in 2011). The drought also chased me off some trips due to unreliable water sources. And while my second choice summer outings in northern New Mexico and Colorado were fun and produced some good images, there was a long spell where I couldn’t seem to find a cloud to save my life.
But there were a lot of good moments and successes too. Central New Mexico was the ideal location to shoot the solar eclipse in May, and that event produced one of my most striking photographs ever, with the added pleasure of capturing it with my family by my side. The publication of a large amount of my photos and text in the latest edition of Belknap’s Waterproof Dinosaur River Guide was a real pleasure, both a professional success for me and a real validation of my labor of love photographing the canyons of the Green and Yampa rivers. Though I would have preferred the Gila, a six-day backpack into the most remote country in Colorado is not to be sneezed at. Another trip to the San Juan Mountains was more generous with monsoon clouds and dramatic conditions. I got a refreshing dose of fall color, and spending the night in White Sands in December was pure, low-stress joy. And photographing the offspring was no end of fun!
Photographically, I notice that I’m using longer focal lengths much more often in my landscapes, and my compositions are inclining towards somewhat more simplicity, with fewer elements in the frame. All these are good things, and this seems to be the common path for many photographers as they refine their seeing and compositional skills. I remain disinclined, though, to take my work in a real minimalist direction, much as I respect that style when well-executed; I’m just too fond of big, beautiful, complex and detail-packed landscapes.
Plans and goals for 2013? I’ll do my best to make some of those southern New Mexico trips that didn’t pan out last year. The Gila and the White Mountains are at the top of my list, and I’d especially like to get there before the next round of megafires strikes. I also really want to start exploring the far southern desert ranges like the Guadalupes, the Organs, the Floridas and the NM Bootheel country. Outside New Mexico, we’re hoping our major family vacation this year will be a rafting trip in Idaho; besides being a great river for Eli’s first extended whitewater trip, the Main Salmon is a place I’d really like to photograph. A family visit to Arkansas may provide an opportunity to step outside my landscape comfort zone and see something new. Other notions bouncing around my head which might be feasible include a Grand Canyon backpack and some really obscure locations in Nevada: we’ll see.
Enough words! Here are my favorite 12 from ’12:
Perhaps my favorite shot of the entire year came at sunset on New Year’s Eve. December 31st also happens to be my birthday, and this beam of evening light dipping under snow clouds to graze the big granite towers of the Sandia Mountains was both an excellent birthday present and a spectacular finale to 2012!
A few of the also-rans: