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:

Rio Grande Gorge, Wild Rivers Recreation Area, New Mexico

Rio Grande Gorge, Wild Rivers Recreation Area, New Mexico

Solar eclipse over Cabezon Peak, New Mexico

Crescent Sun: Solar eclipse over Cabezon Peak, New Mexico

Bighorn ram and the Truchas Peaks, Pecos Wilderness, New Mexico

Bighorn ram and the Truchas Peaks, Pecos Wilderness, New Mexico (Please enlarge!)

Sunset reflections on Rock Lake, Weminuche Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Sunset reflections on Rock Lake, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado

Sunrise on Buffalo Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Sunrise light on Buffalo Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado

Sunrise above Rio Gallina, Chama River Canyon Wilderness, New Mexico

Morning above Rio Gallina, Chama River Canyon Wilderness, New Mexico

Engineer Mountain viewed from Jura Knob under evening storm, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Gloomy evening in the San Juans: Engineer Mountain from Jura Knob, Colorado

Sunrise and clouds, Ice Lake Basin, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Dawn under clouds, Ice Lake Basin, Colorado

Fall aspens, Cruces Basin Wilderness, New Mexico

Aspen Dancers, Cruces Basin Wilderness, New Mexico

Stormy sunset and fall aspens, Cruces Basin Wilderness, New Mexico

Stormy autumn sunset, Cruces Basin Wilderness, New Mexico

Sunset over White Sands and Sierra Blanca, New Mexico

December dusk, White Sands, New Mexico

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!

Sunset on the Shield, Sandia Mountains, New Mexico

Last light of 2012 on the Shield, Sandia Mountains, New Mexico

A few of the also-rans:

2012 Retrospective Collage

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15 thoughts on “Favorites of 2012

    • Thanks Aaron! It’s a pretty iconic place for Colorado photogs, but the basin is big and there are tons of different angles to be had. I had a great time up there!

  1. Wow, Jackson – what a lovely collection of images! It’s a good thing you’re not asking me to pick a favorite because I don’t think I could. “Aspen Dancers”, “Stormy Autumn Sunset” and “Sunrise Light on Buffalo Peak” all just gobsmacked me. I wish you and your family a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013! Maybe this will be the year that we finally get to meet one another?

  2. Wow Jackson…for a year that presented some challenges, you had a fantastic one! I love them all for different reasons, and can definitely see the “simplistic” beauty in each one. I really like the two images from the San Juans, and have been wanting to do some serious photography there for quite some time. But, I can see why the image of the Shield is your favorite…that’s truly a magnificent image! Happy Belated Birthday, and here’s to a wonderful 2013!

    Cheers,
    Greg

    • That San Juans trip was really a delight. I’m so used to thrashing around scruffy backcountry in New Mexico looking for clean comps, it sure is a lot of fun to go somewhere like Ice Lakes Basin where there’s a shot almost everywhere you look. Let me know if you have a chance to head out that way, Greg, I’d be happy to spend a few more days up there this year.

  3. Of course you had good reason for choosing the images that you did for the “best of” collection, but I sure thought some of your “also ran” photos were pretty sweet! It looks like you had a great year, and keep on seeing the world through your eyes. Let the “minimalist” photographers take their own photos.

    God bless you in the new year.

    • Thanks Kent, you too! Yeah, there’s almost an assumption that photographers’ work will grow increasingly minimalistic as they mature, but that’s a stylistic choice, not necessarily growth. I hope my work is refining, but I still like big complex landscapes!

  4. I believe you and I were out at Cabezon on the same evening. Myself and a few friends drove out from Arkansas to New Mexico last year to experience the annular solar eclipse over Cabezon. It’s possible we even drove right past ya! (For the record, we were in a white FJ Cruiser)

    I love your shot and you were set up for a perfect setting over Cabezon. We ended up driving close to the summit of Mesa Preita, as far as we could go, and shot over the Rio Puerco Valley itself with Cabezon to our right. If you’re interested, check out my shot here:
    http://www.arkansaswallpapers.com/2013/04/29/the-annular-solar-eclipse-over-cabzon/

    You’ve got some beautiful country out there and I’m glad to say I’ll be able to visit again in January.

    Would you happen to have any recommendations for places to visit in the Carson National Forest? I’m looking to see some Aspens for the first time ever.

    Also, absolutely beautiful photography man, and congratulations on the newborn! It sounds and looks like you had a fantastic year in 2012.

    • Thanks! I was actually a bit east of you, shooting from White Mesa near San Ysidro with a long lens. I’d shot the lunar eclipse the previous December from the same area, scouted locations near Cabezon the previous evening and realized that I’d want to be further away shooting a longer focal length, so I headed to White Mesa instead. And I knew I’d have similar considerations for the solar eclipse. I definitely like your wide-angle take, though, with all those volcanic necks visible. The Puerco Valley is such a beautiful piece of New Mexico, I miss it.

      I’ll e-mail you a couple thoughts regarding aspens on the Carson.

      • I leave in 2 weeks! Plans have changed a bit, I’ve decided to take off 3 days from work and travel out further west and visit Monument Valley, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. Instead of adventuring into unknown territory, decided to hit up the iconics instead. I’ve never been to any of them, so this should be a great trip!

        Thanks a million for the suggestions, Jackson. I’m sure I’ll be back out west sometime in the future.

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