Favorites of 2020

Strange as it may seem to use “2020” and “favorite” in the same sentence, I did come away from this year with a collection of favorite images. In fact, 2020 actually proved to be pretty good to me from a purely photographic standpoint. I feel somewhat guilty posting a collection this year knowing that it represents geographic privilege which so many of my friends and fellow photographers did not have. The pandemic with its restrictions and ethical responsibilities definitely did affect my outdoor opportunities (not to mention my opportunities to make any money), but we live in a place where responsible hiking remained legal and feasible, and for that I am very grateful.

This year was certainly tough and isolating, but 2019 had been very tough and isolating for different reasons. Unlike last year, however, we’re in a home we love in a fascinating and beautiful region. I did not take a photo more than ~100 miles from my house this year, which is unusual for me, but within that radius we did some good exploring of eastern Washington and north-central Idaho. I got to reconnect with some beloved river landscapes and see them in new seasons and from new angles, as well as getting tastes of some entirely new backcountry.

Another note of gratitude: To all you who are seeing my images via the blog rather than Facebook, thank you! I post here to maintain a presence independent of major social media and so those who opt out of it can still follow my work. So many complain about social media, but so few seem to put in the effort foster connections elsewhere online. To all you who make that effort, I appreciate you! Also, you get to see some photos here that never make it to Facebook.

It makes sense to me to divide my crop of 2020 favorites into groups this year rather than presenting them chronologically. Basically, my photography this year falls under Dark Stuff, Wet Stuff and Other Stuff.

Signs and Portents

2020 felt like a year when we were all looking for omens and premonitions. And they were not hard to find. Scenes unfolded that seemed straight out of Greek myth or Medieval allegory: A black-clad woman dancing alone in a plague-emptied Italian piazza; a real-life sheela na gig as apotropaion against the forces of darkness in Portland; a surprise comet blazing in the skies; unbelievable wildfires; a fly publicly perching on the head of a leader of a nation in crisis; that damn Utah monolith; a striking planetary conjunction on the winter solstice. I feel like some of that spirit resonated in my photographic work this year and made itself especially felt in four black and white images exploring interplay of light and darkness.

Apparition: When I shot this spontaneously back in January, I had no idea how apt an image it would prove for the year.
Winter Wave
Dark and Light Dancing
Wood Devils


After many years living in deserts, a former river guide longs to be beside running water, and 2020 came through in that regard at least. Spending time by the Selway River at flood stage was the fulfillment of many years’ desire, and other wilderness creeks provided wonderful moments as well. The hiking season closed with another visit to the Selway in wintry conditions, another long-standing wish at least partly satisfied. Clear, powerful, flowing water in a wilderness setting is absolutely magical, and I was like a kid in a candy store pointing my camera at it this year.

Selway Falls in flood, Selway River, Idaho
Selway high water, Idaho
Green Flood: Peak runoff on Idaho’s Selway River
Between Stone and Sky: Crooked Creek, Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, Washington
Turquoise Cascade: Rapid River, Idaho
Green, Gold and White: Selway River in November, Idaho

And the rest…

…getting better acquainted with the Palouse hills, subalpine mountain hiking, basalt canyons and metamorphic geology, the chiaroscuro autumn colors in this land where the northern Rockies meet the Pacific Northwest.

It would be improper not to have at least one image from my new home ground on the Palouse: Last light on Palouse hills and the Snake River Canyon, Washington
Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, Washington
Subalpine sunrise, Gospel-Hump Wilderness, Idaho
Interlocking: Mica schist and granite, Gospel-Hump Wilderness, Idaho
Filigree: Autumn aspen on the Washington Palouse
Gilded Valley: Golden larches, St. Joe National Forest, Idaho
Mist and Gold: St. Joe National Forest, Idaho

Happy New Year to all! I sincerely hope that 2021 brings rest, easier times and more joy to everyone.

5 thoughts on “Favorites of 2020

  1. I’m enjoying this post very much! You make some good points about the privilege of living in a beautiful place where it’s easy to get outdoors, the value of this community, and the difference between posting here and on the major social media. Your categories are funny! It occurred to me that my overall look for 2020 tended toward the darker side of things, with fewer bright, colorful images and darker and neutral images. You expanded on that idea and brought in what was going on culturally, which is interesting. I love the abstracts, especially Winter Wave. Wood Devils is interesting – it’s logs under the water and reflections on that water, right? That’s something I’ve tried to photograph but have not had much success with so far. I like your photo for the eerily fleshy look of the logs and the faint forms of the distant trees. Your vivid description of being with the rushing river makes me think of the incredible noise rivers can make. Green Flood and Between Stone & Sky are my favorites in the river series. Oh, that light on the Palouse! (When will I ever get there?) The pale blues of the sunrise photo are gorgeous, the rock is crazy! The final image is perfection. Thank you for doing this post!

    • Thank you! Yes, Wood Devils is exactly that. Sort of a funny one in that it was actually a beautiful, peaceful morning and I was in a fine, bright mood, but that scene caught my eye somehow as raw material for something darker. Always appreciate hearing your thoughts and observations!

  2. Jackson: The upside down trees in Wood devils reminds me of a landscape by Shitao. If you find him on Wikipdia there’s an image of a man in a boat looking up at a mountain that’s partly folded over. At the fold you’ll see upside down trees which with the mountain standing up straight would be right side up. It’s a literal image of the Taoist notion that the man looks up and admires the mountain and the mountain reciprocally bows down to the man. My favorite is the mica and schist and the abstracts are splendid. Here’s to a great new year for you and family. Susu

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