My Five Favorite Landscape Photos of 2018

2018 was the first full year I was a full-time landscape photographer. Traveling the world alone and with family/friends made for some amazing memories. Here are five of my favorite landscape photos from my travels last year along with the stories behind them.

Reflections of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Half Dome Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, Half Dome | Reflections From the Tenaya Creek

On a cold day in February, I hiked from my tent in Camp Four to Mirror Lake in the heart of Yosemite National Park. The goal for this trip was to capture the sun setting on the face of Half Dome. 

When I got to the area I discovered a problem. None of my lenses were wide enough to capture the image I had envisioned for this trip.

In times like these when the gear doesn’t match the vision, you have two choices. Pack up the gear and leave disappointed or solve the problem. This problem led me to wander up and down the banks of the Tenaya Creek looking for a different angle of the scene. Finally, with little time to spare, I saw a reflection of Half Dome in the water. 

I took off my socks and shoes, then waded into the cold waters of that Yosemite stream. Instead of looking up at Half Dome I pointed my camera at the surface of the water and clicked the shutter.

Bonsai Rock, Lake Tahoe Sunset

Lake Tahoe Bonsai Rock
Bonsai Rock, Lake Tahoe | Sunset

Soon after I moved to California in 2017, some friends talked me into splitting a ski lease in Lake Tahoe for the winter. This turned out to be a great decision because I fell in love with the area. From snow capped peaks to the clear, blue waters Lake Tahoe has something for everyone.

One difference between just taking photos for a hobby and as a job is the amount of work I put in to research. Over that winter I spent hours online and outside looking for interesting subjects. This effort led to a long list of places to photograph. One of first places on the list was a boulder roughly 100 yards from the shore, called Bonsai Rock. On a spring night I took a drive to the eastern side of Lake Tahoe to photograph the spot at sunset.

With the warm colors of the spring sun casting a golden glow on the scene, I set up my camera and tripod to enjoy the moment. As I was taking the photos I used a few different perspectives and techniques. For this particular photograph, I chose a long exposure to slow down the motion of the water to mirror the sky and draw attention to Bonsai Rock as it glowed in the last rays of the sun.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Sunet

Great Sand Dunes National Park | Golden Hour
Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO | Golden Hour

In August of 2018 I drove from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area to Colorado. On the way back from visiting with old friends I spent a couple days exploring the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. The park is at an elevation of over 9,000 feet and has the highest elevation sand dunes in North America. The tallest dune rises more than 650 feet from the desert floor.

My goal for the second night was to camp among these giant formations. With a permit in hand and my bag filled with camera and camping gear I started my way into the heart of the sand dunes. As the afternoon turned into evening the light changed to this beautiful golden hue across the land. The shape of the dunes made such interesting subjects that I couldn’t stop taking picture after picture.

Although the landscape was beautiful, if you look closely you’ll see sand being blown across the top of the nearest sand dune. This part of the scene serves as a lesson about preparing myself and my gear for the elements. With sustained winds of 20+ mph, gusting to 40+ mph the sand found its way into every nook and cranny of my camera, tripod, and bag. Also, in places my skin was not covered, I felt the sting of each grain’s impact.

This is a reminder that for every photo posted there is always a story from behind the scenes. Also, a reminder to do your homework before venturing out into the beautiful places in the world. It can be the difference between an enjoyable adventure and something much worse.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, Mt Lassen Shadow

The shadow of Mt Lassen cast across the countryside at sunset.
Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA | Mt Lassen Shadow

Moving to California opened my eyes to the scale of the state. Like many people who think of National Parks in California I immediately think of Yosemite, Sequoia, Death Valley and Big Sur. Until I started studying maps I had never heard of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Located in northern California, this park is one of the few places in the world that you can see an example of all four types of volcanoes. Towering above them all is Mt. Lassen.

One of the goals for this trip was to spend the night atop Mt. Lassen to photograph the Milky Way. I reached the peak with more than an hour before sunset which gave me plenty of time to photograph the stunning views.

I had put all my gear away in preparation for my descent from Mt Lassen when I happened to turn around. I don’t remember the last time I was standing atop a mountain as its shadow was cast upon the countryside below. Needless to say, the gear was quickly taken from the bag to capture the moment over Lassen Volcanic National Park.

I had spent all my time looking into the sun that I had forgotten to turn around. Isn’t that so true for most of us? Not staring into the direction of the sun, but focused on something that we forget to take a moment to consider all the different perspectives around our position.

Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand – Red Rocks

New Zealand, Arthur's Pass
Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand | Red Rocks

I took my mom to visit New Zealand on her first ever international vacation. For two weeks we drove around the south island taking in the amazing landscapes and culture. One day, while driving to Arthur’s Pass, I saw these rocks covered in red algae set against alpine blue waters. 

Captivated by the colors, I pulled the car to the side of the road to investigate. Thankfully mom is a patient lady because I spent more than an hour testing different angles of this landscape to find interesting compositions. 

New Zealand is famous for its vast, sweeping landscapes and imposing mountain ranges. However, for this particular moment, the beauty I found was on a smaller scale. This is a good reminder that it’s ok to slow down even when you feel pressed for time on a trip. Because what you find might be something completely unexpected and amazing.

Thank you

Thank you for taking some time to read this post. If you like these photos and would like to see more please feel free to visit www.mattchesebrough.com for my full portfolio.

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