2019 marked my second year as 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.
MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS
Geothermal areas add an extra dimension to any landscape. At Hot Creek, outside Mammoth Lakes, the ground comes alive with rising steam in the early morning light.
For my birthday, I planned a trip with a friend to visit a small section of the Eastern Sierra. My buddy is not a morning person, so on a crisp spring morning I headed out around 3:00 am to one of the spots on my list. My jaw dropped a bit as the warm glow of the rising sun started painting the clouds and mountains in the distance.
After capturing a few images I sat back to enjoy the start of a new day.
While watching the waves crashing on the rocks in Shark Fin Cove, I noticed the reflection of the sun in a small pool. Moving into the right position allowed me to capture the two star bursts and the energy of the Pacific Ocean.
One of the rules of photography is to never shoot directly into the sun. However, if you are careful, you can create wonderful images by breaking this rule. The starburst patterns you see in this photograph from Shark Fin Cove, near Davenport, California, are the result of light diffracting through the aperture blades of the lens.
I was very excited to notice the reflection of the sun in the small pool on the lower half of this photograph. The moment it caught my eye I let out a gleeful giggle and started snapping the shutter.
The beautiful golden glow of sunset belies the howling winds that nearly knocked me off my feet several times.
Before I moved to California my knowledge of the state was quite limited. The landscapes that came to mind were beaches, mountains, redwood forests, and Yosemite. Since moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve had the opportunity to explore some of these landscapes.
Point Reyes is a peninsula north of San Francisco that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. At the westernmost tip is a lighthouse that has been in operation since 1870. I had planned to photograph the lighthouse on the night I captured this photo of the coast, but as I neared the location I found the road closed. Undeterred, I drove as far as I could, parked the car, and started exploring.
The first thing I felt as I stepped out of the car was the wind. I stumbled several times just getting my equipment from the car as the winds blew at a sustained 30+ mph and gusted harder. In these conditions it is very difficult to use a tripod to keep the camera steady. However, the tripod functioned quite well as a walking stick on the steep hillside. The lesson here is to be flexible with your plans and thankful for the chance to be outside.
PAINTING THE EARTH
Death Valley is a place known for extreme landscapes. However, amid the desert dunes, salt deposits, and arid mountain peaks, lies Artist’s Palette. This unique location is alive with the colors of the various minerals that have made their way to the surface.
In February, my girlfriend and I made a long weekend trip to explore Death Valley National Park. One of our favorite places of that trip was Artist Palette. Tucked away on a one-way road is this gem of a landscape.
Created by deposits of various minerals that have made their way to the surface this area of the park comes alive in the evening light. We were fascinated by not only the colors but also the textures of the various sections.
Falls Creek Falls in Washington is a lush and beautiful place to spend hours hiking and exploring the landscape. However, with only 30 minutes to spare I was given the challenge of capturing some of its beauty.
In July I had the pleasure of visiting Oregon to attend a wedding. The couple had taken the time to suggest some cool hikes and sights around the area. One of the spots on their list was Falls Creek Falls.
My girlfriend and I visited this spot on the day of the wedding, which meant we had to hustle. We had a little time to spare, so with 30 minutes on the clock I set out to capture this beautiful location.
Usually when I’m working to capture a landscape I like to spend time researching and hiking around to get a feel for the place. However, in this case, with a deadline (being late for a wedding) I needed to focus. I think this is why this photograph is one of my favorites of the year. It was a new challenge and experience that helped me to grow in my craft.
Thank you for letting me share some of my favorite landscape photographs of 2019 with you. I hope you enjoyed the photos and stories. Have you visited any of these locations? If so, I’d love to see what you’ve captured in the comments below.
Until next time, I’ll see you on the trail.
Matt is a creative fine art landscape and commercial photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He stepped away from a successful engineering career in the midwest and moved to California to chase his dream of becoming a full-time professional photographer. Over the last two years, Matt has traveled the world chasing light and capturing one-of-a-kind landscapes.
He enjoys sharing his adventures with family, friends, and strangers along the way. When he is not hiking to a remote location, Matt enjoys volunteering for local and national conservation organizations. His mission is to share the world with people, inspire a sense of adventure, and to make a difference for the planet.