It’s that time of the year again. I’ve had an amazing year as far as my adventures and photography go, so it’s time to look back and select my ten favorite photos. As usual, it was very difficult for me to choose just ten, but I did manage to narrow it down as best as I could. Hopefully you will enjoy these photos, too.
For years I’ve wanted to catch the Colorado National Monument when it’s canyons were filled with fog. I had long envisioned my chance to witness warm light striking the tops of these large sandstone monoliths protruding above the layer of fog. 2012 was finally my year! As I was leaving for work one cold morning in February, I noticed the valley was filled with fog and I knew conditions at the Monument would be perfect. Instead of going to work, I grabbed my camera gear and drove up to the Monument to catch the sunrise. It was a beautiful and serene experience watching the fog rise up and then out of Monument Canyon. It was certainly worth missing a few hours of work for! This image is also very special to me because it is the last photo of mine that my mom, Kathryn J. Langstraat, saw. The following day she had a heart attack that she never recovered from. This image is dedicated to her. Please read my trip report dedicated to her as well: Life & Death | Coyote Buttes North
We visited many new places in 2012, as we try to do every year. One of those places was a trip to Las Vegas in March. We did not enjoy the city at all, but luckily for us there was plenty to do outside the city that held our attention instead. My favorite day trip from Vegas was to the colorful Valley of Fire State Park. We spent a full day searching for arches, petroglyphs, taking photos and just generally exploring the park. We managed to see quite a bit of it that day, but I’m sure we barely scratched the surface. This is a park we will definitely be returning to. The image above of a small little slot full of rocks was my favorite from the day.
Sandstone, lines and warm reflected light; three of my favorite things to photograph came together nicely in this abstract photo taken inside a large alcove on Top Rock in Coyote Buttes North. After finding this composition, a large cloud blocked the sun which forced me to wait for the light to return. Not that I really minded, aside from the strong winds inside the alcove…
Before backpacking into Ice Lake Basin I spent a nice calm summer night camped near the shore of Clear Lake in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. The following morning I was treated to this beautiful sunrise over the calm waters of the small lake. I had the whole basin to myself that morning, and it was the perfect way to start a day in Colorado.
Talk about luck! I spent a few evenings after work this summer in the Colorado National Monument trying to catch some monsoonal sunsets. On this particular day I was hiking in an area of the park I had not been to before when a rainbow appeared. The curve of the road below made a nice foreground subject and who doesn’t love the warm late evening sunlight on the rocks? This photo is a classic example of being in the right place at the right time!
After photographing the fall colors of the Ruby Range from Horse Ranch Park on a clear evening, I turned my attention to a small grove of aspen trees nearby. I noticed the green and yellow colors behind these particular trees and thought they would make a nice background in a more abstract photo. The low light after the sun had set made this long exposure easy. It took me a few tries to get the look I was after, but I knew when I saw this one that I had nailed it.
I took a trip down to southern Utah early this spring in search of this ruin. I wasn’t sure exactly where it was, but finding it turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. I’ve visited many ancient ruins over the years, but never have I come across one with paintings on the outside wall like this one. The off-center doorway is also something I can’t recall seeing anywhere else, either. This ruin is tucked into the back of a very large alcove, which I used to my advantage while framing this shot.
Second Wave Storm
I was a little obsessed with exploring the Paria Plateau this year. I ended up visiting the famous Coyote Buttes North four times, Coyote Buttes South two times and the White Pocket three times, not to mention exploring other parts of the Sand Hills. To be honest, I’m already ready to go back again. I just love this area! On my last visit to Coyote Buttes North in November there were some snowstorms in the area much of the day that added some drama to the sky. I used that to my advantage when I visited the Second Wave in the late afternoon.
Bryce Canyon National Park is another location we visited for the first time this year. I’ve been so close to this park many times before, but for some reason I had never stopped. We didn’t have too much time to spend at the park this time, but we did get a nice overview of the park in the off season. I did make sure to catch the sunrise on the day we left, and it was a sight I will never forget. For a few minutes the spires below lit up in vibrant colors I have never seen before! I only managed to get a few shots off before those colors were gone.
While driving down to the Paria Plateau in February, I could tell that an awesome sunrise was imminent. I quickly pulled off the highway in search of something to photograph. There’s not much in the Cisco Desert, so I didn’t find anything. In the end I decided to park my Jeep on the dirt road and use it as my foreground subject. I’m glad I didn’t pass up this opportunity since it was indeed a spectacular sunrise!
There were so many of my favorite images to choose from this year that I decided to add five more ‘honorable mentions’ to the end of this series so you can see some of the images that just didn’t quite make my top ten. I sure hope that 2013 is at least as good to me as 2012 was!
Annular Solar Eclipse
In May we made a trip down south so that we could watch the Annular Solar Eclipse from near Shiprock, New Mexico. Things couldn’t have work out more perfectly since I also managed to get a permit to Coyote Buttes North that weekend. The image above is a composite of seven different photos I took using a solar filter over my lens. It was definitely an awesome experience to witness.
The first time I visited this area of Sand Cove I fell in love with the white lines in the sandstone. Unfortunately, there was nothing but clear blue skies that day. Luckily on my second visit there were plenty of white puffy clouds in the sky to add a little interest to this image.
I had been searching for this amazing little ruin for a while when I finally managed to find it this summer. Of course, the sun was in the wrong location and the sky was clear blue when I originally found it. It wasn’t until my second visit that the conditions for the image I had in my mind were much more favorable.
Alstrom Point Sunrise
After spending a calm night camping under the stars at Alstrom Point high above Lake Powell, I rolled out of my sleeping bag just in time to catch this awe-inspiring sunrise.
This is my most recent image in this series. I headed up to the Colorado National Monument bright and early on a cold December morning to catch the sunrise. About 15-20 minutes before sunrise is quickly becoming one of my favorite times to take photos because of the ‘glow’ you sometimes get as light bounces off of the atmosphere. While this ‘glow’ is visible to the naked eye, a long exposure with your camera can really bring out some excellent colors, especially when your subject is made of sandstone. I just love the subtle glow that is visible on the top of Independence Monument, Sentinel Spire and Window Rock. The Book Cliffs in the distance also have a nice light on them and I like the city lights in the City of Fruita in the background. There is a lot of detail in this image and the web-sized version like this does it no justice. This one will look great as soon as I get it printed large! Now go ahead and compare this image to the very first one in this series since they were both taken from a similar location. It’s amazing how much different light and weather conditions can change the scene.
Please feel free to leave comments about any of the photos in this series below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
>> My Ten Favorite Photos of 2011