I've been fortunate in the last few years to meet some really fine photographers like Lori Carey, Joe Smith, Tracy Schultze and Rachel Cohen (among others). Something that most of these photographers participate in is a year end list of their "favorite (or best) photos". We submit them to a well known and well regarded Bay Area photographer, Jim Goldstein, for his annual "Blog Project- Your Best Photos"annually. So this is my list.
I had the good fortune to maintain my regular routine of monthly travel (except October because of the Dodgers - dem bums). I started off the year with two trips to Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave, visited Dodger Spring Training and Homolovi State Park in Arizona, took two trips to the Central Coast, went to Utah and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, went to each California League stadium, Petco Park, San Francisco (AT&T Park) and environs with Lupe, and took a fabulous Four Corners trip, which included Mesa Verde, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Hovenweep National Monument and a quick jaunt to Joshua Tree to see my buddy, PJ Finn. Whew! Who said retirement was boring?! I made about 8000 images this year and 7,990 were pretty bad. Well, not really, but these photos represent my personal favorites.
The first photo (above) was taken in the fading light of a September afternoon at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from the south rim near Chasm View. To me, it seems to capture the "up close but oh so deep and mysterious" look of this magnificent canyon.
The next two favorites are also canyon photos and both from Imperial Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at opposite ends of the day. The first was taken while walking around with my amiga, Liz Kylin, in the late afternoon and a few days later I got up early to catch the sun as it just started to hit the point. You'll get a sense of how fascinating the light of the canyon can be from these two very different photos near the same vantage point (taken with the same camera).
Let's move from canyon country to the coast. My number 4 favorite is a photo of Morro Rock - a place I return to year after year (since the 1980's). I finally took a photo I liked of it.
Next is a Mojave Desert photo taken after a steady 24 hour rain and the clouds were still lingering and creeping over the ridges into the valley below.
The next photo is a long exposure of the pier, at sundown, in my beloved Gaviota State Beach. I'm not a fan of the ugly yellow boat hoist at the end of the pier - but, hey, that's Gaviota.
My amigo Joe Smith has really encouraged me to use more black and white and the last 4 are in that medium. The first is of Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu on a late summer afternoon.
The next photo is of Round Tower in Hovenweep National Monument. This structure was probably built between 1150 AD and 1350 AD by Ancient Puebloans.
This photo of iconic Spider Rock at sunset is probably my favorite of the year. Yes, I know its been photographed thousands and thousands of times but I like the simplicity and shadow of this black and white.
Lastly, you wouldn't really expect the old Southwest Dude not to have a railroad track photo, right? Right. My last is from a favorite spot near Cantil, CA.
Since it is the end of the year I want to express my gratitude to each of you who follow my blog and vicariously travel the roads of the West with me. I hope you get some sense of how much I enjoy sharing my "traveling life" with you and I hope you know how great it is to have you along.
I'd like to also give a shout out to my pals and fellow inspirational photographers, PJ Finn, Craig Pindell, Scott Hays, Don Wendell, author extraordinaire, Chris LaTray and fellow travelin' fool, Scott Jones. I'm fortunate to have you dudes in my life (even if most of it is online).
Lastly, I also want to acknowledge the greatest blessings of my life which are my three children, my two daughters in law and my sensational wife. I don't know how they put up with me - but they do and I'm so damn lucky.
My best to all - let's have a brilliant 2019.
“All at once the desert was everywhere, and I was overcome with a feeling of relief. Sand, rocks, hills—the whole landscape was tinted the same shade of orange as the sky.”
― Jasmin Darznik, Song of a Captive Bird
Few places I know would merit a return in the same season but Red Rock Canyon State Park in California certainly does. My camping family/friends, Marty and Steve and I had decided, after last year, to go to Death Valley again this year, but after a storm last Fall, our favorite campground was closed. I suggested Red Rock as an alternative and so...we went.
The only problem? It was too damn cold. Steve and I have had 3 frigid camping trips - Calaveras Big Trees, Death Valley and now Red Rock. One morning it was 21F (and the furnace quit working of course) and it never got over 50. We also had to contend with sleet and rain one night. We still hiked a bit and the evenings inside the trailer were filled with drunken and loud singing and musical and political arguments (we had no neighbors- thankfully).
These two guys, from my perspective, are about the two best camping buddies a guy could have. They're fun and funny and smart, love the outdoors, and are forgiving of my quirks. Who could ask for more? The photo above is from our short walk at Fossil Falls off Highway 395 north of Red Rock. The photos below are my black and whites from the trip and I'm enjoying moving more to that medium lately.
The following photos were taken in the tiny old mining town of Randsburg. Fascinating place. The road and railroad photos above were taken on our drive there. My favorite photos these days, if you couldn't tell, are typically roads, sage, train tracks and desert sky. This is the West of my memories and my dreams.
The following images are from Red Rock Canyon State Park itself. I still can't believe I lived so many years of my life not even knowing about this Mojave gem which is just a couple hours north of LA.
We drove up Highway 395 after a late winter snow and visited Fossil Falls on the recommendation from, of all people, my dentist. It's a fascinating place from a geological and scenery perspectives and it didn't disappoint. Thanks Doc Evans!
After a cold week at Red Rock I went home for a few days and prepared to venture to Arizona for Dodger Spring Training as well as visiting Homolovi State Park in the Hopi lands. I knew it had to be hotter there and I was ready for shorts, t-shirts and sandals weather. Oh how wrong I was! Ha!
One of the great gifts of social media is finding cool people that you share common interests with - in the last year I was able to meet a fellow rail-fan (train fanatic) and Southwest lover, Liz Kylin on Twitter. When she read I was going to visit Homolovi she offered to show me around a bit and have lunch at "The Turquoise Room" in the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, AZ (maybe my favorite Southwest restaurant).
It's 525 miles to Homolovi from El Rancho Hubbardo and when I arrived I was exhausted from dragging my trailer around and avoiding the ubiquitous tractor trailers. I got my gear set up, ate some pea soup, watched a movie on my iPad and turned in very early. I awoke and was ridiculously cold. I keep an indoor/outdoor thermometer in the trailer and turned on the light to see the temperature which was a stupidly frigid 14F. Oh, man. So much for shorts and sandals! The next morning I checked in with the Ranger and told him it was 14F. He replied, "14? No, sir, it was 9F last night". Oh, OK, I stood miserably corrected.
The day did begin to warm a bit and Liz arrived at 10:00 AM and proceeded to show me the ruins in the Park. Although partly cloudy, it was getting warmer and I was grateful.
After a lovely walk and drive in the Park we made the short jaunt to Winslow and ate lunch. The La Posada is the home of an old "Harvey House" and the trains run just outside the back door. Liz was somehow able to determine that there was a freight headed our way and so we scurried out to her car and drove to a bridge overlooking the tracks and Interstate 40. Sure enough...here came our train. We even got the whistle!
Liz told me there was one more place that she had to show me...the Little Painted Desert. It was just north of Homolovi and - wow - what a place. Liz was quite the tour guide! I can't thank her enough.
After an extraordinary day Liz headed back to Flagstaff and I got ready to move south to Phoenix and my beloved Dodgers and some warm weather! My next blog post will be for baseball lovers and features the redoubtable R. Scott Jones and some photos of the Boys in Blue. Until then...
After being away from the desert for several months I almost couldn't bear it anymore. I planned a trip to Mojave but the idiots in Washington DC were threatening another government shutdown which would essentially shut down the Mojave Preserve.
After kvetching about this online my friend and Desert Expert Extraordinaire, Lori Carey said, "just get up to Red Rock Canyon". So, I did. The above photo shows the spot that I was able to secure for several days of desert bliss. Red Rock Canyon is only two hours north of Los Angeles but it certainly seems as if you're in another state, or another planet. It is about 80 miles from Bakersfield and 25 miles from the town of Mojave. The State Park link is here.
There is not a lot of civilization nearby this piece of unusual rock formation. As a result, it's uncrowded and provides solitude despite its proximity to Los Angeles. Many old Westerns have used this as a filming locale and it does have it's own unique charm. One day I jumped in the truck and decided to check out the local towns. The highway and the railroad tracks were lonesome on a late autumn afternoon. Just the way I like them. Have you ever felt "in your element" too? I
The weather was terrific. Highs during the day reached the upper 60s. It did get chilly at night but I was nestled in my little home away from home.
There are multiple hiking trails in the area. A highlight of the trip is the short Hagen Canyon Loop Trail. It's only a little over a mile but every bend leads off to another scenic spot which will tempt you into exploring. I spent an entire afternoon out there walking, wandering, resting, and making photographs. The geology is quite spectacular and there are some species of wildflowers that are only found here. It feels unique because it is...certainly no other place like it in California. At times, I found myself marveling at how much it looked like southern Utah.
My annual Death Valley Trip has been altered due to the Mesquite Spring Campground being closed from storm damage and I'm meeting my dear Bay Area family right back here in February. It certainly has on "Old West" feel. On the next trip I'll spend more time in the nearby El Paso Mountains and the Trona Pinnacles are just an hour away.
Thanks for joining me on this little Western getaway. We'll be back soon.
On Twitter it's apparent that reviewing one's photos for the year is all the rage. I consider myself a non-conformist but I kind of like the idea. This is true even if the exercise is nothing more than an oppportunity to review my travels and tribulations for the last 12 months. For me, it's easy to do that and one of the reasons that I started this website. I enjoy sharing the beauty of the West and looking at my photos will be an enjoyable activity. I am not, however, inclined to pick my "favorite" 12 photos. While ranking is cool I think that activity might make my head explode. Maybe next year...
This was my first year traveling with my little travel trailer, a fiberglass egg, called, "El Correcaminos". It is quite different than sleeping in a tent or the back of my truck. In fact, it's so dang convenient that the first few months I traveled with it I'd get in the cozy little space and just want to stay there. This rather defeats the idea of getting a trailer which is to enjoy the great outdoors. I suppose it's natural though, when in a safe cocoon, to want to stay there. However, get out we did!
Here are my some of my favorite photos from my trips this year. I started the year using JPEG and a Nikon D3300, editing using the Nikon software, and finished the year making RAW images with a Nikon D750 and editing them in Lightroom.
The first photos are from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument last January.
For my birthday, the last one of my FIFTIES, Lupe and I took Banjo to Point Mugu.
My next stop in the little trailer was Death Valley. I'd been there before but never during a "super bloom" or for so long. It was a good trip.
In March I visited my Bay Area family. The last 6 years have been challenging for me in many ways but Lisa, Kara and Steve have always been there for me. How I love them... The photo below is of Lisa, Kara and their Dad, Jack. Jack is maybe, just maybe, the coolest guy I've ever known.
In March Lupe and I went to Arizona. We spent time in the Superstitions and out at Organ Pipe. We had a wonderful time. Lupe is the perfect traveling partner.
In late March Banjo and I spent a few days at the other-worldly Red Rock Canyon north of Los Angeles. It's a really cool place and reminded me of Utah or Abiquiu, NM.
In April, I headed out to Utah. I was able to spend time at Zion, Bryce, Escalante State Park and Kodachrome State Park. Magnificent.
In May I spent some time in Joshua Tree and at San Onofre Beach.
In June I was able to visit the newest National Park, Pinnacles, with my remarkable daughter Lilly and her friend Kennedy. Pinnacles is becoming a favorite as it is (relatively) uncrowded and sits in the heart of the scenic part of Central California. I'll be back next March for some spring photography in "Steinbeck Country".
Lupe and I had to forego a planned trip to Glacier but we managed to spend a wonderful week in Lassen Volcanic National Park. When we returned we decided to establish an annual family and friends trip up there and 2017 will be our inaugural event.
In August my friend Marty and I spent a week at Gaviota State Beach and on the Central Coast of California north of Santa Barbara.
The next "big trip" I took was way up the Northern California coast to Redwoods National Park and then I spent another few days near Brookings, Oregon at Harris Beach State Park
In October I visited my thoughtful and smart and long lost friend Eric Flaherty and took a short trip to Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona.
In November I visited the wonderful Mojave. I love it out there...
In December I took a very short trip to a local campground, Casper's Wilderness Park, and my truck began to have mechanical problems. I had to cancel my Anza Borrego trip and deal with having the truck in the shop 3 times in a two week period. Since I was convinced that my troubles with the truck were only beginning we bought a new Toyota Tacoma which will bring less worry to my travels in the next couple of years.
This, then, wraps up my short review of the year's travels. I'm hard at work planning for 2017. I do hope each of you who read this have a magnificent holiday season and that next year is one of the best of your lives.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.