Every year about this time I reflect back upon the year through a review of what I consider my best and most memorable images. I would not be honest if I said popularity has nothing to do with the selection. I have not met a nature and landscape photographer yet who did not feel a sense of validation of their work when it is well received in the photographic community and with people who follow their work. But popularity alone does not raise an image out of my often daily posts to the Best of 2019 album. I need to also feel good about the image, that it expresses something about who I am as a person, and the image also resonates with others at more of an emotional level. When I put an image into the Best of Album, I must feel reasonably confident that the image is well composed and is a good example of my progress in the art and craft of photography. Ultimately the images must be sufficiently impactful that they have the power to inspire others to share in my love for nature, and the ability of nature to lead us to something beyond our selves, the interconnection of everything on this earth. Here are 16 of my best and favorite images from 2019, not in any particular order. Thanks for looking!
#1 Rising from the Clouds
The moment when something changes after a long day in the clouds and fog, Mount Baker has risen. Looking into a scene like this when the mountain is still lost in the clouds to me is like soul searching and the process of self discovery. I know the mountain is out there and will eventually emerge from the fog, clouds and mist. Just as I know my authentic self, the essence who I am, has always been there just waiting to be rediscovered.
Not until we are lost do we understand ourselves.–Henry David Thoreau
#2 Ever Returning Spring
I always look forward to the Daffodils blooming in Washington’s Skagit Valley. To me their bloom symbolizes the arrival of spring, the long awaited movement out of winter hibernation, and the arrival of new life and energy. Every year we are lucky enough to experience the reawakening of our soul and a kind of rebirth. The daffodils in this image lead to a lone tree. Lone trees have always had a special place in my heart. For me part of their attraction is the sense of mystery that surrounds a lone tree. In this case, why was this tree spared when most if not all of the others were cut down when the valley was cleared for farms? The lone tree is often associated with the Tree of Life, a myth of a tree that connects heaven and earth. Standing at this spot I must say I feel I am as close to heaven here on earth as I will likely ever get, and this gives me greater appreciation of the enduring myth of the lone tree as the Tree of Life.
#3 Flock of Birds
It is such an exhilarating experience to watch about every hour or so the Skagit Valley Snow Geese gather and take up in flight, make of few spins over the fields, and then all land not much further away from where they started to resume their winter feeding. One must be patient, however, as the birds have a mind of their own as to the nature of the time and place for their next movement.
Some summer memories linger and grow long after summer fades away providing memories of warmth and color one can draw upon anytime as the world turns.
#5 Mind Wandering in the Desert
Sometimes all that is needed is to lay down on the desert sand dunes and look up at the drifting sands and sky and let one’s mind wander to and fro. One thing I like about some desert landscapes is that world is reduced down to simple forms, patterns of light and shadow, lines and curves. The simple and beautiful essence of the landscape is made all the more apparent in natural near monochromatic scenes such as this one where the primary colors are gold and yellow tones.
#6 Spider Man
Photographing Japanese Maples in Autumn is one of the things I just love to do. Each tree seems to have its own character that almost every photographer sees in a slightly different way. A good Japanese Maple is truly a tree with a thousand faces. This year I decided to try photographing these trees in a much different way getting as close a possible to some of the more sinewy and well established branches. I call this image Spider Man because the branch extending form the right appears to be reaching out in several directions in a manner that looks both human and spider like.
#7 From Ashes to Nature’s Majesty
I consider this June Sunrise at St. Helens a near miraculous event: beautiful color in in a cloud filled sky, flowers near their prime, little wind, and beauty all around. It is moments like this that I feel so blessed to be fully alive and awake, witnessing nature at her best!
#8 Morning Fog
This Morning Fog image was clearly not one of my most popular images, but it is one from this year that I can relate to most and it also resonated well with several photographers and friends whose opinion I respect. To me the more subdued color pallet and subtle light moving through the grey green forest captures the feeling of walking through the woods on wet, somewhat dreary and cloudy late Autumn day. I have grown to actually like these days where one can walk in the quiet forest with an abundance of solitude, hear even the most subtle of sounds, and feel a close connection with the forest and its individual trees.
#9 Spring Thaw
The advent of Spring in the alpine often comes slowly. Even as one notices a few perennial plants here and there pushing up from bare spots on the forest floor, there is still snow to be seen in most other places. A few yellow glacier lilies will actually point their heads up right through the snow and alpine lakes begin to thaw as temperatures climb revealing beautiful abstract patterns of water, snow, and ice.
#10 Beauty at the Forest Floor
Nowhere do I find more peace and wonderment of the beauties of nature than at the forest floor. This is especially true in deciduous alder tree forests in sub alpine areas of Western Washington. Ample sunlight can make its way through the deciduous forest canopy in early spring before the leaves of the tree begin to emerge. This helps support the growth of a variety of greenery and flowers at the forest floor including bleeding hearts and queens tears pictured here. Later, the leaves of the forest canopy will crowd out much of the light, but at that time the bloom cycle will be about over and the plants will already be mature as summer approaches.
#11 October Multnomah Falls Dream
There is nothing like spending a morning in late October at this spot of iconic beauty that is Multnomah Falls. The Fall color this year was absolutely phenomenal and more beautiful than I can ever recall on previous visits. Although some say that Multnomah Falls is over shot, to me when one is lucky enough to find color and conditions like this, shooting the falls is cause for celebration. It is a little like seeing a double rainbow in the sky! Let us rejoice before the beauty and grandeur of Multnomah Falls in the colors of Autumn!
#12 Alpine Lakes Overlook
This image is looking out to some of my favorite lakes and peaks of Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness area-Kulla Kulla and Mason Lakes, and Bandera, Pratt, and Granite Mountains. For me this is where my journey into Washington’s wilderness began at an early age hiking with my family and often neighborhood friends to the various lakes of this Wilderness Area. It is also a place I am always enthusiastic about returning to. Each time I revisit these beautiful ridges they look both familiar and new. I return a changed person and that seems to also effect my experience of this place. On this trip, the Alpine Lakes seemed more beautiful than ever before!
13. Garden in Paradise
How would you imagine a garden in Paradise would look like? Would it possibly be something like this?
To fully experience the beauty of an wildflower meadow at Mount Rainier’s Paradise flower fields, one must lie in the trail inches away from a patch of flowers. From this low perspective breathe and take in the beauty that surrounds you. Be careful when you are doing this, walk (or lie!) on durable surfaces and leave no trace. It is surprising how many excellent composition opportunities can be found right from the trail. They may not be apparent, however, unless one gets down and dirty very low and close to the ground.
14. Beacons of Light
On this morning at a cloud covered Death Valley, beacons of light lit up small sections of the mountains creating beautiful spot lighting and contrasts of warm and cool light, streaking across the tall peaks and touching the salt sea with spring water below.
Climbing up through a steep and barely visible trail with head lamp I had few expectations for what would await me at the top of this climb. One of my favorite photographers, Erin Babnik, was leading the way to this spot with optimal viewing of Manly Beacon and the Death Valley salt flats below and I followed her steps. It was a cloudy day, but at sunrise shafts of light illuminated sections of the distant mountain and a not at all common site, water in Death Valley. I found the combination of warm and cool light amazing and this is a experience that will linger in my memory forever.
15. Avalanche of Fall Color
Here are swaths of fall color and light along a North Cascades Avalanche Chute. Light illuminating parts of this fall tapestry is a wonderful experience to behold. I could loose myself for hours just following the light as it saunters down the mountain side.
16. Palouse Lupine Dreams
Just after sunrise and the clearing of some valley fog, a beautiful patch of lupine looks out to the green wheat fields of the Palouse. I love photographing in this location and usually I look more for distant telephoto compositions featuring the waves and patterns of the spring wheat fields. But on this day I was drawn to a wide angle perspective of this beautiful patch of lupine along the slopes of Steptoe Butte. The combination of wild nature and the cultivated farm fields seem to live and thrive together in a harmonious chorus underneath a glorious Eastern Washington sky.
If you would like to see favorite images of 2019 displayed large and at higher resolution head on over to my website at https://www.erwinbuske.com/Print-Store/Best-and-Favorite-Images-of-2019/ Thanks everyone for looking!