JWSmith Photography | 2016 Year in Review - a selection of favorites

2016 Year in Review - a selection of favorites

December 20, 2016  •  8 Comments

Here we are once again, late December with a few hundred photos metaphorically strewn across the floor, each hoping to be picked as a finalist. Sometime in late May I remember looking forward to this time because I knew, just knew, I had already made a pleasing batch of images. We'll get to those, and the stories behind them; but first (as Kai Ryssdal would say), the numbers. 

I packed a lot of miles into 2016 but the picture count is down from previous years.  Not as many trips out to La Jolla or Anza-Borrego, nor many local hikes or visits to favorite places in the county.  My '16 Lightroom catalogue has 5,565 images with just over 400 reaching the rarified heights of 5-star status and only 49 making the cut for the end of year selection process of which 12 are presented.  

I did get to some new places this year. Two long road trips with my daughter Kayla accounted for nearly 7,000 miles.  One around the Sierra Nevada and another up the coast to my brother's in Seattle where we made it to Olympic National Park, AND! I finally checked Oregon off my list of states visited.  In September I did a 3,600 mile trip through Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico and made my first visits to Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain National Parks.  

In early January Katherine and I did a large loop around a rainy Arizona where I found this ancient and gnarly walnut tree (Pic #1). Ironically, we went east to escape storms that were to inundate San Diego and the California coast.  
Walnut Tree in WinterWalnut Tree in WinterSanta Catalina State Park, Arizona
#1 Walnut Tree, Santa Catalina State Park, Arizona

Later that January it was the Sierra Nevada with Kayla.  I picked her up in Las Vegas and from there we swung out to Death Valley (Pic #2), up 395 to Mono Lake (Pic #3) and on to Reno, Lake Tahoe, Sacramento, Yosemite and back to Las Vegas where I dropped her off and moved on to Bryce Canyon.  There I was able to check off Hoodoos in Snow from my Hoodoo To-Do list (Pic #4).  Seeing red rock in snow is a special treat. Being able to do it nearly alone is even more special.  The temperature reading from my car thermometer ranged between 1 and 12 degrees; special in its own way. 

#2 Death Valley National Park, California

Tufas reflecting in Mono LakeTufas reflecting in Mono LakeMono Lake, California
#3 Tufas in still water, Mono Lake, California

#4 Hoodoos in Snow, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

A February trip to Joshua Tree looking for storm clouds didn't pan out as well as hoped but I did find a number of compositions from the granitic rock formations that litter the Mojave landscape (Pics #5 & 6).  I have a nice series from those rock formations done in low key which emphasizes the shadows and textures.  I'm looking for shapes here and will continue this exploration each time I visit Joshua Tree.  I've made a collection of rock formations and placed them in a gallery on my web site, here:  Firmest Firma

#5 Black Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Arch RockArch RockJoshua Tree National Park, California
#6 Arch Rock in low key, Joshua Tree National Park, California

In late March it was White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, a place I'll return to this year.  I could pick 12 favorites from that trip alone but prefer to spread the selection wide so two will have to do (#s 7 & 8). White SandsWhite SandsWhite Sands National Monument, New Mexico #7 White Sands, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands SunsetWhite Sands Sunset #8 Sunset over White Sands, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

In April I flew out to Maryland to visit family and took my daughters.  A surprise April snowstorm resulted in picture #9, taken from mom's back porch as I stood there transfixed by the scene, shutter clicking, and ignoring my bare feet which slowly turned blue.  The three of us San Diegans were excited to see snow, and not just tiny, quick melting flakes, these were big cat paw sized flakes that lived through the day.  As an image it probably has more emotional content for me than what it will draw from a casual observer but hey, it's my list so it stays.  I printed it on canvas for my mom and it does hold up well as a print. 
#9 April Snow, Prince Frederick, Maryland

In May I took a Spring trip out to one of the best spots on earth, the Colorado Plateau.  I stayed for 3 nights at Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah.  From there it's a quick trip to Bryce or The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  I took a drive out to Powell Point, the last place mapped in the continental US.  At the base of Powell Point is a section of badlands called "The Blues" (pic #10).  It's a less cliche composition than Powell Point, less dramatic also but I love the crenelations, shadows, and tones of the place. 
The BlueThe Blue #10 The Blues, Powell Point, Utah

Image #11 was taken in downtown LA, not a place I frequent often.  Katherine and I took the train up and walked about for the day.  I enjoy urban photography and I love the shapes, lines and textures of a cityscape.  I don't do many but I knew when I saw this one it would be in the yearly collection.  I have more images and a write-up about the trip here: Day Trippin' StepsStepsLos Angeles, California
#11 Steps, Los Angeles, California

Each September for the last 5 years I've made a trip out to the Colorado Plateau.  This year I mapped out a pretty ambitious trip.  Starting with a visit to Oak Creek Canyon outside of Sedona, AZ to photograph a hike there.  Then on to Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado for 3 nights, through the Dallas Divide and north to Grand Junction before crossing the state to see Rocky Mountain National Park.  Then it was south to Taos, New Mexico and east to Chaco Canyon before heading home. Fifteen days, 3,200 miles in all.  And, it was too much.  Even combining camping and hotels it was wearing and a lot of driving. The worst part I think was only getting a superficial look at any one place before packing up and moving on.  From now on it's no more than 8 days and 2 locations. Nonetheless, I did get a handful of images I'm happy with and #12 here makes the yearly celebration. 

#12 Doorways, Chaco Culture Historical Monument, New Mexico

Each year I enter this post into Jim Goldstein's Best Photos Project.  Have a look! 


Jim Goldstein(non-registered)
Really digging your B&W photos. The arch at Joshua Tree is especially nice. Thanks for taking part in my year end blog project. I hope you have a great 2017!
T.M. Schultze(non-registered)
Joe, this is a great set of 2016 images. Lots of great black and white. I know you mentioned a lack of local images in your 2016 list, but making great memorable work wherever your travels take you is nothing to fret at. Great year-end list!

Jao van de Lagemaat(non-registered)
Gorgeous images Joseph. Love many of these. I have a special place in my heart for white sands but I really like No1. It really reminds me of when I started out as a photographer photographing B&W film.
A beautiful collection of images Joe well worth all the effort , no.s 5,6 & 7 are my favourites.
May next year bring you plenty more memorable adventures :)
Stefan Bäurle(non-registered)
Those are superb choices! I like the variety and depth. My personal favorite has to be #3.
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