Our 10 favorite photos of 2014 (in no particular order) are…
1) Artists Palette at Sunset, Death Valley, California
Artists Palette at Sunset, Death Valley, CA
The sunset cooperated quite nicely for this photo, with the clouds lighting up in a brilliant display of pinks and yellows. We had been to the Artists Palette on previous occasions but were never sure how to get a composition we liked until this evening in November. On this evening, the conditions were shaping up to be a good sunset but we had intended to photograph the salt flats instead. When the salt flats turned out to be a bust because conditions had not been favorable for their formation this year, we quickly made alternate plans to photograph the Artists Palette – so named for the colorful mineral deposits on the rocks.
2) Moving Rock, Death Valley, California
Moving Rock, Death Valley, California
The moving rocks are an interesting phenomenon because they move unseen by people across the playa (a dry lakebed) but leave trails behind as evidence of their movement. There are many challenges involved in photographing the moving rocks, including the 52-mile round-trip journey over a rough 4-wheel drive road and the fact that, unfortunately, people have messed with the rocks and playa such that many trails now lead to nothing as people moved the rocks to other locations or people have walked on the playa when wet, thereby leaving their own footprints behind. The park service asks that people leave the rocks untouched and not walk on the playa when wet and it would be a more pristine location and better experience if everyone followed these rules. We were fortunate to discover an area of the playa that had been relatively untouched and was thus fairly pristine, as well as this particular rock that had left an excellent trail. We then photographed the rock and its trail during the low light of sunset.
3) Humpback Whale Breach, Monterey Bay, California
Humpback Whale Breach, Monterey Bay, CA
Humpback whales may breach for a variety of reasons – communication with other whales, to knock barnacles and parasites off, or even just for fun. It takes a lot of energy for a whale to breach and one is lucky to see a breach while whale watching. We had been seeking a whale breach photograph since before we moved to California and finally it all came together for this photo when this adult humpback whale breached fully out of the water in the Monterey Bay this summer. The whale activity was unusually good this summer as there were a lot of anchovies in the Bay, which attracted a lot of humpback whales.
4) Sea Otter, Elkhorn Slough, California
Sea Otter Paws, Elkhorn Slough, CA
This sea otter poses with his paws in front of his mouth. Sea otters are born with blond or brown fur on their head, and older sea otters may develop grayer fur on their head. This photo was taken before sunset with a large telephoto lens (700mm) at the Elkhorn Slough, in Moss Landing, CA, which is one of the best places in the world to view sea otters in the wild.
5) Rainbow over Crater Lake, Crater Lake National Park, OR
Rainbow over Crater Lake, Crater Lake National Park, OR
We hiked to the top of The Watchman (8,013 feet), which is about 2000 feet above Crater Lake, when a thunderstorm passed over the lake resulting in a beautiful rainbow over the entire lake. The edges of the rainbow are even reflected in the lake’s blue water.
6) Two Sea Otters, Elkhorn Slough, California
Two Sea Otters, Elkhorn Slough, CA
These two sea otters swam together briefly where we could photograph them with their heads together. This photo was taken from a boat with a large telephoto lens (700 mm) in the Elkhorn Slough. Sea otters will often rest together, which is known as a raft of sea otters. They may hold on to kelp or eel grass to keep from drifting with the tides.
7) Humpback Whales Lunge Feeding, Monterey Bay, California
Humpback Whales Lunge Feeding, Monterey Bay, CA
Humpback whales sometimes work together to lunge feed, which is when the whales corral the fish into a tight ball and then speed upward with their mouths open, swallowing both water and fish. It is an amazing sight to watch the humpback whales large heads come out of the water simultaneously. During these feeding frenzies, multiple species may be present feeding at the same time, but the comparatively smaller birds and sea lions are quick to get out of the way when the whales are lunge feeding. At least 5 whales can be seen in this photo, as well as two seagulls, and a few sea lions in the distance.
8) Sea Otter with a Big Clam, Elkhorn Slough, California
Sea Otter Eating a Large Clam, Elkhorn Slough, CA
This sea otter was foraging for food in the Elkhorn Slough and came up with this big clam. He seemed quite happy with his find, which is almost as big as his head! This photo was taken with a large telephoto lens (700mm) from a boat. We liked how all the elements came together – the big clam resting on his belly with his paw holding it, a piece of clam in his mouth, and a contented expression on the sea otter’s face.
9) Rain over Oregon Mountains
Rain over Oregon Mountains, OR
Rain over the Oregon Mountains, as photographed from Crater Lake National Park. After the thunderstorm passed over the lake, it moved over the mountains in the distance, making for dramatic streaks of rain coming down over the mountains.
10) Wash near Artists Palette at Sunset, Death Valley, CA
Wash near Artists Palette at Sunset, Death Valley, CA
This photograph looks into a wash near Artists Palette at sunset in Death Valley National Park. During heavy rains flash floods come down from the mountains carving washes and canyons. The Panamint Mountain range can be seen in the distance.