My Favorite Photos of 2019

I’m going to bend the rules here a bit and share my favorite 12 from 2019 :blush: I wrote this for a blog post I’ll be doing but wanted to share it with my friends here on NPN first. Let me know what you think, any feedback always appreciated.

This year was an interesting one for photography, I’ve had many ups and downs. I feel as though I am refining my vision in many areas, starting with how I photograph in the field, to how I process my photos.

When narrowing down my selection of favorite photos I was fairly quick to remove the grand scenics from the top list. When reviewing all my final edits in Lightroom I initially selected these grand scenics because they grabbed my attention, the bold scenes jumped out and said “look at me!”. Upon further examination I began to lose interest in them and was continually drawn back to these more intimate scenes.

I become enveloped in these scenes, I could examine them for hours, whereas the ultra-wide scenes with dramatic skies only hold my attention for moments. These hold great meaning to me and speak to something deeper in my psyche, I don’t even necessarily know what this is, but I hope it comes across to the viewer.

Some interesting tidbits about these images; nine were taken on blue sky days, the other three were taken during stormy conditions. It goes to show that chasing epic light is not what’s important, but instead paying attention to how the light interacts with the landscape to capture “the decisive moment” as Henri Cartier-Bresson once said.

Also of note is that most of these images were taken between 50-150mm focal length, only three were with a wide angle, and these were pointing straight down at the subject, not to create an exaggerated foreground as is traditional. My mid-range and telephoto lenses have certainly become my favorites, as is the case with many of my respected peers.

One more important note was that my post-processing methods and style has changed dramatically. I experimented heavily, learned from others, and eventually came up with my own weird method of processing. I’ll go more in-depth into this in a future blog post, but essentially I found a way to produce the vision I had in my head of very moody images that do not look over-processed. I hope you enjoy my new vision which will surely continue its evolution.

Lost in the Mist

This image was a complete surprise, it was taken on a foggy morning in Anza Borrego. I was focused on the scenes looking down into the badlands and about to call it quits for the morning when suddenly light found its way through the clouds to subtly light up the mountains and create the slightest rainbow. I acted fast and was able to capture this fleeting moment before it disappeared forever.

Flames in the Sand

I found this scene wandering around the beach in California without intentions of creating an image. Daylight was fading and the temperature was dropping, seemingly time to go home. Instead I noticed this flame like pattern in the sand below a storm sewer with beautiful light reflecting off the rusty metal structure. I was able to create beauty from something dirty, gross, ugly, and seemingly not interesting by keeping my eyes and mind open to seeing what’s around me.

Cracked Earth

Despite being drawn to this scene in the field, I nearly passed it over in Lightroom due to the uninspiring light that it was taken in. This is a case where I was able to combine my skills in developing a raw file into my vision. The original was flat and bright, I was able to darken this considerably and draw out the light tones to accentuate where the light was hitting and give dimensionality to the mud cracks.

Rippled Fire

I love photographing the mud patterns in Death Valley, whether it’s cracked, rippled, peeling, I become obsessed. This particular scene did not present itself until the sun was seconds from dipping below the mountains. It was truly a fleeting moment that lasted all of ten seconds. Moments before, and after, the light did not reveal the depth and texture of the mud. The light told the story for this image.

The Ring

I’ve always been on the lookout for interesting Corn Lillies, but I never found anything that particularly caught my attention. That is until I saw this grouping, the plant was growing in a neat circular formation around a grouping of flowers. I quickly set up directly above the plant before the wind picked up again and was able to present this beautiful display of nature. In post-processing I knew I wanted to convey this in black and white, I did significant burning and dodging to accentuate the ring and refined this from great feedback I received on NPN.

Lost in the Clouds

Upon seeing this island in Yellowstone years ago I knew I wanted to capture it on a foggy morning. The timing finally worked out this year as we were presented with just he right amount of clouds and fog where you could see the island and the mountains in the background. The island was obscured just enough to give it the illusion of floating in the fog. I was able to extract some subtle colors out of the sky so it was not a dull grey scene, just a slight pastel to give it some life.


I have photographed this scene many times over the years, but I finally had enough vision and skill with my post-processing to create what I envisioned. A simple scene in Yellowstone where I was able to create just the right flow in my composition and then process in a very soft manner to accentuate the subtle pastel colors in the terrace.

Inner Light

This is likely my favorite image of the year, but it may not resonate with others. It’s hard for me to explain why I like it so much. It is dark and mysterious.It speaks to the fact that there is no light without darkness, how we must appreciate the hard times in life as it gives us perspective to truly appreciate the good times.

Alpine Splendor

Many would lament that the fall in Colorado was less spectacular than usual, but if your mind was open you could find scenes like this where the alpine tundra went absolutely wild and the colors were like nothing I’ve seen in Colorado before. This was a simple moment where I waited for just the right soft light to cover the hillside.

Inner Warmth

This is a great example of being able to create scenes on a blue sky day. These tress were perched on a West facing slope and as the sun rose in the East the light slowly came above the ridge catching some of the trees before bathing the whole hillside in light. I loved the way this tree created a V shape and how the sun subtly lit it, giving it separation from the other trees.

Canyon Stars

When I created this image I was again wondering around Zion Canyon with no expectations of creating an image. I left my mind open to see what was around me and I noticed the light hitting these trees, one just barely hanging on to a few leaves makes them shine like stars in the canyon.

Desert Ice

Mud like this is fleeting and rare in the desert, you need a flood to create such ripples. So it is always a joyous occasion to find patterns like this. When the sun sets and the twilight glows on the playa the mud appears to transform into ice as it glows on the edges of the ripples.

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David, thanks for sharing your beautiful selections. I can see why you like Inner Light (best TNG episode ever, btw) so much. Love the solitary glow in that one.

I think my favorites are Cracked Earth and The Ring. Obviously I have a fixation with curved, undulating lines… but I particularly like the darker tones in both images. Well done.


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This a wonderful collection for the year! My favorites are the The Ring, Lost in the Mist, Overcome and Inner Light. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about each of them.

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David, several of these resonate strongly with me as I thoroughly enjoy abstracts (Flames in the sand is amazing, with it’s color shift and dramatic waves) and the mix of subtle and drama that Yellowstone offers. I’ve got a very similar view to your 3 dead trees on the slopes of Palette Springs this fall (I stop and shoot those 3 trees at least twice a year… :grin:). The misty rainbow and mixed cloud layers in Lost in the Mist is a view similar to ones we enjoyed several times in Paradise Valley this fall. I agree that there are lots of nature “stories to tell” that can be found outside of the golden hours.

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Some beautiful imaged, David. I think you’ve found your style. I’m particularly fond of Flames in the Sand and Overcome.

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Beautiful selections. “Lost in the Mist” is absolutely breathtaking and “Canyon Stars” is also another favorite of mine here. Thanks for sharing these, David. They are very inspiring. But most importantly, thanks for your continuous effort to make NPN better and better.

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Yes, thanks for sharing all of them. They are all fantastic, outstanding images. The ones I find most striking are "Desert Ice,“Flames in the Sand,” and “Cracked Earth.” Of course all the images with the dynamic light are special too. Beautiful set for 2019.

Happy New Year!


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Gorgeous images, David! I think it was a good choice to go for the more intimate and close-up scenes. That approach almost always ends up with more creative, unique and artistic images than the wide angle landscapes. Very nice job with the processing also. My favorites of your favorites are “Cracked Earth” and “Overcome”. Superb collection! :+1:

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“The Ring” (b/w puts it over the top), Alpine Splendor" (magnificent colors) and “Inner Warmth” the unbelievable light) are my favorites, although all are terrific.

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