2023 Year In Review
It's hard to believe 2023 is winding down, and 2024 is right around the corner. 2023 was an amazing year for a lot of reasons, photographically, for me. I did more teaching than ever this year, with online workshops mixed with some in-person workshops, but I also did a lot of photographing for myself. Both are rewarding in different ways. I'm not one of those photographers who feels the need to protect my techniques from others, or who feels the need to protect locations (unless of course that location going viral would cause harm to the location). I believe in doing my best to pay things forward, so when an aspiring photographer asks me for help in learning how to do something such as long exposures, or a Photoshop technique, I'm happy to help. And when I see that photographer get it, I find it very rewarding to have been able to help.
By the same token, going out and photographing for myself, whether alone or with friends, is also very rewarding, but in a different way. Being out in nature photographing provides me peace of mind. It provides me a chance to reset, a chance to be a little introspective, and a chance to spend time with good friends or loved ones. 2023 saw a lot of both teaching, and personal photography, so without further adieu, here is my 2023 year in review.
January began with a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado. I'd been wanting to capture winter mountain scenes for some time, and things fell into place for that trip. Kristen Wilkinson Photography accompanied me for this trip, where we planned some snowshoeing hikes to Dream Lake as our must-have location. We did the hike three times, and each time we had vastly different conditions, which made for some great variety in our images. The image above, "A Winter's Dream" was taken the first time we reached Dream Lake. I loved the moodiness and the bluish ice of the frozen lake.
The first attempt to reach Dream Lake, unfortunately had to be cut short. It had been snowing overnight, and while the snow at the trailhead was only a few inches deep, as we climbed higher toward the lake, the snow became almost two feet deep and the trail was completely hidden. In "Snowy Spruces" above, there's supposed to be a trail in there somewhere. We were afraid of sliding down the mountainside, so decided it was best to turn back.
Back home in Maine, February started fairly quietly, but around the middle of the month we got locked in a brief deep freeze that brought out every New England landscape photographer's favorite subject: sea smoke! It was brutally cold with a -43ºF wind chill. My eyelashes froze, and I had icicles in my eyebrows! But I managed to get the image above of Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse shrouded in the steam fog, so it was all worthwhile. Already hoping for some sea smoke in 2024!
March and April were spent at home in Maine, with me exploring areas along the coast, looking for new spots, or new ways to capture familar places. One new place was Footbridge Beach, in Ogunquit. For whatever reason, I'd just never been there before. My image "Morning Dory" above, features an oft-photographed dory well known to local photographers. Of course I had to make my own version of it! I also had the fortune of running into Sean Baker and Jen Lippe. I'd met and photographed with Sean before, but I'd never met Jen, despite chatting with her on Facebook about various photographic things. This is one of my favorite things about photography- the other photographers I meet and become friends with along the way.
It was great revisiting places I've been to often, as I made it a point finding new points of view and compositions, such as with Cascading Sunrise, above, taken along Marginal Way in Ogunquit. It's easy to pigeonhole yourself sometimes, and with Marginal Way, there's this great spot that I always find myself drawn to. But on that visit last April, I forced myself to pick a different spot along the seaside cliff walk, and I came away with a beautiful sunrise photograph.
One new location I finally got to photograph at was East Point Preserve in Biddeford Pool. I'd tried to photograph here several times previously, but each time I went, conditions were unfavorable. Finally, last April, conditions allowed. Still Waters, above is one of the images I made during a beautiful sunrise that morning.
One other location I managed to return to last spring was The Nubble Lighthouse. This is a wonderfuflly picturesque lighthouse in York, Maine. I've been many times, but the last several visits left me wanting, due to dull sunrises or other conditions that were less than desirable. This time, however, I got an active incoming tide for good waves, a partly cloudy sky that reflected some beautiful color of the rising sun, and perfect temperatures that allowed me to work comfortably.
Mid-May brought my annual coastal Maine workshop, which is always fun. We visited many locations along the midcoast, made new friends, and I was able to show them my favorite spots. Always a good time. Next year, I'm moving this workshop to Acadia.
After finishing up my Maine photo workshop, I headed off to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire for a couple of days of photography. It was fun exploring a location I'd heard a lot about and making new images.
In June, it was back to Acadia for a week of photographing. I love Acadia National Park, and the last few visits I've been trying to find new spots thatI haven't photographed in before. It's been fun finding the hidden beauty away from the more popular locations, to be sure.
Both the image above, Solace of Sunset, and the image below, "Creeping Dogwood" were taken at Otter Point in Acadia, a spot I've been to before, but it had actually been several years since I'd photographed there.
In late June, I made a quick visit to Portland Head Lighthouse for a foggy sunrise photo (below).
In July, my wife Jess and I headed out west to Montana and Wyoming for a fun and exciting road trip. First stop was Red Lodge, Montana, where we spent several days exploring the Beartooth Highway. It was an amazing place and I'll just let you scroll through a few of my favorites here.
After spending several days in Red Lodge, Montana as our home base for the Beartooths, we headed to Wyoming to explore Yellowstone National Park. We spent a few days both looking for great landscape photos as well as wildlife watching. We didn't have much luck photographing the wildlife other than the bison, but there were still some memorable experiences.
Probably the most memorable experience was the early morning we spent in Lamar Valley. We were driving along the road, when we saw a group of cars stopped and naturally, decided to stop as well. What made it special was not so much what we saw, but what we heard. A wolf was standing on top of a hill, about a mile from where we stopped, on the same side of the valley we were. He was looking out across the valley, and letting out a mournful howl. Across the valley, about 3 miles away, was his pack of four other wolves, howling back at him. This went on for some time, and the sound of the wolves filled the air like a symphony. We found the pack through binoculars, and watched them as they seemed to be calling back to the lone wolf behind and above us. The sound was unlike anything I'd ever heard, hauntingly beautiful. Eventually, the lone wolf disappeared behind the hill he was standing on, I assume to try and make his way back to the pack. They were all too far away for photos, unfortunately, but it was so incredible to witness. A highlight of the trip for sure.
In August it was back to Maine, for a one day workshop on photographing the stars at Marshall Point Lighthouse. It was a great group of people and always fun to spend time under the night sky watching the stars. We had the added benefit of the Perseids Meteor Shower taking place, so there was an added element to watch for, making it extra fun.
At the end of September, I assisted Christoper Michel as an instructor for Santa Fe Workshops, on a workshop based here in Maine. The focus was a mix of portraits and landscapes. I love these opportunities to assist other photographers. I get to be in the unique position where I get paid to help the attendees, but also get to learn from the lead instructor.
The above image, Popham Sunrise, was taken while on the workshop.
Keeper's Climb, above was taken at Portland Head lighthouse, as we had the unique opportunity to photograph inside the lighthouse, as well as meet with and photograph some of the Cape Elizabeth police department.
One of the great things about assisting other photographers is learning from their strengths. Chris Michel is a top-notch portrait photographer, and I was anxious to learn from him to improve my portrait work. Below are a few of the portraits I took, and more can be found in this journal entry.
After finishing up Christopher's workshop, I took the lead with my own workshop, titled "Landscapes & Lighthouses". We had another great group of people for this one, and Kristen Wilkinson stepped in to assist me. While I made several good images, this image dusk in Five Islands Harbor is the standout.
Once my workshop was completed, I headed out to Wyoming (yes, again!) to spend some time in Grand Teton National Park with my friends Fred, Harcourt, and Kristen. There were equal parts of chasing wildlife and landscapes, and there were two distinct highlights. As a landscape photographer, the sunrise we photographed at Oxbow Bend was unbelievable, with the soft alpenglow on the peak of Mount Moran and the clouds that danced around it. I managed to catch a flock of ducks swimming along the Snake River, adding some interest to the foreground.
The other highlight was when I got a message from another photographer friend, Christopher Georgia, letting me know that a grizzly bear, 1063, otherwise known as "Fritter", was out and about. We quickly loaded into our car and made our way to the location, finding about 3 dozen photographers lined up taking pictures while several rangers ensured we stayed 100 yards away from the bear. At one point, I felt I'd gotten as good as I was going to and got back in the car to warm up. Fritter had other ideas, however, and began ambling toward the group. The rangers continued to move everyone back, and I, sitting in the car, was suddenly stuck. I couldn't get out of the car because the bear was coming too close, and I couldn't move the car because the other people were in the way. Fritter came within about 15 feet of the car, so I did the only thing I could do, poke the lens out the window and snap the image of her that you see below. For more details, you read my journal entry.
In October, I finally broke down and bought a drone after several years of wanting one. The new perspective has been refreshing and has me visiting familiar places with a new eye. I'm excited to see what I can do with it and to keep exploring with it. A few of my first aerial images are below.