My Favorite Photos of 2015 (12 photos)

As the year of 2015 comes to an end (where did time go?!) I present once more a selection of my personal favorite photos that I made during the year, both for a personal “year in review” introspective, and for participation in Jim Goldstein’s annual blog project.

This year, the final selection consists of twelve photos, out of 77 that I have marked with the highest rating from a total of almost 3000 photos that I kept in my archive of 2015. The twelve selected photos do not represented the twelve months of the year, though my photo of the month picks partially overlap with this selection.

TL;DR – for those of you who simply want to see the photos without further ado and the additional information under the embedded photos, you can view them as a gallery (this link will simply take you to the bottom of the post and the thumbnail strip that will allow you to view the photos in the slideshow viewer). If you’re interested in more details however, just keep reading and scrolling, as I present the photos one by one with some more information.

On to the photos.

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“Morning Pastels in Motion”
Seaside State Beach, Cardiff By The Sea, California, United States
Morning Pastels in Motion — Seaside State Beach, Cardiff By The Sea, CA. January 2015.

A return to my small Beach Abstracts series. I’m not exactly the greatest early riser I admit, and I’m glad that mother nature rewarded me with these beautiful clouds on an early morning walk with Toni at Cardiff State Beach. Their color and shapes invited an attempt at panning. More photos from that particular morning are here and here (including normal exposures of the photo).


“Temps Mort”
Towering Sandstone in Andrade Canyon, Coyote Mountains Wilderness, CA.
Temps Mort — Andrade Canyon, Coyote Mountains Wilderness, CA. January 2015.

This was my photo of the month for January. I made it during a hike into Carrizo Badlands that turned out to be quite memorable, and with some extra workout when we had to find a way around an impassable (and due to the rain, slippery) dry fall. More photos from that day are here and here.


“Waves All Around”
Low tide at Cardiff State Beach
Waves All Around — Seaside Beach, Cardiff By The Sea, CA. February 2015.

Yet another photo from yet another visit to Cardiff State Beach. :) I was heading for the tide pools of Tabletop Reef of course, as usual… but this partially submerged, odd-looking little piece of rock in the sand, the patterns of the clouds and their reflection in the wet sand were just too good to pass by. I really like such “maximal minimalism” scenes.


“A Land Untamed”
A Land Untamed (color) -- Canyon Sin Nombre, Ocotillo, California, United States
A Land Untamed (color) — Canyon Sin Nombre, Ocotillo, CA. February 2015.

Photographed during a hike at Canyon Sin Nombre with Shuwen. During a previous visit with my friend Joe, we had hiked above the canyon for the first time, and found the views simply stunning, but we got rained upon pretty hard. The black & white gallery with photos made during the hike with Shuwen is here – it does contain a black & white version of the photo above, but in the end I picked the color version because I like the additional separation of the individual elements in the frame that the color provides.


“A Piece of Eden”
Long exposure of Cedar Creek Falls, Cleveland National Forest, California, United States
A Piece of Eden (slow) — Cedar Creek Falls, Cleveland National Forest, CA. March 2015.

The conditions that Joe and I found when we hiked to Cedar Creek Falls in March were so absolutely fantastic (overcast, even light, but most of all, no people!), we pretty much experienced an almost idealized version of this beautiful place – when I had actually thought that it is probably “lost” because it is an insanely popular hike in San Diego County. Very grateful for this golden opportunity – a good photo often just means being in the right place at the right time (and then knowing what to do;-). More photos from that day are here and here.


“Scripps Rocks 3”
Scripps Rocks 3 -- Scripps Coastal Preserve , La Jolla, California, United States
Scripps Rocks 3 — Scripps Coastal Preserve , La Jolla, CA. May 2015.

This is the centerpiece out of a collage or triptych of three photos that I’ve shown here. I’ve always found this particular structure interesting and photographically appealing, and finally got it right when I approached it with a 50mm prime lens (and I honestly wouldn’t have expected that). It’s a little bit like a “macro” version of looking down into a twisted desert landscape from an elevated viewpoint.


“A Place to Think”
A Place to Think -- Torrey Pines State Preserve, San Diego, California, United States
A Place to Think — Torrey Pines State Preserve, San Diego, CA. June 2015.

An opportunity I had long waited for: to photograph Torrey Pines (State Natural Preserve) in really dense morning fog. And the fog that morning was very cooperative, giving my friend Joe and me a lot of time to wander around the trails, and make photos in this  (gem of nature. More photos from that morning are separated into two blog posts, one for the black & whites, the other for the color photos.


Windansea Beach, La Jolla, California, United States
Windansea Beach, La Jolla, CA. June 2015.

Another photo from a gloomy June morning that I spent at Windansea Beach with my friend Joe (his presence seems to be inspiring!). Everything was in a good flow that morning, and I like both the color photos and the black & whites very much. In this particular frame, I’m very fond of how the dark & ragged mass of rock contrasts with the soft sand and clouds.


“Pines, Juniper and Clouds Rest”
Pines, Juniper and Clouds Rest -- Olmsted Point, Yosemite NP, California, United States
Pines, Juniper and Clouds Rest — Olmsted Point, Yosemite NP, CA. August 2015.

On my first day up in Yosemite, my very first stop in the morning was at Olmsted Point, returning to this amazing place finally, after a little more than three years. It was a clear blue day without any clouds and the smoke from nearby wildfires was not a problem, thankfully. Wandering around the massive granite slabs (more photos) I found the persistence of the trees so astonishing, and I was happy that I could choose a direction for the photo that allowed me to include Clouds Rest, which I hiked two days later.


“Tenaya Lake Morning”
Tenaya Lake Morning, Yosemite NP, California, United States
Tenaya Lake Morning — Yosemite National Park, CA. September 2015.

Another photo from my (too) brief visit to the Eastern Sierra and in particular Yosemite National Park. I made this photo in the morning on the day after I hiked Clouds Rest, taking it a bit easier, before continuing a little further west on Tioga Pass Road to hike Mount Hoffmann (black & white; 5 more photos in color here). I developed the majority of the Tenaya Lake photos in black & white, but this particular photo works better in color for me.

Tenaya Lake is a very popular spot of course, being visible and accessible from the road so easily – and while I did photograph the “classic” view from the western end of the lake towards the east, I’m very happy with this particular photo. It is also a rather typical photo for me: intimate, peaceful, and a simple, nondescript view of a very popular and scenic place.


“Grand Designs”
Algodones Dunes, Imperial County, CA.
Grand Designs — Algodones Dunes, Imperial County, CA. September 2015.

I think I’ve reached the limit of how far I can hike into Algodones Dunes during my September 2015 – the monsoon clouds that you can see in the photo above dissipated sooner than I had hoped, and I found myself hiking on increasingly hot sand in direct sun. Nevertheless, it was another thoroughly enjoyable visit, and I haven’t yet finished editing and developing all the photos.


“Canyon Oak Woods 1”
Canyon Oak Woods 1 -- Observatory Trail, Palomar Mountain, California, United States
Canyon Oak Woods 1 — Observatory Trail, Palomar Mountain, CA. October 2015.

During one of the first storms of Southern California’s rainy season (I think the “water year” begins in September, or October?) I went to Palomar Mountain for an afternoon walk with Toni, hoping for clouds, some drizzle and moisture for even light and strong colors, and I found just that along the Observatory Trail. I remembered this particular spot from an earlier visit a few years ago in bright sunshine, and found the Canyon Live Oaks there really enchanting. The diversity of San Diego County never ceases to amaze me.


Conclusion & Summary

While this selection still contains four black & white photos, I have the feeling that all in all, 2015 was a rather “colorful” year for me. Looking at the selection of images, the color in the photos is bold and distinct to my eyes, and I think I will want to pay a little more attention to that next year, to make sure that I’m not slowly drifting into “general oversaturation” by trying to up the ante again and again.

Also, eight of the twelve photos were made in the first half of the year, which resemble Southern California’s seasons – with beautiful Winter skies at the coast and in the deserts, before Spring transforms the back country with its lush greenery. May and June are dominated by fog and dreary days of heavy marine layers. Late in August and early September, I hiked for a couple of days in Yosemite this year, then made it out to Algodones Dunes during one cloudy monsoon day – and the last photo in the selection is from San Diego again, where photographic opportunities begin to arise again from October again.

I can honestly say that I’m very happy with this selection (perhaps more so than in previous years), and I hope you agree!

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17 Responses

  1. What a great set! I don’t believe I had seen the first image before (Pastels). I need to get moving on mine. I don’t feel as positive about my efforts this year but maybe something will surprise me.

    I also think your write-up this year was better than I remember from past years.

  2. Amazing set of images Alex! I have several favorites, but I’m particularly drawn to the first image! Have a wonderful and adventurous 2016! :)

  3. Excellent selection of images, Alex. I like that each of your images has some sort of mood to it without necessarily a ton of over-the-top drama. Cheers to 2016!

  4. Great selection Alexander! My favorite by far is Morning Pastels in Motion, the colors and patterns in it are absolutely stunning! Wishing you the best for you and your family in 2016.

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