15 Favorite Photos from 2011

Traditionally, the beginning of a new year is a time to reflect on the past 12 months, to make resolutions and to plan for the future. So often, however, the past year is something of a mental blur unless you can refer to a diary or in my case, review my images made during that time period. Sorting through my images by month provides a visual reminder of the year in a progressive manner and refreshes the memory. 

In the process of this review, I decided to also select some of my favorite images and present them in a new gallery. Initially, the plan was to pick a “top ten” but that quickly became a “baker’s dozen” and finally 15. My criteria for picking these favorites has less to do with technical aspects then being a reflection on that creative moment in the field where natural beauty inspired me. Let me know if any of my favorite 2011 images are your fav too.

American Bittern

Spent quite a lot of time hiding in the reeds photographing this elusive bittern. Even with 800mm of reach, most of my photo ops were still too far away. But near the end of the day, much to my delight, the bittern following the curve of the pond finally reached my position. In fact, it was so close that I was unable to photograph the entire bird without the possibility of making my position known. Still, I really like the symmetry of this image and how the background of reeds blend so well with the plumage. This was also the first time I’d ever been able to observe an American Bittern for any significant time. What a joy.  

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owls are such endearing creatures. I’ve spent countless hours observing them from a distance. This owl was photographed in the spring near its nest with its mate nearby. This owl became so acclimated to my presence that it rarely ever looked my way but when it did, I was ready.

Snowy Egret

Shoreline Lake in Mountain View is a wonderful place to enjoy nature. In addition to recreational activities, this relatively small man-made lake is a source of food and rest for a variety of birds. Of the hundreds of images captured at Shoreline Lake, this photo of a Snowy Egret was one of my favorites because of its overall vividness and the “decisive moment” posture caught at 1/2000 second. 


Forster’s Terns

Springtime is in full swing by the time these terns are courting. I’ve enjoyed the noisy behavior of Forster’s Terns for many years and have captured almost every aspect of this birds behavior. Graphically, I like how the white plumage pops off the blue water. But this image is a favorite primarily because of the sense of joy expressed by this pair with their heads pointed skyward, bills open as they announce loudly their commitment and wing position suggesting this new bond.


This potted orchid in my backyard is a dependable source of springtime beauty. This image is a favorite pick for its sharpness, DOF (f/32) and insane colors but mostly because it just seems to want to reach out and pull you into its maw. Simply irresistible. 







Lily / Spring Spear

Since shooting these two images in May, I continue to find myself drawn to them for their simplicity, softness and bokeh. And as I view them here again in January, maybe with a bias for an early spring.





Sweetness, gentleness, tranquility, gracefulness; these are just a few adjectives that come to mind when I revisit this image. While taken with a long lens, this image retains a sense of intimacy with the little fawn as it rests at the shady base of a redwood tree. It’s a baby –what more is there to say?



Great Egret

Another one of those “decisive moment” captures but I really like the feeling of the bright background and the white plumage blending together and highlighting an effective camouflage. The bird’s bill actually spearing the fish is cool too.



Great Egret

Find a way to put a spotlight on a beautiful bird and you’ve got the makings of a good image. But this is also a favorite because I spent hours allowing this bird to acclimate itself to my presence while I slowly approached it and as a result, I was able to use a relatively short focal length (240mm) that provided both a sense of intimacy as well as habitat. I also like how the captured fish and water movement give the image energy.


Each summer our yard is filled with scores of these perennials. And each year, I study them with my creative eye in an attempt to get “artsy.” I was happy with a number of my attempts but this particular image is a favorite because of the isolating effect of using a telephoto lens (300mm) with an extremely shallow DOF (f/2). Overall, the resulting purple bokeh and sharp dew-laden buds is pleasantly luscious. 

Horned Owl

This was a relatively easy choice for favorite because it represents the first time I’ve ever really seen this species so openly. This bird and its siblings were also the favorite subjects of countless photographers and birdwatchers that paraded to this location in Golden Gate park. 








For me, this image is all about “atmosphere.” This late September day saw another huge congregation of shorebirds pushed up along the Beach Park Blvd. (Foster City) shoreline by a rising tide. On this day, high tide came just after sunset and this image was made possible because of camera equipment that can capture beautiful images even at ISO 3200. I like this image for its limited DOF achieved with a long lens, shot wide open (400mm @ f/2.8).   

Trumpet Vine Flowers

I like this flower image for its vivid colors and 3-dimensional effect. Feeling restless after spending a rainy day indoors, I took advantage of a bit of a break in the weather in search of a photo. It would have to be a quick search, however, as the sun had already disappeared for the day behind clouds. I was drawn to this pair of trumpet vine flowers because they were the only ones remaining on a trellis in my backyard and I liked the beaded up raindrops. Although the vast majority of my photos are taken with available light, sometimes the only available light is the one you bring. In this instance, nearly all of the light is from a handheld speedlight bounced off of a gold reflector. Reviewing the image that evening brought a modest sense of accomplishment and enjoyment for my efforts. There is beauty all around us; on some days it’s just a bit harder to find.

Harbor Seal

I’ve observed and photographed plenty of harbor seals in my life but always from a fairly long distance. For months, residents of Redwood Shores were treated to fairly regular appearances by this juvenile seal in and about their man-made lagoons. And this little seal was ever so curious of its surroundings. On one exciting encounter, while I was preoccupied with photographing herons from the edge of a lagoon, this seal popped up out of the water and proceeded to swim directly to me for a closer look. While I remained motionless, the seal actually touched my boots that were almost in the water. I felt so lucky to have this wild creature interact with me. I call him “Rusty”.

To view larger images shown here click for lightbox gallery.