Compared to 2012, this was a quiet year for images for me. My life took a busy turn with projects that didn't center around wildlife photography. There were few trips, and those I did take were all local and short. And there simply weren't any jaw-dropping, heart-stopping photos that I just can't believe I managed to capture coming from me this year. But it was by no means a quiet year in terms of photography and firsts. So this round-up is more about the events than the images. And there were some great ones!
In February, my dog's second birthday rolled around and I did a few photoshoots with him, including one where I took him up to the top of one of the highest points in San Francisco, clipped a balloon to his collar and had him pose in various spots. It was a windy day and having a balloon bounce all around him wasn't the most fun but he stood around like a trooper, watching it and me until we were done. We came away with some images I just love, and I realized what a great, patient model he is!
Also in February, I started "The Cooking Project" on TreeHugger. It was both an effort to replace the less-than-savory photos of existing recipes on the site as well as to have some delicious fun with a new topic for me. It was a joy to learn more about how to cook, let alone learn new tricks for how to photograph what I was cooking. Paying attention for once to the amount of skill and talent it takes to pull off a beautiful food photograph gave me utmost respect for the food bloggers I have loved reading for years. I never made it above amature level this year but it was a lot of fun trying -- and a lot of fun spending countless hours staring at beautiful food photography on blogs and cookbooks, trying to deconstruct what made the image so great and how to incorporate those aspects into my images. It turned into a bit of a distraction from wildlife photography, but our taste buds and tummies around here haven't minded one bit.
In March, I saw in print my first wildlife image to win a significant award. My grizzly bear chasing a salmon was a Tier III winner for NANPA's 2013 Showcase, and appeared in Expressions Magazine. That was a good feeling, one that I hope to experience often in the future!
Throughout the year I had an extraordinary time photographing dogs that needed homes. Through my work with HeartsSpeak, http://heartsspeak.org/ I worked with Grateful Dogs Rescue and Herd It Through The Grapevine, two dog rescue groups based in San Francisco and Santa Rosa respectively. I met some truly incredible dogs and people, and the work filled my heart with the joy and hope of helping animals find loving forever homes. The happiness from hearing success stories cannot be topped.
One example is Mochi, whose foster mom was having trouble finding him a home. After months without any inquiries about Mochi, GDR asked me to photograph him -- and within just nine days of that wonderful afternoon photographing him enjoying a sunny afternoon at the park, Mochi was on his way home to a loving forever family. The power of a photograph just can't be understated, and making good things happen through images makes me extraordinarily happy.
In April I took my first trip to Carrizo Plains National Monument. I'd spent the first 20+ years of my life within about 90 minutes of this place and yet had never visited. It took my growing fascination with wildlife photography to make me see how amazing this dessert place is. It boasts the highest concentration of endangered species in the state of California. I spent a lot of time hunched down watching the antics of adult and baby San Joaquin Antelope Squirrels, kept my eyes peeled for San Joaquin kit foxes, and was awed at the speed of the pronghorn, a small herd of which was recently reintroduced to try to bring the species back to its original range.
This year also marked the first year I made sales of images to print publications, the first of which was two images to Bay Nature, a quarterly magazine focused on San Francisco Bay Area natural spaces. The editors selected two of my images for the July-Sept issue of the magazine for a piece on Butano State Park.
In August, the biggest event of the year -- and indeed one of the biggest events of my life -- happened. In short, she asked (with a ring in one hand and a brand new 500mm lens in the other) and I said yes. After 13 years together, we're finally getting hitched. And she definitely showed me how much she loves me. This lens is one I'd merely been hoping to one day save up enough money to buy.
In September, now that I had an amazing lens in hand, I could start working more on my "coyote project" which isn't a fully formed project yet but more of an excuse to go out looking for members of my favorite species to photograph. I adore coyotes, and have had a few special encounters with them so far, including this one on one of my first mornings out with the new lens. Watching the road-smart behavior of this young coyote for several minutes was one of my most memorable wildlife moments.
The fun didn't stop with the coyote. I had other great mornings out in the bay area's famous foggy coasts photographing local wildlife. The more I was out, the more I appreciated the sheer diversity of what is here, and the excellent parks system that protects habitat for these creatures. In fact, it is thanks to conservation and restoration work in our wetlands habitat that in recent years we've seen a return of river otters. This has been perhaps my second favorite species to photograph this year. A family of four living in a local lagoon has provided quite a bit of fun for me over several mornings.
In December I took my first trip out to watch and photograph sandhill cranes. The migration populations we get here is nothing compared to those that stop in at the Platte River each year. In fact, California and conservationists have had to work for decades to bring back the sandhill cranes after they were nearly gone from the area entirely after wetlands were taken over by farmland. Watching them dance -- and, just as amazing, listening to them call to one another -- was a very memorable part of my year.
Finally, I wrapped up the year with a fun notification from VSCO Cam, who had selected a photo of my dog to be part of their "Weekly Selects" back in November and, in December, included it in their "Best of 2013: Animals" round-up. It is such an honor to be included. Plus, just after that, another photo of my dog was chosen to be added for their curated grid, "a collection of the finest mobile imagery on the internet." That is a pretty feather to put in my (and my dog's) cap!
As usual, this year has shown me the sheer bulk of how much I have to learn about photography, and the amount of dedication it takes to make any progress. I am more excited than ever to keep rolling with projects started during 2013, and to continue to grow in this wonderful medium.