While many people (including myself in years past) usually do a top 10 or 20 in (insert year here), this year was so different from previous years that I felt like doing a year in retrospective feature instead. I certainly have some of my favorites, but the experiences I had this year and the changes in my business this year have made for an interesting year, for sure. This year was full of phenominal adventures, investing in myself and my own knowledge to grow my business and also the need to take things to another level with my new Limited Edition luxury fine art prints.
The first thing to mention would be my lack of very many Kansas images this year. The biggest reason for this is, simply put, it was just a bad year for Kansas scenery. Much of the year was spent in drought. Most of the Kansas waterfalls were a trickle at best, if not completely dry. Those rolling green hills of the Flint Hills were, well, not very green for most of the year. I was also just busier this year than in previous years. However, while Kansas travel was slim, I did get to travel more of the western half of the US and Canada than I ever have in a single year before! My adventures took me to nine states, two Canadian provinces, eight national parks and clocking in at around 12,000 miles of road travel. It was certainly a year of the road trip for me.
Before I get into my travels and favorite images of the year, I wanted to mention that the biggest part of my 2018 was the launch of new luxurious limited edition fine art prints. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while, but finally went for it in December of 2018 with the launch of the first 15 or so new limited edition fine art prints. Many of the images you will see in this article are limited editions and available in a number of impressive new print formats, such as Lumachrome. I searched all throughout 2018 for the best printing methods and took workshops to really elevate my print game. What you see are some of the best images I’ve ever produced, which can be purchased at large sizes for your home or office. These new prints come numbered in runs of 50-200. I wanted something for the collector to really appreciate if they want something more unique than an open edition. I plan to write a larger article detailing the limited edition prints in the near future, so keep an eye out for that. For more information on the printing techniques, visit my page about fine art prints. To view the new limited edition prints, visit my limited edition photo galleries. Here are a few samples of how these images could look in your home or business.
My year started off with looking into going down to Texas for bluebonnet season. I lived down there as a kid and knew how beautiful they could be. So in early April, I made my way down to Ennis, Texas to spent one beautiful evening photographing a field of bluebonnets at Bardwell Lake. Truth be told, I only had one night down there to shoot before needing to be back in Wichita. Even though my time was short, I thankfully managed a couple of solid shots, one of which is pictured below. I hope to go further on down to the Texas Hill Country in 2019 to photograph the bluebonnets down there. I feel I only scraped the surface of bluebonnet season down in the Lone Star State.
After returning from Texas, I noticed that a very well known fine art nature photographer, Aaron Reed, was putting on a workshop about the Business of Nature Photography. Aaron is an extremely successful photographer who does very well selling fine art prints. Since prints are my first love with my photography, I thought this workshop sounded like a good deal and so I signed up. Within a couple of weeks, I also read about another top notch photographer (Mark Metternich) that was putting on a print-making workshop at Nevada Art Printers with world-renowned print-maker, Robert Park. So I jumped on this as well! Mark’s workshop was based in Vegas in July and Aaron’s in Seattle in August. So I knew that would also present some shooting opportunities.
My Canada and Alaska Road Trip
You may remember a blog post from a number of years ago describing the trip I took up to the Canadian Rockies for the first time. Part of that article mentioned the trip I didn’t get to go on. My original plans for that trip back in 2012 was to drive up the Canadian Rockies to Hyder, Alaska. Due to passport, airline and rental car issues and really tight trip planning, that trip was shortened to just the Canadian Rockies (and let’s be real, the Canadian Rockies can a trip of a lifetime on their own). However, every year since 2012, I’ve dreamed of that drive up to Hyder, Alaska to see the Salmon Glacier and explore parts of the mystical Great Bear Rainforest. Well, this year, back in late June, I finally did it! However, this trip deserves the full story rather than just the highlights. So I’m just going to show you a few of the best images from the trip.
This trip clocked in at around 3,600 miles, starting in Seattle Washington, and stretching over to the Canadian Rockies, across British Columbia to Hyder, Alaska, down to Prince Rupert and then all the way back to Seattle, taking the long route through Whistler and Vancouver on the way. I saw 25 bears during my time, including a grizzly. Bald eagles, moose and a lone wolf also marked an eventful trip. The bears up there are as thick as deer here in Kansas. And the Salmon Glacier in Hyder, Alaska is out of this world! Like I said though, I will write up a much more detailed trip report soon about my journeys all across British Columbia and to the Canadian Rockies and Hyder, Alaska. For now, here are a few sample images of my travels across British Columbia, Alberta and Alaska!
Workshop #1 and Summer Heat in the Desert
In late July, it was time to head for Las Vegas for the first of the two workshops I mentioned above. This workshop was put on by Mark Metternich and Robert Park. Mark has been one of the top names in the landscape photography scene for many years. He’s an accomplished photographer with some amazing work. He’s also a genuinely awesome human being who is a fellow fan of Rich Mullins! Robert is the owner of Nevada Art Printers, who are famous for LumaChrome acrylic prints. Up until my visit there, I had always been impressed with acrylic prints. But seeing a LumaChrome HD masterpiece in person shows just why this printing method is currently the best in the world. I came away so amazed by the quality of LumaChrome prints that they have become my premier style of printing for Limited Edition prints. Robert is also a master photographer and has some stunning work himself. This workshop was 100% about how to squeeze every bit of quality out of an image to create a truly amazing piece of fine art. From ways to capture an image for the ultimate sharpness all the way down to the best methods to get those prints up to very large sizes and retain that detail and sharpness that makes a piece of fine art truly stand out. This class definitely took my post-processing skills to another level, allowing me to feel very confident in my work and know that what I’m offering here on my website is of the utmost quality.
While in Las Vegas, I also did some quick side trips. I flew in on a Friday night and took a quick drive over to the Valley of Fire north of Vegas. This unique location is full of interesting subjects. I didn’t have a lot of time there, but did enjoy the scenery while the sun was still out. Hopefully I can go back to process those images sometime soon.
After the workshop, on Sunday evening, I drove over to the edge of Death Valley. Now, Death Valley is world renowned for it’s blazing and deadly heat in the summer. My flight out of Vegas left in the late morning on Monday, so I thought it would make for a nice quick sunrise shoot. Even at 6 a.m., Death Valley was already reaching 100 that morning and was forecast to hit 120 by mid-day. Thankfully I was out of there by then, but not before getting a nice shot at Zabrinskie Point.
Workshop #2 and Mount Rainier
A month later, I was on to the other workshop I had signed up for: Aaron Reed’s Business of Nature Photography. This was a two day workshop aimed 100% at building a photography business. Now, I’ve had a little success over the years. In the past 5 years, I’ve either doubled or come close to doubling my business just about every year. 2018 included. But Aaron is a rare breed of photographer who is doing very well as a landscape photographer selling prints. I thought this workshop would be very helpful to grow my business even further, and I couldn’t be happier with what I came away with! As print-sales are my main money-maker, this workshop was really helpful in taking my business in new directions. Since I was already up in the Seattle area, I decided to go on an extended two day adventure with Aaron and a few other awesome photographers up to Mount Rainier National Park. I came away some great shots and it certainly didn’t hurt that I was watching someone as talented as Aaron do his thing. Below are some of the images from those two days at Mount Rainier:
Colorado in September
Every fall in late September or early October, I always make my way out to Colorado to shoot the fall colors. This year was no different, even if I didn’t stay as long as usual. Like Kansas, Colorado was in a drought for much of 2018. The San Juans in particular were in pretty bad shape. That said, I did manage to snag a few good images along the way. There were a few disappointments on this trip, however. The classic view of the Maroon Bells at Maroon Lake is now roped off to keep folks from getting the iconic shot unless you’re one of the first half dozen to get in prime spots very early in the morning. This is good and bad. Bad in that, if you’re like me, getting up at 2 a.m. to get a shot of a scene you’ve already shot a dozen times isn’t worth it. But good in that they’re trying to limit the damage that’s already been done to such a fragile ecosystem. Fortunately there are quite a few other awesome locations nearby to shoot the Bells. I did get one classic shot of the Bells once the crowds had dispersed a bit though!
The other, bigger disappointment with this trip had to do with a new location I had hoped to visit. I’ve always wanted to get up to the Crystal Mill to shoot it. There was one day that was forecasted to have overcast skies, so I signed up for the jeep tour up to the mill. I drove the hour or so from Aspen on over to Marble only to find out that the jeep’s clutch had blown out in the morning tour so the afternoon tour had been canceled. Sadly I was heading back to Kansas the next day, so I’ll have to wait until fall 2019 to get a Crystal Mill shot with beautiful fall colors. Instead of visiting the Crystal Mill, I drove over Kebler Pass to Crested Butte and back, looking for more intimate scenes of aspen trees and leaves to work with. I also visited another new location. This one is up in Wyoming, just across the border from Colorado. It’s called Aspen Alley and is a beautiful single gravel road that goes straight through an aspen forest. It makes for some awesome images!
A Pacific Northwest Autumn
On par with my Alaska adventures back in June was a weeklong trip up to the Pacific Northwest that I took with my brother. Waterfalls were certainly on the agenda! We visited icons like Proxy Falls, but also got off the beaten path a bit to visit waterfalls like Spirit Falls. I nabbed so many images on this trip that I’m still processing many of them!
Before hitting up any waterfalls however, I took a single day to roam around Tumwater Canyon near Leavenworth, followed by a trip up to Rockwood Farms for the fall colors in Snoqualmie. Both of these locations were new to me and have a lot of potential for return trips when I have more time to explore! Leavenworth in particular is known as a hotspot for fall colors and I can see why!
I also visited the Portland Japanese Garden for the first time. And for the second time as well! I started off the trip by visiting the gardens right after coming down from Washington. I stopped off at the famous tree, which was simply beautiful. The tree was in different stages of turning into full autumn color. When I came back at the end of the trip, five days later, it was in full swing of beautiful reds! To experience it both in transition and in peak color was pretty awesome! I also wandered around the garden shooting everything that stood out. There are so many awesome subjects to shoot at the Portland Japanese Garden that I plan to write another article soon detailing a trip to the garden. Here are just a couple of my favorite images from my two visits this autumn:
Antelope Canyon With No Tourists?
For the final trip of the year, my wife and I traveled to Arizona for a wedding in early December. We had an extra day or so to work with, so we took a short trip up to the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon. The Grand Canyon needs no introduction. Antelope Canyon is also well known. So much so that in the summer, when the famous light beams show up, the tourists come in droves and cram into the tiny walls of the canyon, making for a mad-house. This was my first visit to Antelope Canyon though. By going in the off-season, I had the place nearly to myself for shooting! I was the only one on a photo tour, which is very rare. Given that, I was able to take a little more time to look around. I haven’t had time to process these shots yet, but hope to do so in the coming weeks and share them with you.
In closing, I have a ton in store for 2019! 2018 was a year of regrouping and starting new projects. 2019 will be about putting those projects and goals into action! Expect lots of new images and content in 2019! Thanks for reading!