2015 Year in Review: Keeper of the Plains, Big Sur and more!

Posted on December 30, 2015 by Mickey

2015 was a great year for photography! I managed to take three major trips this year! In March and April, my wife and I visited Seattle, Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the southern coastal mountains of British Columbia near Whistler. We stayed in Ucluelet, British Columbia to tour western Vancouver Island’s enchanting Pacific Rim National Park, where the Pacific Ocean crashes into the raw coastline of this enchanting and rugged national park. We drove up the Sea to Sky highway and viewed a number of waterfalls, along with spending a day or two checking out Vancouver and the surrounding areas.

In July, we took a roadtrip from Wichita to Phoenix. We didn’t just drive down the interstate though. We traveled through southern Colorado, crossing the mountain ranges of the Sangre de Cristos and the San Juans. We visited the iconic Monument Valley and Grand Canyon National Park amidst some unseasonably chilly weather in the desert.

And in September, I took my annual autumn colors trip out to Colorado before boarding a plane in Denver with my wife, sister-in-law and friend to California. While in California, we drove the length of Lake Tahoe and celebrated a wonderful wedding in the mountains north of Lake Tahoe. We also explored San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, along with the communities in the mountainous and foggy regions to the north of the Golden Gate Bridge including the John Muir National Monument where the towering and mysterious redwoods still live. My wife topped it off with a couple of days down in Monterey and Big Sur, where every sunrise and sunset seemed to light up the sky in beautiful and vivid colors every morning and night!

I also spent more time exploring the eastern half of Kansas than I’ve ever explored before. I made it a personal goal to try to find as many of the many Kansas waterfalls I hadn’t seen yet this year. As we had a number of good rainfalls, I’ve expanded my list of waterfalls to 80+ and counting in the state of Kansas. I’ve also traveled many of the scenic byways of Kansas in recent months including the Glacial Hills and Frontier Military Scenic Byways. 2015 was a year of exploration close to home to visit many of the beautiful hidden gems here in Kansas.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that 2015 wasn’t just a great year for me personally as a photography, but also my wife, who started a business as a wedding and lifestyle photographer! Check her out at ValerieShannonPhotography.com!

I also wanted to mention that all the top 15 images of 2015 are currently on sale until January 15th, 2016 at 10% off!

With that said, here’s my top 15 photos from 2015 Year In Review:

15. Moody Trout Lake

Moody Trout Lake
Moody Trout LakePrints Available
Moody clouds drift through the mountains above Trout Lake

I had hoped to get a beautiful sunset on the night I shot this. Unfortunately the clouds never lifted, but the scenery was still beautiful! Wildflowers dotted the hillside on the west of Trout Lake, giving a great foreground to the moody background above Trout Lake in the San Juans of Colorado.

14. Pacific Rim Coastline

Pacific Rim Coastline
Pacific Rim CoastlinePrints Available
The Pacific Ocean crashes into the coastline of Pacific Rim National Park

This shot just screams Pacific Rim to me. Both rain and sun seem to show their heads every half hour as storms come in from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Vancouver Island. This was shot just to the south of the lighthouse in Ucluelet, British Columbia. With the rocks being battered by raging waves and the rain coming inland once again, this photo sums up my experiences on the west coast of Vancouver Island and Pacific Rim National Park.

13. Stormy Kansas Sunset Panorama

Stormy Kansas Sunset Panorama
Stormy Kansas Sunset PanoramaPrints Available
Panorama of storm clouds at sunset near Minneapolis, Kansas

This is just one of many great shots I actually got on the night I shot this. My wife and I were visiting her grandparents in Minneapolis, Kansas over Memorial Day weekend when a thunderstorm rolled through the area. This was the first shot I took, stitching together multiple images to create a panorama of the large storm cloud spread out on the horizon. As sunset was just beginning, the colors in the clouds added to the beauty of the storms.

12. Atkinson Lighthouse

Atkinson Lighthouse
Atkinson LighthousePrints Available
A kayak is left on the rocks below Atkinson Lighthouse

One of my favorite shots from my trip up to Vancouver and Vancouver Island back in April, this shot was about half an hour before sunset. A few other groups of people were enjoying the views as well. Atkinson Lighthouse is situated in West Vancouver and overlooks the Howe Sound. On a clear day, you can see down towards Vancouver Island.

11. Friends University Winter

Friends University Winter
Friends University WinterPrints Available
A winter storm brings heavy snow to Friends University

A sunset was attempting to shine through at the beginning of a snowstorm on the campus of Friends University. I chose this scene out of four shots I took down there as it had a sort of Thomas Kincaid feel to me, due to the slightly purple sunset hues and the lampposts and lights on the campus.

10. Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park

Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial ParkPrints Available
Beautiful Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park

One of my favorite stops on Vancouver Island was the beautiful Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. Surrounded by ancient forest, the river that ran through this park that created multiple beautiful falls was so vividly aqua-blue and green. Vancouver Island in general was such a mysterious and enchanting place, and Little Qualicum Falls only added to that feeling!

9. Keeper of the Plains Fiery Sunset

Keeper of the Plains Fiery Sunset
Keeper of the Plains Fiery SunsetPrints Available
A beautiful and fiery sunset at the Keeper of the Plains

The second of two amazing Keeper of the Plains sunsets I managed to shoot in one night. The sunset first started off extremely yellow and orange, then turned to bright red before showing off a multitude of colors in this scene!

8. Sunflower Sunset

Sunflower Sunset
Sunflower SunsetPrints Available
A beautiful sunset gives a great backdrop to the classic Kansas sunflower scene!

I spent quite a bit of time trying to find a sunflower field near Wichita that was at peak. I managed to find one just a few days past peak up near Lindsborg and captured this sunset over the field of yellow sunflowers!

7. Swissvale Falls

Swissvale Falls
Swissvale FallsPrints Available
One of the many beautiful waterfalls I’ve found in Kansas this year

I went on a number of Kansas waterfall runs this year, in an effort to map out all of the 80+ waterfalls I’ve found in Kansas so far. One of my favorites is this little known waterfall southeast of Topeka called Swissvale Falls. It lies on a rails-to-trails hike called the Landon Nature Trail. This photo is one of my favorite because of the lush green scenery that complimented Swissvale Falls perfectly!

6. Keeper of the Plains Winter Illumination

Keeper of the Plains Winter Illumination
Keeper of the Plains Winter IlluminationPrints Available
Snow falls while illuminating the Keeper of the Plains

I loved the way the snow became almost texturized in this shot at the Keeper of the Plains. The shutter speed was set in a way that captured the wavy motion of how the snow was falling.

5. Sangre de Cristos Double Rainbow

Sangre de Cristos Double Rainbow
Sangre de Cristos Double RainbowPrints Available
An intense double rainbow stands high about Blanca Peak in the Sangre de Cristos mountains

As I traveled with my wife from Wichita, Kansas to Phoenix, Arizona back in July, we drove down a scenic route that took us to the Great Sand Dunes National Park for sunset. Shortly before a vivid sunset, this beautiful double rainbow popped up over Blanca Peak and the Sangre de Cristos mountains!

4. Kansas Sunset Thunderstorm

Kansas Sunset Thunderstorm
Kansas Sunset ThunderstormPrints Available
A beautiful sunset illuminates ominous looking thunderstorm clouds

This insane thunderstorm rolled through the Minneapolis, Kansas area in late May. My wife and I grabbed the camera and tripod and tried to follow ahead of the storm. The clouds were rolling through right at sunset as well, so they lit up very spectacularly!

3. Vivid Keeper of the Plains Sunset

Vivid Keeper of the Plains Sunset
Vivid Keeper of the Plains SunsetPrints Available
An extremely vivid orange sunset lights the clouds behind the Keeper of the Plains

I shot this image back in May during one of the most insane sunsets I’ve ever seen! In fact, there are two Keeper of the Plains sunsets on this top 15 in 2015 list from that very night. It was just that good. This was the first of the two, and had me running back and forth from various spots around the Keeper of the Plains for different vantage points. There was even a rainbow behind me when shooting this. You know it’s a beautiful sunset when the sunset itself takes precedence over a rainbow! The sunset really felt like fire was rising out of the sky behind the statue.

2. Teter Rock Winter Milky Way

Teter Rock Winter Milky Way
Teter Rock Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way sets in the western skies above Teter Rock

This shot was taken in November as the Milky Way was setting in the western sky. Teter Rock is my go-to spot. Especially for night scenes, as the Milky Way usually shines bright in the sky over it.

1. Big Sur Sunset

Big Sur Sunset
Big Sur SunsetPrints Available
A fiery and colorful sunset lights up the spectacular Big Sur coastline of California

This photo easily topped my list this year! I’ve been two Big Sur twice now. The first time I witnessed an insanely beautiful sunrise back in January of 2012. I had the pleasure of visiting it with my wife back in September, and was treated to two spectacular sunsets and an amazing sunrise! This was shot on the second sunset of our Big Sur adventures. We had driven the length of Big Sur and were driving back. I really wanted to get a sunset picture at McWay Falls, so we stopped and admired the view of the falls to the south. However, to the north and out over the ocean, this magnificent sunset was unfolding. I turned my camera in that direction and shot the scene that’s before you.

Looking ahead to 2016

As I look forward to 2016, I don’t have any planned major trips out of the state of Kansas. However, most of my trips this year were planned mere months in advance at best, so I would imagine my camera will lead me somewhere!

However, I do plan to travel the state of Kansas really extensively with planned trips out to western Kansas to finally visit places like Monument Rocks, Castle Rock, Wilson Lake, Scott City State Park and the Cimarron National Grasslands. I also hope to finish visiting the rest of my waterfall list if we’re blessed with enough rain in 2016. My hope is to publish a book about the beauty of Kansas in late 2016 or early 2017 showcasing all the awesome places I’ve visited in the past six years!

Thanks for a great 2015 and here’s to an even better 2016!

Posted under: California, Canada, Colorado, Kansas, News & Updates

12 Favorite Photos In 2012

Posted on January 15, 2013 by Mickey

2012 was an amazing year for me! I managed to travel the American (US and Canada) West extensively in a short period of time. Two major road trips spanning a total of over 7,000 miles in under 2 weeks weilded some great adventures and my best photography yet! From the majestic Canadian Rockies to the rugged Pacific coastline, the west is truley a place to explore! After the amazing year that 2012 was for traveling, I can only hope 2013 turns out even better! With that said, I present the images below as my 12 favorite photographs of the year 2012!

Spectrum of a Sunrise

1. Spectrum of a Sunrise

San Simeon, California – January

It’s interesting that my very first time visiting the Pacific Ocean should also end up being my best photograph of it. In late January, I took a crazy 3500 mile 5-day road trip from my home in Wichita, Kansas, passing through the Grand Canyon and Vegas on the way to the Pacific Ocean and eventually on up the coastline to San Francisco, the Redwoods and our final destination of Portland, Oregon. We hit the Pacific Ocean after dark at San Simeon on the south end of Big Sur. When I woke up the next morning, I was greeted to this magnificent sunrise! It was easily one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever witnessed and produced a number of fine images that morning. This image was the first I took, and turned out the best!


Sunset at Moraine Lake

2. Moraine Lake Sunset

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada – August

It’s rather hard to take a bad picture at a place like Moraine Lake. For years, I dreamed of traveling to this spot to photograph the lake. There’s a reason it’s so highly regarded as one of the best mountain lakes in the world! It’s just that beautiful and easily the most stunning alpine mountain lake I’ve ever seen! The funny thing is, during the 2 days I had to photograph in this area, I never really captured the image I want. The weather never cooperated to give me a stunning sunrise or sunset. The wind never truley died down to give me that crystal clear reflection I had hoped for. Yet, I still love this image in all it’s imperfection.


Legend of Multnomah Falls

3. Legend of Multnomah Falls

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon – August

When you visit Multnomah Falls in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge of Oregon, you get a sense of awe about them. Maybe it’s the local legends about how the falls were formed. Or maybe it’s just the fact that Multnomah Falls is the crown jewel of an area that’s highly regarded for it’s large concentration of waterfalls. Everywhere you turn in this area, there’s a beautiful waterfall pouring through the lush green rainforest. While spring is typically the time to go, as the waterfalls are rushing with snow melt-off from the mountains above, I visited in late January, shortly after a massive winter storm pounded the area. The wind was whipping around enough to give much of the trees and plants a nice green blur to them and the water was flowing as if spring time was in full effect making for the scene you see above.


Old Mill Gardens

4. Old Mill Gardens

Little Rock, Arkansas – April

I had a last minute chance to visit Little Rock, Arkansas back in April to play in a soccer tournament. Knowing I would be a new place, I looked up a few interesting places to visit in hopes of maybe getting a good image or two while down there. At the top of most lists was the Old Mill in North Little Rock, which was famous for being in the opening scenes of the classic Gone With The Wind. It just so happened that I visited when the flowers were in full spring bloom giving the place a very colorful look to it!


This Is Kansas

5. This Is Kansas

Teter Rock, Kansas – July

On my first visit to Teter Rock last July a massive thunderstorm rolled through the plains. There is nothing more awe-inspiring than standing at the top of a hill out on the prairie with the echoes of thunder and flashes of lightning off in the distant. Teter Rock itself was interesting enough, but throw in the crazy lightening storm that developed and it made for classic, iconic Kansas scenery. The image above is the best of the shots from that night and this location has become my favorite place to shoot out on the Kansas prairie.


Emerald Lake Calm

6. Emerald Lake Calm

Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada – August

Across the border from Canada’s famous Banff National Park lies Yoho National Park. Another of the Canadian Rockies beautiful national parks. One of it’s best locations is Emerald Lake. The wind cooperated nicely on this morning, leaving the lake in perfect reflective stillness. Not many tourists were out that morning either, and the lake had a calm and tranquil feeling to it.


Mount Rainier Wildflowers

7. Mount Rainier Wildflowers

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington – September

I could not have planned my day-trip visit to the Paradise region of Mount Rainier any better! Typically wildflower season is much earlier in the summer, with many of the flowers peaking in August. This year, everything was late, and seemed to be peaking on Memorial Day weekend in early September. This was perfect for me, as I visited the Saturday before Memorial Day and was floored by how stunning the wildflowers were. While I had to share the area with more tourists than I have ever seen in my hiking days, I also got to share the trail with a very large black bear. Something I never expected to see, considering just how many people were out on the trails that weekend. This image is probably the best from that day, with some of the most vivid color, contrasted by the glaciers and clouds in the background on Rainier’s slopes.


The Ancient Forest

8. The Ancient Forest

Redwood National Park, California – January

On my massive January road-trip, there were so many places I was excited to visit. While I was interested in visiting the Redwoods, in my mind, I was most interested in the Grand Canyon, Big Sur and the Oregon coastline. As it turned out though, the Redwoods were likely my favorite part of this 3500+ mile trip. Words can’t describe the feeling of hiking silently among ancient giants shrouded in mist and fog. My only regret was that I only got to pass through the area for an hour or two before heading on into Oregon. I would have spent days exploring the region if I would have had the time.


The Lights of Lombard Street

9. The Lights of Lombard Street

San Francisco, California – January

While traveling up the California coastline towards Oregon, I spent a night in San Francisco, seeing a few of the major sights. One of the more interesting places I visited was Lombard Street. Lombard Street is regarded as the most crooked street in the world, and I already had in mind to do a night shot with car lights streaking down it’s curvy streets. What I didn’t expect was the 20+ other photographers there taking the same shot as me. But I still like the shot, even if it wasn’t an original idea!


Sol Duc Falls

10. Sol Duc Falls

Olympic National Park, Washington – August

My time in Olympic National Park was a little bittersweet. Olympic was one of those places I had always wanted to visit. I had always pictured foggy rainforests with constant drizzle and rain. My hope was to capture some of that in photographs. Surprisingly though, it didn’t rain a drop the entire time I was at Olympic and the sun was out the majority of the 2 days I spent traveling the park. However, I still got a few good shots of the coastline and waterfalls, this being my favorite. This waterfall is called Sol Duc Falls, with two rocks that sort of seperate the waterfall into three falls. I thought the view of the bridge from behind the falls was the best of the shots. It’s also the best of the shots I got in Olympic National Park.


Explosive Sunrise

11. Explosive Sunrise

San Simeon, California – August

This was shot just minutes after the other San Simeon sunrise, which was my favorite shot of the year. This one is unique from that one not just in color, but that I captured a wave crashing into a rock 20 feet or so out in the ocean. Beacause of the winter storm that had just passed through much of the west coast, the ocean was rough and violent, creating scenes like this from southern California north to Washington.


Peyto Lake in the Fog Panorama

12. Peyto Lake in the Fog Panorama

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada – August

This was one of the first shots of possibly my greatest traveling day ever. I had slept in my rental SUV at the very top of the Icefields Parkway up in Jasper National Park to get up early in the morning and shoot some night scenes of the stars above the Athabasca Glacier. The weather had other plans. What had been forecast as a clear and warm (well, relatively speaking for being high in the Canadian Rockies) night turned to a foggy and drizzly night with snow about a thousand feet higher in elevation from where I had camped out. So I traveled south down the Icefields Parkway early in the morning, eventually making my way all the way across British Columbia to the coast and Vancouver late that night. One of my first stops was to get a shot of Peyto Lake in the fog as seen above. The day before the entire area was crawling with tour buses and hundreds of tourists. Because of the overcast and fog, on this morning, I was the only car in the parking lot and had the entire area to myself. And it was such a beautiful place to spend some time admiring one of Canada’s most iconic scenes.

Posted under: News & Updates