Happy New Year! And … Favorite Images of 2013

I’ve done a “best of” selection at the end of previous years … but this year I’m opting for a favorites list. I didn’t realize there would be a disparity between the photos I consider my best technically versus those I hold close to my heart. There appears to be only a loose correlation between the merits of an image and my feelings about it. With that in mind, here’s my list of 2013 favorites, some of which do appear in earlier blog posts. I’ve included the stories behind these photos and why they were memorable for me this year.

HAPPY 2014, EVERYONE! WISHING YOU A SPECTACULAR YEAR AHEAD!

Snow Goose Blur

I met up with some California friends on Washington’s Fir Island in February. In the fall and winter Snow Geese predictably congregate here by the thousands, feeding and resting in agricultural fields. They migrate  from Wrangel Island, north of Siberia, traveling with their mates for life, digging up potatoes and tubers, and then sporadically erupting into the air in choreographed takeoffs and turns. You might wait all afternoon before witnessing such an eruption. On this day, as the sun went down, we slowed our shutters in anticipation of one last flight, hoping to capture some pretty effects. The geese did not let us down. As they rose above the tree line in one last burst of flight, the ribbons of light, clouds, sunset and birds here formed my favorite texture of the evening.

Blog post: Studies in Ghost Geese

Snow Goose Wing Blur

Sierra Nevada World Music Festival

Friends of ours started and still run the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, now held in the breathtaking town of Boonville, California. At the end of each night’s performances, the fire dancers arrive.  I over-exposed some of the flames here to get more light on the dancer. It’s fun to photograph this act because the conditions of light change with each dance move, depending on where the torches are held and how much they are illuminating. Almost every frame produces a different effect.

SNWMF Fire Dance

Gull Chick Colony

A very kind person, Louise, contacted me this summer to see if I’d be interested in photographing the gull colony growing up on a rooftop near her city loft. I couldn’t possibly turn down that opportunity — but I expected to be shooting at the full reach of my telephoto, to some distant building. I was surprised and delighted to find the gull chicks were traipsing about just below where we were sitting with our coffee. I count this among my best photographic experiences, first for the serendipitous invitation which I don’t take for granted … and second, because I’ve never been so close to a gull colony, observing the interactions between parent and child.  This young Glaucous-winged Gull was yawning when I snapped the shot.

Blog post: Gull Chicks and Gateway Birds

Baby Gull Yawn

Fishing Into a Mirror

This photo is purely sentimental, a celebration of home. On a long-overdue visit to the Bay Area, we stopped at Bodega Bay on a day when a huge number of White Pelicans and egrets were fishing the low tide. I’d forgotten how clear the light can be on the coast. When we lived in California, I spent countless hours with these birds, so when we rounded the bend and saw this welcoming committee, it was truly a happy homecoming.

Fishing Into a Mirror

Queen Anne White Out

I’d been waiting for a morning so foggy I could capture trees and structures, layered in opaqueness like Japanese paper cut art.  That morning arrived and I realized I’d scouted a few locations that simply didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped in the viewfinder. Before the fog could lift, I drove to Queen Anne hill in Seattle, not far from where I live, and decided the disappearing row of street lamps would be just fine. Then, it was a matter of waiting for someone to walk into my frame. This is the only person who did. Next time, Hugh said I should bring someone in period costume to complete the mood.

 

Queen Anne Mist

Building On

I wrote about these Great Blue Herons in the context of rebuilding and renewal. They’d lost their rookery, up the ravine, to the marauding of a young Bald Eagle. I didn’t know the story when I photographed this heron, but I knew something was amiss for them to be building so late in the season. When I discovered they were beginning all over again in a new location, with new nests and new eggs, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the diligence so often prevalent in wild animals, qualities that can inspire my own choices if I let them.

Blog post: Great Blue Resilience

Building On

The Fog Roll

Another fog shot, this one from an area also on Queen Anne hill, during an uncommon blanket roll over Elliott Bay and Seattle. This was the first image I shot as I walked up to the bluff, thinking the spectators gave the photo interesting contrast. I shot a few frames of the fog alone, too, without the human interlopers, but I didn’t like those shots as well. This was the last episode of this rolling fog we had in 2013. It was a short-lived phenomenon, just a few days.

Fog Roll

10,000 Crows

Along with the first time I saw the Snow Geese take flight, watching 10,000 or so crows come in to roost for the night was beyond description. I’m generally a verbal person so you know it’s a big deal if I’m at a loss for words — where “wow” is the term of choice for minutes on end. I don’t know how anyone can fail to be mesmerized by birds flocking in these numbers. I always, without exception, think of what it must have been like to see birds blacken the skies, as early settler accounts describe … literal miles of Passenger Pigeons, as one example. I wish it were still the natural norm.

Blog post: 10,000 Crows and Counting

20,000 Crows

Low Tide Boots

This photo was used for the cover of the annual report by Puget Sound Partnership, the state agency leading the cleanup of Puget Sound. We had weeks of super-low tides of the minus two variety. I stress a bit when photographing low tides at public beaches because I see people taking too many liberties with sea stars and other exposed marine creatures. It’s another situation where I feel my adrenaline rising and where I just don’t relish the prospect of having to confront the nature abusers. But, this little girl, with her father, treaded so gently on the tidelands, stooping to look in tide pools while leaving the animals alone. I loved the way her boots, with lady bugs, stood out so vividly against the muted natural tones of Puget Sound.

Low Tide Boots

Father and Son

I shot this just days after the young Osprey fledged. I’ve been following several Osprey couples and their offspring since my first spring in Seattle, and this youngster grew up in the nesting platform closest to our apartment, at the Ballard Locks in Seattle. He was born with a sibling, photographed by just one local photographer as far as I know. But after the first week, none of us saw the second bird and are not sure what fate befell the baby.

Midway through the nesting season, the adult male seemed to disappear, at least part time. For a week or two, the female seemed to be fending off attention from other Ospreys who regularly landed in the nest but were clearly not her mate.  There were some harmless scuffles, and I wasn’t sure where the chick would fit into those territorial discussions. A few of us observers took regular photos, trying to discern if, in fact, the original male was there or if she’d taken up with a new male. We never did figure it out definitively but I believe this is original male. He spent a lot of time with the fledgling, helping him land on the nearby railroad bridge and bringing him fish.

A post I wrote about their 2012 nesting and fledging season: Osprey – From Platform to Pairing to Fledging

Dad and Son

Illuminated Silks

On our way home from Grays Harbor Wildlife Refuge, photographing the spring shorebird migration for our Wildlife Conservation Stamp blog, we stopped at the Olympia waterfront for a walk. As darkness overcame us, we noticed communities of spiders in building frenzies under outdoor shelters with illumination. Many of them were backlit — as they spun their silks. I’ve never seen anything like it, both the quantity of spiders and the spooky lighting. I captured this photo as the spider hooked and pulled the thread with his claw.

Illuminated Silks

Butterfly Visitor

When our dear Jackie kitty passed away, we took a short road trip to connect with coastal and oceanic nature. Before we left, a dear, ethereal friend of mine was insisting that butterflies, rainbows and feathers are all comforting signs when our loved ones pass away. They will find you, she said. On one hilly walk, we came upon this Mylitta crescent butterfly. She followed us down a trail and landed next to us. She was the only butterfly we saw in the vicinity and was so tolerant of our lenses, she never budged despite our many movements. She stayed still even as our shadows enveloped her, something that usually spooks butterflies. And she actually turned in the light to give us different poses. I remember saying to Hugh, okay, no matter what the inspiration here, I simply can’t away from this butterfly. So we didn’t. We stayed in her space and she in ours. Finally, we did have to leave so I thanked her and told her we were moving on. She started flapping, then moved to a plant a few feet behind us. Whatever that butterfly’s motivation, it was a touching moment to be in peaceful presence with a fellow being of different dimensions, at a time when we needed that connection most.

Butterfly Visitor

Gaping

This is another shot, as many are, born of unexpected circumstances. We were photographing at Juanita Bay in Kirkland, across Lake Washington from Seattle, and we encountered a small group of Barn Swallow fledglings. I’d tried to photograph some Barn Swallow fledglings in a different location just days earlier, but my older E-3 camera was acting up. I couldn’t get an in-focus, sharp shot to save me. So, this time, I brought my micro four thirds camera and 50-200mm, deciding that manual focus was better than no focus. I saw this young bird perched on a branch over the lake and as I zoomed and focused, an adult landed next to the baby, creating this moment of communication. The adult had no food for the young one, despite the baby’s pleas. Later, however, another adult did arrive with an insect meal for the young one.

Gaping

Lighthouse Reflected

Hugh and I hiked down to the south beach of Discovery Park in Seattle, not realizing that the tide would be at zero that day. The confluence of muted light, clouds, the stillness of a huge tide pool, and the illuminated lighthouse and windows made for one of my favorite scenery shots all year. 

Blog post: Low Tide Discoveries at Discovery Park

Lighthouse Reflected

Waves of Seal

On the Oregon Coast, we came upon this harbor seal haul out area at Lincoln City. It was a pinniped party as power waves crashed against this sandbar, eventually swallowing it up to a point where the haul out disappeared until the next low tide. It was a pure joy watching the seals flow with the force of the water, sometimes succumbing to the push and gliding under the surf, and sometimes clustered together, buffeted by the water but holding their sandy ground.

Waves of Seal

Spider Gateway

Two spider favorites in 2013. When I posted this image on Flickr, one person said their first thought was that it was a gunshot hole in a window. I hadn’t considered that point of view but I appreciated the alternative interpretation. I saw this web, studded with gems of dew on an early morning walk. It was close to Halloween so the framing against the house behind in monochrome evoked the right mood for me. All of the webs that morning were glinting with diamond strands of dew.

Spider Gateway

Walking the Right of Way

My friend Elaine clued me into the location for this shot. We were photographing Ospreys and she scrambled up to the railroad bridge for a better view. This is an active rail line but a nearby drawbridge rises frequently during boating season, rendering the tracks inoperable during those times.  Pigeons nest below and sometimes forage for scraps around the tracks. I saw this pigeon and immediately thought of the film The Station Agent – and walking the right of way.

Walking the Right of Way

Salmon Photo Bomb

I was hoping for this shot, so technically it’s not a photo bomb. I saw quite a few salmon jumping at the Ballard Locks, where boats pass from Puget Sound to the Ship Canal to Lake Washington. It’s also the location where I photograph salmon climbing the fish ladder on their way home to spawn. I pointed my lens in the direction of the kayakers, wondering if a salmon might leap into frame. He did, and here’s the shot.

Photo Bomb

Home Security

I wrote about the white Wild Turkeys we saw while visiting Sacramento. They forage for greens in the many gardens of the area. My favorite shot of the flock was this one, where the turkey appears to be studying the home security sign, maybe contemplating the wisdom of eating plants on this particular lawn. What would life be if we couldn’t amuse ourselves with our own interpretations?

Blog post: The Legend of the White Gallapavo

Home Security

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Comments

  1. says

    Moving photographs Ingrid. All of them. More moving however, are your stories that go with them. Just a few comments. I loved the Ghost Geese when I first saw it on your post. It really captures the essence of waterfowl and their habitat. The fire dancer is trance-like and the young gull I remember from the rooftop as well.

    Very cool shot of the mirrored fishing Egret and I agree with Hugh about the period piece garbed intruder for the fog photo.

    Being an avid birder, I remember well “The Great Blue Resilience” and your image here is so beautiful, brilliant and sharp, I love it! Your description of the 10,000 birds blackening the sky made me want to travel back in time to that period as well.

    Your description of the little girl in the boots touched my heart and I know yours too. I need to go back and read the post on the Osprey but I really like the father and son shot.

    Cool spider shot and the webs in the dew that comes later. I can’t even imagine how important that butterfly experience was for you, and very possibly for the butterfly as well. The image is exquisite.

    The gaping swallows are really cool and so familiar to me, it makes me anxious for breeding season to begin once again. The lighthouse reflection should be in a book, magazine or tourist brochure – something. It’s beautiful.

    Your description of the “Waves of Seals” made a movie out of the image for me.

    The lone pigeon on the track is interesting but the salmon shot is amazing. Before reading your description I thought it was serendipitous but actually the fact that you waited and purposefully took the shot is more inspirational.

    Last but not least, the Wild Turkey with the perfectly blurred security sign conjures up all kinds of captions!

    Thanks for the year’s repertoire and I hope you have a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!

  2. says

    If we readers are allowed to pick our favorites among your nineteen cherished photos :-), then here are my six (and the reasons I chose them):

    1. Gull Chick Colony — A creature (especially a baby) yawning confirms my feeling that there is no meaningful difference between humans and other-than-humans, so let’s please get over ourselves and include all fellow-beings in our circle of compassion, care, respect, love, and gentle justice.

    2. Building On — I distinctly remember this blog and my feeling of awe at the Great Blue Heron’s “resilience” and “diligence.” So glad to be reminded of the quality of unflagging perseverance, which conquers all the disappointments and distractions, the hurts and fears, that would, if they could, take away our (and the herons’) natural joy. Like this heron, we each have an unselfish purpose to accomplish, and *nothing* can deter us from doing it.

    3. Low Tide Boots — The ladybug is the creature I associate with my first of four beloved boxers. Cassius was a magnet for ladybugs. Wherever we went, his presence drew them to us. Also, the lone pink insect in a sea of red bugs on each boot — and the way her color matches the pink edging and handles at the top of each boot — appeals to my eye. As a little girl, I loved to dress my Mary Poppins paper doll in a pink-and-red outfit, so I have visions of Mary Poppins with her umbrella dancing in my head! Finally, your description of the little beachcomber’s sweet consideration for each sea creature — either taught by her father or taught by her TO her father — melts my heart.

    4. Butterfly Visitor — Your encounter with this beautiful butterfly (alighting on an equally beautiful flower) reminds me of the special butterflies in my life, each of whom has been both a unique individual in his/her own right and an angel messenger bringing me reassuring, comforting news. One was a yellow Sulpher butterfly, three were Monarchs mariposas. So it brings me peace to think that the Mylitta (my little) crescent represents your Jackie assuring you that she is ever with you — even “growing” or “increasing” (which is what the Latin verb CRESCERE means) in your hearts.

    5. Waves of Seal — First off, the seals are so cute and cuddly. But more important is the two-fold message I glean from this photo: at times they acted alone, expressing their individuality by leaving the huddle to flexibly flow with the current, and at other times they all stayed in a tight-knit group and together maintained “their sandy ground,” as you put it. The latter reminds me of this metaphor: when sticks are tied together in a bundle, they cannot be broken. Each of us can listen to the “still, small voice” telling us when to leave the crowd and venture out on our own, and when to act “of one accord” with our brothers and sisters.

    6. Home Security — You must have written about the wild white gallapavo flock before I discovered your blog, Ingrid. I’ll click on that link as soon as I finish writing this comment. As one who no longer eats animals — they are now friends, not food — I feel special affection for any and all beings who are enslaved and exploited by humans — and, in this case, for the free-living cousin of those poor commoditized and killed beings.

    Thank you for photographing and blogging your way into my home and my heart last year, Ingrid. The priceless gifts you’ve brought us — the wondrous beauty of birds as well as the technical details of each frame and the emotional dynamics of each scene — will stay with me always. I so look forward to seeing the new discoveries — new proofs of life and light and love — that await you.

  3. says

    Ooops, I see that I did catch the gallapavos — it was only two months and one day ago that you posted it. Sorry about that! But while I’m here, I’ll mention that I, like Larry, like Hugh’s idea of putting someone in a period costume into that foggy photo. :-) Love your “Japanese paper cut art” analogy.

  4. says

    Ingrid:

    My favourite ones are The Spider Gateway; The Butterfly Visitor; and Building On. They are all great quality; the detail of the butterfly is top notch. Also, thanks for the letter to the editor you wrote about the TIME article. That is the proper etiquette and way to proceed in these matters. My outraged ‘human’ part couldn’t conceal itself, however, and had to let it out.

  5. Ron Dudley says

    Ingrid, I spent quite a while perusing these photos and thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them. I like the variety of the subjects you shoot (something missing in my own photography). I couldn’t agree more about the disparity between our shots that are best technically vs. those that are our emotional favorites, for whatever reason.

    And I love that you sometimes “thank” your subjects after a photo session – something I do regularly with birds. . .

  6. says

    A belated Happy New Year – Apparently this one (for me) is going to be the same as the last: tardy. :/

    Love the photos – Many of which I had not seen before. The Ladybug Boots are precious and a great contrast to the earthtones. Home Security is a hoot! And my favorite, the Fishing Into A Mirror, title and image is so perfect!

    I hope 2014 brings you endless opportunities to photograph what brings you joy. And always, thanks for sharing. <3

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