2015 Top Twelve Photographs of the Year

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” ~ Ansel Adams

It is my pleasure, albeit a lot of work, to continue an annual tradition that I began in 2013, where I gather and publish my top Twelve Photographs of the year. This tradition stems from the quote above attributed to Ansel Adams, one of the most recognized names of photographers in the modern era, particularly famous for his magnificent black and white photographs of Yosemite National Park. His quote is a conscious thought that guides me during most of my photoshoots, where I remind myself that realistically I am looking for just one or two images that will be significant and capture the essence of what I am looking at in the field.

When you shoot a few thousand images as I do on an annual basis it is difficult to cull this all down to ‘twelve significant photographs’ so, as in previous years, I determine the Top Twelve, and the order of the selections, by looking back at my Facebook page and noting how many Likes/Comments I received when they were originally posted on my wall. I am fully aware that this is far from scientific or could be argued that it is downright arbitrary, but that is the method I have used and will continue to do so again this year.

I was fortunate to have traveled and created opportunities to shoot in a wide variety of places in 2015. From my favorite venues such as Yosemite National Park, Mono Lake, Bodie Historical State Park, Mt. Tamalpais in Marine County, and the Central Coast in California, I also made it back to the country of my birth Sri Lanka again, and spent a month in my ‘second home’, Australia.  A first time for me this year I had an opportunity to visit Page, Arizona and the amazingly colorful slot canyons of Lower Antelope Canyon and Secret Canyon. As a photographer, I consider myself lucky to live in El Dorado Hills, just 30 miles northeast of Sacramento, as it allows me to get to some of the most beautiful National and State Parks within a four to five hour drive from my home.

So again this year I will count them down starting with Number 12, give you the Facebook vote count, say something about each image, and provide some basic EXIF data.

#12 – (120 votes) ‘Where Angels Tread’ ~ California has been in a significant drought for the last four years when an unexpected spring storm went through Yosemite, dumping significant snow at higher elevations. I drove into the Park and went down to a favorite spot on Southside Drive to capture these beautiful reflections of the Three Brothers in the Merced River.

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May 7, 2015, Three Brothers, Yosemite National Park, California, exposure 1/5 sec @ f/11; 16-35 mm lens at 19 mm; ISO 100

#11 – (122) ‘Hot Summer Nights’ ~ we had been experiencing triple digit heat for a couple of days in a row, with the temperature only dropping down into the 90’s at night when I decided to go shoot the sunset at this ‘new’ location, about 20 minute drive from my home. I have a love for oak trees, especially located on top of the rolling hills in this area that silhouette against the sky, which was filled by this typical Northern California summer evening’s clouds that get lit up by a sunset. I used a higher ISO setting in order to freeze the moving grass stems due to the presence of a stiff breeze this particular evening.

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June 26, 2015, Scott Boulevard, Rancho Murrieta, California, exposure 1/10 @ f/11, 16-35 mm lens @ 16 mm, ISO 800

#10 – (123) ‘Turbulence’ ~ there is something about the intensity of tropical sunsets that sets them apart, and this one shot in a town called Koggala, on the south western side of the island of Sri Lanka was no exception. I decided to go down to this beach area, a short walking distance from the hotel we were staying in despite the prospects for a great sunset looking fairly slim. However, I knew from experience, even though the sky was laden with heavy clouds as long as an opening existed above the horizon the chances were good that the sky could develop into a good sunset. I was so glad to have been right on this particular evening!

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August 31, 2015, Koggala, Sri Lanka, exposure 0.6 secs @ f/14, 24-105 mm lens @ 35 mm, ISO 200

#9 – (125) ‘Double Trouble’ ~ we had an amazing storm move through the area this particular evening, bringing with it rain, lightning, thunder and gnarly looking clouds. I went to shoot from a favorite location of mine locally, about 10 minutes drive from my home, and while I was composing and shooting the sunset scene, intuitively I turned around 180 degrees behind me to find this beautiful double rainbow and magnificent sky. The title of this image is a dedication it to the late Stevie Ray Vaughn and his band Double Trouble, that were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

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June, 5, 2015, Scott Boulevard, El Dorado Hills, California, exposure 1/3 sec @ f 11, 16-35 mm lens @ 16 mm, ISO 125

#8 – (127) ‘El Capitan’s Evening Light’ ~ shot on the evening of my birthday, April 7, this magnificent granite monolith, named “El Capitan” by the Mariposa Battalion when it explored the valley in 1851, meaning “the captain”, “the chief”, was taken to be a loose Spanish translation of the local Native American name for the cliff that extends about 3,000 feet (900 m) from base to summit along its tallest face. I used a polarizing filter on this shot, which allows the beauty of the reflection in the Merced river to shine through in detail, and interestingly the only vertical image in this collection!

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April 7, 2015, El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, California, exposure 1/5 sec @ f/11, 16-35 mm at 16 mm, ISO 100

#7 – (133) ‘Synchronicity’ ~ spent Christmas afternoon with my three adult children and their extended family enjoying great food and conversations! The backyard of the home we had dinner in was a magnificent wide wet sand beach, which acted like a gigantic reflective mirror that perfectly duplicated these early sunset clouds. Pajaro Dunes Beach is in Watsonville, and the width of the beach was in part due to a tidal range of just over 7.5 feet on the day caused by the full moon, the first on Christmas Day in 38 years!

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December 25, 2015, Pajaro Dunes Beach, Watsonville, California, exposure 1/13 sec @ f/11, 16-35 mm leans @ 21 mm, ISO 125

#6 – (142) ‘Awakening’ ~ I had not been to the Hawaiian Island in a few years, and I had never visited the island of Maui. This was a sunrise at Koki Beach, just south of Hana on the east coast of Maui. The large red cinder hill to the left is Ka Iwi o Pele, ‘the Bones of Pele’, that is the remnant of a volcanic vent, and according to a Hawaiian legend, the Goddess Pele was killed near this place by her older sister, and her bones were piled up to make this hill. Her spirit fled southeast from this point to the Big Island, where is is said to still reside today. In more recent times, this hill now belongs to Oprah, as part of a 105 acre parcel that she bought from Hana Ranch in 2002.

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May 20, 2015, Koki Beach, Maui, Hawaii, exposure 0.3 sec @ f/22, 16-35 mm lens at 16 mm, ISO 125

#5 – (153) ‘Tropical Playground’ ~ this was the first image of a sunset trilogy captured at Koggala, south west Sri Lanka, shot on the beach in front of our hotel. The second image of the trilogy is shown in image #10 above. I have never seen clouds like this develop into these awesome formations, highlighted by magical light that placed emphasis in just the right places. It is beyond good fortune to travel half way round the world to witness and photograph the unrivaled beauty of Mother Nature at her finest!

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August 31, 2015, Koggala, Sri Lanka, exposure 10.6 secs @ f/22, 24-105 mm lens at 24 mm, ISO 125

#4 – (154) ‘Kīlauea Sunrise’ ~ we spent the first two nights of our Hawaii photoshoot on the Big Island, and this was a 5:00 am shot of the glow generated by the lava lake in Kīlauea, a currently active volcano, and the most active of the five volcanoes that together form the island of Hawaiʻi, and, perhaps, the most active volcano on earth. There is something very primal and attractive for us humans to see molten lava, which builds and yet destroys, and is completely uncontrollable by mankind.

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Kilauea, Big Island, Hawaii, this is an HDR blend of 3 images, exposure @ f/4, 16-35 mm lens @ 16 mm, ISO 1,600

#3 – (195) ‘Full Moon Rising’ ~ shot this from my backyard in El Dorado Hills, in what turned out to be the final Supermoon of 2015. If you missed this night’s show, you will have to wait until October 2016 to see another one. It was the sixth Supermoon of the year and came just a month after another Supermoon, which also happened to be a total lunar eclipse. This night’s full moon meant the orb not only appeared brighter but also larger than normal – about 14 percent bigger than a normal moon. In 2016 there will be 3 Supermoon’s, beginning in October, as mentioned above, with November and December’s moons also being classified as Super.

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October 26, 2015, El Dorado Hills, California, exposure 0.8 secs @ f/8, 400 mm lens plus 1.4 converter @ 560 mm, ISO 100

#2 – (233) ‘Morning Has Broken’ ~ one last image shot in 2015, from my Yosemite shoot at the end of December. Found myself at the Gates of the Valley AKA Valley View, with morning light hitting El Capitan just right to create this beautiful reflection in a fairly still and frozen in patches, Merced River. This, along with Tunnel View are two of the classic locations for photographer’s in Yosemite Valley, and this particular spot provides a beautiful reflective opportunity of El Capitan and the Cathedral Rocks on the right, that include Bridalveil Falls, which was somewhat frozen during this particular winter’s day.

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December 27, 2015, Valley View, Yosemite National Park, California, exposure 0.3 secs @ f/11, 16-35 mm lens @ 16 mm, ISO 100

#1 – (300) ‘A Milky Way’ ~ one of my favorite images from a photoshoot at Mt Tamalpais on May 2, with my daughter Michelle Grenier, an accomplished photographer in her own right (www.instagram.com/michiesharine/?hl=en) as my guide. We were very fortunate to have a magnificent layer of coastal fog move in to make this simply a magical sight and photo opportunity! I decided to use a high ISO setting because of the presence of a stiff breeze and I wanted to make sure that the grass and trees in this shot weren’t blurred by the wind in the resulting photograph.

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May 2, 2015, Mt Tamalpais, Marine Country, California, exposure 1/8 sec @ f/11, 24-105 mm lens at 50 mm, ISO 1,200

There you have it, my third annual Top 12 Photographs for the 2015 year. A few observations in closing – 1. Eight of the images voted on were shot in California locations, 2. two were from Sri Lanka, and 3. the remaining two were from my Hawaiian Islands shoot. It is interesting for me to compile these images every year and realize the wonderful accomplishment I was privileged to be allowed to complete by traveling to these beautiful locations, as well as what excellent tastes and insights that the followers of my Facebook page have displayed, and how much these people help in my selection process at the end of each year. So a big thank you to all these people for taking the time to do so – greatly appreciated!

In conclusion, and as always, I owe a great deal of gratitude to the many, many people who support my photography by purchasing my images in print form, as well as the hundreds of Likes and Comments that so many people take the time to stop by and leave on my Facebook page at  http://facebook.com/djgrenier , and last not least, the photographers and friends of mine that I travel and live with during these photographic journeys through out the year – again, my deepest thanks!

Looking forward to 2016 and wishing everybody a Wonderful New Year!

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