10 Best Lanscape Photos 2011

lenticular cloud sierra nevada mountains californiaPhoto: Lenticular cloud over Sierra Nevada Mountains. April 2011

The last night of a 10 day road trip through the southwest and my favourite photo from the whole trip.  A lone lenticular cloud which had provided some decent color at sunset remained in the sky over the Alabama hills and Sierra Nevada mountains.  A near full moon for
illumination of the foreground and a 2 minute exposure gives a ghostly appearance to the cloud.

My 10 best images from 2011.  Well, maybe ‘best’ is not the correct word and ‘favourite’ would be more appropriate.  I thought about repeating last year’s ‘best from each month’ concept, but it wouldn’t have worked very well for this year.  For the most part I was largely directionless for extended periods of time, with the whole of the spring/summer basically a black hole for me photographically.  For the year overall there were some brief moments of productivity, but most of the time I was failing to achieve my goals visually.  I don’t really feel I grew at all photographically or found myself pushing my boundaries visually.  Much of the time I was struggling to even repeat images/ideas that I had made in the past, much less expand my vision and style forwards.  Hopefully 2012 provides more fertile ground as this last year seems mostly a waste to me.  Barely being able to tread water, much less chase my dreams.

Black Cuillins, Isle of Skye, ScotlandPhoto: Clearing winter storm over Black Cuillins, Isle of Skye, Scotland.  January 2011

Returning from New Year out on Scotland’s Outer Hebrides I decided to stay the night on the Isle of Skye.  As I awoke to heavy clouds and a light falling snow my hopes of sunrise diminished.  Sitting patiently and looking at the clock, I waited an hour to see if conditions would improve before continuing on the long journey south.  Just as I was about to start the car I noticed a bit of contrast in the sky.  I had dreamed of a ‘Skye in snow’ image for years and this was my first chance.  While it can definitely be improved upon, I still am glad for the opportunity.

Callanish standing stones, ScotlandPhoto: Callanish standing stones, Isle of Lewis, Scotland.  January 2011

I’m fascinated by standing stones.  This was my second visit to Callanish in as many months.  The rain held off into the night allowing me a bit of time to play around with some lighting of the stones.  I think this image helps show a bit of scale and how large the stones actually are.

Isle of Lewis, ScotlandPhoto: Coastal rocks, Butt of Lewis, Isle of Lewis, Scotland.  January 2011

Winds and heaves seas battered this most northerly part of the Isle of Lewis.  Rain showers were sweeping across the headlands with only brief interludes as the short winter day transitioned into night.  Beyond these rocks is 500 miles of the cold north Atlantic before one reaches Iceland.  Truly a feeling of being at the end of the world, or perhaps just Scotland.

Bandon Beach OregonPhoto: Bandon Beach, Oregon.  August 2011

With a 13 hour drive back home to California I struggled with the decision to get out of bed in the early morning hours or not.  I couldn’t see the sky from my campground, but I went ahead and made the 30 minute drive down the coast to Bandon.  I arrived to the sound the fog horn blasting into the morning darkness and the roaring of waves against the coast.  On the beach conditions were better than I could have expected.  Low tide and a calm wind, perfect for Bandon.  As the morning progressed a bit of color arrived before the dawn.  I was utterly exhausted by the time I got home late that night, but thankful for it.

Grand Canyon snowPhoto: Bright Angel trail and snow, Grand Canyon.  April 2011

It had been a last minute decision to head to the Grand Canyon.  Arriving in early evening to a foot of fresh snow on the ground and the possibility of the closure of all national parks due to the failure of the govt. to pass a budget I wasn’t really sure it was worth it.  Awaking the next day to a snow covered campsite and gray skies, I went out exploring a bit.  I hadn’t been to the GC in 10 years and finding my way around snow covered roads took a bit of extra effort.  At some point in the morning the storm began to clear and I found my way to the upper section of the Bright Angel trail.  I like the contrast of snow and desert in this image, a sight I don’t see too often.

Lofoten islands coast, NorwayPhoto: Dark skies over Vestfjord, Stamsund, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  October 2011

This is one of my favourite view points while staying in Stamsund.  Not because it’s the most spectacular view in the world, but because it’s a place I can return to again and again and always see something new.  I can watch the spring sunrise from here.  I can see the autumn’s first snow or (as in the next photo) the sky filled with the Northern Lights.  The sea can be rough and white capped with mist filling the air or as still as a pond.  This view reflects the moods and temperament of the Islands.

Northern Lights Lofoten Islands NorwayPhoto: Northern Lights over Vestfjord, Stamsund, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  October 2011

The last night (beginning to see a trend here) of two weeks on the Lofoten Islands.  The perfect conspiracy of conditions for the best Northern Lights I’ve ever seen.  I wish I had had a wider lens to show more of the sky, as it was completely filled with light, dancing and swaying from second to second.

Utakleiv beach, Lofoten islands, NorwayPhoto: Utakleiv, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  October 2011

It was another one of my stormy days at Utakleiv.  The tied seemed particularly low this day and I wandered out on the slippery rocks towards the edge of the sea.  My attention was focused towards my feet as the rain forced me to keep my lens pointing downwards.  I came across this scene of one rock burrowed into another.  The work of a 100 years of waves.

Frankenjura bouldering, GermanyPhoto: Frankenjura bouldering, Germany.  November 2011

Towards the end of November I found myself back among the old familiar rocks of the Frankenjura region.  Dark and misty forests, cold temperatures and short days.  Not the most ideal climbing conditions, but so it goes.  A bit of off-camera flash in the middle of a dyno to the next hold gives a bit of depth to the image.

Berneray – Western Isles

Sound of Harris, Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Photo: White sand beach and view across Sound of Harris, Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Berneray is the newest edition to my very short list of favorite places, places that I can just get lost in.  I spent a few days there of blasting gales in October last year and returned again to bring in the new year.  The wonderful small little hostel only feet away from the waters edge on the north of the island is my chosen abode.  Run by the Gatliff Trust, the hostel is an old croft house.  Rustic and homely, white washed stone walls and a thatch roof; the way a place must be on a lonely island out on the edge of the world.  The heat comes from a coal stove and one end of the room as the sound of rain patters against the small windows and the howling of wind creeps under the old wooden door.  Lights and candles burn late into the winter nights as strangers sit around sharing meals and stories, perhaps also a splash of two of Scotch.

As with most places in the part of the world, photography is more a game of patience than anything.  It’s a good time to slow down from the fast pace of life, maybe not check those emails for a week or two, it’s not gonna kill you.  All these photos are taken no more than 3-4 minutes walk from the front door.


Sunset over Sound of Berneray and North Uist, Western Isles, Scotland

Photo: North Harris silhouetted against the days last light

Berneray, Western Isles, Scotland

Photo: Calm waters and blue skies, just before the rain

Berneray Dunes, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Photo: Dunes blow in the wind as rain approaches over the Sound of Harris

Dune grass, Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Photo: An elusive sun lights up the dunes, mountains of South Harris rise in the distance

Ruins of derelict croft house, Berneray, Western Isles, Scotland

Photo: Abandoned croft at twilight

Sgurr Mhairi – Isle of Skye

Sgurr Mhairi - Glamaig and Red Cuillins in winter, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Photo: Winter view towards Glamaig – Sgurr Mhairi and Red Cuillin hills, Sligachan, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Jan 2011

Some years back I was making my way down Glamaig, back towards Sligachan to hitch a ride back to Portree.  I’m not sure if I was on a people trail or a sheep trail, the latter I think, when I came upon some more-than-normal-looking boggy section.  After a quick estimate, I set myself up to jump across most of it, figuring I’d end up a little above my ankle in mud, but would otherwise avoid too much of a mess.  Ha!  I ended up nearly to my waste as my leg plunged into the bog.  My momentum, and the unexpected depth of my step took me flying into the ground on the other side of the pit.  Quite lucky really, as I could have ended up totally submerged.  Once back at Sligachan, I was left to wash off as best I could in the river before attempting to catch a ride up to Portree.  Luckily it was getting near dark so my true state couldn’t be seen and a ride came along after not too long.

Panoramic Landscape Photography

Scenic winter view across Kjerkfjorden towards Vindstad, near Reine, Lofoten islands, Norway

Winter view across Kjerkfjorden towards Vindstad, Lofoten islands, Norway.  Jan 2010.  This was perhaps one of the most perfect days I’ve experienced in my life.  The day to which I have since judged every other; none having come close in the last 18 months since I took this photo.  But as with all good things, the 4 hours of light of the polar winter was gone all to quickly.  An amazing 4 hours it was.

I now have close to 600 images in my panoramic gallery.  CLICK HERE to view more.

Reflection on lake Gjende, Gjendesheim, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Lake Gjende, Jotunheimen national park, Norway.  Aug 2010.  I rose early for sunrise, yet nothing of much interest materialized so I returned to my tent for a few more hours of rest.  A few ours later I peeked out the door and saw this scene of total calm.  I checked my watch, shit, the ferry leaves in a few minutes, time to get moving.  I hoped up, ran down barefooted (to the mosquitoes liking) to the shore of the lake.  5 minutes later, the morning ferry to Gjendesheim passes by, the wake leaving the lake rippled there after…

Dramatic light over Lofoten and Vesteralen islands, Norway

Lofoten and Vesteraalen islands, Norway.  Sept 2009.  Taken from on board the Hurtigruten ferry as I traveled from Sortland to Stamsund on a rather stormy and windy day.  Luckily storms and wind make for nice light is one is brave enough to face the elements.  I made many nice Photos during this journey.

Ring of Brodgar standing stones, Orkney, Scotland

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, Scotland. Dec 2009.  The barren, windswept islands which make up the Orkney islands are one of my favorite places.  While the short days of December are probably not the most ideal time to visit, it had been three years since I last stepped foot here, so my return was long overdue.  Despite a bit of wind, the weather cooperated quite well over the few days I was there.

Welsh Mountain Pony

Welsh Mountain Pony, Hay Bluff, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales. Jun 2010.  Hay Bluff, just above the town of Hay-on-Wye was one of my favorite places for a summer afternoon of wandering around the hills.  Quite often the weather was typically ‘Welsh’ (rain), yet some days managed to turn out quite nice, there in a Welsh Mountain Pony, and there you go, the photo is almost made for you.

Stamsund, Lofoten islands Norway

Stamsund, Lofoten islands, Norway.  July 2010.  I’ve stood in this very spot a hundred times in the last 10 years, and walked away with a hundred different images.  It’s a little rocky point out beyond the harbor from the Stamsund Vandrerhjem.  To the north is this view towards Henningsvaer.  East looks across the Vestfjord towards the Norwegian mainland, visible on clear days.  This photo was taken after 11:00pm, on one of those magically endless Lofoten summer days.  Stamsund is quite simply the center of the universe, enter and you may never return…

Abandoned walkay in water, Salton Sea, California

Salton Sea, California.  Mar 2010.  The Salton Sea is always an interesting place, both for ones eyes and nose.  I arrived in darkness to a location that I thought I knew, yet I wasn’t aware just how far the lake level had declined since my last visit.  This is what I found waiting in the morning light.

Eureka dunes, Death Valley national park, California

Eureka Dunes, Death Valley national park, California. Feb 2011.  Isolated in the northern end of Death Valley national park are the Eureka Dunes.  Less frequented than other areas of the park, one can escape here for a bit more isolation and a better chance at footprint-less dunes.

Dry lake bed of the Racetrack playa, Death Valley national park, California

Devil’s Racetrack, Death Valley national park, California. Feb 2010.  Vertical panoramic to emphasize the texture of the dry lake bed playa.


Western Isles – Butt of Lewis

Butt of Lewis, Isle of Lewis, Scotland

Photo: Coastal rocks, Butt of Lewis, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Jan 2011

I don’t really know why, but for some reason I was under the impression that the Butt of Lewis was not a very interesting place.  I guess it is probably a often visited tourist location, being one of those furthest, highest, most, lowest, type place.  In the case of the Butt of Lewis, its the northern most point of the Outer Hebrides.

There’s not really much there.  An old 1860’s lighthouse, some cliffs, and a few birds; maybe even some puffins in summer.  Oh, and there’s wind.  Yep that should be on the list.  I don’t think there’s ever a shortage of wind in this part of the world, being the first piece of land any weather hits arriving from the arctic.  I should probably also add rain to the list as well.  So for a place that’s seems relatively boring on paper, and with bad weather, I found it totally awesome.

I think it helps that I arrived in perfect conditions for the mood of the location.  Had I been there on some calm, sunny summer day I’m not sure I would have walked away with the same impression.  Or had there been mist and haze, I may have hopped back in the car without the camera ever exiting the backpack.  But I was lucky.  January winds whipped the sea into a fury.  Rain arrived, then passed with enough time in-between to get some work done.  I could find sheltered areas, probably a bit close to the cliffs, where my tripod would remain mostly still.  As the short winter day faded towards night, I think I saw this place in it’s raw, natural state.  Cold, harsh, barren, empty, isolated, dark.  Yet amazingly beautiful.

Butt of Lewis lighthouse, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Photo: Butt of Lewis lighthouse, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Jan 2011

Rough seas break on rugged coast at Butt of Lewis, isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Photo: Coastal rocks, Butt of Lewis, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Jan 2011

Butt of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Photo: Panoramic of Butt of Lewis, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Jan 2011

Butt of Lewis lighthouse on cliffs above stormy sea, Butt of Lewis, Isle of Lewis, Western Isles, Scotland

Photo: Stormy seas crash below Butt of Lewis lighthouse, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Jan 2011

Rannoch Moor Winter

Frozen landscape of Rannoch Moor in winter, ScotlandPhoto: Loch Ba frozen in winter, Rannoch Moor, Scotland.  Jan 2011


Frozen landscape of Rannoch Moor in winter, Scotland

Photo: Cracking ice of frozen loch, Rannoch Moor, Scotland.  Jan 2011

Buchaille Etive Mor

Buachaille Etive Mor in winter, Glencoe - Rannoch Moor, Scotland

Photo: Buchaille Etive Mor, Glencoe, ScotlandJan 2011

On the eve of what would be an epic snow storm…

Elgol – Isle of Skye

Elgol isle of skye scotland landscape photography

Photo: Elgol and Cuillins, Isle of Skye, Scotland.  Jan 2011

The coastal view from Elgol towards the dramatic peaks of the Black Cuillin is one of the most classic images of the Scottish Highlands.  This Scene has probably been photographed a million times, yet the constantly changing conditions mean it is rarely the same.  The most common view is likely that of misty, gloomy rain, but when conditions are favorable, a thousand results are possible.  These four photos represent only an hour and a half of time from a single winter day.  One of those days where one could be in ten places at once, too many photos waiting to be made, yet precious little time to make them on a short January day.

As much as I love mountains, I also equally love rugged, stormy coasts.  The game of cat and mouse with the crashing waves only inches away.  Trying to get the timing of the waves just right, waiting till the last minute before jumping across the rocks and out of danger.  Often I leave such places with wet feet at a minimum, occasionally thoroughly soaked.

Scenic coastal view, Elgol, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Waves crash over rocky shore at Elgol, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Scenic coastal view, Elgol, Isle of Skye, Scotland


Isle of Rum, Scotland

Photo: Isle of Rum as viewed from Elgol, Isle of Skye, Scotland.  Jan 2011

Luskentyre Beach – Isle of Harris

luskentyre beach isle of harris

Photo: Dawn light over Luskentyre beach, Isle of Harris, Scotland

I went to Luskentyre Beach five times in three days and each and every time I was presented with something different. I think there must be some rule on the Outer Hebrides: If the morning is calm, the evening will be stormy.  If the evening is calm, the morning will stormy.  As this seemed to be the cycle of weather out there.  And with changing weather comes changing light.  Always something new to see in the exact same place as I had been just a few hours before.  Luskentyre is quickly developing into one of my favorite places, though it will most likely be several years now until I get to return again.

luskentyre beach isle of harris

luskentyre beach isle of harris

luskentyre beach isle of harris

luskentyre beach isle of harris