I don’t think it’s possible to overstate just how much of a rollercoaster ride 2020 has been! We have witnessed a year of unprecedented challenges around the entire world. Despite the many challenges the past year has brought us all, we have managed to push through and make it to another year! That means that it’s time to continue my tradition of reflecting on the past year by taking a look back at my favorite images.
As a side note, you can check out last year’s reflection here. Without and further ado, let’s jump on into my top 10 images from 2020. I’ll top things off by taking some time to reflect over how the year went (from a photography perspective) and take a look at what I hop to achieve going forward into 2021.
#10: Late Evening in the Queen City
When I first got started in photography I photographed Downtown Cincinnati nearly non-stop. As I’ve progressed, however, I don’t find myself as inspired by the city. On this particular night, however, the conditions were just right to get me excited about shooting the cityscape again. I think the results speak for themselves!
While I don’t see myself shifting from natural landscapes anytime soon, this little venture did rekindle a bit of a spark for shooting cityscapes. Perhaps it’s something I’ll sprinkle into my portfolio more often going forward!
#9: A Massive Red River Gorge Waterfall
This cold February morning found me venturing into a remote area of the Clifty Wilderness in the Red River Gorge with my buddy Ronald Jent. We spent the morning fighting our way off-trail up frozen streams to visit some of the tallest waterfalls in the entire state of Kentucky. This was one of these falls.
I spent a bit of time struggling to figure out just how to capture the amazing scale of the scene that was laid out in front of me. I eventually decided to scramble on top of one of the massive boulders below the falls to use myself to give some scale to this incredible scene. I think the end result really helps illustrate how truly massive this waterfall is!
#8: Bear Creek Falls
This was shot on a hot August day during one of the many trips I took to the southern regions of Daniel Boone National Forest with my good friend Bill Fultz. We started the day off by visiting Bear Creek Falls. This was my first time visiting this particular waterfall and I was delighted to find several compositions that I very much liked. This one, however, was my favorite of the day!
On this May evening, I met up with my buddy Josh Lowe to attempt to photograph the sunset from Auxier Ridge in the Red River Gorge. We arrived quite a bit earlier than anticipated, so we spent some time messing around with our cameras and wondering if the clouds were really going to part like the weather forecast predicted (they did! You can read a bit about it here). For a few brief, but glorious, moments the clouds parted just enough to get some amazing beams of light shining down on the ridge containing Double Arch. Luckily, I was able to act fast enough to capture this image before the scene disappeared!
#6: Ozone Falls
In March, the week before the pandemic really started to hit the U.S. hard, I headed to Tennessee and North Carolina for a week of waterfalling. I sustained a leg injury during this trip that threw a bit of a wrench in my original plans (a bit more about that later), but I was still able to walk, well limp, away with a few shots.
One of the shots I got was on the very first day of shooting (and before I had injured myself). Before I finished up for the day and headed to the hotel I visited Ozone Falls. This impressive waterfall is located right off the road in a small natural area in Rockwood, Tennessee. I took several different compositions of this falls that I like, but this one was my favorite overall.
#5: Sunset from Auxier Ridge
Remember that sunset trip on Auxier Ridge I was talking about in #7? Well, this was the resulting sunset! I really don’t have much more to say about this one other than it was a great evening on Auxier Ridge with a pretty decent sunset!
#4: Yellow Creek Falls
Remember that waterfall trip I was just talking about where I injured my leg? Well, this image was taken about 45 minutes before it happened!
Yellow Creek Falls is located in a quiet corner of the Nantahala National Forest and is an easy hike to reach. Now, you may be thinking that I must’ve injured my leg hiking to this falls. Or perhaps it was slipping on a rock to get just the right angle. Maybe even some sort of wild animal attack. Despite all of these scenarios being better stories, none of these are what happened.
No, what actually happened was that I tripped on a rock in the parking lot as I was returning to my car. I attempted to regain my balance, but this only increased the force of my impact. My leg hit the corner of a rock with the weight of all my camera gear on my back.
My best guess is that this caused a tiny fracture in my femur, which resulted in my upper leg being swollen about three times its normal size for the rest of the trip. I took it relatively easy for a couple of days, but still managed to fit in a number of other waterfalls throughout the trip (including a 6 miles hike in the Pisgah National Forest). Each night I’d return to a hotel with my leg a swollen, throbbing mess. I’d wrap it up in a couple of heating pads for the night and hobble my way through the next day. While it wasn’t the most comfortable trip experience of my life, I think it was well worth the pain!
#3: An Evening on Auxier Ridge
Auxier Ridge really proved to be a productive spot for me this summer! This evening was once again spent with Josh Lowe. The sky was mostly blue, empty, and just generally uninteresting, which caused me to have to get a bit more creative. I decided that I wanted to find a spot to get the structure of Auxier Ridge in the frame. Moving toward Haystack rock, I found this spot that allowed Auxier Ridge to be used as a leading line to Courthouse Rock in the distance.
Exploring the area a bit more I noticed this perfectly placed tree! It was just too good to pass up! To top it off, a perfectly positioned cloud caught some brilliant pink color from the sunset.
#2: Sunset from Buzzard Rock
This was taken at the end of yet another day trip to the southern regions of Daniel Boone National Forest with Bill Fultz. This rock outcropping is a short, unofficial hike from the car and provides one of the best sunset views in the entire state. On this particular evening, we were rewarded with a nice sunstar!
#1: Almost Heaven Sunset
This brings us to number one, a sunset I shot from Spruce Knob, located in the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia.
I had left for West Virginia on this day with the intention of shooting the Milky Way. I spent most of the day scouting spots in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, Seneca Rocks, and Spruce Knob. I ultimately landed on Spruce Knob as the location I wanted to shoot from, so I hiked out to an overlook on the mountain and set up for sunset. The sunset was everything I had hoped for! Sadly, the clouds moved in and prevented me from getting the Milky Way shot I was hoping for, but I’m more than happy with the sunset images I walked away with!
Reflecting and Looking Forward
Well, there you have it, my personal picks for my top 10 images of 2020. I actually had an extremely hard time picking ten images this year, which I attribute to a substantial growth from 2019. As such, I am extremely happy with how I’ve progressed with my photography over the past year!
2020 also saw a ton of new possibilities for me. I visited a ton of new arches and waterfalls, backpacked in Colorado for the first time, had a photo published on the cover of a magazine, and had my best year to date in terms of print sales and licensing fees.
I expect to see some massive life changes occurring in 2021. While I won’t get into the specifics here, I’m expecting a fantastic year with even more growth and opportunities. I look forward to continuing to share my journey with all of you in the coming year!